Photo: Kirk Irwin/Getty Images
Ohio State comes into Week 3 still undefeated and will play this Saturday against an in-state opponent for the 258th time in school history. They host the Toledo Rockets, who they have only played three times (all Buckeye wins). Ohio State has not lost against an in-state opponent since 1921 when they played Oberlin three days after the first World Series radio broadcast. Toledo last came to Ohio Stadium in 2011, when they gave the No. 15 Buckeyes everything they could handle. The Luke Fickell led Buckeyes narrowly edged out the Rockets 27-22.
Ohio State has started out the year with great defensive performances against Notre Dame and Arkansas State. While the offense has had their struggles, they have given the Buckeyes enough to take home back-to-back home victories. On the other side, the Rockets come into Columbus with an undefeated record after they steamrolled their first two opponents in Long Island University and UMass. They are currently averaging 46 points per game offensively and are allowing just five points per game on the defensive side of the football. They have the 17th best scoring offense in the nation (in part due to an easy schedule to start the season as their first two opponents in UMass and LIU are both winless through two weeks of play and are among the worst statistical teams in the nation).
Saturday's night game will be a true test of the Ohio State run defense, as the Rockets rushing attack ranks 23rd in the nation with over 200 yards per game. The Buckeyes rank as the No. 11 rush defense, allowing only 64 yards per game. Toledo's leading rusher is their quarterback in Dequan Finn, who has 138 yards and three rushing touchdowns on the season.
Ohio State's defense will have to prepare for not just one running back, but five. Jacquez Stuart, Peny Boone, Willie Shaw III, Micah Kelly and Jordan Lowe have combined for five touchdowns and 311 of the teams' rushing yards. Ohio State has yet to go against a strong rushing attack on the season. The biggest losses for the Buckeyes last season came because of rushing defense letdowns.
Ohio State's defense has been headlined by Tommy Eichenberg so far on the season. He leads the team with 14 tackles and two sacks on the season. His fellow linebacker Steele Chambers is second on the team with 11.
The defensive line has been good so far on the season at stopping the run led by Mike Hall Jr., who has looked like the best lineman for the Buckeyes this season. Both Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau have been good in applying pressure but have yet to collect a sack. The only knock against the defense so far is the lack of turnovers. Despite the great play and having allowed only one touchdown in two weeks, they have yet to force a turnover on the season. The defense also struggled with penalties last week and gave Arkansas State multiple chances on the plus side of the 50-yard line.
Toledo's defense has forced three fumbles, an interception and two sacks through their first two contests. The offenses' they've faced have been no challenge for Toledo until this Saturday. They currently rank second in the nation in scoring defense, tied for second with Minnesota and Tulane, but the only FBS offense they have faced is ranked third worst in the nation.
Ohio State's offense ranks 67th in scoring offense after an off first two weeks of play against Notre Dame and Arkansas State. Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Julian Fleming both return to the offense this week against Toledo. Expect Ohio State's offense to really pick up with the top four wide receivers in action for the first time. C.J. Stroud has retaken the top spot in the Heisman odds list after throwing for six touchdowns in the first two weeks.
The talented backfield of TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams have combined for 308 yards and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, the top two wide receivers in Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka have combined for over 400 yards and five touchdowns. The offense is going to have a few rough patches this Saturday against a confident Toledo defense but expect the big plays to be back and for the scoreboard to light up.
Final Score Prediction:
Ohio State wins 45-9.
Watch and Listen: 7:00 p.m.
TV: FOX with Tim Brando (play-by-play) and Spencer Tillman (color commentator)
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