No. 6 Ohio St hosts high-flying Western Kentucky with Notre Dame matchup looming next

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State coach Ryan Day said he's seen enough in two games to finally get fully behind Kyle McCord as his starting quarterback.

Day had named McCord the starter coming out of camp but the fifth-year Buckeyes coach wavered enough for two weeks to keep Devin Brown in that conversation. Brown had battled McCord for the starting job all through preseason practice.

This week, Day said McCord has shown enough to be named the No. 6 Buckeyes' undisputed QB1. Day said he wanted to make the announcement to give the third-year player “peace of mind.”

“He realizes that he is the starter, and he’s earned that opportunity,” Day said. “He’ll receive more (practice) reps. Devin will still get reps in practice. He’ll still get reps with the (first-stringers), but Kyle will get a little bit more than he has the last couple of weeks.”

In last week's 35-7 thumping of Youngstown State, McCord completed 14 of 20 passes for 258 yards, including two touchdown tosses to Marvin Harrison Jr. and another to Emeka Egbuka. Nevertheless, the offense sputtered at times.

“I thought he was much more poised in this game than the first one,” Day said of McCord. “And I think that’s natural. We’ll see if we can build on that. The bigger challenge is ahead.”

Day is talking about the trip to South Bend, Indiana, on Sept. 23 to face No. 9 Notre Dame, and then the relentless Big Ten schedule that follows.

First, though, Ohio State will have to get by Western Kentucky (2-0), which despite coming in as nearly a four-touchdown underdog should present a bigger challenge than FCS school Youngstown State.

There is urgency, Day said.

“We’ve got to get better like now,” he said. “I think that’s the message.”

HIGH-FLYING HILLTOPPERS

Austin Reed might be the best quarterback still flying under the national radar.

Last season, Reed threw for more yards — 4,746 — than any quarterback in Division I and was third in the number of pass attempts (603). He tossed 40 touchdowns — one fewer than Ohio State's C.J. Stroud and two fewer than USC's Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams.

Reed is at his third school. He started at Southern Illinois and moved on to West Florida, where in 2019 he passed for 4,089 yards and 40 touchdowns in leading the Argonauts to a Division II national title.

In the first two games of this season, the NFL prospect has already thrown for 589 yards and six TDs with a completion rate of 67.5%. And the Hilltoppers throw a lot — 83 times in the first two games.

“He’s accurate. He gets the ball out of his hands,” Day said. “You can tell he’s very, very intelligent, has good vision. A really good challenge for our defense this week. They’re going to come after us.”

THE BIG STAGE

Western Kentucky coach Tyson Helton has seen some big-time football, having worked on coaching staffs at Tennessee, USC and others. He's eager to get his team into Ohio Stadium.

“We love playing in these games and love being on this stage,” the 46-year-old Helton said. "We talk about all the time being part of the national conversation. If you want to be a part of that conversation, you’ve got to go to places like Ohio State and show out."

“I can’t think of a better place to go play a college football game," he said.

RUNNING THE BALL

With at least two NFL prospects at running back — TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams — Ohio State is still working on getting its ground game uncorked. In wins over Indiana and Youngstown State, the Buckeyes rushed for 143 yards and 123 yards, respectively. In the two games they converted just seven of 24 third downs.

“We got to get it fixed,” Day said. “We’ve just been in situations where we haven’t executed very well.”

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football