This is a play-by-play analysis of the Ohio State offense vs. Indiana. This series has been adapted from the Upon Further Review series over at MGoBlog, which itself uses a rating system somewhat similar to PFF.
If you are interested in reading any of the other previous entries, including the mid-year review that was done last week, you can see the archive here:
The Indiana defense is legitimately good. They aren’t amazing, but they play sound football, mix in exotic blitzes, and disguise coverages. There were genuine concerns before the game as to whether Stroud would continue his torrid pace against a solid defense, especially considering how Fields stumbled last year against the same defense. To add to the intrigue, Indiana now had a better idea of how to beat Ohio State, as the gameplan that Tulsa and Northwestern used seemed to work against Ryan Day’s offense. To top it off, they had to play in the rain. Indiana wasn’t going to win, but they had a perfect storm brewing if they wanted to slow down the Ohio State offense.
Did Ohio State’s offense stall? Here is the play-by-play chart:
|Time||Yard Ln||Down||Distance||O Formation||D Package||Front||High||Type||Box||Play||Player||Yards||Notes|
|15:00||O25||1||10||Ace 3W||4-3||Over||2||Run||6.5||Inside Zone||Henderson||2||Munford gets pushed back, but eventually gets the pancake. Everybody does their job, but IU had them outnumbered in the box with the run blitz. Play-calling -1.|
|14:39||O27||2||8||Pistol 3W Y Flex||4-2-5||Over||2||Pass||6||PA Split Flow||Ruckert||8||Great play call to have a counter off of inside zone. Stroud throws a good pass to Ruckert (+1) who makes the routine catch, and gets the first down. Play-calling +1.|
|14:17||O35||1||10||ESPN||ESPN||ESPN||2||Pass||6||PA Flood Rollout||Ruckert||15||Stroud throws a good pass to Ruckert (+1.5) who makes a routine catch and gains extra yardage. Stroud shows excellent vision here. Play-calling +1.|
|13:48||O50||1||10||Gun 3W Y Flex||4-2-5||Under||2||Pass||6||Spacing||Wilson||4||Indiana not letting OSU get anything deep. Their safeties are sitting 15 yards back. Williams (+1) does a nice job of blocking on the edge with Petit-Frere (+0.5). Stroud throws a good pass to Wilson, who makes a difficult catch.|
|13:24||I46||2||6||Pistol 3W||3-3-5||Under||2||Run||6.5||Mid Zone||Williams||5||Dawand Jones (+2) gets a pancake. Johnson Jr. (+1) does a nice job pushing his man five yards downfield. Williams (-0.5) probably misses a few yards by going right instead of left.|
|12:44||I41||3||1||Pistol 3W||4-2-5||Over||1||Run||7||QB Sneak||Stroud||2||Stroud looks over to the sideline before catching IU off guard. Every other OSU player is looking to the sideline. Flawless. Play-calling +1.|
|12:27||I39||1||10||Gun Twin TE Flexed Wide||4-2-5||Field||1||Pass||6.5||Smash||Wilson||0||Stroud throws an okay pass to Wilson who can't make the spectacular catch. Protection +0.5.|
|12:06||I39||2||10||Gun 3W Y Flex Bunch||4-2-5||Under||2||Run||7||Inside Zone||Williams||6||Dawand Jones (+2) and Johnson Jr. (+1) give Williams plenty of space.|
|11:52||I33||3||4||Gun 3W Y Flex||4-2-5||Over||2||Run||6||Split Zone||Williams||11||Wypler (+1.5) and Munford (+1) push the line way downfield. Dawand Jones (+2) cleared a huge hole.|
|10:59||I22||1||10||Pistol 3W||4-2-5||Over||2||Run||6||Counter Trey||Williams||6||Ruckert (+0.5) has a nice block. Munford (+0.5) does his job on the pull. Williams (+0.5) gets a little bit extra.|
|10:37||I16||2||4||Gun 3W Y Flex Trips Bunch Tight H Motion||3-3-5||Under||2||Pass||6||Shallow Cross||Smith-Njigba||5||Stroud throws a good pass to Smith-Njigba (+1) who makes a man miss to get the first down after recording a routine catch.|
|9:58||I11||1||10||ESPN||ESPN||ESPN||2||Run||6||Mid Zone||Williams||11||Petit-Frere (+1) and Munford (+2) clears a big hole for Williams (+0.5) who makes a cut at the end to score the touchdown.|
