After each Ohio State game during the 2021 football season, LGHL will offer its market analysis of the Buckeyes’ performance. Using a standard bond rating system, we’ll evaluate the offense, the defense, and the special teams, according to this formula:
AA (yeah, I may also use + and -): Very Strong
BB: Facing Major Uncertainty
Then, we’ll take a look at any individual players whose performance stood out (in one way or another!) and assign them a stock rating: Blue Chip, Solid Performance, Penny Stock (akin to a junk bond, dangerously high risk).
Yesterday afternoon, I bumped into a guy wearing an Indiana sweatshirt, and we got to talking about the game. He asked if I had any tips on how the Hoosiers might win. I said, “you need to score at least 55 points.” He laughed, but I was right on the mark. Had Indiana scored 55, they would have won. Unfortunately for them, they fell 48 points short.
Before the season began, this game was circled on the calendar. It would determine the Big Ten east champ, offering the Hoosiers an opportunity to avenge last year’s narrow loss. Wrong. It was a 54-7 blowout. Indiana, with injuries and woes on both sides of the ball, is not what we thought they would be. And Ohio State? The Buckeyes just keep getting better . . . and better. With Penn State’s nine-overtime loss to Illinois, the circled game is now the final one in Ann Arbor. I guess that one’s always been circled.
I realized just how high my expectations had gotten for this offense when I was seriously disappointed when Ohio State was forced to punt on the first drive of the second half. Until that point, the Buckeyes had scored touchdowns on all six of their offensive possessions and taken a 44-7 lead into the locker room at the half. I wanted more. I expected more.
Quarterback C.J. Stroud was again amazing. Although he didn’t have any really long passing plays (his longest was 32 yards, and he overthrew Garrett Wilson on one long pass and underthrew Chris Olave on another), he ate up the Hoosier defense with a 21 for 28 night (75%) for 266 yards and four touchdowns. Stroud was especially effective on third down plays; he could move the sticks whenever he wanted to. I was impressed, too, with the play of quarterback Kyle McCord, who completed five out of his six passes during the one series he directed.
The Buckeye rushing game was also strong. TreVeyon Henderson carried the ball only nine times, but he gained 81 yards on them. Miyan Williams and Evan Pryor looked good, too, when they were in the backfield.
But hats off to the OSU offensive line. Efficient in opening big holes for the runners, they were also brilliant in their pass blocking. While Indiana’s stellar linebacker Micah McFadden broke through early in the second half for a 12-yard sack, the line formed a solid, protective wall the rest of the game. The Hoosiers apparently elected not to blitz much, and their front four was able to put little pressure on the Buckeye quarterbacks.
54 points. 539 total yards. The best offense in the nation.
Overall rating: AA Very Strong
Much like the Maryland game two weeks ago, an OSU opponent drove the ball down the field for a touchdown on their opening possession. And, once again, I worried that I was looking at the early season Buckeye defense. I had no need to worry. The Hoosiers didn’t score again. In fact, if we subtract the 75 yards gained in that opening drive from their total of 128, we find that Indiana accumulated a measly 53 yards for the remaining three and a half quarters.
After that initial drive, the Buckeye defensive line took away the running game, and, as Indiana fell further and further behind and was forced to pass, the rush was ferocious. The final stats give the Buckeyes five sacks, but the linemen – Haskell Garrett, Zach Harrison, Ty Hamilton, Tyleik Williams – played most of the game in the Hoosier backfield.
With Michael Penix, Jr., out of action, Indiana tried their other three quarterbacks. It didn’t matter. Combined, they were eight for 17 passing, gaining only 80 yards. The running game averaged 1.3 yards per carry.
The Buck defense was dominant and played their best game of the season. (Too bad the pick-six streak ended at four, though.) As bad as Penn State’s offense looked against the Illini yesterday, I doubt that they’re looking forward to facing this bunch in the Shoe next week.
Overall rating: AA+ Very Strong
I’ve been clamoring for a big play on special teams, and, at last, we had one: a safety! The bad snap that led to it was an Indiana blunder, rather than a Buckeye outstanding play, but Marvin Harrison, Jr., got into the end zone quickly to tackle the punter for the two points.
Otherwise, the special team play remained solid. All kicks were good. The coverage on the many Buckeye kickoffs was smothering.
Overall rating: A Strong
C.J. Stroud. Even I am now starting to take the Heisman hype for Stroud seriously, though, realistically, he might be a year away. It’s been great to watch Stroud develop – to see his confidence grow, his understanding of the game increase, and his accuracy become pinpoint. Sure, he’s surrounded by elite talent, but the offense starts with Stroud, and he’s been great. Indiana was supposed to present to him a challenging defense. They didn’t. Can anyone?
Jeremy Ruckert. Yeah, this is the first time that I’ve put Ruckert in this category. He’s probably deserved it before, but his two receiving touchdowns in this game put him in the spotlight. As everyone knows, Ohio State doesn’t go to tight ends as much as some other Big Ten teams do. But when the pass does come Ruckert’s way, he catches it. Good hands. Good route-runner. Big target. Yesterday, he pulled in five passes for 47 yards. And, if you get a chance, check out Ruckert’s blocking on running plays. Good job, Jeremy.
Offensive line. Best in the country? Maybe, they are. A group of tackles, they’re massive, mobile, and fearsome. Clearly, they help Stroud and Henderson and everyone else with the ball to look like an All American.
Zach Harrison. Finally. I’ve been waiting for Harrison to break out and be the dominant pass rusher that he’s supposed to be. He was yesterday, as he seemed to be in the Hoosier backfield the entire game.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Indiana tried to shut down Chris Olave, and, in fact, he made only two catches, the ball rarely thrown his way. Up steps Smith-Njigba, who led the Bucks in catches (six) and yards receiving (99). He was also on the receiving end of the longest pass play of the evening. Improving with experience, he’s right up there now with Olave and Wilson.
Evan Pryor. With Henderson done for the night early, Williams a little dinged, and no Master Teague or Marcus Crowley, Pryor found himself pressed into more service than he’s seen before. And he responded. The true freshman carried the ball a team-high 11 times for 48 yards and caught two passes for 28 more. A couple of Buckeye penalties reduced his yardage, but, all in all, he looked good in his expanded role.
Ty Hamilton. Like Zach Harrison, Hamilton is another guy who’s been relatively quiet this year. But he showed up last night. Hamilton’s line play, along with that of Harrison and Garrett, stopped the Hoosiers in their tracks and helped to determine the outcome early on.
Last week I had nobody in this category, so I’m stretching a bit here not to leave it blank again. The only thing I can single out (not naming any actual names) is the defense on Peyton Hendershot. Hendershot’s a really good tight end, but it seemed that the Bucks’ linebackers and safeties had some communication issues, especially on that first drive.
Looking forward to the Nittany Lions next week. No white out, but it might be another white wash for the Buckeyes.