With a game under their belt, Ohio State had a chance to watch the film from the opener against Florida Atlantic. Despite a 45-21 victory, there were clearly some things the Buckeyes would have to clean up moving forward. Cincinnati came to town with a very highly touted defense, ready to give OSU an early test in week two.
It was clear that the team was able to learn from some of the mistakes from game one, as Ohio State had no problem dismantling the Bearcats 42-0 on Saturday afternoon. The Buckeyes looked like every bit of the No. 5 team in the country as Ryan Day bullied the in-state opponent into submission with an incredibly efficient offense and an even more impressive defense.
While the team as a whole played great, there were clearly a few standout performers, including some familiar names from last week. Ohio State’s performance gave fans a lot to be excited about, but as with any college football team in the country at this point in the year, there are still some areas that could use improvement. Let’s check in on the stocks!
Blue Chip Stocks
Chase Young, DE: No surprises here, as the best player on Ohio State’s defense once again looked like the best player on Ohio State’s defense. Young was a nightmare for the Cincinnati offensive line, creating pressure on Bearcat QB Desmond Ridder all afternoon. As was the case a week ago, Young filled the stat sheet in a variety of ways, finishing with three total tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1.5 tackles for loss and a blocked field goal.
The blocked kick came at a huge point in the game, with Cinci trailing just 7-0 early in the second quarter. Young was able to keep points off the board, and Ohio State would go on to score a TD on the ensuing possession. Young has really been an absolute monster through the first two games of the season, and is living up to every preseason expectation thus far. If he continues to show out like this, he will without a doubt be the first defensive player off the board in the next NFL Draft.
Shaun Wade, CB: Another highly touted defensive player for the Buckeyes coming into the season, Wade did not hear his name called a ton in the opener. That was not the case today, as the Ohio State defensive back made a huge impact against Cincinnati. The redshirt sophomore recorded one tackle for loss, a sack-fumble and two pass breakups as he looked like a man on a mission.
Wade might as well have been credited with an interception as well, as his pass breakup late in the third quarter directly resulted in a Tuf Borland pick on the goal line. A big hit by Wade earlier in the game nearly led to a Chase Young interception as well, but the DE could not hold on. Wade is a magnet to the football, and his blanket coverage as well as his ability to lay the boom with make him an essential asset for the Silver Bullets moving forward.
J.K. Dobbins, RB: In last week’s stock market report, we sold Dobbins’ poor start, knowing you could not hold down the two-time 1,000-yard rusher for long. The junior running back bounced back in a big way against a touch Cinci front, rushing 17 times for 141 yards and two TDs, including a long 60-yarder in the middle of the second quarter.
Dobbins only played the first half, but it was all he needed to put up some really excellent numbers. He looked back to his freshman form on Saturday, bouncing off tackles and finding that extra burst of speed when he needed it most. He was no doubt aided by some much improved run-blocking, but even still Dobbins was able to find the right holes and make some nice cuts to provide an offensive spark for the Buckeyes. If this team wants to make a playoff run, they will need sustained peak performance from their star running back.
Justin Fields, QB: Fields is a solid investment for the second consecutive week, and you may want to invest in him now before he becomes a household name and eventual Heisman contender. In just his second game as a Buckeye, Fields is already starting to show enormous improvements, putting up another impressive stat line against the Bearcats. The sophomore QB completed 20-of-25 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns, with another 42 yards and two TDs on the ground.
The biggest knock on Fields in game one was that he was too quick to give up on plays, checking down into a run at the first sign of pressure on too many occasions. The first-year starter was able to turn this around almost entirely against Cincinnati, moving around in the backfield and continuing to direct traffic and look for the open man before deciding to run. When he did have to run, Fields made smart decisions and avoided contact whenever possible. The Ohio State quarterback looks like a truly special talent, and is on the cusp of blue chip status as he continues to improve each and every week.
