Assert dominance early 

Let’s not kid ourselves. Ohio State would need an awful performance to lose this game. UNLV is a 40-point underdog. Yes, the Rebels lost to Howard, an even bigger underdog. But coach Urban Meyer wouldn’t let the Buckeyes become complacent enough to let that happen. Just to be safe, it’d be smart for the Buckeyes to jump on UNLV early just so the Rebels don’t get some confidence and start believing they can pull off the monumental upset.

Stop UNLV’s running game

The Rebels have been successful running the ball against weak competition. Lexington Thomas is averaging 9.0 yards per carry. He is on the small side (5 feet 9, 170 pounds) but explosive. Thomas had touchdown runs of 60 and 62 yards against Idaho. But Ohio State is not Idaho, and the Buckeyes should be able to keep him in check.

Keep developing the passing game

The Buckeyes’ much-criticized passing game gained some traction against Army, but much work remains to be done. The deep ball is still elusive. Other downfield throws tend to fall incomplete or not be caught in stride so that receivers can outrun the coverage. Teams will continue to play a soft zone and dare J.T. Barrett and his receivers to settle for short gains until the Buckeyes can stretch the field horizontally and vertically consistently.

Get young players meaningful time

Assuming the game goes as expected, this would be an ideal time to get some of the Buckeyes’ young players some extended playing time. Let’s see what Dwayne Haskins Jr. and/or Joe Burrow can do in more than mop-up duty. Could one of the freshman cornerbacks, most likely Jeffrey Okudah, provide some evidence that they’re ready for a role on the defense? What about offensive linemen such as Wyatt Davis, Josh Myers or Thayer Munford and receiver Trevon Grimes? 

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Who has the edge against UNLV?

When

Buckeyes run

Edge

OHIO STATE

This might be the biggest mismatch of the game. OSU should be able to run the ball at will against a porous UNLV run defense that ranks 113th nationally.

When

Buckeyes pass

Edge

OHIO STATE

J.T. Barrett and company made solid progress last week against Army, but most of the passes were short ones. The Rebels should be vulnerable to some shots down the field.

When

Rebels run

Edge

OHIO STATE

UNLV’s run game has been its strength so far. Lexington Thomas is a capable runner. But OSU’s run defense is a wee bit of an upgrade from Howard and Idaho.

When

Rebels pass

Edge

OHIO STATE

The Rebels will pose more of a threat through the air than Army, but UNLV prefers the ground game. Redshirt freshman quarterback Armani Rogers was a four-star recruit.

Special

teams

Edge

OHIO STATE

The big focus for OSU will be its kickoffs and punt returns, with the former having been particularly a problem. UNLV’s kicking game has been ordinary.

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch

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