After each Ohio State game during the 2022 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: 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).
Folks around the country will look at the 54-10 final score and go “ho-hum.” But this strange, strange game was anything but a yawner. First of all, the Iowa offense is really terrible. That’s really all that I can say about them. The Buckeye defense, even given the “quality” of the opponent, was magnificent.
I guess that I’ve probably seen a game where one team got six turnovers – but I can’t remember when. It got so that I expected an interception or a lost fumble on every Iowa snap. Repeatedly, the Buckeyes got the ball with a short field. And then usually failed to take full advantage of the break.
Just as it’s hard to determine how good the Ohio State defense is when the offense against them is almost nonexistent, it’s also difficult to tell whether the Iowa defense is really good (at least for about 60% of the game), or whether the OSU offense was just off.
We’ll discuss the offensive problems below. The bottom line, though, is that the Buckeyes won the game, covered the 30-point spread (which I thought was high) by 14, and stretched their record to 7-0. The determined march toward championships continues.
Overall rating: BBB Adequate (i.e., good enough to win)
You might be thinking, that’s a lot of points to put on the board in order to earn an “adequate.” But let’s consider. The Buckeye offense in the first half was awful. Safety Tanner McCalister collected his first interception of the day on Iowa’s first play. The Bucks’ first drive started at the Iowa 29. TreVeyon Henderson gained a rushing yard on first down. Facing good coverage, C.J. Stroud essentially threw the ball away on second down and made a bad pass on third down that should have been intercepted. After gaining only a yard, OSU settled for a 46-yard field goal. And that drive typified the half.
By halftime, the Buckeye offense totaled 133 yards, a figure that the Fox announcers claimed was the least productive half in coach Ryan Day’s tenure at Ohio State. They were two for eight in converting third downs and had only six first downs for the 30 minutes. Stroud was 10-for-17 but averaged only 6.2 yards per attempt and had thrown no touchdowns. A 26-yard pass to Julian Fleming was the only play of the half good for more than 20 yards.
The second half was much better, and people will call the game a “tale of two halves.” Although Stroud threw TD passes on each of his last four drives, over all the offense wasn’t all that good in the second half either. For the game, the Buckeyes finished with 15 first downs and 360 total yards. Both numbers are very low. But look at these: 3/13 in third down conversions, 66 total net rushing yards. I know that with the short fields, it’s tougher to accumulate yards and first downs. But still.
The problem for me is that Iowa demonstrated that the superb Ohio State offense can be stopped. That’s right – stopped. They did it systematically. First, they stuffed the run. Neither Henderson nor Miyan Williams could get anything. Even the end-arounds and a reverse didn’t work. Stroud’s sneak on third and one didn’t get the first down. The offensive line wasn’t moving anybody; unfortunately, it looked a lot like the running game last year.
Secondly, the Hawkeyes did a really good job in pass coverage. They were physical, knocking Buck receivers off their routes. When the refs didn’t call penalties, they got more physical. Finally, they were able to put a lot of pressure on Stroud. He sometimes kept the play alive only to make a bad decision or throw it away.
I could almost feel Stroud’s frustration. He lost his patience. He started forcing his passes. He didn’t have a great game. Maybe he was rusty after the bye, maybe he was troubled (as we all were) seeing Jaxon Smith-Njigba limp off the field at less than the halfway mark of the second quarter. Whatever the reason(s), Stroud didn’t have one of his best games. He got sacked and had the ball stripped and recovered for an Iowa TD on Ohio State’s second possession of the game. Although throwing an interception on the first play, he was better in the second half. OSU was more successful in protecting Stroud in the pocket, and the Iowa pass rush was less ferocious. Some adjustments had been made on the routes that enabled Buckeye receivers to get a little separation.
Day and the Buckeye staff gave up on the running game. I’m not sure that I blame them; it wasn’t going anywhere. But without it, the Buckeyes are much less on offense. And when there aren’t big plays, long gainers, you can feel a certain little panic – with the players, the play callers, the OSU fans. That’s a problem. More patience will be needed next week and in the future.
Overall rating: AA Very Strong
Since this game showed an Ohio State defense that was one of the best that I’ve seen in a long time, I’m going to assume (at least for this column) that the dominance was all attributable to Jim Knowles’ defense, and not the feeble Iowa offense. Iowa had 159 yards of total offense. They were 1/13 on third-down conversion attempts and 1/4 on fourth-down attempts. Aside from a couple of nice draw plays in the third quarter, Iowa did nothing. The Buckeye D was aggressive throughout the game and simply dominated.
