Ohio State football: Buckeyes remain at top of heap while adding new weapons
A month into the season, a couple of powerful truths are clear around Ohio State football. First, along with Alabama and Georgia, the Buckeyes form a triumivrate of power atop the college football landscape. Whoever No. 4 is, they’ll have some work to do to catch up with the game’s big 3. Second, Ohio State has maintained this place in part by adding new weapons to an already imposing squad.
Ohio State’s 52-21 win over Wisconsin was testimony to how powerfully the Buckeyes belong within the sport’s elite. Early in the second quarter, Ohio State led 28-0 and Wisconsin had fewer total yards than the Buckeyes had points. Even at 52-21, the game wasn’t that close. Wisconsin might as well have been Toledo or Arkansas State in comparison to the Buckeyes.
How did the Buckeyes get to this level?
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It hasn’t been a lack of injuries. The Buckeyes were without Jaxon Smith-Njigba again on Saturday. They essentially lost TreVeyon Henderson for another game. Starting cornerbacks Cameron Brown and Denzel Burke were both out for the Wisconsin game. But the Buckeyes haven’t rebuilt, just reloaded.
Without Smith-Njigba, QB CJ Stroud was free to focus on tight end Cade Stover, who has become a real weapon. With a dozen catches for 188 yards, including his first 2 touchdown catches against Wisconsin, Stover will be a significant red-zone threat for Ohio State through the remainder of Big Ten play.
Stroud praised the senior tight end as “a Swiss army knife” and Stover admitted, “There are a lot of things that went into that.” On a talented but inexperienced group of pass catchers, Stover has become another playmaker, albeit one with experience to share.
Meanwhile, Henderson was back and rushed for 100 yards … and so did Miyan Williams, who has used Henderson’s absence to press his own status as one of the top rushers in the Big Ten. He’s currently 11th in the conference in rushing yardage and his 7.2 yards per carry actually tops Henderson’s 6.4.
“We know how long the season’s going to be,” Ryan Day say of the tailback tandem. “TreVeyon and Miyan both have been excellent.”
Saturday, the Buckeyes were without their starting cornerbacks. They started Jakailin Johnson and Jyaire Brown, a pair of freshmen. How did that go? Wisconsin passed for just 104 yards and had under 200 yards until a couple of garbage-time scores. Johnson had 4 tackles, and Brown had a tackle and broke up a pass.
“They had no fear and they went out there and played, and they did a really good job,” Day said after the game. “I’m proud of those guys to be able to win a conference game with them in there.”
College football is often a war of attrition, something that will become increasingly more common as September turns to October, and the calendar flips again to November. But while Alabama and Georgia have been relatively injury-free and have largely had their significant personnel intact, Ohio State has subbed and switched — and still rolled.
So while Ohio State was happy about scoring 52 points, and about only giving up 7 points before the 4th quarter, the big story through a month of Ohio State’s season is excellence. But the second biggest story is that the Buckeyes have been excellent while consistently digging into the depth chart. It might not seem all that significant in September, but if Ohio State separates from the national pack the way it’s separating from the Big Ten, it’ll be that influx of experienced depth that could well be the difference.