After each ohio state match in the 2022 football season, LGHL will offer its market analysis of Buckeyes performance. Using a standard bond rating system, we will rate offense, defense and special teams, according to this formula:
AA: very strong
BB: facing great uncertainty
Then we’ll look at individual players whose performance stood out (in one way or another!) and assign them a stock rating: Blue Chip, Solid Performance, Penny Stock (similar to a junk bond, dangerously high risk).
Just a few weeks ago, I thought nothing could stop — or even slow — Ohio State’s magnificent passing offense. That was then. Before the trip to Windy City (I know Chicago, not Evanston, is “Windy City,” but I also know the wind doesn’t stop at Howard Street.) The offensive line played poorly, and the conditions weather did some mind work on CJ Stroud. He lost his confidence; he lost patience; he lost his temper.
OSU’s offense couldn’t get started at all, eventually scoring a touchdown on its seventh practice of the first half to tie the score 7-7 at intermission. The fireworks expected in the second half didn’t happen, sparkling in the wind and rain, I guess. After the third straight game with a struggling offense, the Buckeyes have some serious regrouping to do in their next two games.
On the plus side, Ohio State is still in the thick of it, still able to hit its season goals. Undefeated at 9-0, the Bucks won every game by double digits. Two of the six undefeated teams bit the dust yesterday, and LSU likely wiped out Alabama’s playoff hopes. Georgia seems to me to be (perhaps by far) the best team in the country. If the Buckeyes keep winning, maybe they’ll catch up with the Dawgs in the national championship game – where anything goes.
Overall rating: BB in the face of major uncertainty
In the two years that I’ve been writing this stock market report, I don’t recall giving the offense this lowest rating possible. But they deserved it yesterday. Watch the first half. The Buckeyes had just 118 total yards and didn’t convert on any of their eight third attempts. The second half was really more of the same, although somewhat better running play allowed the team to pick up the two touchdowns that provided the game’s final margin.
Stroud was bad. Certainly, he had a lot of help. The line allowed the North West rushers into the pocket, forcing Stroud to scramble and pass on the fly. The normally safe receivers dropped passes, including a safe TD that Emeka Egbuka missed. For the game, Stroud was 10 of 26 (about 38%) for a measly 76 yards. None touched. The most telling stat, I think, is his passing yards per attempt — 2.9. Usually this number is two digits. Like I said before, when Stroud’s day doesn’t go well, his frustration and impatience take over. You can see it as day, as he begins to force his passes, hoping for the big play that will set things straight.
Stroud also didn’t get much help from the calls. The rushing plays were largely predictable, both when they were called and where they were going. Little imagination there. Ryan Day also failed to assist Stroud with “easy” throws and catches to build confidence. Maybe in this weather there was nothing easy.
And then there was a bit of imagination, finally. Stroud carried the ball! Six times in fact for 79 yards, including the biggest play of the game, a 44 yards. Having a potential second runner in the game freed up Miyan Williams, who finished with 111 rushing yards.
The bottom line, however, for yesterday’s attack is that it simply won’t be enough. 283 meters in total. Against Northwestern, the worst team in the Big Ten. 4/15 on third conversions. Only 23:34 in time of possession. Not many games. Not many meters. Not many points. Lots of punts.
Overall rating: BBB Adequate (i.e. good enough to win)
It’s hard to rate OSU’s defense against the Wildcats. For one thing, they only allowed seven runs. Zero after the halfway point of the first quarter. They allowed less than 300 total yards and, most importantly, 0/4 in NU’s fourth attempts. Wildcat’s longest passing game scored 13 yards, longest rush 19 yards. It seemed throughout the game that star running back Evan Hull was really digging the Buckeye D, especially from direct snaps in the wildcat formation. In fact, however, Hull gained 122 yards on 30 carries, an average of 4.1, less than Miyan Williams’ average for the game.
On the other hand, the Buckeye defense couldn’t get off the field, allowing Northwestern to convert nearly half (9/20) of their third attempts and top possession time 36:26 to 23:34. The Bucks only had one sack (okay, NU didn’t spend much) and got no turnover. They dropped 200 meters to the ground. To the northwest.
Recently, we said Buckeye’s defense is getting better every week. Then it was winning games when the offense was struggling. Now what? Nothing to brag about, but good enough. Barely.
Overall Rating: A Strong
In a game where the weather was what it was yesterday, a game where position on the field (OSU scored all three touchdowns with a short pitch) mattered, the punt play is crucial. Had it not been blown, I would have awarded the ball to punter Jesse Mirco (see below). Buckeye’s special teams avoided errors and penalties.
Egbuka had a nice punt return from 18 yards, and Xavier Johnson looked pretty good on his kickoff return. Here’s my only question: After OSU’s last touchdown, with 4:21 left in the game, what happened with that firecracker kick? A deliberate game? What the hell?
Jesse Mirco. Having your punter as an offensive star tells you everything you need to know about this play. Mirco gave up seven kicks for an average of 50.3 yards (10 more yards per punt than North West punters) . He downed one at the NU four-yard line and another at their 11. He was knocking down the pitch, giving his team a controlling position on the pitch. A very good game.
Tommy Eichenberg. Eichenberg sometimes goes under the radar as he plays his usual good game. But yesterday he was dominant and recorded a game-high 13 tackles.
Steele Chambers, Ronnie Hickman, Lathan Ransom. Note that there are no defensive linemen here; the tackles, unfortunately, were made by linebackers and fullbacks. And these guys had a bunch: Chambers had eight, Hickman 10, Ransom nine.
Williams Soup. Three or four times in my notes I have, after a crucial third down (or even a fourth down), “Williams stopped short.” He often was. He didn’t have many holes, but as the game progressed he ran harder and harder, refusing to come down. Keeping his balance on his 27-yard touchdown run was a real feat. The third quarter play gave the Buckeyes their first lead of the game and changed the momentum in their favor. Williams finished with 111 yards on 26 carries (4.3 average). In the second half, however, he rushed 15 times for 89 yards and averaging six yards.
CJ Stroud, the runner. I separate Stroud’s performance here. It was great to watch him run the ball, and he seemed to get into it, to get better, once he had a few runs under his belt. The fake to Williams and the 44-yard run around the rim turned the tables. It will be interesting to see if Stroud’s run becomes a feature of the OSU offense.
JT Tuimoloau. Well, Tuimoloau didn’t have the game he had last week. How could he? but he was still quite good. He picked up his team’s bag and made a pass at the line of scrimmage. He finished the game with four total tackles.
JK Johnson. Watching, time and time again, Johnson snort as the North West running back blew him away for a score, made me wince. It was like he hadn’t even tried, he just stood there and waved. Johnson lost his cover man a few times but didn’t really get burned, saved by poor passes and stray balls. Against a better passing team?
The offensive line, especially Matt Jones. I’m eliminating Mr. Jones because of his holding penalty on the Buckeyes’ first game. X Johnson returned the opening kickoff at 30. Then Williams won seven on a great run. But Jones was called for holding, and it was first and 20. Not where you want to be in a game like this. The play, unfortunately, set the tone for the attack.
The line, in general, wasn’t great for passing or running plays. Without giving up any bags, the line couldn’t protect Stroud very well either. Coverage was good and Stroud had to hold his own on most plays. In runs, the line didn’t manage to get people out of the way until late in the game. Against Northwestern, they should have had no worries. But they did.
Against a still slightly better team, Ohio State might have lost that game. Pat Fitzgerald should have opted for punts a few times, rather than throwing in. NU receivers dropped balls that would have made the difference. But the Buckeyes won. And the prizes are still waiting. Go Dollars!
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