Before the Buckeyes turn their attention to the Fighting Irish, they have to take care of business at home against Western Kentucky at 4 p.m. Saturday. Below are three things to know about the game against the Hilltoppers.
Kyle McCord is the guy
During Tuesday’s news conference, coach Ryan Day announced Kyle McCord will be the starting quarterback.
McCord showed progress and poise in his second game this season as the starter. He went 14-of-20 passing for 258 yards and three touchdowns. All but five of those yards came in the first half. Day said McCord “deserves” the role.
“It gives Kyle peace of mind knowing that he’s the starter and he deserves that opportunity,” Day said. “He’ll get more of the [practice time with other starters] than he has the last couple of weeks, and I think it’s good for the team to know Kyle is the starter.”
Having one clear starter could mean more efficiency from OSU, which has scored on 10 of its 19 possessions for a 52% success rate. Day said the Buckeyes aim to score on at least 65% of their drives.
Air it Out
Ohio State has yet to record a sack this season, but will have plenty of chances against a Western Kentucky team that loves to pass. The Hilltoppers rank fifth nationally in passing attempts per game, so the defensive line will have ample opportunities to pressure Austin Reed.
Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said Tuesday that Ohio State hasn’t had many “opportunities yet” to get a sack because of the offenses they had faced. Indiana only threw the ball 20 times running the triple option. And 56% of Youngstown State’s plays were runs and most of its passes were thrown quickly to negate the pass rush.
“It looks like this week they’re going to get their chance,” Knowles said.
This will also be a good challenge for the secondary. Its inability to limit long plays last season is well documented. Saturday’s game will be the first real test to see if Ohio State has gotten better. Western Kentucky ranks 12th nationally in passing yards per game (327).
“I think it’s a big test. I really do. This is an offense that will attack on the perimeter and down the field. We had some issues with that last year,” Knowles said. “We’ve gotten better in our first couple games in terms of explosive plays and minimizing that, but we haven’t really been tested yet so this will be important.”
Ohio State has done well preventing big plays. The defense has only allowed 12 plays of 10 yards or more, second-best in the country. Only three of those plays went for more than 20 yards.
Third down woes
On offense, Day said Ohio State needs to be better on third-down conversions. The Buckeyes are 7 of 24 on third downs. Day said they expect to be at least 60% successful.
“We’ve found ourselves so far this year in some third-and-2s, third-and-3s that we haven’t converted on offense. We’ve got to get it fixed. We’ve got to do a better job of that,” Day said.
Day said he thought the offensive line played well against Youngstown State, but he needs to see more consistency, especially on third downs.
“We expect on third-and-1, 2 and 3 to execute, to get first downs, and there was a couple penalties in there as well, so we’ve got to clean those things up,” Day said.
Two of those penalties negated touchdowns scored by the Buckeyes. Day was told by Big Ten officials that the holding penalty on Chip Trayanum should not have been called, so OSU should have won 42-7.
Regardless, converting on more third downs will be paramount when Ohio State faces Notre Dame in less than two weeks.