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Make no mistake, the Oregon defense is going to need all hands on deck in order to slow the Buckeyes down on Saturday.
Yes, Ohio State is going to throw out a redshirt freshman at quarterback making his first start at The Horseshoe. CJ Stroud was on the field for just a handful of plays in 2020, but won the starting job in the spring and he didn’t disappoint last week in his first real game action at Minnesota.
The former five-star recruit from Empire, Calif. led the Buckeyes to a 45-31 victory over the Golden Gophers by going 13-of-22 passing for 298 yards and four touchdowns.
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Two of those scores went to Chris Olave, one of the best wide receivers in the country. The 6-foot-1 senior from San Ysidro, Calif. averaged 104 yards a game receiving last year. He caught more passes (50) in the abbreviated season of 2020 than he did in a full 2019 campaign (49).
But defenders can’t just pay attention to Olave as the Buckeyes have Garrett Wilson, named a second-team All-American by The Sporting News. Wilson was a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2020 as a true sophomore, posting totals of 43 receptions for 723 yards, six touchdowns, and a team-best average of 16.8 yards per catch.
“I’m not sure I’ve had to face two first round picks,” Oregon defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter said. “A lot of times you’ll see a special guy and you can design coverages around to try and double him, but when you face two guys with the talent they have, it’s really, really difficult. Obviously, we have to present different looks, pressure their quarterback, but the biggest thing they do is the play-action game.
“They get their running game doing, so you have to add more guys and that’s where they get their explosion plays from.”
Like the Ducks, Ohio State has a power tailback in Miyan Williams, a redshirt freshman, and a speed back in true freshman TreVeyon Henderson. Both are dangerous in their own ways as Williams powered his way to 125 yards on just nine carries and Henderson managed a 70-yard touchdown reception out of the backfield.
Ohio State likes to get their offensive weapons out in space and let their speed do the rest. The Minnesota defense didn’t have the capability to stay with the Buckeyes, but hopefully DeRuyter’s personnel can.