Ohio State football: Buckeyes deliver in second chance at easy win
A week ago, Ohio State was looking at games at Northwestern and at home against Indiana as easy games ahead of The Game. Then the Northwestern game happened. Arctic winds, freezing temperatures, a slick track, and a determined Wildcats team made the game rough sledding for OSU. The Buckeyes did win, 21-7, but that was about the extent of the good news.
In all games leading into The Game, Ohio State’s goal is probably not so much to rack up blowouts as to hold serve, to do nothing to hurt its CFP chances. That said, good habits are always worth cultivating, a good impression is never a bad thing, and Ohio State had a few minor wrongs to right on Saturday.
The Indiana game delivered a second chance at an easy win, and the Buckeyes cashed in. It was cold in Columbus too, but a spitting snow seemed to barely faze Ohio State, particularly in comparison to the [read in NFL Films voice] frozen arctic air of Chicago. A week ago, CJ Stroud was held under 100 yards passing for the first time in his OSU starting career. Saturday, he threw for 297 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Against Northwestern, the Buckeyes ground game did eventually arrive, with 207 rushing yards. But Saturday, OSU ran for 340 yards, with both starting back Miyan WIlliams and reserve Dallan Hayden topping 100 yards. Against Northwestern, Ohio State’s receivers struggled with drops and timing. Saturday, Marvin Harrison Jr. was back to making SportsCenter style grabs, and Cade Stover caught a pair of red-zone touchdowns.
Ohio State’s defense continues to be the most rock-solid part of the operation this season. Northwestern gigged the Buckeyes on the ground a few times, but OSU only gave up 7 points, which will certainly suffice to win most games. While OSU allowed 14 points on Saturday, Ohio State’s defense was in control throughout, picking up 10 tackles for loss, including 4 sacks, while holding the Hoosiers to a paltry 3-for-17 on third downs.
If there was any bad news coming out of Saturday, it had to be the injury to Miyan Williams. Accordingly, Ohio State will likely enter the Maryland game next weekend without (or, in an optimistic case, with very limited versions of) its top 2 rushers and its leading receiver of a season ago.
But Ohio State has answered the bell all season on the injury front. Harrison has been every bit the equal of Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Emeka Egbuka has been a competent second option, and Stover is a nice red zone threat at tight end. Even on the ground, Hayden has done a superb job already, with 357 rushing yards on 73 carries. And Ryan Day presumptively answered the question of the 4th running back when Xavier Johnson ripped off a 71-yard run in the 4th quarter.
With the regular season waning and the CFP within sight, Ohio State’s play and accomplishments can largely be considered in the light of whether they helped or hurt the team’s CFP situation. After a week when the Buckeyes won but probably slightly harmed their CFP situation, Indiana was a second opportunity to deliver some style points as favorites. The good news for Ohio State was that the Buckeyes got it right the second time. From here, it’s on to Maryland. And then The Game.