Ninth-ranked Ohio State looks to continue seeing progress as it readies for the meat of the Big Ten season when the Buckeyes host UNLV on Saturday in the finale of its non-conference schedule. Senior quarterback J.T. Barrett stepped up with his finest performance of the young season last week as he completed 25-of-33 passes for 270 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Ohio State’s 38-7 win over Army.
Barrett had been questioned after connecting on just 55.7 percent of his passes in the first two games, including the 31-16 loss to Oklahoma, but the 22-year-old is just 238 from being the first Buckeye to reach 10,000 yards of total offense. “The heart of a lion,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer told reporters of Barrett, who passed Drew Brees last week for the Big Ten record in career TDs responsible for with 107. “He’s one of the toughest players I’ve ever been around, so that’s pretty good characteristics to have for the guy touching the ball every snap.” Meyer said this week that the Buckeyes are still a work in progress on offense while their pass defense and kick coverage needs to improve as they face UNLV, which scored 84 points in its first two games. The Rebels were shocked by FCS member Howard in their opener before rolling over Idaho 44-16 on Sept. 9 and enjoying a week off to get ready for the team’s first meeting with the Buckeyes.
TV: Noon ET, Big Ten Network. LINE: Ohio State -40.5
UNLV (1-1): The Rebels have totaled 701 yards on the ground in the first two games, led by junior Lexington Thomas (341, five touchdowns), and will face a defense this week which is allowing just 3.1 per carry. Freshman quarterback Armani Rogers has completed 21-of-35 for 413 yards and a pair of TDs while adding 168 yards and a score on the ground with 25 attempts. Senior wide receiver Devonte Boyd is the biggest threat for the Rebels with six receptions for 208 yards in the first two games, leaving him 162 receiving yards shy of becoming the second player in school history to reach 3,000.
OHIO STATE (2-1): Sophomore K.J. Hill pulled down a career-high eight passes against Army to tie junior Parris Campbell for the team lead with 15 receptions and junior Terry McLaurin joins the pair as a 100-yard receiver in three games. Sophomore Mike Weber (seven carries, 42 yards) is still not 100 percent according to Meyer due to a hamstring injury, but the Buckeyes have not missed a beat on the ground with freshman J.K. Dobbins rushing for 425 yards (7.7 per attempt) and three touchdowns. Senior safety Damon Webb has led the defense, which is giving up over 275 passing yards per game, with 24 tackles.
1. Barrett needs 95 passing yards to move ahead of Bobby Hoying (7,232) for second on the school’s all-time list.
2. UNLV is 2-14 against teams currently in the Big Ten (both wins against Wisconsin) and the highest ranked team it has beaten was No. 8 BYU in 1981.
3. Ohio State LB Chris Worley (foot) is questionable for Saturday’s contest and WR Johnnie Dixon (hamstring) is day-to-day.
PREDICTION: Ohio State 45, UNLV 17