Saturday: Ohio State 38, Army 7
Next game: UNLV
When: noon Saturday
Where: Ohio Stadium
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: WBNS-FM/AM (97.1/1460)
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OSU is in the must-win-impressively phase. After thumping Army, it must make sure that how it beats Vegas doesn’t stay just in Vegas.
In the polls
Ohio State stood pat at No. 9 in the coaches’ poll but dropped two spots to 10th in the Associated Press media poll. It was jumped in the AP by Oklahoma State, which leaped from ninth to sixth, and by Wisconsin, which moved up one spot to ninth. OSU is the only one-loss team in either top 10.
Take another bow
Quarterback J.T. Barrett added another record to his bulging scrapbook, the Big Ten career mark of touchdowns responsible for with 107. His three against Army (two passing, one running) pushed him one past former Purdue great Drew Brees.
Who is hot?
J.K. Dobbins, who now has a home run, as Urban Meyer likes to call it, on his threat list. Army had no countermeasure when the Buckeyes launched Dobbins on the 52-yard touchdown run that tilted the game. Now future defenses must cope with the idea Dobbins can take it to the house if he gains the second level. He is No. 8 in the nation with 425 yards rushing, and No. 1 on the OSU pecking order with 2016’s 1,000-yard rusher, Mike Weber, a close second.
What went right?
There are two ways to look at trying to loosen a defense. Some say establish the inside run game, then hit a few passes and the elastic band in the middle starts to unravel. Some, such as Meyer, say hit them on the edges with run-pass options and wide screens, and the middle will start to sag. That worked against Army, and likely will work against the likes of Nevada-Las Vegas (90th in the nation in total defense — 416.5-yard average after a loss to Howard and win over Idaho), but the next true test is weeks away.
Back to the drawing board
The kickoff coverage swung too free against Army a couple of times, and the coaches blamed part of it on improperly placed kicks by freshman Blake Haubeil. That’s why walk-on Bryan Kristan, a 2017 OSU scholar athlete, made his debut on the second-half kickoff. Oops — way out of bounds it sailed. It was back to Haubeil, but making it better is a work in progress.
Middle linebacker/co-captain Chris Worley suffered a foot sprain as a result of a legal Army cut block in the second quarter. He was replaced by Tuf Borland, who led the team in tackles. Worley’s status will be updated as the week ensues.
Nevada-Las Vegas bounced back from a stunning loss in the opener to Football Championship Subdivision team Howard to beat Idaho in week two before a bye. UNLV has challenges on defense but is No. 8 nationally in total offense (557-yard average). The Runnin’ Rebels live up to their nickname ranking No. 4 in rushing (350.5). Consider the competition, of course, but Lexington Thomas has 341 yards rushing and five TDs in two games.
This week's challenge
To stay in the serious playoff discourse, Ohio State must beat teams at least as expected, and it is expected to be a major favorite over UNLV. It’s obvious that AP voters are watching, and College Football Playoff committee members likely are, too.