No. 4 Ohio State opens its Big Ten season with a road matchup against Minnesota at Huntington Bank Stadium on Thursday.
Game time is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on FOX.
For Ohio State, it’s the start of a potential fifth straight Big Ten championship season. Third-year coach Ryan Day hasn’t lost a conference game, and new starting quarterback C.J. Stroud will throw to arguably the best group of receivers in the FBS. The Buckeyes have several exciting newcomers looking to make an impact, too.
Minnesota is looking to bounce back after a COVID-riddled 2019 season. The Gophers finished 3-4 last year, but P.J. Fleck enters his fourth season with a returning quarterback in Tanner Morgan and the leading rusher in Mohamed Ibrahim.
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Here’s everything to know about betting on the Thursday night matchup between Minnesota and Ohio State:
Odds courtesy FanDuel.com
Ohio State vs. Minnesota odds
Three trends to know
— Ohio State 17-0 S/U in Big Ten games under Day, and the Buckeyes are 6-1 ATS as road favorites the last two seasons.
— The Buckeyes have won the last 11 meetings in the series, but the last three games have not been full-fledged blowouts. Ohio State has won those games by an average of 12.3 points per game.
— Since Fleck took over in 2017, Minnesota is 14-11 ATS as an underdog and 5-5 ATS as a home underdog.
Three things to watch
— C.J. Stroud. The Buckeyes have a new starting quarterback, and he has a deep receiver room to work with. Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson have attracted the most attention, but Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Julian Fleming, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Ebuka will all be involved in the rotation. It’s not unreasonable to suggest all six of those receivers will be first-round picks in the future. That should allow Stroud to settle in with his first road start.
— Mohamed Ibrahim. The Buckeyes led the Big Ten in rushing defense last season, and you cannot entertain beating the four-time Big Ten champions without a strong running game. Ibrahim led the Big Ten with 1,076 rushing yards last season, and the 210-pound running back had 100 yards or more in every game. If Ibrahim can reel off a few big runs early, then Minnesota could feed off that momentum. The Buckeyes have allowed an average of 23 points per game in their last three openers.
— Ohio State’s pass rush. Morgan will want to test Ohio State’s secondary in the vertical passing game, but will he have time? The Gophers have a veteran line with five seniors, and they will need to hold off Zach Harrison and Tyreke Smith off the edge and Haskell Garrett on the interior.. Will we see five-star freshmen Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau in the rotation?
Stat that matters
For all the talk about Ohio State’s quarterback and receivers, the Buckeyes still led the Big Ten with 275.1 rushing yards per game in 2020. Master Teague is the new lead back, but Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson will be involved in that attack, too. Minnesota allowed 207.1 rushing yards per game last season. Clemson transfer Nyles Pinckney should help the Gophers up front, but that is a big challenge for any team.
Ohio State vs. Minnesota prediction
It’s a fun stage for both teams. Minnesota should come out excited, and the Gophers might even score first with a few well-designed plays to Ibrahim. The Buckeyes’ depth, however, will start to take over in the second quarter, and Stroud will hit Wilson and Olave for TDs in the second half. That running game wears on the Gophers. Ohio State comes out with yet another double-digit victory in Big Ten play.
Final score: Ohio State 39, Minnesota 22
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