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).
Well, there’s no doubt that it really matters whom you’re playing. And there’s no doubt that Akron is a very bad team. I don’t remember seeing a major college game where receivers dropped so many passes or that defenders simply waived at guys running by them with the ball. I’m not a gambling man (usually), but when I saw that initial 50-point spread, I figured “no way.” I thought that Akron, despite how bad they were reputed to be, would score at least 14, and the Bucks, with a new quarterback, weren’t likely to put up 65 to cover. No way.
I was wrong. This game was fun to watch, just what we all wanted: a true blowout. We saw a lot of freshmen playing for the first time, and playing well. The two most amazing stats to me?
The Buckeye defense racked up nine sacks after getting only four in the first three games. And time of possession: Akron, 36:40; OSU, 23:20. When you score as quickly (and as often) as Ohio State does, the time of possession is largely overrated, but still an interesting contrast.
Your offense is doing something right when your team scores 59 (yes, I know that the defense accounted for seven) points, gains 622 yards, and averages 10.2 yards per play. Against the Zips, it did lots of things right, with a variety of players and combinations. Starting quarterback Kyle McCord started out pretty shaky. After TreVeyon Henderson ran for 12 yards on the Bucks’ first offensive play, McCord threw three straight incomplete passes. They weren’t close, and the receivers were open. Oh no. Not quite an emergency that would require bringing Stroud back in, but a cause for worry, especially after Akron drove 55 yards for a touchdown on their next possession.
But McCord settled down nicely, completing 11 of 12 passes for 229 yards (15.3 average) and two touchdowns during the rest of the first half. He had help. The line played well. Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba made big catch-and-runs, and Henderson played like Henderson.
At half, the score had the Bucks up 38-7. The game was over. In the second quarter, the OSU offense out-gained Akron 170 yards to 27; in the third quarter, when some starters were still in the game, the Buckeyes out-gained the Zips 219-30. In the red zone, Ohio State was seven for seven, with six touchdowns and a field goal. Dominance — at last.
I liked the way that carries were distributed evenly. Miyan Williams had nine, Henderson and Master Teague had eight each, and freshman Evan Pryor in his first action had five. All ran hard and had good averages behind a superior line.
Emeka Egbuka (what a run!), Marvin Harrison Jr., and Jayden Ballard all made their first receptions of the year. One small worry: for the second game in a row, Chris Olave was nearly absent, with two catches for 12 yards. As I said last week, he’s got to figure more in the offense as the competition gets tougher. Maybe a little soft, but we’ve been waiting awhile, so it’s hard not to give the offense the top rating (keeping in mind, of course, the level of competition).
Overall rating: AA Very Strong
There were monsters on the defensive line: Tyleik Williams, Haskell Garrett, Jack Sawyer. They stopped Akron’s run game early on, and the Zips finished with only 76 rushing yards on 40 carries, for a measly 1.9 yard per play average. Most of the rushing yards were scrambles by the Zips’ nimble quarterback D.J. Irons, who slipped some tackles and gained some yards.
The Bucks’ pass defense finally looked good. Akron had only 153 passing yards for the game, and Irons threw two interceptions. As noted above, OSU got to Akron quarterbacks for nine sacks. It sure was good to see so many red shirts in the opponents’ backfield.
By the end of the first quarter, Akron really couldn’t do anything on offense. They ended up punting eight times and averaged only 3.1 yards per play for the 74 plays that they ran. In addition to the d-line play, Teradja Mitchell and Cody Simon played well at linebacker. (Even Tommy Eichenberg got a QB hurry), and it was satisfying watching Steele Chambers and DeMario McCall play well in their new positions.
All in all, this is the defense that we’ve wanted — and expected — all season. Let’s see what happens next week against Rutgers and in the weeks to come.
Overall rating: AA Very Strong
Again, the kicking game was solid. Akron, apparently decided against returning any kicks, figuring that a fair catch was their best option. Noah Ruggles made all of his kicks, including a field goal. Jesse Mirco punted three times and averaged a solid 46.3 yards per kick. Still waiting for a big play on special teams.
Overall rating: A Strong
Tyleik Williams: For the second week in a row, Williams excelled on the defensive line, with six tackles and two sacks. I like this guy: his energy, his killer instinct.
Haskell Garrett: He’s back. Akron’s line couldn’t handle Garrett. He plugged the middle on running plays and was on the quarterback quickly in passing situations. OSU will need him to keep bringing his A-game as the season progresses and the offensive lines get better.
Ronnie Hickman: I’ve watched Hickman’s pick-six a dozen times and still don’t quite see how he gets the ball. Magic. Hickman is another energetic player who needs to be on the field. With more experience, he’ll be very good.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba: Leading the team in receptions against Akron (and now returning punts?), Smith-Njigba is fast becoming a go-to receiver. His effort on the touchdown was a thing to behold. He wouldn’t be denied.
Garrett Wilson: Only four catches — but for 124 yards. Big play guy. ‘Nuf said.
Kyle McCord: His first series had me worried. But I thought that his performance after that (with the exception of the interception, of course) was quite good, especially for a true freshman seeing his first playing time. Going 13/18 for 319 yards and a 17.7 average per attempt in your first career action is pretty darn good.
Master Teague: I admit that I never really thought much of Master Teague, but he’s growing on me. He again played well; 71 yards on eight carries, an 8.9 yard per carry average and two touchdowns. With his strength, he’s a good complement to Henderson’s speed.
Jack Sawyer: I’ve wanted to see Sawyer play more. Against the Zips, he did. Three tackles and a sack may seem modest, but he shared with spot with quite a few others. Promising for sure.
Not too much to complain about in this game. Except for the eight penalties. In this game, against this opponent, they didn’t matter much, but big penalties in crucial situations have been issues in all of the Buckeye games so far. In this one, a block in the back penalty negated a good Garrett Wilson punt return at the end of the first quarter. A face mask penalty in the second quarter by Michael Hall gave Akron a first down after an incomplete pass would have forced a punt. And then two unsportsmanlike conduct calls in the second half against Hall (again) and Jakailin Johnson were certainly unnecessary and could be costly in another context. I know that they’re freshmen and excited to be playing, but they need some discipline.