Ohio State football: Could the 2022 OSU offense be even better than the 2021 version? Very possibly.
First things first, the 2021 Ohio State offense was not exactly chopped liver. Given a defense that could play at even 75% of the intensity of the offense, the Buckeyes would have rolled to a spot in the CFP and would have had an excellent shot at the national title. Instead, the Buckeyes went 11-2 and replaced their defensive coordinator. And while early returns on the 2022 Buckeye defense have been positive, could it be that Ohio State is even better on offense? Basically, yeah, could be.
A year ago, the Ohio State offense finished 1st in the NCAA in scoring (45.7 PPG), first in yardage (561 yards per game), and 2nd in QB rating (trailing only Coastal Carolina). OSU rushed for 180 yards per game (47th) and 5.5 per carry (3rd).
A quarter of the way through the regular season, the Buckeyes are 10th in the NCAA in scoring (47.7 PPG), first in yardage (565 yards per game) and 2nd in QB rating (trailing only Army, whose stats might be skewed by their averaging 9 pass attempts per game). On the ground, OSU is averaging 207 yards per game (35th) and 5.9 per carry (13th).
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Time to acknowledge an elephant in the room. Some of those stats don’t quite match up. OSU has scored 2.0 points pre game more than a year ago and has moved from 1st to 10th in the category. That would be the results of 3 games, with plenty of teams playing weak non-conference schedules. No. 1 Michigan hasn’t exactly faced a Murderers’ Row against Colorado State, Hawaii and UConn. James Madison is currently No. 2. But despite some teams opening with subpar competition, the numbers do tell a story.
The story is that Ohio State’s offense is even better than a year ago.
Consider that in the first 3 games, Ohio State has gotten just under a full game out of Jaxon Smith-Njigba. At this point in 2022, Smith-Njigba has 4 receptions for 36 yards. At this point in 2021, he had 11 catches for 190 yards … and THEN he blew up, with 97+ receiving yards in the last 8 games of State’s season.
Without the biggest weapon in its passing game, Ohio State is still No. 2 in the NCAA in QB rating. That bespeaks the improvement of the other OSU targets. Not only have Marvin Harrison Jr. (18 catches, 342 yards) and Emeka Egbuka (20 catches, 324 yards) been outstanding, but Cade Stover (8 catches, 137 yards) and Jayden Ballard (6 catches, 127 yards) are emerging as big-play threats. Their current pace would place Ballard and Stover at over 500 receiving yards for the season. A year ago, Ohio State’s No. 4 pass receiver was TreVeyon Henderson (27 catches, 312 yards). This year, 5 or 6 Buckeyes will surpass those totals.
Consider also that Ohio State’s game Saturday was played almost entirely without TreVeyon Henderson. A quarter of the way through the season, Henderson actually trails Miyan Williams for OSU’s top rusher (207-197 in yards, though each averages over 6.5 yards per carry). Third string back Dallan Hayden rushed for over 100 yards against Toledo. And overall, Ohio State is rushing the ball not only more (207 rushing yards vs. 180 last year), but also better (from 5.5 yards per carry in ’21 to 5.9 so far in ’22).
At the end of the day, Ohio State is outplaying last year’s offense despite having its 3 best players together for less than a half of football. As good as State has been, imagine having not only CJ Stroud, but TreVeyon Henderson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba fully available together. Could it be that Ryan Day’s offense is already the best in the country, and has just been waiting to unveil the final weapon for Big Ten play?
Circumstance might have been the architect, but the full Ohio State offense promises to be something to behold. Better than the best? Maybe so.