(3) Ohio State 10-0 (7-0) v. Minnesota 5-5 (3-4)
As the regular season winds down, only a handful of days separate us from the biggest rivalry game in all sports, but first, The Ohio State Buckeyes will welcome the Minnesota Golden Gophers to the Shoe on Saturday afternoon for Senior Day.
The Buckeyes are coming off their tenth win in a row, and it was the most dominant showing yet by the Scarlet and Gray. The offense was firing on all cylinders and, as a result, receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. is now firmly planted in the Heisman conversation. The defense held true the entire game, as they have all season, only giving up a long, lone field goal to the Spartans.
The Golden Gophers, on the other hand, appear to be a program stuck in neutral. Head coach PJ Fleck and his bold personality were expected to come in immediately and positively impact the culture at the University of Minnesota. It should be noted that although there have been some criticisms of his authenticity and practices, the culture is shifting even if the wins aren’t coming in just yet.
Date: Saturday, 11/18/23
Time: 4:00 PM, Eastern
Venue: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio (Capacity: 102,780)
Series: Ohio State leads 46-7
Last Meeting: 45-31 Ohio State (2021)
What to Watch For:
As this will be the last home game of the season and thus Senior Day, I expect the Buckeyes to come out in full force for the upperclassmen. Their offense finally looked like the menace everyone had expected all season. They scored touchdowns on five of their six possessions in last week’s first half against Michigan State. Quarterback Kyle McCord finally looks comfortable and confident in the pocket, and as long as his footwork remains clean and compact, he will continue to dominate weak defenses. Marvin Harrison Jr. is absolutely a force to be reckoned with and impacts every game plan. Now that receiver Emeka Egbuka and tight-end Cade Stover are fully available, defenses will have to pick their poison, as you can’t cover everyone. The Buckeyes also sport one of the best running back stables in the country, with TreVeyon Henderson at the helm, adding another dimension for defensive coordinators to lose sleep over. Still, one of this offense's best assets is the ability to go up against that fierce Silver Bullet defense daily in practice.
The Golden Gophers have an interesting offensive system that looks similar to a standard run-pass-option set. Their quarterback, Athan Kaliakmanis (say that five times fast), has had an average season through the air with 1,582 yards on 128 pass completions for a rough completion rate hovering around 50%. His 13 touchdowns with seven interceptions indicate that the Buckeye defense will be able to impose their will. However, Kaliakmanis also sports 62 rushing attempts, good for third on the team. His mobility might be enough to cause some headaches on Saturday. The Gophers’ running attack is clearly by committee, as there are four running backs with over 50 carries this season. Unfortunately, they have been without their leading running back, Darius Taylor, for three straight games, and it remains to be seen if he will be available for the matchup with the Bucks’ stout defense.
Look, this one won’t be pretty. Ohio State is gaining momentum at precisely the right time. They are preparing for the biggest rivalry game in at least the past eight years with so much on the line and a point to prove. But without looking ahead to that team up north, you still have head coach Ryan Day wanting to send off his seniors and others heading to the League next year in style. The Golden Gophers got the raw end of the deal and will be completely humbled on Saturday. The Buckeyes win emphatically 41-7.