No head coach wants to be uncertain of his starting quarterback entering conference play, so it makes some sense that Ohio State coach Ryan Day has named Kyle McCord as his signal-caller for the rest of the season. McCord will get the ball Saturday against visiting Western Kentucky, and the Buckeyes' schedule about to get much tougher after the Hilltoppers, who are no pushovers themselves as the favorites to win Conference USA. However, the Buckeyes are 28-point favorites this weekend per the SportsLine consensus.
McCord, a 6-foot-3 junior, started the first two games of the season. He was 20-for-33 with zero toucdowns and a pick in the season-opening 23-3 win at Indiana, and better last Saturday in a 35-7 win over Youngstown State. McCord was 14-for-20 for 258 yards with three scores. He is +4000 to win the Heisman Trophy at DraftKings. Receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. has the shortest odds on the team at +2800.
Overall, McCord's completion percentage, touchdown percentage, efficiency rating, pass TD/game and total TD/game would all be the worst for a Buckeyes starter since Day joined the staff, and his yards per attempt are better than only J.T. Barrett's mark in 2017 (when Day was the co-offensive coordinator).
Devin Brown, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, is 8-for-16 for 99 yards with two sacks taken in limited action, so this news isn't all that surprising. Day mentioned McCord's consistency as his special trait: "We decided that Kyle is going to be the starter. We're going to go ahead and make that distinction. It gives Kyle, first off, peace of mind that I think he realizes he is the starter. He earned that opportunity."
That Ohio State is only averaging 29.0 points per game (T71) is a bit concerning considering the level of competition, and that the Buckeyes have finished in the top 20 nationally in scoring offense for seven straight years. The Buckeyes are averaging 13.5 plays of at least 10 yards per game (T68th in FBS) and 5.5 plays of at least 20 yards (T38th in FBS). Ohio State ranked second nationally in averaging 18.5 10-yard plays and third averaging 6.6 20-yards plays from 2017-22.
Ohio State has won 44 games in a row against unranked visitors, but Western Kentucky has one of the highest-flying offenses in the nation and is +120 to win Conference USA. Led by returning QB Austin Reed (589 yards, six TDs passing, two TDs rushing), who led the nation in passing yards in 2022, the Hilltoppers are averaging 46.5 PPG. Reed ranks first in FBS active career leaders in passing yards per game (333.4) and total offense per game (350.0).
Western Kentucky has never played Ohio State previously or even beaten a Big Ten school. It lost by three in overtime at Indiana last season and had competitive 2021 losses to the Hoosiers and Michigan State.
Could the Buckeyes be caught looking past WKU and toward a trip to No. 9 Notre Dame next week?
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