No. 4 Ohio State starts with tough Big Ten test at Minnesota

No. 4 Ohio State (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at Minnesota (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten), 8 p.m. EDT (Fox).

Line: Ohio State by 13 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: Ohio State leads 45-7

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Ohio State’s quest for a national championship starts with a challenge on the road against a quality conference foe, with 11th-ranked Oregon on deck for a visit on Sept. 11. Buckeyes coach Ryan Day, who’s 23-2 in two-plus years in charge, has not lost a Big Ten game. He’ll be breaking in a new QB in freshman C.J. Stroud after the departure to the NFL by Justin Fields. Minnesota’s climb under coach P.J. Fleck took a detour during the COVID-altered 2020 season, but the Gophers have plenty of pieces in place to spring an upset. They’re one of the most experienced teams in the country.

KEY MATCHUP

Minnesota RB Mo Ibrahim, a second-team preseason AP All-American, is ninth on the program’s all-time rushing list with only 28 games on his résumé. He’ll be facing an Ohio State LB group with all new starters, led by captain Teradja Mitchell, who in his fourth year is the most experienced at the position for the Buckeyes. The Gophers have by far the most combined career OL starts in the FBS, led by LG Conner Olson, who’s back for a sixth season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Ohio State: WRs Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Stroud has yet to attempt a college pass, and there’s a good bet his first one will go to either Olave or Wilson, widely considered the best tandem in the country. Olave is a first-team preseason AP All-American, and Wilson is on the second team. They logged 1,452 yards and 13 TDs combined in 15 games last year.

Minnesota: DT Nyles Pinckney. He’s one of three graduate transfers plugged into the lineup on defense. The 6-foot-1, 290-pound Pinckney came from Clemson, which lost to Ohio State in the CFP semifinals last season.

FACTS & FIGURES

This is Ohio State’s first visit to Minnesota since 2014, a 31-24 victory on Nov. 15 that had a kickoff temperature of 15 degrees, the coldest in 12 years at what’s now called Huntington Bank Stadium. The Buckeyes went on to win the national championship that season. … Ohio State has won 11 straight games against Minnesota since the Gophers last won on Oct. 14, 2000, in Columbus. Their last victory in Minneapolis in the lopsided series was on Nov. 7, 1981. The Buckeyes have won 39 of the last 41 matchups. … Minnesota QB Tanner Morgan’s career completion percentage (62.0) is the best in program history. … Ohio State has won 21 consecutive openers, since a 1999 loss to Miami.

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More AP college football coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/College-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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