COLUMBUS — The third week of the 2018 season is the first litmus test for Ohio State.
Unlike its first two games against Oregon State and Rutgers, two teams the Buckeyes should handle easily, Texas Christian is a fellow College Football Playoff hopeful that is capable of beating Ohio State.
TCU and running back Darius Anderson won 11 games and finished No. 9 after the 2017 season.
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Here’s what to know about Game No. 3 for the Buckeyes this season.
Ohio State vs. TCU, at Arlington, Texas
Sept. 15 (8 p.m., ABC)
Last year: The Horned Frogs started the season unranked, rocketed all the way up to No. 4 with a 7-0 start that included a victory at Oklahoma State, but lost to three ranked teams – including Oklahoma twice – in a six-week stretch. TCU rebounded to beat Stanford in the Alamo Bowl, finishing 11-3 and No. 9 overall.
Coach: Gary Patterson, 18th season (160-57)
What's to know?: TCU has by far the best defense the Buckeyes will see in the first half of 2018. The Horned Frogs return the majority of a very good 2017 defense that ranked 14th in third-down defense, 11th in sacks, fifth in rushing defense, and second in red-zone defense.
TCU’s defense makes for fun games because it loves high-risk, high-reward pass defense, which often forces action one way or another. It’s fair to expect TCU to have one of the country’s top 10 defenses this season.
What is tougher to gauge is the Horned Frogs’ play at quarterback. The job likely will be manned by former stud recruit Shawn Robinson, who picked TCU but had offers from Alabama, Michigan, and Oklahoma. The sophomore has not played many meaningful snaps, especially against a defense of Ohio State’s caliber.
However, if Robinson proves to be the dual-threat answer many recruiting analysts projected him to be, TCU will be a serious threat to win the Big 12.
For The Buckeyes: The trip to Texas is arguably the second most important game on Ohio State’s schedule, simply because it means so much to its national championship hopes. If the Buckeyes win a ranked nonconference game away from home – as they did at Oklahoma in 2016 – they have a critical bargaining chip for the playoff and a room for a mulligan the rest of the season.
If OSU loses to TCU, it realistically has to run the table in the ruthless Big Ten East (though it does have Penn State early in the season and Michigan at home), and win the conference championship game to make it.
Stat That Matters: 260 – the punt return yardage accumulated by TCU wide receiver Kavontae Turpin on 16 total returns, an average of 16.25 yards per return. That ranked 11th in the country, and Turpin is back for another year. He also returns kicks, and is the type of special teamer who deserves serious attention from Ohio State’s coaching staff before this game.
Prognosis: TCU is a threat, but Ohio State is more talented at nearly every position and significantly deeper. If the Buckeyes can hit a few big plays, lean on J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber, and keep Robinson in the pocket, they’re in good shape to head home at 3-0.
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