NMS at Ohio St Preview
Columbus, OH - Terrelle Pryor's poor play doomed Ohio State in its lone conference loss, but after enduring a week's worth of heavy criticism, the sophomore quarterback played a key role in keeping his team in the Big Ten title chase.
He shouldn't need to provide nearly as much of a boost in his next game.
Pryor's 17th-ranked Buckeyes get a week off from the conference race Saturday when they host New Mexico State, which features the least productive offense in the nation.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGLOBAL.com have made Ohio State -44 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 51% of bets for this game have been placed on Ohio State -44 (View College Football bet percentages).
Ohio State (6-2) was the Big Ten's preseason favorite largely because of Pryor, who was picked as the conference's preseason offensive player of the year after flashing his dual-threat potential as a freshman.
Instead of continuing to develop, however, Pryor seems to have taken a step back. After six inconsistent games to start the season, Pryor was responsible for four turnovers in the Buckeyes' shocking 26-18 loss at Purdue on Oct. 17 that left Iowa as the league's lone remaining unbeaten team.
A tumultuous week followed, with Pryor taking much of the heat for Ohio State's offensive failures. His high school coach from Jeanette, Pa., was largely critical of how coach Jim Tressel used Pryor, receiver DeVier Posey stated Pryor "can't do much worse," and Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James spoke with the quarterback over the phone, advising him on how to deal with the spotlight.
Pryor responded with arguably his best game of the season. He threw for 239 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 104 yards and another score, and had only one turnover while Ohio State racked up 509 total yards in a 38-7 rout of Minnesota.
"For the amount of heat that Terrelle Pryor took this week, I thought he played really well," receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said. "I knew in practice he would come through."
Part of Pryor's big game was finding a connection with Posey, who enjoyed a career day by catching eight passes for 161 yards and two TDs. Posey has found the end zone in four straight games and is tied for second in the conference with six TD receptions.
The Buckeyes still can claim at least a share of a fifth straight Big Ten title if they win out - they face key league matchups against Penn State and Iowa the next two weeks - but first hope to take care of WAC foe New Mexico State (3-5).
"I hope that they do understand that the progress we make or we don't make will affect the next time we play when we get back in the conference," Tressel said. "... I don't think that this is going to disrupt us."
Though Pryor is the Buckeyes' leading rusher, their run game is plagued by injuries. Tailback Brandon Saine left last Saturday's game with a mild concussion and will be evaluated as the week progresses. Dan Herron, third in rushing behind Pryor and Saine, is questionable with an ankle injury that's kept him out of the last two games.
If neither Saine nor Herron can go, freshmen Jordan Hall and Jermil Martin - who have a total of 43 carries - would split time. Martin had seven carries for 75 yards and a touchdown against Minnesota.
Regardless of who's carrying the ball, Ohio State should be in decent shape against the Aggies. New Mexico State is 103rd in the nation in rush defense, allowing 185.6 yards per game - including 254.0 over the last three contests.
The biggest problem for first-year coach DeWayne Walker's team, though, is on the other side of the ball. New Mexico State is 119th in the nation in scoring (13.3 points per game) and is last in total offense (254.3 yards per game).
The Aggies have been outscored 79-10 in their last two games, the latest a 34-3 home loss to Fresno State last Saturday.
The Buckeyes defense, meanwhile, is seventh in scoring (13.1 ppg) and 13th in total yards (284.8) - a mismatch that's made them 40-point favorites over the Aggies.
"We're not taking anybody lightly," said defensive end Thaddeus Gibson, who recorded three sacks against Minnesota. "They can throw the ball and run the ball just like any other team."
New Mexico State, which has never faced the Buckeyes, has lost 12 straight to ranked opponents since a 35-7 win at No. 22 Arizona State in 1999.
Posted: 10/27/09 7:55PM ET