Loyal and long-time followers of Men of the Scarlet and Gray may recall how I wrote about Minnesota not necessarily being a pushover, back before the season started. It looks like Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer is of the same mindset, with the comments made after one of this week’s practices…
Meyer said Minnesota has two NFL-caliber cornerbacks.— Ozone Communications (@theOzonedotnet) November 4, 2015
Say what you will about Minnesota lacking explosive speed at the skill positions. I will merely remind Ohio State fans that Minnesota is well-coached and fundamentally sound, despite the calamitous ending to the game against That Team Up North on October 31st.
Below are three critical areas I will be keeping an eye on as Ohio State and Minnesota kick off in Ohio Stadium at 8pm EST on ABC ~
1. How will Cardale Jones play as the unquestioned starter at quarterback – Last season, Cardale Jones was thrust into play, due to the season-ending injury to J.T. Barrett. With Barrett completely out of the picture, the team rallied around Jones…you know how that wonderful script ended. In a similar fashion, with Barrett suspended, will Jones go back to his carefree approach to playing quarterback that served him, and the Buckeyes, so well at the end of the 2014 season? And if Jones does play that way, will it be enough to earn Jones the starting quarterback job back from Barrett for the remainder of the 2015 season?
2. Braxton Miller as the backup/red zone quarterback – Ohio State fans became weary with Jones unable to lead the Buckeyes to touchdowns earlier this season. J.T. Barrett regained the starting quarterback position with his ability to fully execute the offense. With Barrett suspended, Coach Meyer has stated a willingness to use former quarterback and current wide receiver Braxton Miller as the backup, and possibly, the red zone quarterback. Will Miller be able to throw the ball, or is Miller’s shoulder still injured enough to preclude Miller from truly being more than just a wildcat quarterback?
3. Minnesota’s Confidence – Losing Jerry Kill to an unexpected retirement was bad enough. Losing a home game, in the manner and fashion that Minnesota did, truly defined the expression of “adding insult to injury”. How will the Golden Gophers respond after such a double dose of disappointment?
Prediction: Look for Cardale Jones to come out of the gate, playing with a confidence level that Ohio State fans have not seen this season. Even with Minnesota putting eight men in the box to stop Ezekiel Elliott, look for Jones to capitalize on some deep passes for big gains. Minnesota will put up a good fight, but I like Ohio State to pull away in the second half. I have it Ohio State 35, Minnesota 14.