When the expectations this week are close to what exaggerations are on most weeks, you know that you are facing an over-matched opponent. UNLV comes to town this week as close to a six-touchdown underdog against the home team.
The Buckeyes now have to move on from the Army West Point game last week with the triple option and all of the trappings that a service academy football team brings to the table to face a UNLV squad that runs much more traditional sets.
Last week the Ohio State offense took some steps in the right direction while the defense may have found a future star in linebacker Tuf Borland.
How do we see our expectations (a standard prediction) and exaggerations (a lofty goal) shaping up for today's game? Continue reading to find out.
Kevin Noon - 300 is a good start
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett already has a 300-yard passing game under his belt this year (Indiana) and Saturday will be his second one of the year and sixth of his career.
Now, on its own, that is a pretty boring prediction to make. Barrett has already hit that number five times in his career, four times during his redshirt freshman season. So, let's up the ante a little bit. His career passing high is 349 yards (Bowling Green - 2016). He will best that mark as well.
Still not impressive enough for an expectation? Let's add in some rushing numbers too. The Buckeyes really won't need to run Barrett in this game to move the ball, not with J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber both looking to have big games against the Rebels. But there will be times where the read on the field will call for Barrett to take off and he will have 100 yards rushing as well.
So, let's adjust this expectation. I am calling for 350 passing yards and 100 rushing yards from Barrett.
And some people will still not be impressed.
Colin Gay - Parris Campbell continues success in "Curtis Samuel-role"
Last season, Curtis Samuel led Ohio State with 66.5 yards receiving per game. That number was 35.6 yards more than Noah Brown, the second best receiver statistically.
You can see the receiving stat lines start to look eerily similar this season. In the first three games, Parris Campbell leads all Buckeye receivers with 72.3 yards per game, 31 yards in front of K.J. Hill, who has the same amount of catches Campbell has.
Campbell has been one of the main recipients of the reemergence of the run/pass option offense. In his last game against Army West Point, Campbell brought in six catches for 54 yards, averaging nine yards per catch.
He has clearly become one of quarterback J.T. Barrett's favorite targets in the first three games. Look for him to continue against UNLV.
Campbell will lead all Ohio State receivers in targets and receptions against the Rebels on Saturday afternoon.
Nick McWilliams - Barrett's accuracy
I love talking about the run-pass option offense and J.T. Barrett, and Ohio State is probably licking it's chops with UNLV on the schedule. Although I still expect the Buckeyes to have to work for this one, it should be a fairly easy win overall.
Urban Meyer himself said the team had to focus on this type of offense moving forward, since reading the defense quickly and deciding whether to hand the ball off, tuck it and run himself or get the ball into his playmakers hands is his biggest asset to the team. Saturday should be an even bigger showcase of that.
The Buckeyes should keep things relatively similar against an opponent they have an advantage against, regardless of what the statistics say. Barrett went 15-for-15 with passes at or behind the line of scrimmage, and I expect those numbers to rise against UNLV.
Although the Rebels have probably been keying in on those type of plays, players like Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill showed how well they can operate when scampering around the edge of the defense, and not have to depend on beating their man off the line and down the field. So, the short bubble screens and quick hitters will be exactly what's on the menu for the Buckeyes on Saturday.
I see Barrett connecting on at least 15 passes at or behind the line of scrimmage again, with maybe even a bit of an uptick in that category. Overall, this should be the game he can put a little of the accuracy he was hyped up to have improved upon this off-season, with a few chances to put the ball further down the field as well.
I see Barrett connecting on 75 percent of his passes again, and moving the offense as quickly and efficiently as he did against Army.
Kevin Noon - 3x150 is better
UNLV has shown that it has a hard time stopping the run, especially from a mobile quarterback. That should mean that J.T. is going to get his. J.K. Dobbins has two games of more than 150 rushing yards through three games to this point. He is going to get his. Mike Weber has been waiting to get back and going on offense. A hamstring kept him out of the opener, he just has not had that breakout moment for 2017 yet. He is motivated. He is going to get his.
So, the Buckeyes could have three guys all looking to have big rushing games, maybe even career rushing games. I don't think there are enough carries for them all to go nuts, but I think that there is enough there to where all three can hit nice round numbers, say 150 yards?
These guys will need to do it fast though, there is a good chance that starters could get part of the day off so they need to make the most that they can in order for at least three Ohio State rushers to surpass the 150-yard mark on the day.
Colin Gay - Turnovers on turnovers
It may be hard to remember, but one of the storylines coming out at this time last year was safety Malik Hooker and the rest of the defense's ability to create turnovers. Through three games last season, the Buckeyes had nine interceptions in non-conference play.
This season, the focus on the turnover front has not been on the interceptions. With only two interceptions through three games in 2017, the Buckeyes have focused on fumbles, recovering four fumbles while forcing two in three games. At this time last year, the defense recorded only two fumbles heading into the fourth game of the season.
With the offense focused on running the ball, UNLV has had a hard time holding onto the football. In the first two games of the season, the Rebels have fumbled the ball five times against Howard and Idaho, turning the ball over three of those five times. Even quarterback Armani Rogers struggles with fumbles, losing the ball twice in his last start against Idaho.
With UNLV heading into Ohio Stadium to face players like Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Nick Bosa on the defensive line, I think UNLV will fumble the ball at least four times, doubling Ohio State's recovered fumble count for the season.
Nick McWilliams - Mack attack
Austin Mack recovered in record time from a nasty-looking knock on the head against Oklahoma. The second-year wideout was able to play against Army, and ended up hauling in his first career touchdown, and Barrett's record-breaking pass.
He will not be satisfied with those numbers, and the short passing game could open him up as a slot receiver in the middle of the field. And I forsee just that happening.
Mack has shown some good hands and the ability to high-point passes with some success, and against UNLV, he can put both on display.If Barrett starts connecting on early passes, expect Mack to be the down field guy in this one.
I'm going for something along the lines of five catches for 115 yards and a pair of scores.
Sure, it's far out there, but where would the fun be in guessing conservatively?