Bragging rights in the state of Ohio will be on the line this weekend as the no. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes play host to the Cincinnati Bearcats. The game kicks off at high noon on Saturday, September 7 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. It will be nationally televised on ABC.
Early betting lines list the Buckeyes as 17-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 54.5 points. Be sure to check out a full list of the Week 2 college football odds.
In the first official game of the Ryan Day era, Ohio State looked like the same old Buckeyes, jumping off to a 28-0 lead midway through the 1st quarter of their season opener against Florida Atlantic. Of course, Ohio State let their foot off the gas after that and was actually outscored 21-17 over the final three quarters, failing to cover the spread. However, when they had the switch flipped to the “on” position early in the game, the Buckeyes were awfully impressive.
That being said, Cincinnati didn’t look too bad in their season opener, taking down UCLA for the second year in a row. The Bearcats only won 24-14, but they were dominant in most statical categories, racking up nearly 200 more yards than the Bruins and owning over 38 minutes of possession. However, a trip to Columbus to take on a top-10 team will be a lot different from hosting a UCLA team that’s still in the early stages of rebuilding under Chip Kelly. In other words, this will be a big game for the Bearcats, and they better be ready.
In 16 all-time meetings between Ohio State and Cincinnati, the Bearcats have just two wins, both of which came in the 19th century. More recently, the Bearcats traveled to Columbus in 2014, a game the Buckeyes won 50-28. But longtime Ohio State assistant and current Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell will now get a chance to return to his old stomping grounds and lead the Bearcats to an upset.
For the record, I hate the fact that Ohio State was so quick to ease back after jumping out to a 28-0 lead against Florida Atlantic. But I’ll trust that won’t be the case again this week, even if the Buckeyes get off to another early lead. Cincinnati is a good team that could give Ohio State problems, but the Buckeyes are far more talented. I’ll trust that Ohio State will put forth their best effort for 60 minutes and ultimately be able to cover the spread.
The biggest takeaway from the opening week for the Buckeyes had to be quarterback Justin Fields. The Georgia transfer hit the ground running in the first quarter and ended the day with five touchdowns, four passing and one rushing. He’s exactly the type of dual-threat quarterback that has excelled at Ohio State in the past and I expect another good game out of him this week.
For what it’s worth, the Cincinnati defense completely shutdown a dual-threat quarterback last week in UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson. He completed just eight of his 26 passes and threw two interceptions. The Cincinnati defense also kept him contained on the ground, showing that perhaps the Bearcats can be just as good as last season on that side of the ball.
The only caveat is that the Cincinnati defense got burned on a 75-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. That’s a red flag with Fields at quarterback and the amount of talent the Buckeyes have at the wide receiver position. I also don’t think the Bearcats can rely on getting four turnovers against Ohio State as they did against UCLA last week.
On the other side of the ball, I have some concerns about the Cincinnati offense. As mentioned, they had 38 minutes of possession and benefited from four turnovers forced by the defense, yet the Bearcats only scored 24 points against UCLA. Cincinnati averaged less than four yards per carry on the ground and didn’t have a run longer than 15 yards. The Bearcats also seem to be lacking a bonafide no. 1 wide receiver, which limits what quarterback Desmond Ridder is capable of doing in the passing game.
Normally, I wouldn’t overreact to these kinds of flaws, but this is Ohio State. From top to bottom, the Buckeyes have one of the more talented defenses in the country. They also dominated Florida Atlantic at the line of scrimmage, allowing just 22 total rushing yards and collecting four sacks. To be fair, I don’t think the Bearcats will be that overwhelmed by OSU’s talent. But if Ohio State can keep the Cincinnati rushing attack contained, the Bearcats don’t have the playmakers on the outside to move the ball consistently with the passing game alone. To me, that’s the biggest obstacle Cincinnati is facing in this game.
In the end, I don’t think Cincinnati will be blown out. But the Buckeyes can do things defensively and at the quarterback position that I don’t think Cincinnati can match. Winning by 17 or 20 points seems like a fair result in this game, and that’ll be enough for Ohio State to beat the 16-point spread.