Here are five things to know about the game:
1. Ryan Day wants to see his team continue on an upward trajectory.
The Buckeyes are undefeated, but they still might not be a finished product.
That is OK with their head coach as long as they are peaking at the right time.
“We know that we want to be playing our best football in November, and you can go through the season where the days seem long, but the weeks go by real fast, and then here you are at the end of the season,” Day said.
“So urgency has to be at an all-time high. We know we’ve got to be on point, and we’ve got to be playing our best right now, and I think the guys feel that. They understand that. And so we’ve got to be better than everybody else in the country of just focusing on maximizing ourselves, doing a great job preparing for Minnesota and ignoring everything else that comes around this time of year.”
2. Some Buckeyes will be playing their final game at Ohio Stadium.
Exactly who will or won’t be back is harder to determine these days thanks to a few factors, but the school announced 21 players plan to be recognized Saturday for playing their final home game in Scarlet and Gray.
The biggest cause for confusion is the COVID-19 pandemic, which led the NCAA to grant an extra year of eligibility to everyone who was on a college football roster in 2020.
That means even most fourth- and fifth-year players could return next season if they choose, something Josh Proctor, Matt Jones and Xavier Johnson Jr. opted to do.
While those three are unquestionably out of eligibility, Day said others are still deciding if they will or will not return next season.
Of course, there are also many juniors who could enter the NFL Draft a year early, including star receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. and defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau.
“I try to tell those guys all the time when we have home games, don’t wait to the last one to take it all in,” Day said. “It starts with that first home game your senior year. So I hope they’ve taken that advice, but when you have your last game, there’s a lot of emotions.”
Day also said choosing to take part in Senior Day activities is not binding, so anyone who does but then decides to return can still do so.
The others planning to be recognized Saturday are kicker Parker Lewis, quarterbacks Chad Ray and Tristan Gebbia, offensive linemen Jack Forsman, Grant Toutant, Quinton Burke and Trey Leroux, defensive backs Andrew Moore, Cameron Kittle and Lathan Ransom, tight ends Cade Stover and Patrick Gurd, defensive lineman Jaden McKenzie, running back Miyan Williams, linebackers Cody Simon, Steele Chambers and Tommy Eichenberg and receiver Julian Fleming.
3. Ohio State might still be tinkering with the offensive line.
The same five players have started every game — Josh Simmons and Josh Fryar at tackle, Donovan Jackson and Matt Jones at guard, Carson Hinzman at center — but the staff took a look at an alternative lineup late in the win over Michigan State last week.
That had Jones at center and Enokk Vimahi at right guard with Hinzman going to the bench before the rest of the starters.
“Right now we’re going to continue to move forward as we have, but every week we’re evaluating what gives us the best chance to win,” Day said.
4. Minnesota is going through some tough times.
The Golden Gophers looked like a threat in the wide-open Big Ten West until losing back-to-back games to fall to 5-5.
Now they have to beat Ohio State this week or long-time rival Wisconsin next week to qualify for a bowl.
Injuries have played a big role, but head coach P.J. Fleck declined to say who will be available this week from a group of walking wounded that includes leading rusher Darius Taylor and standout linebacker Cody Lindenberg.
“Our trainers do a really good job, and I don’t have any control over whether people come back or not,” Fleck told reporters in Minneapolis this week. “When they come back or not, if they come back or not.”
5. The Golden Gophers have shown some progress in the passing game.
Quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis has had some rough weeks, but he threw for a season-high 292 yards last week against Purdue and has thrown three touchdown passes in back-to-back games.
He has a trio of potent pass-catchers in Daniel Jackson, Chris Altman-Bell and Brevyn Spann-Ford.
“Just everything that the guys have been through this year, the resolve and the resiliency of this football team — it’s really inspiring,” Fleck said. “It’s fun to watch. They’ve got a great outlook. They take a lot of accountability and responsibility of what goes on, and they care. One thing I love about this team is they care. Daniel Jackson cares. Athan cares. Every single one of them care.”
Minnesota at Ohio State, 4 p.m., Big Ten Network, 1410