Records are meant to be broken. That is especially the case when a team is built like Ohio State with a freightage of talent at the disposal of the offensive staff. The Buckeyes have routinely paced with the best offenses in the country, but with the veteran skill talent this year could be one where the exceptional happens.
Ohio State still has significant questions to answer in regards to who exactly will be on the field at some key positions. The quarterback battle is unsettled, but both quarterbacks in the room in Kyle McCord and Devin Brown ooze pedigree and talent. Offensive line coach Justin Frye has worked with less-talented groups prior and found significant success. If those questions are answered, the sky is the limit for this offensive group.
Surprisingly enough, historically the team after the team with the top-5 pick/NFL prospect at quarterback is the one that wins it all. Looking back to Peyton Manning, it was Tee Martin who finally held up the trophy. Down in Alabama, Tua Tagovailoa was the one who threw the pass to knock off Georgia, but it was Mac Jones who led the most explosive offense in school history. College football is filled with succession plans like these where the amazing comes when the worst could be expected.
This Ohio State team can be the next in the long line of football teams that outperform their more lauded predecessors. Looking at some national and school records relating to total offense, we can look at the potential thresholds that this team could reach given their talent on the offensive side of the ball.
In 2014 Ohio State set their program bench mark for total offense with 7,674 yards in the 15 games on the way to a national championship. The 2014 offense was an incredibly dynamic show led by red-shirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett and running back Ezekiel Elliott. The Buckeyes also ran out Michael Thomas and deep-threat Devin Smith, who were responsible for their share of explosiveness in the offense. Overall this group had similar questions heading into their season after the shock injury to incumbent starting quarterback Braxton Miller.
The 2014 offense was the greatest in total yards, but before we get into how this current group can get themselves into the record books, let’s take a look at the most yards per game offense in school history. That group was the 2018 no defense Buckeyes led by Dwayne Haskins Jr. The Buckeyes set countless passing records in both the school’s history and the Big Ten’s. They needed every single ounce of those yards, and ended up with two losses in spite of the offensive output due to challenges converting points at times.
That takes me to these records being broken, and why the 2022 team can be the one to unseat them. The first area of getting past the total yards on the season record is playing 15 games. If they get to 15 games, the record is in reach because each of the last four Ryan Day led teams would have eclipsed that number with 15 games. Now I know that is imaginative thinking, but the 2019 team was 200 yards short of being the best. If they take on LSU that following Monday, we may have a different idea on who the best offense in school history was.
For the yards per game, that just means the talent needs to show up on a week-to-week basis. What all the teams have in common is a dynamic backfield – Treveyon Henderson, MIyan Williams, Chip Trayanum, Dallan Hayden, and Evan Pryor definitely check those boxes. The group also needs explosive receivers on the outside, the son of a hall of farmer who is already on that trajectory himself in Marvin Harrison Jr. is a start. You add Emeka Egbuka, Julian Fleming, and the elite freshman coming in, and there is definitely a group of players capable of making big plays.
All this to say, the offense should put up a lot of yards. Questions on the offense line have limited teams before, but if that group can find its footing the other questions will answer themselves. At quarterback, Day’s track record is elite with none of his quarterbacks having bad stats in year one. Lastly, to have the most yards the team has to win a lot of football games to play in a lot of football games. With the backfield and the receivers, the next quarterback at Ohio State just needs to not crash the car and these records will be in reach.
Verdict: They can break both of these records if every thing goes right (or things go horribly wrong on defense)
Yards per play
The last two seasons Ohio State has had the No. 1 yards per play offense and No. 3 yards per play offense in school history. This is the state of the offensive side of the program, and this year the expectation is that this will continue. Ohio State has consistently ranked near the top offenses in yards per play since Urban Meyer took over the program in 2012, and that has set a lofty standard.
In school history, the highest yards per play in a single season was the 7.8 YPP in 2021-2022 when the Buckeyes had a breakout year from Treveyon Henderson, two first round draft picks at wide receiver, and a quarterback in C.J. Stroud who grew into the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Ohio State will have a healthy Henderson back which is a big step, and in addition to Miyan Williams the No. 2 back, they should have more depth behind them as well this season.
Ohio State also has two first round wide receivers on their roster at this moment as well, and would you look at that, a first year starter at quarterback. A big reason the yards per play stat can be even greater this year is the balance the offense will try to find with a young starting quarterback. The offense won’t be simpler, but as we saw in Stroud’s first season, Day is willing to scheme up some big time throws down field.
Against Rutgers after Stroud returned from injury, he threw for five touchdowns with three of them coming off of well designed plays off of the run actions. This is what happens when a coach is trying to build the confidence of his quarterback, and when the running game is on there is that much more danger for defenses which is why this yards per play record should be in jeopardy.
Getting to eight yards per play is no small task, but the Buckeyes were incredibly close with the last two games hurting them. This season, it will once again come down to the final weeks. If the Buckeyes grow, improve, and become more dynamic as the season goes as they should. This record might be the most in jeopardy of them all, and could very well be broken with or without serious success.
Verdict: Having a young quarterback means the starter will be in games longer to get reps, the quality will be higher for longer and the Buckeyes have their most yards per play in a season
The last section is the most important because you can’t win a football without scoring points even though schools like Iowa continue to try. Ohio State is on the opposite end of that spectrum every single year, so looking at the history books 2019 is the year to beat. The Buckeyes led by Justin Fields averaged 46.9 points per game, and were looking to make a statement every time they stepped on the field.
Ryan Day has his back against the wall, he’s handed the keys over to Brian Hartline in terms of play-calling, so this year has the makings of a prove it year like 2019. There is also the similarities between this team and the 2019 team. Ohio State had a first year starting quarterback, a star running back, and elite receivers all looking to make sure every defense paid for any mistakes.
Looking at Ohio State’s schedule, the Buckeyes only play two teams who ranked in the top-10 in opponent’s points per game and I’m sure you can guess who the two are. For the Buckeyes to break this record, they will need to maintain the offensive explosiveness agains their two rivals as well as not having low scoring games like Northwestern or Notre Dame from last year. With two early games against Western Kentucky and Youngstown State, the stat padding can be real.
Verdict: Long shot because 47 points per game is a lot, even in a good year.
The Buckeyes can break all three of these records on offense for a multitude of reasons, but it all starts with figuring out the starting lineup. Once the Buckeyes have the offensive line and quarterback position settled, we can really dive into the skill sets and how the coaching staff will build their plan of attack. With differing skill sets at the quarterback position, the offense’s strengths will be different depending on who wins the starting job. The only reason there is little concern there from my side is Day’s track record with quarterbacks.
Day has lost two important games that are seen as unforgivable, but he has routinely paced the country with explosive offenses. This years team at the skill positions might be the most talented on paper since Day took over. That means on paper all these records are breakable if things come together. For Day, trusting Hartline to manage the games and building the offensive line with Frye will be the difference in this offense being an all-time great group, or falling flat.
The final verdict here is answering the question, could this group be the most dominant in school history? They absolutely have the talent to get that done, the schedule is favorable, and outside the trips to Ann Arbor, Madison, and South Bend, there is a lot of opportunity in non-hostile environments to blow some numbers out of the water. If they play well in those match ups, and get the job done there is no reason this group can’t be seen as the most dominant in school history.
A lot of things need to go right, but the ceiling of this offense is untenable, if they don’t fall through the floor they have the makings of a group that can be truly special. Now it is time for Day to bring that talent together, and go prove it on the field.