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UNLV at Ohio State: position-by-position breakdown

A look at who has the advantage at each position when UNLV heads to Ohio State for a 9 a.m. game Saturday at Columbus, Ohio.

QUARTERBACKS

Ohio State starter J.T. Barrett, who finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2014, deserves the edge in this matchup despite recent questions about his performance. UNLV starter Armani Rogers should see a lot to emulate in Barrett’s style of play, though unlike Barrett he has to play against Ohio State’s formidable defense.

Advantage: Ohio State

RUNNING BACKS

Rebels rusher Lexington Thomas is off to an outstanding start this season, gaining 341 rushing yards so far on only 38 attempts. The back to watch in this game though is Buckeyes freshman J.K. Dobbins, who has rushed for at least 170 yards in two of Ohio State’s three games so far. He may already be the Buckeyes top threat on offense.

Advantage: Ohio State

RECEIVERS

Ohio State’s top two receivers, Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill, are actually splitting time at H-back. The Buckeyes have an abundance of targets though, as 13 players on the team already have receptions through two games. UNLV’s receiver pool is smaller, though Devonte Boyd (208 yards in two games) should get a good chance to impress scouts this game.

Advantage: Ohio State

OFFENSIVE LINE

Ohio State returns two starting linemen that earned All-Big Ten honors last season, and none of its starters weighs less than 310 pounds. There’s a reason the Buckeyes have had an offensive lineman drafted five of the last six years. The Rebels are no slouch up front though, ranking third in the country in tackles for loss allowed per game (2.5).

Advantage: Ohio State

DEFENSIVE LINE

Good luck trying to move the Buckeyes and reigning Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year Tyquan Lewis. Defensive ends Nick Bosa and Sam Hubbard are scary as well, and all three players already have two sacks apiece. The Rebels have just one sack through two games.

Advantage: Ohio State

LINEBACKERS

Buckeyes senior linebacker Chris Worley controls the middle of his team’s defense, and he has a pair of veteran starters next to him in juniors Dante Booker and Jerome Baker. UNLV’s linebacker trio doesn’t have the same size as Ohio State’s, and the group is likely to be kept clean a lot less.

Advantage: Ohio State

SECONDARY

The Buckeyes began the year very inexperienced in the secondary, after three of its starters from last year became first-round draft picks. The group was worked over by Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield in Week 2, but Ohio State still has 17 passes defensed in three games. The Rebels have seven in two.

Advantage: Ohio State

SPECIAL TEAMS

Campbell doesn’t run the ball out often on kickoffs but he’s extremely dangerous when he does, averaging 36.5 yards per return. Buckeyes kicker Sean Nuernberger has also made all six of his field goal attempts so far. UNLV kicker Evan Pantels has already kicked 10 times in only two games, making seven of his attempts.

Advantage: Ohio State

INTANGIBLES

College Football Playoff-hopeful Ohio State already has a loss and anything less than an easy victory will likely lead to some hand-wringing in Columbus, especially if Barrett has an off game. UNLV has nothing to lose here.

Advantage: UNLV

HANDICAPPER’S TAKE

*Bruce Marshall (goldsheet.com): Ohio State 45, UNLV 18 — Ohio State can be excused for not taking UNLV seriously after the Rebels lost straight up to 45-point underdog Howard (the same Howard that allowed 68 points to Richmond last week) in their opener. But an angry UNLV subsequently took out its frustrations on an Idaho side that won a bowl last year and the Rebels have had an extra week to prepare for this rare trip to the Big Horseshoe. The Tony Sanchez Rebels have notched comfy spread covers at Michigan’s “Big House” and UCLA’s Rose Bowl the past two years, and there are plenty of offenses worse than UNLV’s. Urban Meyer often undershoots as heavy home chalk (5-11 in his last 16 laying double-digits at Columbus).

More Rebels: Follow all of our UNLV coverage online at reviewjournal.com/Rebels and @RJRebels on Twitter.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow@BenSGotz on Twitter.

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