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).
At last. Playing the #7-ranked Michigan State Spartans, both the Ohio State offense and defense put on a show. The Spartans couldn’t stop the Buckeye attack, and they couldn’t sustain a drive against the OSU defense. The Bucks sent a loud message: when we play like this on both sides of the ball, who’s going to beat us?
Coming into this game, there was a lot of worry among the Buckeye faithful. Despite the 20-point spread on the game, fans and commentators were concerned with the MSU offense; they could score points. Moreover, with Kenneth Walker III, arguably the nation’s best running back, the Spartans would be able to control the clock, keep Stroud and his amigos off the field. Many expected a real street fight. But that’s not what happened. The Bucks got the ball first, jumped on Sparty, and kept pounding him.
Aside from C.J. Stroud’s taking a knee with 0:35 left in the first half, Ohio State scored touchdowns on every first half possession. Seven touchdowns. And Sparty? Sparty had seven possessions: punt, missed field goal, lost fumble, punt, punt, punt, punt. The score was 49-0. The game was over.
This game was an old-fashioned whipping. The final stats are mind boggling, but most of the difference was established during the first two quarters. At halftime, MSU had seven first downs and 116 total yards. OSU had 26 first downs and 500 (yes, 500 in the first half) yards. The Spartans were four out of ten in converting third down attempts. The Buckeyes were two for two, moving the sticks routinely in one or two plays.
And the celebrated Walker III? He carried the ball five times for 24 yards. (In the second half, he’d have one more carry for one yard.) Michigan State was overwhelmed. Falling behind by so much, so quickly, they largely abandoned their heretofore potent running game and turned to the pass. But they weren’t much more successful through the air, as Payton Thorne tossed the ball 36 times, completing only 14 of the passes for an underwhelming 158 yards.
I don’t remember ever seeing a match up between two top ten teams that was this one-sided. Fun to watch, for sure. Looking forward to next week.
It’s tempting to say simply that Ohio State scored 56 points and rolled up 655 total yards – ‘nuf said. But there’s lots, lots more to say. Stroud was 29/31 in that incredible first half and completed three of his four second-half passes before exiting the game for Kyle McCord. The three magnificent wide receivers – Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba – all had over 100 yards receiving. Surprisingly, Master Teague III was the Buckeyes’ leading rusher on this Senior Day in The Horseshoe. And Olave, with his two touchdown catches in the first quarter, surpassed David Boston’s long-standing record for most receiving touchdowns in an Ohio State career. Olave now has 35 of them.
The Buckeye offensive line deserves a big shout out. They were great throughout the game. They pushed back the Spartans on runs and kept them away from Stroud on passes. The consistent solidity of the line’s pass blocking has allowed Stroud to develop quickly at quarterback, to be confident and cool in the pocket as he reads the defense and goes through his progressions. Given that he’s started only ten games, he’s mature and smart; the line should get credit for some of his success. It’s much easier to pass accurately when you’re not getting harassed on every play.
The only criticism that I would have of the offense is how badly the efficiency dropped off when Stroud and other starters gave way to backups in the second possession of the second half. In McCord’s first drive, he handed the ball off to Teague a couple of times and then kept it for a first down. Then, he muffed a snap and threw an interception. His next possession went three and out, resulting in OSU’s only punt of the day. After the way that the Bucks moved the ball at will, these two possessions were unsatisfying, to say the least. On McCord’s next possession, however, Teague and the line gobbled the clock and moved 75 yards for the Bucks’ final touchdown. And we even saw Quinn Ewers at the end of the game!
But when the starters are in? My, oh my, they’re good.
Overall rating: AA Very Strong
Last week, after the Purdue game, I wrote in this column, “It would be great to have a game, against a strong opponent, when both the offense and defense had stellar performances. Maybe next week, because it didn’t happen against the Boilermakers.” Well, it happened.
For the game, Michigan State had seven points, 12 first downs, 224 total yards, and nine punts in 12 possessions. (The other three resulted in a missed field goal attempt, a fumble, and their one touchdown.)
