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Lead College Football analyst Alex Kirshner previews the first of two games for week 2 of the NCAAF season. First up it's Oregon @ Ohio State

Oregon vs Ohio State Prediction: Against the Spread Pick and Latest Odds

Oregon Ducks vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

Spread: Ohio State -14 

Total: 63

Game time: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, FOX

Click here to see the latest betting odds for Oregon @ Ohio State.

Oregon entered this season as the Pac-12’s best (and maybe only) hope to get back to the College Football Playoff since Washington made it in 2016. In Week 1, that idea took a considerable hit when the Ducks struggled mightily with the Mountain West’s Fresno State and lost their best player, defensive end and potential No. 1 NFL draft pick Kayvon Thibodeaux, to an injury –– for what, at this point, is an uncertain period of time.

In Week 2, the Ducks have to cross most of the country to play Ohio State in Columbus, and it’s possible any dreams of a big year in Eugene take an even further hit when the Buckeyes are finished with them. A week ago, it looked like the Buckeyes would be around 10-point favorites on their home field. The actual number is 14, and even that feels a bit low to me. The Ducks face a major uphill battle to even keep this game competitive deep into the second half.

Let’s start with Ohio State, which won 45-31 at Minnesota in its Week 1 game. The Buckeyes played with their food for a while in the Twin Cities. They trailed 21-17 early in the third quarter and looked somewhat out of sorts on offense in their first game with a new quarterback, five-star redshirt freshman C.J. Stroud. But Stroud settled in as the game wore on. He completed five passes for 236 yards after halftime, and each of his last four completions went for touchdowns. The yardages on those TD were 38, 56, 70, and 61. It helps to have maybe the two best receivers in the country in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave (who combined to catch three of those) and an apparently outstanding freshman running back in TreVeon Henderson, who’s one of three or four good backs on the roster. The Buckeyes simply have bigger guns than other teams, and Minnesota learned that cold lesson after holding up well for 30-plus minutes. It is reasonable to expect Stroud will get even better as he gathers more reps in the offense.

Ordinarily, the Oregon defense would be a major cause for concern for a QB making his second college start, as Stroud is doing this weekend. The Ducks finished 24th in Defensive SP+ in 2020 and were projected 19th before this season. With Thibodeaux heading into his third and likely last year in Eugene, that seemed like a conservative estimate. He has arguably the highest upside of any player in America and has stood to elevate Oregon’s defense to new heights. But his medical situation is now unclear. If Thibodeaux isn’t healthy, the Ducks could still have one of the better defenses in the Pac-12. But contending with Ohio State is a whole ‘nother thing, and it’s hard to see the UO defense bothering Stroud enough to win the game if Thibodeaux is not fully operational. Buckeyes left tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere is one of the country’s best. The Ducks don’t have another Thibodeaux to try to get around him.

The Ohio State defense showed some vulnerability against Minnesota, letting up 31 points and a few explosive plays. The Buckeyes had trouble with the Gophers’ brilliant running back Mohamed Ibrahim before he left the game with an injury (which will sadly cost him his season). Oregon might be able to find some points against this defense, but QB Anthony Brown was lousy against Fresno State, and being unable to consistently move the ball against a Mountain West defense is not a good sign of what’s to come with Ohio State on the immediate horizon.

Oregon has enough talent to hang with Ohio State better than most teams the Buckeyes will see in 2021. Without Thibodeaux, and on the road, and immediately after such an underwhelming effort against Fresno State, I am not sure the Ducks can stick tightly enough to cover a two-touchdown spread. I like the Buckeyes and the points in their own house.

Pick: Ohio State -14 @ -110

Article Author


Alex Kirshner covers college football for the Moon Crew newsletter. He is a co-author of The Sinful Seven: Sci-Fi Western Legends of the NCAA, and he lives in Washington, D.C.


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