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2023-24 Ohio State Football Season Preview and Predictions - The Second Half

Oct 29, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. (18) catches a pass behind Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Kalen King (4) during the first half of the NCAA Division I football game at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch

Week 8: #3 Ohio State vs #7 Penn State

This is where the stressful Saturdays kick into high gear for Buckeye fans. The final six games of the season feature three preseason top-25 teams. The first of which is always a tough challenge for the Buckeyes with a home matchup against rival Penn State. Ohio State currently is favored in the week eight matchup by 10 points, but with so many games between now and then that spread is likely to move quite a bit until that game is played. The Buckeyes are currently on a six-game win streak over the Nittany Lions with the last loss occurring back in 2016 in State College. Penn State has not beaten Ohio State in Columbus since 2011.

Despite Ohio State's win streak over the last six meetings, the margin of victory has only been eight points. Penn State plays Ohio State close every time and there is no reason to suspect they won't be able to challenge the Buckeyes yet again this year. The one big question mark for Penn State is the changing of the guard at quarterback. The era of Sean Clifford is over and in steps one of Ohio's best QB prospects of the last few years in Drew Allar. In his limited amount of playing time, Allar has thrown for four touchdowns on 60 pass attempts, with 35 completions, and 344 yards. He has plenty of talent and Penn State fans have been excited about this kid since he stepped on campus.

Allar will not be without help early in the season as Penn State also returns two of the best running backs in the conference in Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen. Both of whom have the potential to put up some big numbers with an inexperienced quarterback at the helm. On the outside Penn State is going to need new wideouts to step up after losing three of their top four pass catchers to the NFL after last year. Penn State always has a reliable defense and that is no different this year as they return corner Kalen King and linebacker Abdul Carter.

This will be a slugfest as both of these teams should have all the kinks figured out at this point in the season. A loss at this stage for either team has the chance to end any hope of a postseason playoff appearance. The Buckeyes have the longest win streak in the series going right now and I see no reason currently why that would end this season playing at home. Both teams are in similar spots with the quarterback position, but Ohio State has advantages at just about every other position on the field going into the year. Week eight is a long way away and many factors may change, but at the moment I've got the Buckeyes on top.

Prediction: Ohio State defeats Penn State 28-24

Sep 24, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes tight end Cade Stover (8) runs after a catch as Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Maema Njongmeta (55) tries to make the tackle during the first half of the NCAA Division I football game at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch

Week 9: #3 Ohio State at #19 Wisconsin

This will be Luke Fickell's second time playing against Ohio State since he took his first head coaching job at Cincinnati in 2017. His last time against the Buckeyes he was crushed 42-0. But this time he has a Big Ten roster and home-field advantage. The oddsmakers have liked that and have given the Buckeyes just a -9.5 advantage for the October 28th matchup at Camp Randall. However, over their history, this has been a fairly one-sided matchup with Ohio State winning nearly 73% of the time. The Bucks have not lost a game to the Badgers since 2010 and since then have won nine straight games, with three of those wins having occurred in the Big Ten Championship game. However, the Buckeyes have struggled on the road against Wisconsin as they have a (3-2) record in games played at Camp Randall.

Last year the Badgers were a completely one-dimensional team that had to force the ball to a legitimate Heisman candidate in Braelon Allen for nearly the entire game. However, he was shut down in the first half and the Buckeyes were able to build a massive lead and never relinquished despite giving up over 150 yards on the ground to Allen. This year they are going to look to diversify the offense with transfer quarterback Tanner Mordecai from SMU. He was a two-year starter that threw for 77 touchdowns in two years while putting together a record of 14-10 record with the Mustangs.

Mordecai gets dropped into a pretty loaded offense with top wideouts Chimere Dike and Skyler Bell returning this season. The defense also looks pretty solid going into the season as they return more starters than anyone this year. Despite all of what's trending in the right direction for the Badgers this season, they are a program trying to fight back into the national spotlight after a (7-6) record a year ago. They have a new coach bringing in a new system and while having experience at nearly every position is sure to help, there is still a lot of new for the Badgers this season and even though this game doesn't take place till late in the year, Ohio State will still likely be favored to win.

Prediction: Ohio State defeats Wisconsin 42-28

Oct 1, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Tommy Eichenberg (35) tackles Rutgers Scarlet Knights quarterback Evan Simon (3) in the second quarter of the NCAA Division I football game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Ohio Stadium. Credit - Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch

Week 10: #3 Ohio State at Rutgers

Week ten of the season will be a much-needed break from top-25 matchups for Ohio State after back-to-back tough games against PSU and UW. However, the Buckeyes still must go on the road, albeit against Rutgers. A team they have defeated in every meeting between the two schools including a 49-10 beatdown in Columbus last season. Ohio State has an average margin of victory of 42 points when they play against Rutgers and this season looks no different for the Buckeyes.

Rutgers does return a few top defensive starters who should make some noise in the week ten matchup in LB Deion Jennings, DL Wesley Bailey, and DB Robert Longerbam. However, these guys were all on the team last year and it did little to affect the outcome of the matchup. They will also be rolling with a new QB in Gavin Wimsatt who has not played against the Buckeyes. Last year he threw five touchdowns to seven interceptions and only managed a completion percentage of 44%, the offensive line allowed him to be sacked 14 times last year. This game is likely to keep with the trends of prior matchups and this game will be nothing but Buckeye.

