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).
The Ohio State Buckeyes became bowl eligible last night, after defeating the Michigan State Spartans 49-20. That’s a big deal for most teams, but for the Buckeyes it just happens every year, usually after the sixth game of the season.
This one started off with a bunch of OSU miscues. Jayden Fielding kicked the opening kickoff out of bounds, giving the Spartans the ball on their 35. Emeka Egbuka, after fumbling a punt recently, called a fair catch after MSU’s second drive. And he had 15 yards of open field when he did. Then, Stroud threw a pick-six on the Buckeyes’ second possession, and the score was tied 7-7.
The Buckeyes straightened things out pretty quickly, however. Stroud was back to a magnificent level, completing over 80% of his passes and striking for six touchdowns. The defense, too, buckled down and the contest was really over at the half, with the Bucks leading 35-13.
Overall rating: AA Very Strong
Let me say from the outset here that I’m rating the starting offense, the front-line players. (More on the backups later.) The Stroud-led offense had eight possessions. Aside from the interception for a Spartan TD, they scored touchdowns on the other seven – six through the air and one on the ground. For the game, the offense had 614 yards, chalked up 29 first downs, ran for 195 yards, and controlled possession 37:14 to 22:48. Dominant.
For the Buckeyes, all of the stars were shining. TreVeyon Henderson returned to action (while Miyan Williams sat out) and gained 118 yards and scored a touchdown. The three wideouts – Egbuka, Marvin Harrison, Jr., and Julian Fleming – all had big nights and flashed their pass-catching ability as well as their speed. The line opened big holes and, by and large, did a good job of protecting Stroud.
When the starters were done for the night, at about the end of the third quarter and the score 49-13, the offense was pretty much done for the night too. The Buckeyes had four more possessions, the final one ending after only a couple of plays when the time expired. They did not score. They got two first downs. They punted three times.
I realize that the play calling was conservative, Ryan Day not wanting to be accused of running up the score. But I would expect the Buckeye offensive line to be able to push the Michigan State backups around. They didn’t. Kyle McCord threw only two passes. He completed both, but a bad pass made Jayden Ballard have to come back for the ball, and he came up short of the first down marker.
I’m just concerned that there’s such an obvious falling off in quality when the starters come out. I would suggest (and I’m probably just greedy) that this second unit, McCord especially, be allowed to open things up a bit. That experience might be needed later.
Overall rating: A Strong
If you take away the interception/touchdown and the Spartans’ fourth-quarter TD against Buckeye reserves, you’ll see that the starting defense yielded only six points. At the half, MSU had 117 total yards, a net of four on the ground. The second half was much the same, as they finished with 195 total yards and a net of seven on the ground. While sacks made the rushing total worse, the Spartans simply couldn’t run the ball at all. They did complete 17 of their 28 passing attempts and exposed (yet again) the glaring Buckeye cornerback weakness.
The defensive line played particularly well, I thought. Mike Hall, Jr., Taron Vincent, and Zach Harrison beat up on their green-clad counterparts, putting pressure on the quarterbacks, as well as killing the run. The D was very successful in getting off the field, forcing three-and-outs and Spartan punts.
I again saw a drop off when the starters came out. Of course, the blitzes were gone, but the pass defense was pretty porous. MSU’s backup QB completed six of his 10 passes, but the incompletes were bad passes to open receivers.
Overall rating: BB Adequate
Same old, same old with special teams. Kicking the ball out of bounds, muffing kicks, penalties on returns. Ohio State really needs to find new returners for both punts and kickoffs. In these routs, it may not matter, but there are a couple of games ahead where it might. On the plus side, the extra point team performs like a Swiss watch, and punter Jesse Mirco averaged over 50 on his three kicks.
C.J. Stroud. It’s fitting to start with Stroud, since the offense starts with him. Let’s face it, he had a bad game last week, and the interception that he threw yesterday had me worried. I admit that I don’t know if it was Stroud’s fault or that of Egbuka. One of them didn’t read the defense right. But Stroud wasn’t flustered after the pick. He just kept going. 361 yards, six touchdown passes – those are Heisman numbers.
Marvin Harrison, Jr. I could put all three starting wideouts in this Blue Chip category, but I’m limiting myself to one, Harrison. I’ve written “great catch” three times next to Harrison’s name in my notes from the game. The reach, the hands, the size. He’s something. For the game, he caught seven passes for 131 yards and three TDs. Egbuka and Fleming both had longer plays, but the catches that he made set him apart.
Tommy Eichenberg. The stats tell us that he had “only” eight total tackles, but it seemed that Eichenberg was in on every play. He can pass rush. He can stop the run. He can cover backs and tight ends. He’s having a great year.
Mike Hall, Jr. My, oh, my, he’s quick and strong. Turn him loose on a quarterback and he makes the play. It’s really fun watching this guy.
Lathan Ransom. It’s good to have Ransom back. His first quarter interception was super important because it stopped early MSU momentum and set the stage for the Buckeye offense to take over the game. Ransom finished with three tackles but played a strong game in the secondary.
Julian Fleming and Emeka Egbuka. Not that I’m regarding them as twins, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, but they both performed at a strong level. Egbuka caught five passes for a game-high 143 yards and a TD. His 69-yarder on a third and four gave the Bucks a lead that they’d never relinquish. Fleming caught all four of the balls targeting him, accumulating 81 receiving yards. He also scored on a long pass – 51 yards in his case.
TreVeyon Henderson. Great to see Henderson back in the backfield. He had a decent game: 118 net rushing yards on his 19 carries for a 6.2 yard per carry average. It seemed as though he was always on the brink of breaking the really long run. But he didn’t. He did run hard, however, and looked better at reading his blocking, Mitch Rossi’s block on Henderson’s TD, for instance.
Ronnie Hickman. Five total tackles, but whenever you looked at which Buckeyes were in on the play, there was Hickman. As he has been for a couple of seasons now.
Cam Brown (and Buckeye cornerbacks generally). Brown got burned on a long (ish) pass on Michigan State’s first drive. Then he got beat again and was called for interference in the second period. When his man beat him again, Brown got pulled from the game, went to the sidelines, and threw his helmet for all to see. Real class, Cam! But J.K. Johnson and Jayaire Brown also had difficulties in coverage. I thought that Denzel Burke, on the other hand, had a pretty good game – for a change.
It will be hard waiting two weeks for the next Buckeye game – at home against the Iowa Hawkeyes. But the bye week should allow injured players to heal. Wouldn’t it be something to see everybody suited up the next time we visit Ohio Stadium?