|2:56||O25||1||10||Gun 3W||4-2-5||Over||2||Pass||5.5||989 Y Shallow||Smith-Njigba||32||Stroud throws a perfect pass to Smith-Njigba, who makes the difficult catch between three defenders. Sheesh. Also on Kyle Jones' film study. I didn't know what this play was before reading the article, which was nice. Protection +1.5.|
|2:32||I43||1||10||Gun 3W Offset||4-2-5||Under||2||Run||6.5||Power||Henderson||1||Ruckert (+1) makes a great block on the edge. Munford (-0.5) cleans up on that block well, but probably should push this outside and pick up the linebacker. There was another unblocked linebacker though, so it may not have helped much.|
|2:14||I42||2||9||Gun 3W Y Flex||4-2-5||Over||2||Pass||6||Dagger||Wilson||0||Stroud throws good throw and Wilson drops a routine catch.|
|1:51||I42||3||9||Gun 3W Y Flex||3-2-6||Wide||2||Pass||5||Divide||Wilson||21||Stroud throws a perfect throw and Wilson (+1) catches a difficult catch, getting some after the catch.|
|1:31||I21||1||10||Pistol 3W||4-2-5||Under||2||Run||5.5||Split Zone||Henderson||21||Petit-Frere (+1), Munford (+1.5),Johnson (+2) get excellent blocks to spring Henderson (+1.5) who has the speed to make it to the endzone for a touchdown.|
|0:30||O49||1||10||Pistol 3W||4-2-5||Under||2||Run||6||Split Zone||Henderson||3||Wypler (+1) and Munford (+1) clear a big hole. Petit-Frere (+0.5) and Johnson (+0.5) do well too. If Dawand Jones (-0.5) blocks the linebacker on the backside, this would be a long run, but that's a pretty tough block to make.|
|15:00||I48||2||7||Gun 3W Y Flex HB Slot||3-3-5||Base||2||Pass||5.5||Spacing/Curls||Smith-Njigba||9||Stroud throws a good ball on the run to Smith-Njigba, who makes a difficult catch.|
|14:38||I39||1||10||Gun 3W||4-2-5||Under||1||Pass||6||PA Smash||Stroud||9||Stroud's first two reads are covered. I couldn't see Wilson, but it looks like the right decision. Stroud (+1) makes a good decision to scramble.|
|14:11||I30||2||1||Gun 3W Wing TE||4-2-5||Over||2||Pass||6||Comebacks||Wilson||12||Stroud throws a perfect pass to Wilson, who makes a difficult catch. Looks like a counter to 989 Y Shallow, with the TE and RB running that play, but all of the receivers coming back. Play-call +1.|
|13:34||I17||1||10||Pistol 3W||4-2-5||Under||2||Run||6||Counter Trey||Henderson||4||Munford (+1) gets a good block inside. PJJ (+1.5) has an incredible block to set up a seam. Ruckert (-1) misses his block to seal off the linebacker coming down.|
|12:58||I13||2||6||Pistol 3W Y Flex Wide||3-3-5||Tite||2||Pass||6||HB Screen||Henderson||13||Good time to call the screen. Munford (+2) blocks two players. Wypler (+1) gets a block downfield, with Henderson (+1) powering in for a touchdown against three defenders. Play-calling +1.|
|9:59||I39||1||10||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Base||2||Pass||6||PA 989 Double Move||Olave||0||Stroud throws an okay pass to Olave, who can't bring in the spectacular catch. This ball came out of Stroud's hand a little wobbly; I think it may have slipped in the rain. Play-calling +1. Protection +1. Rossi (+0.5) on the block.|
|9:52||I39||2||10||Pistol 3W||2-4-5||Under||2||Run||6||Mid Zone||Henderson||25||Wypler (+1) gets a nice block on the inside. Munford (+1.5) clears a hole on the left side. This run was mostly Henderson (+2) though, who gets 25 yards out of a five yard run.|
|9:21||I14||1||10||Pistol 3W||3-3-5||Tite||2||Pass||6||PA Flood Rollout/Split Flow||Olave||0||Stroud throws an inaccurate pass to Olave, and the ball is uncatchable.|
