Ohio State stays at home this weekend after improving to 2-0 on the season with last week’s home-opening win over Youngstown State. This week will bring a much different challenge to the table as Western Kentucky comes into town with one of the nation’s most prolific offenses powered by quarterback Austin Reed and star receiver Malachi Corley. Former Buckeye Blue Smith also makes his return as one of the Hilltoppers’ leading pass catchers.
The Ohio State secondary has received praise early this season, will they rise to the challenge on Saturday or will the WKU offense bring more questions to the fold with a week until the big showdown at Notre Dame?
Western Kentucky provides a real test for OSU’s pass defense, which remains the outstanding question that has a base defense featuring 230 pound Sonny Styles at nickel and Josh Proctor at free safety. Look for lots of Jordan Hancock at nickel. The Hilltoppers will surely challenge OSU with lots of wide receiver motion. Look for Jim Knowles continue to build on using four and five man man and zone pressure schemes.
This is the week for the OSU offense to get into the next gear with Kyle McCord as the full time starter. Look for Ryan Day to again feature RPOs and PPOs combined with the inside run game that play to McCord and Traeyveon Henderson’s strengths while repeatedly getting the ball into Marvin Harrison and Emeka Egbuka’s hands.
Ohio State 39 Western Kentucky 23
I am expecting a career day from Kyle McCord. Of course, with just three career starts, that’s not a high bar. But he should have his second career 300-yard day against Western Kentucky. The Buckeyes should also be able to run it as much as they want to. Western Kentucky hasn’t stopped the run yet this year, and they better not start on Saturday.
Defensively, I expect the Buckeyes to give up some points, but let’s see how they adjust on the second, third, and fourth possessions. Don’t be shocked when WKU goes down the field on the first drive. We see that all the time. But I am interested to see how the pass defense holds up, specifically the two deep safeties. This is the first real passing threat the Buckeyes have faced, and also the first tempo team. They’re gonna have to be on point quicker than ever.
Ohio State 52 Western Kentucky 21
I can already see the comments on Twitter as the Ohio State defense yields some sustained drives by WKU and maybe even a big play or two and the Hilltoppers top the 20-point mark.
But this is legitimately one of the best, and yes, most talented, offenses that Ohio State will face this season and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that might happen on Saturday. On the flip side, this should be a breakout week for the offense. The WKU defense isn’t particularly strong in any facet and should be able to be handled up front.
Another week for Kyle McCord to get comfortable and the Buckeyes to continue to make some tweaks offensively, should lead to plenty of points. Not sure OSU will cover the spread, but I do like the over here this weekend.
Ohio State 49 Western Kentucky 24
This is a game where the defense will get tested. And while the Silver Bullets have been playing well, I could see them giving up a couple too many “big plays” for comfort throughout the afternoon on Saturday, making this one a bit more scary than it should be for the first 2.5 quarters.
That said, I think the offense will be on point this weekend, with Kyle McCord feeling even more comfortable in start number three, and having the QB1 job locked down. The focus this week is on converting third down better and I think the OSU offense will do that, with the defense doing so just enough as well to help McCord & Co. put a bunch of points on the board. to pull away late in the third.
Ohio State 48 Western Kentucky 24
I have kicked this one around longer than I normally do. I really don’t expect Ohio State to be able to keep Western Kentucky off the scoreboard, but I do think this is a week where Ohio State has some more offensive success, be that because we have a true “starter” at quarterback or maybe because WKU is just nothing to write home about when it comes to defense.
Over the course of the past two-plus seasons, WKU has been held to fewer than 14 points one time and that was not from a Power Five opponent, it was a loss to North Texas that it occurred.
The Buckeyes holding WKU to 14 or fewer points would be a major accomplishment and more evidence that Ohio State’s defense has taken more than one step since last season. Now, if Ohio State’s defense is unable to do that, it is not an indictment on a leaky Ohio State defense but rather a testament to WKU’s system working well for it and having a good amount of talent on the offensive side.
When it comes to WKU’s defense, well… I am not buying. This is going to be a game where Ohio State has to get out of Ohio State’s own way to break beyond the limits of the past two season. While I don’t expect to have memories of 2022 with this offensive output, I do expect so major strides as the Buckeyes set the stage for week four and Notre Dame.
Ohio State 45 Western Kentucky 21
Please take some time to mentally prepare yourself for the fact that
Western Kentucky is going to score some points on Saturday. Their
offense is solid enough and features enough talented players that
they’re going to hit some plays through the air. It’s likely going to
be enough to be really annoying. They’ll string together some 8-play
drives, maybe hit a big play here and there, and probably find the end
zone a few times.
The good news is that the Buckeyes should be able to move the ball on
the ground and that now that Kyle McCord has the reigns of the offense
full-time, they should be more in rhythm in the passing game.
Ohio State 42 Western Kentucky 24