Toledo brings offensive firepower into game vs. No. 3 Ohio State

In this battle of Ohio, one team has one of the top offenses in the country, averaging 46 points through two games.

No, it’s not Ohio State. Instead, it’s Toledo, the No. 3 Buckeyes’ opponent in Columbus on Saturday night.

Granted, Toledo (2-0) hasn’t played teams the caliber of Ohio State (2-0), but 37-0 and 55-10 victories over Long Island University and UMass, respectively, have catapulted the Rockets into a tie for 16th with Oklahoma State in scoring. Plus, the Rockets are tied for second (with Minnesota and Tulane) behind Georgia in scoring defense at 5.0 points.

Given the spate of upsets nationally during the first two weeks of the season, the Rockets can envision being next in line to knock off a Power Five program.

“College football is college football,” Toledo coach Jason Candle said Monday. “There are challenges each and every week that you need to handle. We’re going to do everything we can to put our best foot forward this Saturday.”

The Buckeyes, who led FBS last season with an average of 45.7 points per game, are scoring at a 33-point clip this year following wins over Notre Dame, 21-10, and Arkansas State, 45-12, but that isn’t enough to satisfy the fans or coach Ryan Day.

“I wouldn’t say I’m pleased because we have to have that edge and know where we need to be,” Day said Tuesday. “(Toledo is) not going to come into Ohio Stadium and be intimidated at all.”

An injury to star receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba has prevented the Buckeyes from operating at full strength. He has not played since the first half of the Notre Dame game after a hamstring injury, but Day said he should be available Saturday.

Smith-Njigba led Ohio State with 1,606 receiving yards in 2021.

“He’s further along than he was at this point last week,” Day said. “We’re a different team when Jaxon’s in there, there’s no question.”

Day said he also expects wide receiver Julian Fleming to play on Saturday. Fleming, who had 12 receptions last season, had an undisclosed injury late in training camp and has not played this season.

Marvin Harrison Jr. stepped up against Arkansas State by catching three of the four touchdown passes thrown by C.J. Stroud.

Toledo will counter with dual-threat QB Dequan Finn, who rushed for 74 yards on seven carries with two touchdowns and passed for 177 yards and a score.

“He can run whenever he wants to,” Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said. “Makes a lot of plays with his feet in scrambling situations.”

With all of the offensive firepower on the field Saturday, the defenses will draw attention. Ohio State has allowed one touchdown this season, and the rush defense is 11th nationally, giving up 129 yards. However, the Buckeyes have yet to force a turnover.

“I got a feeling those things are going to happen for us,” Day said.

Toledo is led by former Ohio State linebacker Dallas Gant, who has a team-high 20 tackles. He was in his fourth season for the Buckeyes when he entered the transfer portal last September and eventually returned to his hometown, where his father played for the Rockets and his mother was a cheerleader at the school.

Gant told Eleven Warriors he can use his time with the Buckeyes as an advantage.

“I’ve got endless reps against a lot of the players there, most of the players there, and I think it’s going to translate to the game on Saturday with me being comfortable and seeing a lot of familiar looks and stuff like that,” he said.

— Field Level Media