|9:13||I14||2||10||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Under||2||Pass||7||Verticals Improvisation||Ruckert||-5||Stroud does an unbelievable job of improvising, and throwing a strike to Jeremy Ruckert for the touchdown. He throws a good pass for a routine catch. Matthew Jones (-2) gets called for too far downfield. Tough situation, but as soon as he sees Stroud step back, he needs to stop|
|9:05||I19||2||15||Pistol 3W||3-3-5||Base||2||Run||6||Split Zone||Henderson||4||Henderson might have missed a big play by cutting it all the way back, but I don't hate the decision to go forward. Everyone just did an adequate job. Matthew Jones (+1) gets a pancake.|
|8:53||I15||3||11||Gun 3W Y Flex||2-4-5||Wide||1||Pass||6||Verticals||Olave||15||Stroud throws a perfect ball to Olave, who makes a difficult catch for a touchdown. Both of these guys are so good. Protection +1.|
|6:14||I30||1||10||Pistol Twin TE||4-2-5||Under||2||Run||7||Counter Trey||Henderson||17||Johnson Jr. (+1) and Ruckert (+0.5) make good blocks. Petit-Frere (+1) has a nice block downfield. Henderson (+2) gets most of this yardage himself. This might be the best game I've seen from him.|
|5:57||I6||1||6||Gun Heavy||4-4||Over||0||Run||9||Belly Zone||Henderson||6||Ruckert (+1.5) plows the linebacker downfield. Stover (+1) makes a nice block inside. Henderson (+1) breaks a tackle at the line and finishes it. This guy is amazing.|
|3:27||O34||1||10||Gun 3W Y Flex||4-2-5||Under||2||Pass||6||Dagger||Olave||8||Stroud throws a good pass to Olave, who makes a difficult catch. This throw is a little low, but I think this was an effort to not get Olave lit up over the middle. Protection +0.5.|
|3:05||O42||2||2||Gun 3W Y Flex||4-2-5||Over||2||Pass||6||Comeback||Wilson||0||Stroud throws an inaccurate pass to Wilson, and the ball is uncatchable.|
|3:00||O42||3||2||Gun 3W||4-2-5||Under||1||Pass||7||Split Flow||Ruckert||8||Third Play on Kyle Jones' Film Study this week. Stroud throws a good pass to Ruckert who makes a routine catch. Play-calling +1.|
|2:30||O50||1||10||Pistol Twin TE||4-2-5||Under||1||Pass||7.5||PA Ohio||Wilson||15||Stroud throws a good pass to Wilson, who makes a routine catch. Stover (+1) with some nice pass protection against a defensive end. Protection +1.|
|2:09||I35||1||10||Gun 3W Y Flex||3-3-5||Tite||2||Pass||6.5||Shallow Cross||Wilson||6||Stroud throws a good pass to Wilson, who makes a routine catch. It doesn't look like this is his first read, but it might have just been a head fake.|
|1:36||I29||2||4||Gun 3W Y flex||3-3-5||Under||2||Pass||7||Ohio||Smith-Njigba||13||Stroud throws a good pass to Smith-Njigba (+1.5), who makes a routine catch and breaks a tackle to get extra yards.|
|1:14||I16||1||10||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Tite||2||RPO||6||RPO Split Zone||Williams||2||Stroud looks like he makes the correct read, as the safety is playing down this close to the end zone. Johnson Jr. (+1) looks to make a good block. Miyan Williams might have been able to get a couple more by not cutting up early, and hitting the hole between PJJ and Dawand Jones.|
|0:57||I14||2||8||Gun 3W Y Flex||3-3-5||Tite||2||Pass||6||Smash||Ruckert||14||There you go Ruckert! I have been waiting for this 50/50 ball grab all season. Stroud throws a perfect pass to Ruckert who makes a difficult catch. Play-calling +1 to do Smash with a tight end.|
|11:15||O28||1||10||Gun 3W Y Flex HB Wide||3-3-5||Over||2||Pass||5||Shallow Cross||Stroud||-12||Think this was a rollout with a leading guard, which was just a bad time to call it with a blitz coming in. Play-calling -1.|
|10:28||O16||2||21||Gun 3W Y Flex||3-3-5||Under||2||Pass||5.5||Checkdown||Williams||0||Williams dropped difficult catch on a good pass from Stroud, as he was hit immediately.|
|10:21||O17||3||21||Gun 3W||ESPN||ESPN||2||Run||4.5||Power||Williams||11||A run to get them in better position to punt. Everyone did their jobs, nothing more or less. Punt.|