Prediction: Ohio State defeats Rutgers 56-14

Oct 8, 2022; East Lansing, Michigan, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Emeka Egbuka (2) gets tackled by Michigan State Spartans safety Jaden Mangham (1) after a catch in the first quarter of the NCAA Division I football game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Credit - Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch

Week 11: #3 Ohio State vs. Michigan State

The Buckeyes will return to primetime television in week 11 as they take on the Spartans at home on NBC at 7:30 p.m. ET for their second game in the chilly November gauntlet. The Buckeyes are on a seven-game win streak against the Spartans and since the MSU upset of 2015, Ohio State has put together an average margin of victory of 30 points. They have been determined to never let that upset happen again.

Unfortunately for the Spartans, their chances of pulling yet another miracle in the shoe seem pretty slim. Their multi-year starter Payton Thorne has transferred to the South leaving them with a three-way contest for their starting QB job. Teams get criticized every day for having a two-way battle for quarterback going into the season and the Spartans are having to choose between three guys at this point. It seems like a rebuilding year for Mel Tucker, find your quarterback, make it through the season and get that guy some experience, play your young guys, then go make your run next season.

Prediction: Ohio State wins 38-13

Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Cody Simon (30) sacks Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan (2) during the second quarter of their game in Huntington Bank Stadium at University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN on September 2, 2021. Credit - Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch

Week 12: #3 Ohio State vs Minnesota

And then there were two. The Buckeyes will take on the Golden Gophers in their final home game of the season before squaring off against their rivals from the North in week 13. Ohio State is on an 11-game win streak over the Gophers and Minnesota hasn't won a game in Columbus since the year 2000 and this was just their third win of the last 57 years.

The Gophers are in for a tough challenge this year of having to replace two all-time greats in program history in QB Tanner Morgan and RB Mo Ibrahim. They return just ten total starters from their (9-4) team a season ago and they lost most of their impact players on both sides of the ball. They do however return one of their top wideouts Daniel Jackson and one of their top linebackers Cody Lindenberg.

Much like Michigan State this is going to be a bit of a rebuilding year for the Gophers. They will be running the show with their new QB Athan Kaliakmanis who comes in with minimal experience. Ohio State should make quick work of the Golden Gophers and keep their win streak rolling. That is unless they get caught looking ahead to the big one the following week.

Prediction: Ohio State defeats Minnesota 33-16

Nov 26, 2022; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Cody Simon (30) tries to tackle Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) in the first quarter of their game at Ohio Stadium. Credit - Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch

Week 13: #3 Ohio State at #2 TTUN

This is without a doubt the most important game of the year for both of these teams and potentially the most important game in all College Football outside of the playoffs. But isn't that exactly what it should be? TTUN has kicked the crap out of the Buckeyes in each of the last two seasons. These two wins as painful as they may have been to watch have accomplished something that Ohio State has not been able to do in the last decade. Make "The Game" mean something. Fans got used to winning, and that led to us all getting lazy and expecting victory. We were all guilty at some point of running our mouths to TTUN fans and being able to get away with it because we won. Now for two years straight they've been hammering twenty years of suffering into this game. TTUN has brought this rivalry back to the forefront of College Football and that has led us to this season. A season that is rumored to be Harbaugh's last as many have speculated that he is seeking a move to the NFL. Meaning this game is the most important of his career.

Harbaugh returns 13 starters including the best running back duo in the nation in Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards who gave the Buckeyes everything they could handle and then some. They bring back one of the conference's top wideouts in Cornelius Johnson, they will have to replace their top wideout Ronnie Bell. But they are one of the few teams in the conference with a returning starter at the quarterback position. It is nearly a guarantee they will be undefeated in week 13 and will be hotter than the sun and every analyst will be giving TTUN a huge advantage against the Buckeyes this season.

Ryan Day and Jim Knowles better have that defense solidified by this game or it will be another long offseason with someone most likely getting fired. This is all not to say Ohio State can't win. They have the best receiving room in the nation, one of the top linebacker and defensive line groups in the conference, and five running backs that could all start anywhere in the country. But in the final week of November, everyone knows to throw everything you've seen out the window because war is coming. There is a good chance that the 2023 edition of "The Game" in Ann Arbor will go down as one of the best meetings in this storied rivalry.

Prediction: Ohio State defeats TTUN 45-42

Second Half of the Season Thoughts:

While I do have the Buckeyes finishing the season undefeated there is still a huge chance that doesn't happen. The second half of this season puts Ohio State on the road against top-25 teams twice and that is never an easy task. Especially when one of those is against a team that could potentially rank as the No. 1 team in the country come kickoff in the final week of November. Even with that one game being marked on everyone's calendar the Buckeyes will still have to go up against Penn State and their dynamic backfield just a few weeks prior. These last few games will test every ounce of ability and scheme the Buckeyes can throw onto the field.

I have the Buckeyes undefeated with a couple of question marks still. Can this defense finally stop TTUN? They have been able to figure it out against every other team they have played except for this one. Can the new members of the offensive line hold up the standard that has been set before them? Can Ryan Day finally start winning the big one? Then finally, can Kyle McCord or Devin Brown live up to the hype? If all of these questions are answered yes then not only will Ohio State win the conference, they will win the College Football National Championship for the first time under Ryan Day.



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