Ohio State: 3 things we liked, 3 we didn't like from win over Arkansas State
The worst fears of Ohio State fans didn’t come to fruition in the Buckeyes’ Week 2 matchup with Arkansas State. The Buckeyes didn’t sleepwalk through an emotional hangover of a game, they didn’t get in their own way, and — on a week where it was surprisingly common — the Buckeyes didn’t fall victim to the upset bug.
Stepping back and taking in the big-picture view, here are 3 things we liked and didn’t like from the Buckeyes’ 45-12 Week 2 victory over Arkansas State.
CJ Stroud’s sharpness
Last week was a challenge for CJ Stroud, who was held in check for much of the game and had to face Notre Dame’s defense (for most of the game) without his best receiving target, Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Stroud ended up with 223 passing yards, but his 6.6 yards per attempt was not a great sign for OSU’s long-term situation.
Well, he had no Smith-Njigba again this week, but Stroud was efficient. Putting up 351 passing yards and 4 touchdowns is pretty much a typical game for Stroud, but for the deep divers on the statistical front, 14.6 yards per pass attempt is a much better sign for the health of the offense.
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Marvin Harrison Jr.’s standout performance
The biggest question for the offense going into the season was who would fill the shoes of Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. After his 3-touchdown performance in the Rose Bowl, Harrison was a leading candidate. After a ho-hum Week 1, the explosion came for Harrison against Arkansas State. Seven receptions for 184 yards and 3 touchdowns is the kind of yardage production that Smith-Njibga could provide while adding to the scoring punch that Olave or Wilson brought to the table. Consistency is the only real question, but a huge game for Harrison was another brick in that wall.
Avoided falling off a cliff
In the abstract, this wasn’t a brilliant performance. Ohio State won by 33, undercutting the point spread by about 11 points. But on a week when Texas A&M and Notre Dame took face-palm losses, when Alabama had to scrape and claw to avoid its own upset, Ohio State took care of business.
Admittedly, the college football season is more of a marathon that a sprint, but a year ago, Ohio State took a bad Week 2 loss that made the rest of the season require perfection. This week, they avoided such a stumble.
We didn’t like
Receiver depth concerns
If there’s an upside to playing a game without not only Smith-Njigba, but also veteran Julian Fleming, it’s the chance to spread the love at the wide receiver position. Last year, Ohio State pretty much rolled with 3 receivers for the vast majority of the season. That’s great, but injury is always a snap away.
The Buckeyes only targeted 6 receivers this week– standout receivers Harrison and Emeka Egbuka, depth guy Xavier Johnson, a tight end, and a pair of running backs. In an easy win, we’d have liked to see the ball be spread around a bit more.
Big-chunk pass issues
The big picture is that Jim Knowles’s defense has done a much better job than the Kerry Coombs groups of the past 2 seasons. But the big-play pass has still harmed the Buckeyes at times. Week 1 included 3 passes of 30+ yards allowed, including a 54-yarder. Week 2 included a 58-yarder and a 25-yarder. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s something worth keeping an eye on.
The wiped-out special teams score
Egbuka broke a 78-yard punt return touchdown — but it was wiped out by a pair of OSU penalties on the play, a block in the back and a leaping call. It was that kind of day for OSU on penalties, with 9 flags for 85 yards. Special teams didn’t have to be a difference-maker this week, but in a 33-point win, small things like flags on what otherwise would have been a scoring play kind of stick out.