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Stroud expected to lead Buckeyes to win

Jim Naveau
jnaveau@limanews.com

COLUMBUS – If history is any indicator, Ohio State fans should not worry too much about quarterback C.J. Stroud making his first college start tonight at Minnesota in the Buckeyes’ season opener.
Since 1993, nine other Ohio State quarterbacks have gotten their first start in an opener. And eight of those nine have led OSU to a win.
Here are the results for those nine first-timers:
— 2019. Justin Fields passed for four touchdowns and ran for another in a 45-21 win over Florida Atlantic.
— 2018. Dwayne Haskins threw for 313 yards and five touchdowns in a 77-31 win over Oregon State.
— 2014. J.T. Barrett, who became the starter in August when Braxton Miller suffered a season-ending injury, passed for 226 yards and two touchdowns when OSU beat Navy 34-17.
— 2011. Joe Bauserman didn’t keep the starting job for long before Miller took over but he passed for 163 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-0 win over Akron.
— 2007. Todd Boeckman’s debut as a starter came in a 38-6 win over Youngstown State when he threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns.
— 2004. Justin Zwick, who had arrived with much hoopla a year earlier, had 213 yards passing and one touchdown pass when OSU beat Cincinnati 27-6.
— 1999. Austin Moherman, who would be replaced as the starter by Steve Bellisari after two games, was 10 of 22 for 107 yards and a touchdown in a 23-12 loss to Miami.
— 1996. Stanley Jackson’s first start came against overmatched Rice. He was 7 of 9 for 151 yards and two touchdowns in a 70-7 win.
— 1993. Bob Hoying was 13 of 22 for 144 yards and a touchdown in a 34-7 win over Rice.
Stroud, a redshirt freshman, has not thrown a pass in a college game. But he has looked the part of a starting quarterback at Ohio State going back to this spring, OSU coach Ryan Day says.
Minnesota might be more of a challenge than some of the opponents those past quarterbacks faced in their openers. But Stroud will get to face a Gophers defense which gave up 30 points a game last season.
Even if Stroud has a few struggles the talent around him should make up for that. Talent runs deep on the offensive line, the defensive line and among the wide receivers and running backs.
What could determine whether Ohio State wins a fifth straight Big Ten championship and goes to the College Football Playoff for a third year in a row is how well its defensive backfield, linebackers and kickers perform.
The defensive backfield did not play well at all last season when it ranked No. 122 nationally in passing yards allowed.
All of this year’s starting linebackers will be new. But none of them have made a big contribution so far in their careers.
Inexperience is also a potential issue in the kicking game.
The kicker will be either Jake Seibert, who was 1 of 2 last season, or Noah Ruggles, a transfer from North Carolina. The punter will be Jesse Mirco, who is in his first year at Ohio State.
Answers to those questions will come over the course of the season. But tonight Ohio State has too much talent for Minnesota to pull an upset.
The prediction: Ohio State 35, Minnesota 14