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Question: Just how many yards can Ohio State put up against Arkansas State?
I feel like I can speak for most Buckeye fans when I say that the biggest pleasant surprise from Saturday’s 21-10 victory over the then-No. 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish was the absolutely stellar performance by the Ohio State defense. However, a close second would be the impressive rushing performance by Miyan Williams, TreVeyon Henderson, and the entire OSU offensive line.
In total, they rushed for 172 yards, with Henderson going for 91 on 6.1 yards per carry while Williams had 84 on 6.0 ypc. While I am on record as saying that Ryan Day and the Buckeyes should take the next two games — against Arkansas State and Toledo respectively — to rest Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s ailing hamstring and build more cohesion between quarterback C.J. Stroud and his corps of first-time starting wide receivers, this Saturday against the Red Wolves might be a perfect opportunity to continue building momentum on the ground.
Though the Buckeyes opened as a 45.5-point favorite over Arkansas State, that number has dropped a while point to 44.5 as of publishing time, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Beyond the obvious talent differential, undoubtedly a lot of that point spread is due to the Red Wolves’ inability to stop the run.
While they did only give up 50 yards on the ground last week against Grambling State — a game they won 58-3 — in 2021, Butch Jones’ crew was last, like literally dead last, in stopping the run. They gave up 261.08 yards on the ground per contest, 11.25 more per game than 129th-place Kansas.
The Red Wolves gave up a nation’s worst 6.42 yards per carry last season; 2.74 ypc worse than the Buckeyes’ did in 2021, and we all know how OSU fans felt about that rush defense. Keep in mind that Arkansas St. only played one Power 5 team last year (a 52-3 loss to Washington) and their only ranked opponent was Coastal Carolina (a 52-20 defeat).
So, while DraftKings Sportsbook is not giving rushing total prop lines for this contest, I think it is safe to assume that OSU will be able to put up as many rushing yards as they want on Saturday afternoon in The Horseshoe. The question is, how many yards will they actually want to put up?
While I do expect Ryan Day to give Stroud, Emeka Egbuka, Marvin Harrison Jr., Jayden Ballard, Xavier Johnson, and Julian Fleming (if he is healthy) ample opportunities to build an in-game report, at what point will the game get out of hand leading the coach to take the air out of the ball?
I am going to guess that the first half will see a fairly well-balanced offensive attack, with a slight favor towards putting the ball in the air. However, when it becomes clearly uncouth for Stroud to continue to chuck it, I imagine that we will see Kyle McCord step in to lead the OSU offense. I would think that Day would like to get him some passing reps in the game, just so he’s ready in case the unimaginable occurs with Stroud, but undoubtedly McCord will be handing the ball off more than throwing it.
What will be interesting to see is how long Henderson and Williams remain in the game. With the preseason third-string back Evan Pryor out for the year, the next man up is true freshman Dallan Hayden. Saturday would be a great opportunity to get his feet wet at the collegiate level, but does Day want to burn one of Hayden’s redshirt games this early in the season?
Players can appear in up to four games and maintain their ability to redshirt, but given the relative lack of depth at the running back position, I’m not sure that OSU wants to eat into the freshman’s four games this early into the season, just in case something happens down the stretch.
However, given that the emergency fourth-string RB is linebacker Chip Trayanum, the Buckeye coaching staff might not have much of a choice in how and when they deploy Hayden.
Either way, I am going to put the rushing total for the Buckeyes this weekend at 261.5, less than half a yard more than the Red Wolves’ 2021 season average. Even if the Buckeyes put on the breaks from an offensive standpoint, stop throwing the ball, and call simple, straight-ahead running plays, I have a feeling that with the team’s renewed emphasis on toughness, even the backup lineman and backs are going to want to prove their mettle when given the opportunity.
So, I’ll go out on a limb and say that Henderson and Williams both eclipse 100 yards rushing and in total, the Buckeyes finish north of 261 — who knows, maybe Stroud will even answer Buckeye Nation’s prayers and run the ball a bit himself.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.