Buckeyes prep for emotional Gophers team


Craig Merz - Associated Press



Ohio State coach Urban Meyer doesn’t expect Minnesota will come into Ohio Stadium flat on Saturday night after an emotional stretch last week.

“We have the tendency to get everyone’s best swing,” Meyer said of his defending national champions and top-ranked Buckeyes (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten, No. 3 College Football Playoff rankings).

Minnesota (4-4, 1-3) had a lot to deal with, after coach Jerry Kill retired Oct. 28 because of health issues.

Three days later, interim coach Tracy Claeys decided against a possible tying field goal on the final play of the game only to see quarterback Mitch Leidner stopped at the Michigan 1-yard line for a 29-26 loss.

“We won’t have a letdown. I believe that,” Claeys said Monday. “You’re not very competitive at this game if you can’t get ready to play this game. No. 1 team in the country. Going into a great stadium. They haven’t been beaten in a regular-season game yet. So there’s no … talk about a letdown.”

Conversely, don’t expect Ohio State to take the Gophers lightly because the Buckeyes are anxious to show they aren’t affected by the suspension of starting quarterback J.T. Barrett by Meyer. Barrett was cited last weekend for operating a vehicle while impaired.

“They’re aware of it because it’s such a news story, but they’re focused on getting the job done,” Meyer said.

Cardale Jones will step in like he did last season when he led Ohio State to three wins en route to the College Football Playoff championship after Barrett broke his ankle.

Jones had little experience at the time. Now, he’s 10-0 as a starter in his career, including the first seven games this season before Barrett got the nod vs. Rutgers on Oct. 31.

Also, quarterback-turned-hybrid back Braxton Miller will likely see time at QB against the Gophers.

“We’ve got confidence in them,” right guard Pat Elflein said. “We can do other things without (Barrett).”

Of course, Ohio State still has Ezekiel Elliott, fifth in the nation at 141.3 rushing yards per game and some skilled receivers.

“The talent and speed at Ohio State leaves you no margin for error anywhere on the offense,” Claeys said. “If you take the wrong angle, you’re in trouble. It’s going to be the fastest team that we’ve played up to this point.”

Other things to watch Saturday night:

MILLER’S TIME? The aforementioned Miller can take a direct snap and run or be an efficient pass catcher. What is unknown is how he will be used against Minnesota. Before Barrett got the start vs. Rutgers, he spent the previous two games as the red-zone QB because Jones had been ineffective near the goal line. Might Miller get that role? “As a staff we have a tremendous amount of respect for (Braxton) and know any time he touches the ball he can score, along with Elliott,” Claeys said.

HIGH AND TIGHT: Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee has some advice for Minnesota’s 6-10, 271-pound tight end Nate Wozniak, “Dude, wrong sport. You’re playing the wrong sport, man.”

STAY IN THE MOMENT: Ohio State was third in the initial College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday, but that doesn’t matter to defensive lineman Joel Hale. After all, the Buckeyes were 16th in the first rankings last season but finished third to qualify for the playoffs. “Brush it off,” he said. “We’re focused on beating Minnesota on Saturday and we’re going on from there.”

Craig Merz

Associated Press

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