Ohio State football: What to watch for versus UNLV


Ohio State will look to add another win Saturday. As we wait for the team to take the field, let’s check out what fans should keep an eye during the game.

The UNLV Rebels comes to Columbus, OH for the last tune up before Big Ten play begins in earnest. After a good win against Army, the Ohio State Buckeyes are starting to round into shape.

What should you look for ahead of Ohio State versus UNLV?

Can Tuf Borland play a complete game?

After Chris Worley got hurt early against Army, Borland stormed onto the field and was a force against the run. With perhaps the best football name on the roster, Borland is more of a run-stuffing middle linebacker without the same type of athleticism as Worley or Dante Booker.

With Worley and Booker limited, Borland could see himself starting against UNLV.

More from Factory of Sadness

UNLV is a run first team and incorporates a far more traditional style than Army’s option. Lexington Thomas, the lead back for the Rebels, is inside the top 15 nationally in rushing yards, giving Ohio State their second straight opponent inside the top 15 (Ahmad Bradshaw, Army).

As a run first linebacker, this should be a good matchup for Borland and the Silver Bullets. They have been far better against the run than the pass this year.

UNLV — big play offense?

UNLV lost to Howard and beat lowly Idaho. They”re not exactly favored to win a lot of games this year and are heavy underdogs against the Buckeyes. A quick look through the box scores show that despite the overwhelming odds, they do have some big play ability.

Running back Lexington Thomas averages 9 yards per carry in a run first offense. He put up 190 yards against Idaho, including a 60 and 62 yard touchdown run. Receiver Devonte Boyd has only caught 6 passes on the year, but has 208 yards and at least 100 yards in each game this season.

Boyd busted loose for a 94 yard score against Idaho and had a 46 yard catch against Howard and is averaging a 34.7 yards per catch on the season.

Should the Buckeyes be worried? The initial reaction is to say no. However, the Buckeyes’ defense is still ranked in the bottom third in the country against the pass behind schools like Kent State and Old Dominion.

If it weren’t for a few leaping Erick Smith break ups, Army would have been able to take a few deep shots after pulling the safeties up to stop the run. All it takes is a couple of big plays for an underdog to stick around.

Will Ohio State keep using the run-pass option?

Short answer, yes. J.K. Dobbins is the real deal. UNLV is 113th in the country against the run, giving Dobbins a favorable match up to continue his assault on Ohio State’s freshman rushing records.

More from Ohio State Buckeyes

J.T. Barrett also looked much better utilizing the RPO. Therefore, there’s little reason to believe Ohio State will move away from a scheme that has given them some positive momentum.

The Rebels’ passing defense also gives the Buckeyes an opportunity to fine tune the RPO attack. UNLV is tied for last in college football with one sack and if Barrett isn’t pressured at all, that means tight end Marcus Baugh and the backs can get involved as targets, not blockers.

While UNLV is ranked in the top 25 against the pass in total yards, they have only faced 60 attempts so far, tied for 15th in the country. Safe to say they haven’t faced the kind of talent Ohio State has from the likes of Howard and Idaho.

The benefit for the Buckeyes here is that they can be intentional about the plays they call. Will they keep utilizing the run-pass option and attack the edges?

Will they add a wrinkle of attacking deep against inferior competition? They didn’t really throw the ball vertically against Army, but that was also the first game where Kevin Wilson utilized this approach.

Against Idaho, UNLV allowed 11.9 yards per catch, including plays of 53, 36, and 23 yards. Big plays are there to be had for the Buckeyes, even with the run-pass option.

Will Ohio State commit to Dobbins?

The easy answer is yes, especially with how he has performed in the first three games of his Buckeye career. The freshman has exceeded expectations and forced last season’s leading rusher to a minimal role. Dobbins has quickly become the most potent weapon in the Buckeye attack.

Would it surprise you to see that Dobbins has fewer carries in his last two games (26) combined than in the season opener against Indiana (29)? Would it surprise you that Dobbins has 36 carries from the Ohio State 20 yard line to the opponent’s 40 yard line, but only 19 total carries from the opponent’s 39 to the goal line?

Dobbins has emerged as a viable lead back in the Ohio State offense and can really help provide some cover the the struggling passing game. It’s tough to argue that Dobbins isn’t involved, as he clearly has earned the trust of the coaching staff to handle the responsibility of a starting running back.

Once conference play hits, though, Dobbins will be the offense’s best bet to put points on the board, and it’s not just because he’s that good. It’s because if he continues to rack up yardage the way that he is, it allows the rest of the offense to open up and allows Wilson to be more dynamic in his approach.

Next: 5 reasons OSU will beat UNLV

All the Buckeyes need to do is lean on Dobbins and keep the wheels turning.