The MSU running game, the big worry going in, did nothing: 66 net yards on 21 carries. Thorne’s passes got batted down at the line of scrimmage so often (five, six times?) that I looked up his height, figuring him to be Doug Flutie size, 5-8, or so, but he’s listed at 6-2. The OSU line, while getting to Thorne for only two sacks (Haskell Garrett and Tyleik Williams), was just that good in ruining passing plays early.
Everybody played well on defense, and the game was a joy to watch. Because the Spartans couldn’t sustain a drive, the final time of possession was overwhelmingly in favor of Ohio State: 37:58 to 22:02. It’s an unusual and unexpected stat, with MSU’s running game and OSU’s quick scoring. The domination was as much on defense, as it was on offense.
Overall rating: AA Very Strong
Once again, Ohio State did a great job covering kick offs, and there were quite a few. I don’t know why the Spartans kept trying for a return (desperation?) because they couldn’t get back to the 25. On the other hand, with Emeka Egbuka out of the game, Julian Fleming took over the task of returning kick offs (only two of those!) and mishandled the first one, letting it roll for a while as a free ball. The miscue resulted in OSU’s starting their first drive on their own 14, where Chris Olave committed the Buckeyes’ only penalty of the game (a false start), moving the ball back to the nine. Didn’t matter, of course. For the second week in a row, Jesse Mirco punted only once, a good one for 50 yards. Finally, I’m sorry to report, Noah Ruggles’s string of perfection in making extra points and field goals came to an end, as he missed one from 38 yards out early in the second half.
Overall rating: A Strong
Chris Olave. Olave has to be first on this list. Stroud targeted Olave seven times, and Olave caught all seven, for 140 yards and two touchdowns. The touchdowns pushed his career total (35) past Buckeye great David Boston and established Olave as the career leader. And a couple of his catches, like the one on the sideline, were really spectacular.
C.J. Stroud. Heisman talk is getting serious now for Stroud. Each week, I look at his passing stats (yeah, I’m not asking him to run anymore) and shake my head. Yesterday, he completed 32 of his 35 passes, for 432 yards and six touchdowns. He’s still getting better by the game. For the season – playing in ten games, so it’s easy to compute the per-game average – Stroud has completed about 69% of his passes for 3468 yards and 36 touchdowns.
Master Teague III. I’m glad that we’re seeing more running backs in the game. While, in a tight one, we might see a heavier dose of TreVeyon Henderson, Miyan Williams last week and Teague this week have demonstrated clearly that they can move the sticks, run the clock, and seal the win. Teague had 21 carries against Sparty (Henderson ran only nine times) and gained a net 95 yards. He provided much of the Buckeyes’ second half offense and their only score.
The offensive line. A solid game throughout, especially on pass protection.
Tyreke Smith. I could have picked Haskell Garrett or Zach Harrison here just as easily. The Buckeye defensive line was dominant, no matter what the Spartans were trying to do. Smith batted down passes at the line and hurried several other passes.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Once again, JSN was a go-to guy. 10 targets, 10 receptions, 105 yards and a TD. And when the safeties came down to try to cover him on deep crossing routes, they left themselves vulnerable to the deep ball to Olave.
Garrett Wilson. A 77-yard catch and run for a touchdown! Wilson, as we saw last week against the Boilermakers, is a crucial piece that contributes to the Buckeye’s unparalleled offensive production.
Marcus Williamson. I thought that Williamson played well. We’ve seen Buckeye defensive backs get suckered on plays or be out of position, but yesterday they were well in place. Williamson did a good job on coverage and also helped to stop the run.
Kyle McCord. I was disappointed in McCord’s play. Granted, he didn’t have the same line protecting him or the same receivers to throw to that Stroud did. And he hasn’t seen much playing time of late. But he looked not only rusty, but uncertain, indecisive. He finished four for eight for only 17 yards. He also fumbled a snap that he ended up tossing to Teague for a loss of a couple, and he underthrew a pass, resulting in an interception. If McCord is the backup and if he plays like this, let’s hope that C.J. stays healthy.
The Buckeyes look ready for the big game next week.