Malik Harrison, LB: One of the most underrated players on Ohio State’s entire roster, Malik Harrison is without a doubt the best linebacker in the unit. An incredible athlete at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, the senior is a consistent and reliable force on the Buckeye defense. It was a big day for Harrison against the Bearcats, posting a final stat line of five tackles, 0.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Harrison seems to always be there when you need him most. The hard-hitting linebacker has the wherewithal to stick to receivers running across the middle, featuring impressive closing speed and the innate ability to make tackles in the open field. Harrison has also been a force in Ohio State’s new and improved run defense, making more than his fair share of plays in the backfield.
Drive-Killing Penalties: While there was a lot to be desired from last year’s Ohio State team, one of the biggest problem areas they faced all season long were penalties. All too often, the Buckeye offensive drive would come to a stall after a false start or holding call knocked them backwards. The same could be said on defense, where PI flags were overly abundant. This year’s squad has cleaned it up a bunch, but there have still been a few calls in the first two games of the year that have really slowed progress on both sides of the ball.
Ohio State only got called for two penalties in Saturday’s contest, and while neither had a huge impact on the game, at the time they completely changed the complexion of the drive at hand, with one flag on each side of the ball.
The first came on the Buckeyes’ first possession of the game, when a holding call on 2nd and seven — on a play where Fields gained a first down — put Ohio State at a long 2nd and 17, which they would ultimately not convert and be forced to punt. The second was on the other side, as a stop on 3rd and four became an automatic first following a roughing the passer call. Fortunately for OSU, the Bearcats would not wind up with points on the drive after Young blocked the Cinci field goal.
Ohio State cannot afford to give away possessions as they get into the harder parts of the schedule. While it was only two penalties this week, they came at very crucial parts of the game, and against stiffer competition could prove very costly. It is a step in the right direction, but something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Buy: Run Defense. Ohio State’s run defense was incredibly poor a season ago. It didn’t matter who they were playing, as it seemed like every single week the Buckeyes allowed huge chunk plays on the ground. They let up almost 200 yards rushing to Oregon State, 184 yards rushing to Nebraska, 178 rushing yards to Minnesota and nearly lost to Maryland after allowing an astounding 339 yards on the ground. Nothing OSU did against the run last season seemed to work at any point.
The Buckeyes have completely flipped the script this season, as their run defense has been nothing short of lockdown. In the opener against FAU, Ohio State allowed just 22 total yards rushing all game. Their repeat performance was even more impressive, as after a 194-yard rushing performance for the Bearcats in their previous game, the Buckeyes held them to 104 yards on Saturday — with a majority of those coming in garbage time. Star RB Michael Warren was held to 15 carries for 10 yards. Cinci had just 18 yards on the ground heading into halftime.
Buy: A Mobile Quarterback. Dwayne Haskins was undoubtably the greatest quarterback Ohio State has ever seen. The only issue for the Buckeyes, coming off quarterbacks the likes of Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett, was that a pocket-passing QB threw a bit of a wrench into the offensive gameplan. Especially in the red zone, OSU struggled to run the ball with the absence of a threat of the quarterback keeper.
That is no more with the addition of the athletic Justin Fields. The sophomore’s ability to keep the football and run opens up a world of possibilities for Ohio State’s offense. The option run game makes life easier for Dobbins, and allows for the increased chance of success on run plays when the ball could go either direction. It makes life incredibly difficult for opposing defenses as well, as they can not fully sell out in the passing game when Fields can burn you with his feet.
Sell: A Clear No. 1 Receiver. If fantasy college football were a thing, it would likely be a bad choice to have any of Ohio State’s receivers on your roster. Last season, the Buckeyes had a clear pecking order in the depth chart at wideout, with Parris Campbell leading the pack at the top of the list. With the top-three receiving options from a year ago now gone, Ryan Day is spreading the ball out to his seemingly boundless group of talented pass-catchers.
Many expected K.J. Hill to be the No. 1 guy on this year’s reception list, but two games into the season it appears that will not be the case, as a deep roster allows Ohio State to spread the ball out without having a clear top choice. In week one, it was Chris Olave on top with five catches for 68 yards and a TD. This week, it was Binjimen Victor, with an almost identical stat line of five catches for 69 yards, but without a score. The Buckeyes have had six passing touchdowns thus far to four different receivers, clearly looking to spread the ball out and maximize Brian Hartline’s brilliant unit (with some tight ends thrown into the mix).