Big Ten Battle
Ohio State's offense received a spark last week, as highly touted freshman Terrelle Pryor had a stellar debut as the starting quarterback.
Coach Jim Tressel hopes another key part of the offense can provide a lift on Saturday.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Ohio State –17.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 60% of bets for this game have been placed on Ohio State –17.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
Star running back Chris "Beanie" Wells is expected to be back in the lineup for the first time since the season opener as the 14th-ranked Buckeyes begin their quest for a fourth straight Big Ten title when they start conference play by hosting surprising Minnesota.
Wells was the nation's ninth-leading rusher in 2007 as a sophomore, finishing with 1,609 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was considered a Heisman Trophy candidate this season, when Ohio State (3-1) opened as the No. 2 team in the nation.
Wells rushed for 111 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries in the Buckeyes' 43-0 win over Youngstown State on Aug. 30, but left in the third quarter with a foot injury. He missed the next three games, and Tressel said Tuesday that Wells was probable for the conference opener.
The addition of Wells should help an offense that has averaged 262.7 yards in its last three games.
"I think it adds to our arsenal," Tressel said. "He's a good back. He can do some things, so exactly how that will unfold, I don't know."
Wells would be joined in the backfield by Pryor, who last week became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Ohio State since Art Schlichter in 1978.
After an embarrassing 35-3 loss at top-ranked Southern California on Sept. 13, Tressel shook up the offense by replacing senior Todd Boeckman with Pryor.
The 6-foot-6 Pryor was 10-for-16 for 139 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in last Saturday's 28-10 win over Troy.
"My comfort level is about 7 or 8 out of 10 right now," said Pryor, who also ran 14 times for 66 yards. "You saw some bad (thrown) balls along with the four touchdowns I threw. I have so much to learn."
Now that Pryor has his first start under his belt, he'll look to continue his development against conference foes.
The Buckeyes have won 22 of 24 conference games since their league title streak began in 2005, and have won three straight Big Ten openers since a 33-27 overtime loss to Northwestern in 2004.
Ohio State has also won five straight over the Golden Gophers (4-0) since the then-No. 6 Buckeyes lost 29-17 at Ohio Stadium on Oct. 14, 2000. Ohio State, which has won 21 of its last 22 at home, is 20-3 all-time against Minnesota in Columbus.
The Buckeyes defeated Minnesota 30-7 last Sept. 29 as Wells rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns, but this Gophers team will likely look different.
After going 1-11 in its first year under coach Tim Brewster in 2007, Minnesota is trying to open with five straight victories for the first time since 2004.
The Gophers were last in total defense last season (518.7 yards per game), but are allowing an average of 354.8 yards under new defensive coordinator Ted Roof, who was fired last season as the head coach at Duke.
Minnesota had four interceptions in last Saturday's 37-3 win over Florida Atlantic, avenging last season's 42-39 loss to the Owls. The Gophers already have forced 13 turnovers - while only committing two - after forcing only 14 all of last season.
"We're executing the plan," Brewster said. "I had a plan when I took this job, a blueprint for exactly what we wanted to accomplish and how we wanted to accomplish it.
"We're going to have to improve as a football team if we expect to win games in the Big Ten, but I like our football team."
Offensively, Minnesota is led by quarterback Adam Weber, who has passed for 967 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception. Weber's top target, Eric Decker, leads the Big 10 in receptions (32), yards (454) and has four TD catches.
BETTING TRENDS FOR THIS GAME
OHIO ST is 8-4 against the spread versus MINNESOTA since 1992
OHIO ST is 11-1 straight up against MINNESOTA since 1992
4 of 7 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
OHIO ST is 1-1 against the spread versus MINNESOTA over the last 3 seasons
OHIO ST is 2-0 straight up against MINNESOTA over the last 3 seasons
2 of 2 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
OHIO ST is 3-3 against the spread versus MINNESOTA since 1992
OHIO ST is 5-1 straight up against MINNESOTA since 1992
2 of 3 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
OHIO ST is 1-0 against the spread versus MINNESOTA over the last 3 seasons
OHIO ST is 1-0 straight up against MINNESOTA over the last 3 seasons
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
KEY INJURIES FOR THIS GAME
(!) [RB] Beanie Wells missed last game %27?%27 - Foot - 09/13/08
[OG] Steve Rehring is expected to miss. - Foot - 09/17/08
[DT] Todd Denlinger is %27?%27 - Ankle - 09/15/08
[DB] Tyler Moeller missed last game %27?%27 - Undisclosed - 09/13/08
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