Over the weekend Ohio State obliterated seventh ranked Michigan State in a blowout even the most confident of Buckeyes fans could not have predicted. As we’ve looked at past games there has been a combination of overly nit-picky and overly celebratory, but this week contextualizing perfection will be the goal. What Ohio State was able to do offensively against the 40th ranked yards per throw pass defense in the country is otherworldly, C.J. Stroud put on his most dynamic display of quarterbacking in his young career, and the starters had zero hiccups in their time on the field getting much needed rest heading into “hate week.”
The defense held up their end of the bargain with an elite display of pass coverage, run-defense, and pressure. Ohio State was led by their veteran defensive line and the rest of the position groups followed suit. For the Buckeyes it started with Haskell Garrett and we’re going to look at how elite defensive line play took this defense from good to borderline elite. This was no small task slowing down Kenneth Walker III and this big play passing attack. A new defense is here and it all starts up front.
These weekly film reviews have been a lot of fun to-do, and throughout the season the Buckeyes have given us a lot to look at, good and bad. This week’s film review is a celebration of the culmination of excellence you all demanded from this team. The Buckeyes are reaching their potential and we’re going to take a look at some of the more special plays from an extremely special afternoon.
The development of C.J. Stroud has been miraculous in front of our eyes, going from a loud vocal minority of fans wanting him benched to Heisman front runner in November. When you take a look at his performance we get to see everything that makes him special as a quarterback. We saw Stroud play a perfect game as a quarterback – outside of two throw aways and a miscommunication from receivers – he couldn’t have played any better. We’re going to look at a couple throws that highlight his development.
The first play we’re going to look at is his first touchdown pass of the day. Ohio State runs a “Smash” concept – a known Cover-2 beater – with a little bit of variety to it. Ohio State uses the running back to serve as the flat player replacing the hitch route to the single receiver side and the receiver runs a corner. To the field side they run a post to Chris Olave (No. 2) in the slot, an in to Jaxon Smith-Njigba (No. 11) who’s the number two, and the outside receiver runs a clear out vertical.
When we look back earlier into the year, C.J. Stroud (No. 7) had some trouble early in games throwing in the middle of the field with a lot of throws coming out high. There are two parts of this play that show the growth of Stroud: The eye discipline and ball placement. This play is built to attack the middle of a Cover-4 look and the outside of a Cover-2 look, MSU plates Cover-4 here. Stroud holds the safety on the left hash with his eyes, this creates a moment of hesitation for him which allows Olave to get that space in the middle. The next aspect of ball placement works because Olave is incredible and can help his quarterback out just a tad. If Stroud throws the ball to Olave this is either a killshot or a pass break up, by putting the ball high and to the left this allows it to clear the safety and takes Olave’s momentum away from the contact. Olave makes an impressive catch, and on a first drive, this showed how dialed in the Buckeyes were. This won’t be the last time we highlight these two in the film review.
The next play we’re going to take a look at is Stroud’s throw in the face of pressure, this play also shows high level ball tracking from Olave. Ohio State aligns with two receivers to the left and a two tight end stack to the right. The play is a Smash-Fade concept, meaning the inside player runs a fade to the sideline keeping his shoulders to the quarterback instead of the hard breaking corner route.
When the ball is snapped, the offensive line takes their pass sets and Michigan State brings a blitz from the outside linebacker position. Miyan Williams (No. 28) steps up, and not to do him dirty like this, but he completely whiffs on the block. This route conceptis a quick three-step and a hitch concept meaning Stroud takes three-steps in his drop, sets his feet, and throws. The blitzing linebacker was delayed enough that Stroud could step into his throw and you can see his internal clock going off. Quarterbacks want to have the ball out between 2.5-3 seconds as much as they can. Stroud feels the pressure fades slightly away from it, forcing him into a more uncomfortable throw, but he puts the ball in a place where only Olave could catch it. Stroud takes the hit, but this is where his maturity has taken a lot of steps in recent weeks. Olave does an immaculate job of tracking that ball and contorting his body to be able to haul it in making this an impressive play on both ends.
