Here’s the thing, it is part of our DNA as Ohio State fans to overreact to everything. I don’t know if it is growing up in Ohio’s ever-changing weather environment, the politically volatile atmosphere that engulfs the state every election cycle, or just how engrained the Buckeyes are in every single aspect of our day-to-day lives, but anything bad — no matter how large or small — leads many in Buckeye Nation to rend their garments, while anything good leads to an almost euphoric high that sweeps through all of Ohio and many major media markets in the midwest and beyond.
Fortunately, we get to overreact to the latter scenario this week. As always, realize that this article is purposely entitled “Unreasonable overreactions,” so realize that these are a bit hyperbolic. But, there’s also at least a tiny grain of truth in all of them. So, it’s up to you to determine how much of this is me being a prisoner of the moment, and how much is what I really think.
C.J. Stroud will be a Heisman finalist
Ohio State fans have been spoiled. For decades now, we have been gifted fantastic quarterbacks who seem to have been able to jump right in and have relatively few growing pains as first time starters, especially when you consider what Cardale Jones, Dwayne Haskins, and Justin Fields did in their first starts.
However, that wasn’t the case for C.J. Stroud. Whether it was nerves, poor play-calling, or a bum shoulder, while he put up some pretty impressive numbers at times, he never looked right, but that all changed following his week off against Akron. Since resting his shoulder, Stroud has been practically perfect.
Against Rutgers and Maryland — admittedly not the best of Big Ten East competition — the OSU starting QB has gone 41-of-56 (73.2%) for 736 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. He is averaging 10.82 yards per attempt on the season and even though there is a lot of that coming after the catch, I don’t see it changing all that much throughout the remainder of the year given who he is throwing to.
With the likes of Penn State, Michigan State, the team up north, and likely Iowa left on the schedule, Stroud isn’t going to be able to put up video game numbers at will in every game moving forward, but with as confident and in sync as he’s looked over the last few weeks, I am feeling really good about Stroud’s ability to get an invite to New York. I think him winning the award might still be out of reach (for now), but I think it is legitimate to pencil the Ohio State QB in as a finalist at this point.
There should be no upperclassmen starting at linebacker or defensive back for Ohio State
Ok, even I don’t believe this completely, as I think Cameron Brown (junior) should be the No. 2 corner when healthy, and that Marcus Williamson (graduate) should probably be getting in the mix at the corner safety position as well. But other than that, the veteran Buckeye defenders have looked far less prepared and effective than their younger counterparts.
I understand the impulse to keep some veterans in the mix at the second and third levels of this defense, but to my very untrained eye, it sure seems like the vets seem more confused out there than the young guys.— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) October 9, 2021
This is the time to get the underclassmen playing time.
Here’s what I would go with at the second and third levels of the OSU defense. I trust Larry Johnson to handle the starters and rotation on the defensive line.
Linebackers: Cody Simon (sophomore), Steele Chambers (sophomore)
Corners: Denzel Burke (freshman), Cameron Brown (junior)
Bullet: Ronnie Hickman (sophomore)
Safeties: Cameron Martinez (freshman)- deep, Marcus Williamson (graduate)- cover
At the linebacker position, I think that Craig Young (who had a pick-six in Saturday’s game) should be much more involved in the rotation, but he’s not getting on the field with the 1s very often, so I’m not going to throw him in this list yet. And if I’m being honest, I would probably move Hickman to deep safety , Martinez to the cover spot, and have Young and Kourt Williams rotating at the bullet. But, based on what the coaching staff is currently running out there, I don’t think those realistic options.
This is the best offense in Ohio State history
Currently, the Buckeyes have the Big Ten record for most yards per game in a season with 535.6 from back in the 2018 season. After the game against Maryland, Ohio State is now averaging 562.7. Clearly, the game of college football has evolved and yardage and point totals today make those of even just a decade or two ago look pedestrian, but this offense has a chance to shatter some record.
This also means that if Ohio State makes the Big Ten Championship game, they are on pace to put up a program record 7,877.3 yards in a 14-game season, eclipsing the mark set by the 2014 national championship team in a 15-game season (7,674 yards). Of course, if the Buckeyes end up making the national title game, that mark could be obliterated.
But, it’s not just about the yardage. In 2019, OSU averaged 46.9 points per game, and following Saturday’s game against the Terps, the 2021 Buckeyes are at 48.5 and trending in the right direction. The yards per play mark was set in last year’s COVID-shortened season at 7.3, OSU is now at 8.6 this season.
Of course, we all realize that the defenses that the Buckeyes will be phasing in the back half of the season will be markedly better than the ones they’ve faced in the first six games, but it also appears that the offense is starting to figure things out, and there might not be a defense in the country that can shut them down. The question will just be can anyone slow down Stroud and the offense enough to outscore them?
I think that there might be a few teams in the country who could make that happen, but I don’t think that any of them are in the Big Ten.
The absurd amount of receiving talent on this squad, coupled with the most talented running back in Ohio State history and a quarterback who is finally settling into his own makes it almost impossible for a defense to completely shut them down. They might be able to focus on one playmaker, or one aspect of the game plan, but you just aren’t going to stop them all.