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Buckeye Battle Cry: Week 3 Preview

(6) Ohio State Buckeyes 2-0 (1-0) v. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (2-0)


The Buckeyes are undefeated throughout the young season and continue to tumble down the ranks to sixth in the polls. As week three approaches, Ryan Day and company look forward to Western Kentucky coming to the Shoe on Saturday. The Hilltoppers have never faced off against Ohio State and will encounter extraordinary talent on every snap as they look to upset the Buckeyes.


Western Kentucky comes into this game having scored 93 total points while averaging roughly 23 points against in that same stretch. The Hilltoppers’ offense will be formidable to the final whistle, led by receiver Easton Messer and quarterback Austin Reed. As stated before, their defense does give up some points, but led by defensive back Kendrick Simpkins and his three sacks already, the Buckeyes’ O-line will face challenging complications as they smooth out the edges.


On the other side of the field, Ohio State must make an outstanding demonstration to quell the doubters. Kyle McCord and his bevy of receiver talent will look to score in bunches while Day attempts to reduce the overcomplicated nuances of the offensive play calls to right the ship.


General Information:


Date: Saturday (9/16/23)

Time: 4:00 PM, Eastern

Venue: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio (Capacity: 102,780)

Series: N/A

Last Meeting: N/A

What to Watch For:


Quarterbacks Always Quarterbacks:

The “something to watch” are the QBs for the third week in a row. However, this time, Hilltoppers’ quarterback Austin Reed and his electric arm will be on display, causing all sorts of problems for the Buckeyes’ defense. Reed has amassed nearly 600 yards of air-assault offense and six touchdown passes through two weeks of play. His effortless style and poise will be a great test as the Bucks ramp up play to prepare for Notre Dame in the coming week.


As for the Buckeyes themselves, McCord has officially been given the keys to the offense. It’s his team now, and he needs to take that quiet demeanor and make the necessary adjustments to become the elite quarterback everyone in Columbus expects and demands. McCord has nearly 500 yards of offense but only three touchdowns through the air. Minus the first game against Indiana, where McCord looked like he was forcing some passes, he has appeared to make astute decisions in the pocket. However, most will argue that the numbers aren't there, especially numbers against inferior opponents.


By the Numbers:

Ryan Day managed a well-oiled and aggressive machine last year on offense, averaging over seven yards per play from the line of scrimmage; his offense tied for first in terms of yards per play. This year, under Kyle McCord’s direction, the offense is only producing 5.7 yards per play. While this statistic alone does not win ball games, it provides insight into the rest of the series’ pitfalls.


3rd Down Efficiency (or lack thereof):

The Buckeyes' woes on offense continue to plague them. Third-down efficiency is one of their biggest problems. Ohio State can only convert 16.67% of the time (good for 128th in the nation), a far cry from last year’s 45%. Ryan Day gets it from both sides. People seemingly want him to cut out all the frills and get back to basics but also be explosive and dynamic. The plain truth is that Day’s offense comes down to execution. When the Buckeyes are on, they can put up ridiculous numbers, and it should be trusted that it can be accomplished with this group, just as in previous years.


Prediction:


The Buckeyes, at home, against a Conference USA opponent, should be a lock (and it will be), but a nearly 30-point spread seems impossible and, quite frankly, an insult to Hilltoppers’ coach Tyson Helton. Quarterback Austin Reed will challenge the Buckeyes’ emerging defense with speed and poise. Stopping him and getting off the field quickly to give the Bucks’ offense more reps will be a challenge, but one they should be up to. Ultimately, Jim Knowles’ defense will catch quite a deal of heat for this showing. However, Knowles should emphasize containment and getting off the field if they hope to hang with the Irish next week. I think this one might be more of an offensive showcase than an utterly dominant performance by Ohio State. Get your popcorn out 52-35, Buckeyes.




(Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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