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Toledo vs. Ohio State Prediction: Buckeyes Welcome Rockets to the Horseshoe

Buckeyes wrap up non-conference play against the in-state Rockets from the MAC.

The Toledo Rockets will play in Ohio Stadium for the first time since the 2011 season when they take on the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday. Both teams enter this game 2-0, and the hosts will be looking to maintain their perfect record against the in-state MAC program. Ohio State has won each of the previous three meetings with Toledo, but that 2011 matchup was a true nail-biter, as the Buckeyes held on for a 27-22 victory.

Toledo has defeated LIU (37-0) and UMass (55-10) in its first two games of the season. While the Rockets' offense is averaging 46 points per game, what also is noteworthy is the strong performance of the defense, which has only given up a total of 10 points and just 183 yards per game. Obviously, the quality of competition faced is a big factor since LIU is a fledgling FCS program and UMass went 1-11 last season.

Related: College Football Predictions for Every Game in Week 3

On the other side, Ohio State has opened the season with wins over Notre Dame (21-10) and Arkansas State (45-12). The Buckeyes' offensive reputation is well known, but the performance of the defense, which has given up just one touchdown so far, has been a pleasant surprise.

Toledo at No. 3 Ohio State

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. ET
TV: FOX
Live Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Spread: Ohio State -32
Tickets: As low as $51 on SITickets.com

When Toledo Has the Ball

Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn is the key to the Rockets' offensive success. While Finn is a talented passer (33-of-54 for 388 yards, 3 TDs, INT in 2022), he also is the leading rusher with 138 yards and three scores on 19 carries. Finn's dual-threat abilities will test Ohio State's defense.

Among Finn's favorite targets is wide receiver Jerjuan Newton, who is averaging 20 yards per catch (8 rec., 160 yds., TD) in the early going. This game will present the Buckeyes' secondary, which was often maligned during the course of the 2021 season, an opportunity to show how far it has come under new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and his staff. This also will serve as the final tune-up for the defense as a whole before beginning Big Ten play.

When Ohio State Has the Ball

Quarterback C.J. Stroud is off to another strong start, completing 40 of 58 passes for 548 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions. And he's done this without Jaxon Smith-Njigba, his leading receiver from last season. Smith-Njigba was injured early in the opener against Notre Dame and then sat out last week, but head coach Ryan Day said that the preseason All-American may be able to return on Saturday. That's a scary proposition considering the Buckeyes have been a top-30 passing offense (296.5 ypg) without their best weapon.

Ohio State has spread the wealth in the backfield too with TreVeyon Henderson (25 att., 178 yds., 2 TDs) and Miyan Williams (22, 130, TD) equally involved. Look for Day's play-calling to involve equal amounts of the pass and run to maintain his team's rhythm while also keeping Toledo's defense off-balance.

As impressive as the Rockets have been on defense through the first two games, this will undoubtedly be the unit's toughest test this season. Toldeo has given up a total of 116 passing yards through two games. Stroud can pile up that many in one quarter if given the opportunity. The Rockets have been solid against the run (125.5 ypg) as well, but LIU and UMass pale in comparison to the talent and offensive firepower the Buckeyes possess. That doesn't mean that Toledo won't up a fight, however. The defense is led by linebacker Dallas Gant, an Ohio State transfer. He has collected 19 tackles and forced a fumble through two games and will embrace the opportunity to return to Columbus and go up against some familiar faces.

Final Analysis

The oddsmakers have Ohio State as a comfortable favorite, but this is the kind of game that may prove more difficult than people realize. Toledo is a leading contender to win the MAC in 2022, and Ohio-based teams from the conference are full of local products who relish the opportunity to show the Buckeyes that they were mistakenly overlooked for a scholarship. Ohio State will win this game, but it may be closer than many anticipate until the Buckeyes are able to pull away in the fourth quarter.

Prediction: Ohio State 38, Toledo 14

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— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also is podcasting for Land-Grant Holy Land. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.

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