7 way-too-early predictions for OSU's offense in 2022
It’s an embarrassment of riches. Set the bar high and then realize it’s not set high enough. Ohio State has probably the most potent offense in the nation coming into the 2022 season.
Start with Heisman front-runner CJ Stroud at QB, add 1,200-yard rusher TreVeyon Henderson in the backfield, and remember record-setting WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and you’ve got explosiveness times ten. Yes, the Buckeyes have to patch a few minor holes in the offensive line. Yes, they have to replace Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson at receiver, but there’s not another offense in the country that coach Ryan Day would take in a swap. How good can the Buckeyes be? Let’s take a hazy look through the crystal ball and have 7 predictions on that 2022 OSU offense.
1. OSU averages 50 points per game
That’s a bold prediction. But OSU led the nation in scoring offense last season with 45.7 points per game. That means they were 56 points short on the year of reaching 50 points per game. That’s an extra touchdown and PAT in 8 games.
This team has the potential to make program history. The 2019 Buckeyes averaged a program-best 46.9 points. The 2014 national champion Buckeyes scored the most points (672 in 15 games, 44.8 points per game).
Frankly, this one will ultimately be entirely dependent on whether Day wants to score that many points. But the guess here is that after a disappointing 2021 season, the offense will be loaded for bear. Sync the “Leave no doubt” lines from Remember the Titans.
2. TreVeyon Henderson leads the B1G in rushing
Henderson, who played the part of the true frosh phenom in 2021, still has strides to make this fall. Look for OSU to involve him more in the passing game and get him more carries. His 1,255 rushing yards ranked 4th in the Big Ten last year, but he did that on just 184 carries (about 14 per game). OSU would love to get Henderson 20 carries a game, which would likely translate to closer to 1,700-ish rushing yards. Two of the 3 players who topped Henderson in rushing last year are gone (Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III and UM’s Hassan Haskins). The third, Braelon Allen, beat Henderson by 2 carries and 13 yards. The path is clear for TreVeyon in 2022.
3. OSU posts another 1,000-yard receiving duo with Smith-Njigba and Marvin Harrison
Last year, OSU had a pair of 1,000-yard receivers with Smith-Njigba (1,606) and Wilson (1,058). Had Chris Olave elected to play in the bowl game, he might well have made a third 1,000-yard receiver (he finished with 936).
Given that Smith-Njigba obliterated the OSU record book, there’s no reason not to pencil him in for another big season. But who’s the next guy? Marvin Harrison has more than bloodlines to make him fodder for the 1,000-yard club. Harrison played little all season, but with Wilson and Olave out for the Rose Bowl, he showed his skills in a big way — 6 catches, 71 yards, 3 TDs. There are other outstanding options for OSU — Emeka Egbuka, Julian Fleming, etc. — but Harrison will be the next OSU standout and will have his own 1,000-yard breakout season.
4. OSU rushes for 200 yards per game
OSU’s ground attack was odd in 2021. Either OSU had games under control or was in a shootout, and either way, the Buckeyes rushed for 5.54 yards per carry, far and away the best in the conference (Michigan’s 5.22 yards was 2nd). That said, OSU had the 2nd fewest rushing attempts, averaging just 32.5 carries per game, ahead of only Purdue in that category.
Another 5-6 carries per game would put the Buckeyes in the middle of the pack, and with an improved defense and a renewed focus on Henderson, look for those numbers to come to pass. When they do, OSU will probably improve from 180 rushing yards per game (4th in the conference) to 200. Incidentally, OSU has reached that mark in 8 of the past 10 seasons, so it’s not exactly hard to imagine.
5. 5 receivers will catch 25 passes
As good as OSU’s passing game was last year, it didn’t offer much variety. The Big 3 snagged a ton of passes, and then Henderson and tight end Jeremy Ruckert chipped in. But the highest receiving numbers outside of those guys? Julian Fleming caught a dozen passes. Yes, Smith-Njigba is back, and yes, Harrison will be big. But Egbuka, Fleming, and Jayden Ballard will all contribute … with each of the 5 managing enough snaps to snag 25 catches. Balance is a good thing.
6. More sacks, more turnovers, more wins
OSU’s offense was so carefully drawn that it avoided virtually any kind of negative plays. OSU had just 11 turnovers all season and gave up just 17 sacks. This group will take more chances. Odds are against the Buckeyes losing just 3 fumbles all year, as they did last year.
Stroud will have the freedom to chuck a few more 50/50 balls, so 8 interceptions (including mop-up moments for the backups) feels a little low. Don’t be surprised if OSU gives up 25 or more sacks. They have tended to be toward the middle of the B1G in that category and Stroud will probably hold the ball longer at times in 2022. But here’s the thing: They’ll give up some big plays offensively, but they’ll make more defensively, and will win more games in 2022 despite more negative plays.
7. Stroud wins the Heisman
It’s not exactly a long odds choice here, but CJ Stroud is the best returning player in college football (with the possible exception of Alabama QB Bryce Young, whose status as the returning Heisman winner probably works against him. Given the array of weapons and new coaches with something to prove, look for Stroud to hold pole position all season in this race, and to become OSU’s first Heisman winner since Troy Smith.