Ohio State is a fairly heavy favorite going into Thursday's game against Minnesota. The Buckeyes are favored by essentially two touchdowns (13.5 points) in the opener.
How will we look back on that spread after the fact? Time will tell as the Buckeyes travel to Minnesota today to launch their 2021 campaign.
In the mean time, here's how the BuckeyesNow staff expects this game to go:
Brendan Gulick: Ohio State 41, Minnesota 20
Minnesota has added three grad transfers to try and help shore up a really bad run defense last year. But I think they're going to struggle against one of Ohio State's biggest offensive lines in recent memory. Meanwhile, Minnesota's got the most experienced offensive line in the country returning this year and a solid rushing attack from Mohamed Ibrahim. I think offensive line play will be very interesting to watch tomorrow night.
All that said - the Buckeyes have too much star power on offense for Minnesota, which has an unproven secondary to say the least. I think the Ohio State wins comfortably on the road and several true freshmen make meaningful impacts in their Buckeye debuts.
Andrew Lind: Ohio State 49, Minnesota 21
The Buckeye are obviously breaking in a new starting quarterback in C.J. Stroud, but there won’t really be any pressure on him given the weapons around him. I will certainly be interested in seeing how he relays signals to his teammates and handles any adversity in a road environment, but as head coach Ryan Day said earlier this week, there’s nothing he’ll see in the game that he didn’t already have thrown at him in practice.
On the other side of the ball, Minnesota’s offensive game plan won’t exactly challenge Ohio State’s secondary, the unit under the most scrutiny heading into the season. Expect the Buckeyes to keep the Gophers running game in-check and coast through the second half.
Brett Hiltbrand: Ohio State 30, Minnesota 13
There aren't many 'firsts' you can still achieve when you've been playing football for 132 years. Ohio State football is older than the idea to build the Titanic. It predates plastic. Hell, the state of Minnesota is barely 30 years older. The Buckeyes have been around a while.
With that in mind, Thursday's season opener for Ohio State football is rare territory in the grand scheme of the program's lengthy and venerable history. It's not quite a first but this will only be the 12th true road season opener for the Buckeyes and it's a factor we should definitely consider when trying to predict this game.
There are tons of unknowns right now and that's a bit untethering when trying to feel this one out: a new quarterback in C.J. Stroud, unproven linebackers, a group of DBs looking for a redemptive season. All of these unknowns don't push me into "watch out" mode but this game feels more serious than others.
Red zone efficiency usually is down early in the season so I hope you like field goals. I'll take the Buckeyes, with a late, borderline garbage time TD that breaks Mark May's heart and anyone else that took the points.
Adam Prescott: Ohio State 41, Minnesota 27
There isn’t a ton of recent sample size between these schools, having only met three times over the last decade. Regardless of C.J. Stroud making his first college start, the Buckeye offense has so much firepower to continue posting big numbers. But I have a feeling that Minnesota, rocking alternate black uniforms in front of a reinvigorated home crowd, will row that boat just enough behind veteran QB Tanner Morgan to keep both the spread (13.5) and total (65.5) interesting down the stretch.
Eddie Marotta: Ohio State 41, Minnesota 24
College Football is back, and so are the Buckeyes! OSU will be looking to find their identity early in the season after losing Justin Fields and many other key contributors to the NFL Draft this summer. The Buckeyes will give up a few early scores as they look to knock off the offseason rust, but will anchor down as the game progresses and their offense finds its groove.
Ryan Day has the Buckeyes ready to go in this one, and the weapons OSU returned on the offensive side of the ball (namely Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Jeremy Ruckert, and Master Teague III) gives Ohio State more than enough firepower to hold off the Gophers as they kick off their 2021 campaign. Ohio State pulls away in this game, and starts the season the way everyone wants to: 1-0.
Caleb Spinner: Ohio State 49, Minnesota 10
Ohio State’s first-in-the-conference offense lost some big pieces to the draft. However the depth of the program has ensured there will be no shortage of explosive options on the field this year.
CJ Stroud will command the offense under center after earning the endorsement of Coach Ryan Day, and will be throwing to two familiar targets in Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, both of whom tallied over 700 yards last season (in an eight-game year, mind you). Pair all that with Master Teague III in the backfield and a rock-solid defense boasting returners like Sevyn Banks and Haskell Garrett, and you have an Ohio State team with the means to pick up right where they left off at the end of last season.
Minnesota has the potential to strike early with Tanner Morgan, a quarterback who’s thrown for over 6,000 yards and 46 touchdowns in his three seasons with Minnesota, but I see the Buckeye defense catching onto his tricks before long and holding the Golden Gophers score to no more than ten.
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