COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State will round out nonconference play Saturday with a game against UNLV.
The Rebels aren’t expected to provide a serious challenge to the Buckeyes. UNLV will enter Ohio State as a 40-point underdog, and history suggests there’s a good chance the Buckeyes come out firing despite the early start.
Here are three keys for the Ohio State-UNLV game, followed by predictions from our three Land of 10 Ohio State writers.
How it starts
Given the talent disparity between these programs, this game has the potential to be over in a hurry. Ohio State is favored by 40 points, which is probably the largest such margin it will see all year. Although the Buckeyes won comfortably against Indiana and Army, they didn’t pull away in the first half. Both of those teams had chances in the second half to make or keep it close well into the third quarter. A slow start by Ohio State that doesn’t get any better is pretty much UNLV’s only chance of hanging around in this one. The Rebels are unlikely to mount any sort of comeback, so the Buckeyes can put it away early if they come out firing from the start instead of working through some issues in the first half.
Perhaps the surest way to keep a less talented team in a game is to give up points and field position via turnovers. If all things are equal in terms of possessions, the Buckeyes will find themselves a very comfortable winner on Saturday. But if Ohio State is either throwing away possessions or outright handing points to UNLV via turnovers, bad things come into play. On the other hand, the Buckeyes could make it a short afternoon for their starters if they’re dominating the turnover battle and completely outclassing the Rebels.
It will be interesting to see what the Buckeyes’ approach is if they put away the Rebels relatively early. Against clock-killing Army, they didn’t have enough possessions to work on the deep ball. Nor did backup Dwayne Haskins get more than one drive to show what he could do, because by the time J.T. Barrett was done for the day the game was almost over. The Buckeyes probably will have more margin for error to work through some things against an overmatched opponent, so it will be interesting to see if they try more deep shots or get a backup quarterback out there earlier.
Ohio State-UNLV picks, score predictions
The point spread from Las Vegas sports books suggests the game won’t be close, and all three Land of 10 writers agree. Ohio State has too many offensive playmakers for the Rebels to contend with, and UNLV won’t be able to eat away at the clock the way Army did. That means more chances for Ohio State, and the Buckeyes usually convert those against overmatched teams. Whether the Buckeyes will cover the spread wasn’t unanimous, but there’s a consensus the game won’t be close.
Jeremy Birmingham: Ohio State 58, UNLV 10
Ryan Ginn: Ohio State 56, UNLV 6
Austin Ward: Ohio State 49, UNLV 17