Linebackers Steele Chambers and Tommy Eichenberg made most of the tackles, but the line controlled the line of scrimmage and made life miserable for Hawkeye runners and passers. There was some pregame speculation that OSU defensive backs would have trouble covering Iowa’s good tight ends. Not really a problem at all. The safeties handled them, and pressure on Iowa QBs canceled the passing attack.
But it’s the turnovers that we’ll remember. For the game, Iowa had 15 offensive possessions. They lost three fumbles, threw three interceptions, failed on a fake punt, punted five times, and turned the ball over on downs twice on failed fourth-down attempts. Oh, and they had a 49-yard field goal early in the second quarter. That’s it – three points. (The touchdown was scored by the Iowa defense.)
I applaud the defense. They are so much better – in every way – than last year. Importantly, the OSU defense can carry the load when the offense struggles.
Overall rating: A Strong
No glaring blunders. No bonehead plays. Fair catches were called and made. Kickoff and kicking teams executed their plays cleanly. Freshman Caden Curry made a nice, open-field tackle to foil a foolish fake punt attempt. And Noah Ruggles (remember him?) made all four of his field goal attempts. No fireworks on special teams. Just solid play.
Zach Harrison. I’m not the only Ohio State fan waiting for Zach Harrison to live up to his potential. He’s getting there. Against the Hawkeyes, Harrison was all over the quarterbacks. He was too quick, too strong for the guys trying to block him, and it seemed as though he could do whatever he wanted. While he may not be credited with a dozen tackles, he was there – stopping the play.
Tanner McCallister. We all had high hopes for the Oklahoma State transfer, and he met them yesterday. Two interceptions! Yeah, I know that McCallister got flagged on an interference call, but he roamed that secondary like a predator.
Tommy Eichenberg. As I’ve said before, Eichenberg is a different player this year. He’s become one of those fierce, aggressive Buckeye linebackers that we’ve come to expect. Seven tackles and a pick-six interception – not a bad afternoon.
Lathan Ransom. The safeties played strong games for OSU, and Ransom stood out. He was frequently involved in stopping Iowa runs and finished with five tackles. He also had a fumble recovery, capping a very fine game.
Noah Ruggles. Last year, Ruggles was “Mr. Automatic.” This year, with Ohio State’s TD success in the red zone, we’ve hardly seen him. But he made all of his kicks yesterday. “So what?” you ask. “He’s supposed to make them.” Yes, but what if he had missed them? As the Buckeyes were thwarted time after time in the first half, momentum was at stake. Missed field goals would have kept the Hawks in the game. Ruggles didn’t miss.
Marvin Harrison, Jr. Both Fleming (105) and Emeka Egbuka (80) had more receiving yards than Harrison. But Harrison made several spectacular catches when just such catches were needed. He’s a clutch performer. I thought about putting him above, as a “blue chipper,” but I really didn’t think that any offensive player deserved that status.
Steele Chambers. I love his name, which reminds me of the Pittsburgh “Steel Curtain” of the 1970s. Chambers, like Eichenberg, was all over the field against Iowa.
Jerron Cage. Interior defensive linemen often don’t get the credit that they deserve. Cage played a strong game, plugging up the middle when he was in there. The Iowa line couldn’t push him around at all.
Caden Curry. Curry played on special teams and came in late in the game at defensive end. On Iowa’s fake punt, I really thought that the kicker was going to get the first down. But Curry stuck him. A defensive lineman making an open-field tackle! He also recovered a fumble. I look forward to seeing much more of this guy.
Dawand Jones. There are probably other offensive players that belong in this category, but the right side of the Buckeye offensive line was subpar on both running and passing plays throughout the game. D. Jones, in addition to missing blocks, was whistled for lining up in the backfield. The thoughtless play canceled a nice completion to Cade Stover, stalled another OSU drive, and forced yet another field goal instead of a touchdown. Sometimes, it’s the little things.
Yes, I’m greedy, but I found this 44-point drubbing of the Hawkeyes to be disappointing. I hadn’t thought that any team could simply shut down the Buckeye run game. Iowa did. I also worry about Stroud’s ability to maintain his cool when things aren’t going well. The Buckeye offensive line was beaten all through the first half of the game.
It was a big win. No doubt. But some improvements need to be made. Before next Saturday. While the Nittany Lions didn’t look very special against TTUN, they looked good yesterday against a pretty decent Minnesota team. The Buckeyes better be ready.