This week the defense played their best game of the season, the Buckeyes shut down Kenneth Walker the III and it all started up front. This game was one on both sides of the football in the first three series, but the part that the defense should be most proud of is they played hard from start to finish. The full starting unit pitched a shutout, but looking at the stats they held their end of the deal this week leaving the country no doubt. The offense’s performance might have been flashier, but down the home stretch I think the defense’s performance was more important. We’re going to look at how the defensive line made their impact and became such a disruptive force against Michigan State.
The first play the defense made where I knew this game was going to be a blowout was Michigan State’s first play on offense. Michigan State aligned in 12-personnel – one back, two tight ends – with a trips look to the field side.
Ohio State’s defensive line has been dominant at times, but after two weeks of being relative no shows outside of a few moments this game was an important statement opportunity. Michigan State runs their patented “Duo” run-concept out of a pistol look. As we’ve talked about in these articles the best way to beat a zone run scheme is to get immediate interior penetration. Haskell Garrett (No. 92) lines up in the 3-technique between Michigan State’s guard and tackle. The ball is snapped and he defeats the guard with a swim move immediately disrupting the run play for Michigan State and forcing Kenneth Walker (No. 9) to cut back into a lane that is not there. Steele Chambers (No. 22) aggressively fills the lane and stops Walker in the backfield. A group tackle makes a statement that there will be no easy yards for the Spartans all day. The two techniques that showed immediately were exactly why Michigan State was unable to get anything going in the run game.
The defensive line caught a lot of flack last week for their limited amount of quarterback pressures, but this week they showed that you don’t always need pressures to dominate in the passing game. Ohio State only tallied two sacks in this game, but with combined 11 pass break ups as a team with four of those coming from the defensive line, the Buckeyes were a no fly zone.
In the play, Michigan State once again lines up in a two tight end set with both tight ends off set. Ohio State aligns straight up to this with Craig Young (No. 15) as the bullet and Kourt Williams (No. 2) as a walked down safety. Ohio State rushes four and is unable to generate a pass rush, but Tyleik Williams (No. 91) is able to bull rush his defender into Payton Thorne’s throwing window. Williams keeps his eyes on Thorne and when he drops his hands Williams’ hands go up. This leads to him deflecting the pass at the line of scrimmage and another incompletion for the Spartans. The defensive line was not always able to get pressure, but by getting in passing lanes and rushing the quarterback they forced a lot of bad throws which is the next best thing.
Chris Olave is a legend and his place in history is solidified. I can go into the details of the play, but like a great commentator I just want to be one with the moment. Now that you’ve watched the play a few times, I have a few words about the Ohio State legend Chirs Olave.
In the biggest games Chris Olave has always showed up for the in the biggest moment and has been a steady cog in the machine since he came on to the scene against those fools from up north four years ago. In his final home game and in the poetic way that is the embodiment of Chris Olave he broke the career touchdown record. With his patented deep post route, he split the safety, caught the ball and the route took him right to the student section to celebrate. Words can;t be expressed now for what his legacy means for the Buckeyes, but to me he represents everything you want in your star wide receiver. The culture in the receiver room was elevated when he got here and the level that is expected has been raised for good. His name will forever be in the lore of OhIo State’s history. Not bad for the skinny 3-star kid from Southern California, and with this we all say thank you Chris Olave!
Ohio State played the perfect football game against Michigan State, but being able to highlight Stroud’s development and the defensive line always makes this worth doing. As I said in the beginning it is hard to contextualize perfection, which that game against Michigan State was, so rather than try we looked at a few of my favorite plays from the game. Ohio State played their best football in their biggest game to date and that deserves to be celebrated. Outside of what we saw the defensive backs played great, the offensive line did their job, and Master Teague III got a swan song on senior day. All in all, as a Buckeye fan there’s not much more you could ask for, but there is something even bigger on the horizon. IT IS TIME!!!