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).
Well before this season began, I had suggested, in a “bold prediction,” that the Wisconsin game would be the most difficult on Ohio State’s regular season schedule. I worried that the Badgers — because they were big and tough and brought a rugged rushing game — were just the sort of team that the Buckeyes struggled with. Not anymore! Any frets that we may have had about the Buckeyes’ physicality were laid to rest last night as OSU dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
The feel of the Black Out was electric, and Ohio State came out on fire. The opening drive was a masterpiece – 88 yards, six plays, Miyan Williams putting it in from the two. With about four minutes still left in the initial quarter, the Buckeyes were up 21-0. Quarterback C.J. Stroud and the OSU defense were both outstanding, and the game was really over at the quarter mark.
By the time the Victory Bell was ringing, the scoreboard read 52-21. Domination for the Buckeyes. Humiliation for the Badgers. I admit that I didn’t see this rout coming.
Overall rating: AA Very Strong
Ohio State had 12 (sort of) possessions. Seven were in the first half: four TDs, a field goal, an interception, and a knee to end the half. Williams and tight end Cade Stover had two touchdowns each. Stroud was 10-for-15 for 147 yards for two scores and an interception (his first of the season).
We didn’t see much of Stover in the second half, and Williams didn’t touch the ball. Stroud wasn’t quite as sharp. Emeka Egbuka and Julian Fleming stepped up to handle the receiving, and TreVeyon Henderson and Dallan Hayden carried the ball. The Bucks had five second half possessions. They scored three more touchdowns and punted twice, one generously and, I thought, unnecessarily.
For the game, there was only one bad series, the second drive of the third quarter. After Stroud had to throw the ball away under a strong rush, Henderson scampered on a nine-yard run. But a holding penalty on Dawand Jones made it second and 15. Henderson ran it into the middle for two, and, greedy as I am, I was disappointed in the play call. An incomplete pass followed, and the Buckeyes punted on fourth and 13.
While the offense seemed largely unstoppable and racked up 52 points on what was supposed to be a very fine defense, there weren’t many big plays. The longest Buckeye gain was a 33-yard pass play from Stroud to Egbuka. But the Bucks were consistent – and persistent. A balanced run (258 yards) and pass (281) attack kept the offense on the field, and OSU won the time of possession competition, 33:02 to 26:58. Somewhat of a surprise against Wisconsin.
It wasn’t Stroud’s best game. He threw his first interception and missed some open receivers, but he was great on big downs. It’s also becoming increasingly clear to me that Miyan Williams is the Buckeyes’ best running back. I realize the heresy in this statement. He runs harder than Henderson, seems to have better vision for openings, and carries a better yards-per-run average. Henderson ran 21 times for 121 yards. Pretty good, but his longest was only 16. It’s time for him to break one too.
Overall rating: A Strong
Without Braelon Allen’s 75-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, I would have given the Buckeye defense my highest rating. Even with that rush, the Badgers were limited to fewer than 300 yards for the game and only 104 passing yards.
OSU played without starting cornerbacks Denzel Burke and Cam Brown, but it didn’t matter. Graham Mertz isn’t a very good QB, and J.K. Johnson and Jyaire Brown were certainly adequate in covering the Wisconsin receivers. The Buckeye defense got only one sack, but applied considerable pressure on Mertz, usually rushing only four.
Safety Tanner McCalister made a sensational catch to intercept a Badger pass on their first possession of the game, taking it to the 16. The quick TD (two plays) put the Bucks up 14-0 early. Linebacker Tommy Eichenberg was great throughout the game, stopping the Wisconsin running attack almost by himself.
Overall rating: BB Adequate
There was nothing really special about the Ohio State special teams’ play. Noah Ruggles made all of his kicks. Jesse Mirco punted twice for a decent average. One wonders, though, why Buckeye opponents always defer to the second half if they win the coin toss. I know that the thinking is that they might get an extra possession. But the reality is that they find themselves down 7-0 before touching the ball.
A couple of kickoff issues warrant a look. There was a Buckeye kickoff that went out of bounds; that shouldn’t happen. And the Badger kickoff that opened the game was muffed and recovered at the 12-yard line. While that meant only that the Bucks had to drive 88, rather than 75, yards to score, Ryan Day needs to find some sure hands on this team.
Miyan Williams. Williams carried the ball 11 times and gained 101 yards – all in the first half. His running (at a 9.2 yards per carry average) opened up Stroud’s passing game and helped to decide the outcome early on. The Badgers couldn’t stop him and couldn’t stop the Buckeye offense.
Cade Stover. Stover has become a real receiving threat. He’s really mobile and can run routes that we would expect from wideouts. He also has good hands, and Stroud is becoming comfortable throwing to him in crucial situations. Stover had four catches, 51 yards, two TDs, again, all in the first half.
Tommy Eichenberg. 14 tackles. Some big stops. Occasional pressure on the quarterback. It looks as though the Buckeyes have at last found their stud for the middle of the defense.
Tanner McCalister. McCalister played his best game as a Buckeye. And it’s not just the fantastic interception that he made. He also had several big hits, but, more importantly, he provided the leadership and guidance to help out the young cornerbacks. A strong game.
The offensive line. Dominant – on both pass and run. Only one penalty. If this group stays healthy and keeps developing, Buckeye opponents won’t have much of a chance.
Julian Fleming. It’s great to see a healthy Fleming on the field. I’m sure that C.J. Stroud feels the same way. Fleming caught four passes for 67 yards (16.8 average) and a touchdown. On the TD, Fleming was not to be denied, as he fought and clawed his way over the goal line.
Josh Proctor. The safeties have big roles to play in the Ohio State defense, and Proctor has risen to the occasion this season. Against the Badgers, he recorded six tackles and was good in pass coverage.
Emeka Egbuka. His numbers tell the story. Egbuka caught six passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns. That’s an average of 19.7 yards per catch. We’ve become accustomed to his “yards after the catch,” but even so. Good game.
C.J. Stroud. As I said above, not as sharp as last week. But he came out blazing to start the game and was solid throughout. 17-for-27 (63%, a little low for him) for 281 yards. And five TD passes in a game is nothing to sneeze at.
Once again, in a game so dominated by the Buckeyes, I don’t find it appropriate to single anyone out for “worthless stock” designation. No doubt, there will be time for that down the road. But, for now, all is good.
What a great way to begin the conference schedule! I wouldn’t think that Rutgers or Michigan State (after yesterday) would have the firepower to give the Buckeyes much trouble. So, they should see themselves at 6-0 going into the bye week and heading for monster games against Iowa and Penn State.