COLUMBUS -- The second part of third-ranked Ohio State’s two-game season-opening set against power conference opponents is set for Saturday when the third-ranked Buckeyes host to Oregon at noon.
The clash is for not just interregional bragging rights but could have long-term implications in the College Football Playoff push.
Here are five things to know about the game:
1. Ryan Day expects to have to play a field position game on his hands.
The current head coach of the Buckeyes sounded more like a former head coach of the Buckeyes — Jim Tressel — when he described how he sees the game playing out Saturday.
“We have to play a field position game,” Day said. “At times, we’re gonna have to make sure that we understand that going in and just see how the game plays out, but it’s a very talented group.”
Oregon is young but fast on defense and uses a 3-4 front to attack opposing offenses from different angles.
“We’re gonna have to do a really good job identifying where they are, where they’re coming from, and then we’re gonna have to stay on blocks and take care of the football and stay on schedule,” Day said. “This is as athletic and as fast a defense as we’ve played a long time.”
2. The Buckeyes want to ride the wave of the Ohio Stadium crowd — to a point.
Ohio Stadium has not been close to full since Penn State visited in late November 2019, but at least 90,000 fans are expected to be on hand Saturday.
That will be a new experience for many of the Buckeyes — including redshirt freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud, whose first time playing in front of a large opposing crowd came just last week at Minnesota.
“I think that the term we use is you’ve got to play with emotion, but you can’t let emotion play with you,” Day said. “Which means if you’re letting that emotion affect your play, then it’s a disadvantage, and so whether it’s playing on the road in front of a hostile crowd or playing at home for the first time in a long time with our crowd, we can’t ride that roller coaster. We’ve got to stay focused on the task at hand.”
3. Oregon is looking for a statement win.
The Ducks have been one of — if not the — best programs on the West Coast for most of the 21st century, but they have not achieved true blue-blood status yet, having played for the national championship twice and lost.
Oregon is also 0-9 all-time against Ohio State.
“If you’re a real competitor, you always want to test yourself against the very best,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal told reporters in Eugene this week. “Ohio State is an elite program from top to bottom, a storied program with tremendous history at a place where they’ve had tremendous success. You come to a place like Oregon to have opportunities like this, understanding the tremendous opportunity it is, the tremendous challenge it is, just going against the very best.
“I don’t think anyone who has played football and loved the game for what it is, would want anything less than to go out and play against the very best. We have that opportunity this week.”
4. Oregon’s best player could miss the game or be limited.
Kayvon Thibedoux was the No. 2 prospect in the country according to 247Sports Composite rankings three years ago, and Pro Football Focus ranked him the No. 6 player in the country heading into this season.
The outside linebacker suffered an ankle injury in Oregon’s opener, though, and his status for the game at Ohio State was in question all week.
Playing without its best player would certainly hinder the Ducks defense, but there are other talented performers on Cristobal’s squad, including redshirt freshman linebacker Justin Flowe.
He had 14 tackles against Fresno State last week.
“He’s a game-changer,” Cristobal said of Flowe. “The guy had almost 15 tackles. All over the field. He plays with incredible passion. He forces turnovers. He’s really aggressive.”
5. Who will play center or in the secondary for Ohio State is not certain.
Luke Wypler started in the middle of the OSU offensive line for projected starter Harry Miller in week one, and no one would say if Miller will be back this week. (No reason for his absence has been given.)
“We’ve played a couple different guys and we’ll continue to roll guys,” Day said. “I think Luke’s ready to start, I thought he did a really good job in the first game.”
The head coach noted Oregon’s defense would bring a fresh challenge with a true nose guard lining up over the center, seeming to indicate Wypler will be the guy.
“So they’ll have somebody lined up on him, and that’ll be a new thing for him, a new opportunity for him to grow,” Day said. “We’ll see closer to the game how it all shakes out, but I thought he’s had a good week of practice.”
Day was also mum on whether any or all of a trio of injured veteran defensive backs — corners Cam Brown and Sevyn Banks and deep safety Josh Proctor — would be available.
Freshmen Denzel Burke and Ryan Watts started in place of Brown and Banks last week while Bryson Shaw replaced Proctor when he left the game with an apparent injury in the fourth quarter.
Oregon at Ohio State, Noon, Fox, 1410