|6:19||O22||1||10||Gun 3W Trips||ESPN||ESPN||2||Run||6.5||Mid Zone||Williams||9||Williams (+1) is able to make a nice cutback to gain more yardage.|
|5:35||O31||2||1||Pistol 3W||2-4-5||Under||2||Pass||6||PA Comeback||Egbuka||6||Stroud throws a good ball to Egbuka, who makes a routine catch by the sideline. Protection +1.5|
|5:14||O36||1||10||Gun 3W Trips||ESPN||ESPN||2||Read Option||6.5||Zone Read||Pryor||0||Stroud makes the correct read and hands it off. Stover (-1) and Johnson (-0.5) can't reach their blocks, but I think Indiana was slanting that way.|
|4:56||O36||2||10||Gun 3W Y Flex||3-3-5||Under||2||Pass||6||Deep Curls||Smith-Njigba||15||Stroud throws a good pass to Smith-Njigba, who makes a routine catch for the first down.|
|4:17||I49||1||10||Pistol 3W||2-4-5||Under||2||Pass||6||PA Smash||Harrison||0||Stroud is immediately pressured, and Harrison can't come up with the spectacular catch. True freshman running back trying to block an All-B1G senior linebacker is an adventure. If this is the worst ball Stroud threw all day, it would have been a great day. Pryor (-1) on blitz pickup.|
|3:59||I49||2||10||Pistol 3W||4-2-5||Under||2||Run||6||Split Zone||Pryor||6||Munford (+2) has a great lead block.|
|3:14||I43||3||4||Gun 3W Y Flex||4-2-5||Over||2||Pass||7||Spacing||Stover||18||Stroud looks through his progressions, and throws a good pass to Stover (+1.5), who makes a routine catch after finding a soft spot in the zone.|
|2:40||I25||1||10||Pistol 3W||ESPN||ESPN||2||Run||6||Split Zone||Pryor||-1||The blocking is fine, but Pryor falls down. This wasn't going anywhere anyway. Indiana had adjusted to the split zone/split flow thing that Ohio State was doing at this point. Play-calling -1.|
|2:32||I27||2||11||Gun 3W Y Flex HB Wide||3-3-5||Over||2||Pass||6||Smash||Smith-Njigba||25||Stroud throws a good pass to Smith-Njigba (+1) who makes a routine catch to put the ball near the goal line. Stroud is really good at reading Smash. Play-calling +1.|
|1:21||I2||1||2||Ace Heavy||Goal Line||Goal Line||0||Pass||10||PA Flood||Ruckert||2||Stroud throws a good pass to Ruckert, who catches a routine pass for a touchdown. Play-calling +1.|
|14:42||O25||1||10||Gun 3W Y Flex Wide||4-2-5||Over||2||Pass||5.5||HB Slip Screen||Pryor||0||Pryor (+2) follows his convoy and gains a huge chunk. Block in the back on Matt Jones, which is just being nice to IU. Play-calling +1.|
|13:51||O25||1||10||Gun 3W||4-2-5||Under||2||RPO||6||RPO Peek Glance||Harrison Jr.||14||McCord makes the correct read, throwing to the wide receiver after the linebacker crashes. He makes a nice throw, too, throwing it over the linebacker's head. He throws a good pass to Harrison, who makes a routine catch. Play-calling +1.|
|13:19||O39||1||10||Pistol Twin TE||3-3-5||Tite||2||Run||6.5||Counter Trey||Pryor||16||Jackson (+1) makes a good wrap-around block. Fryar (+2) makes a great block downfield. Pryor (+1) gets a few extra by himself.|
|12:45||I45||1||10||Pistol 3W||4-2-5||Over||2||Pass||6.5||Split Flow||Royer||9||McCord throws a good pass to Royer (+1), who makes a routine grab and gets a couple extra.|
|12:04||I36||2||1||Gun 3W Y Flex||3-3-5||Under||2||Run||6||Mid Zone||Pryor||6||Pryor (+1) slips away from a tackler and gets a few more.|
|11:52||I30||1||10||Gun 3W Y Flex Wide||3-3-5||Base||2||Pass||5.5||RB Slip Screen||Pryor||-2||Indiana knew the slip screen was coming. Play-calling -1.|
|11:27||I32||2||12||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Under||1||Pass||6||Hitch||Harrison Jr.||20||Harrison (+2) catches a routine ball on a good pass from McCord, then gets an extra fifteen. Showing off a little.|
|10:30||I12||1||10||Gun 3W||3-4||Under||1||Pass||7||Smash||Egbuka||0||May have ben the best pass all day. McCord throws a perfect pass to Egbuka, who can't make the difficult grab.|
|10:11||I12||2||10||Pistol 3W||3-4||Under||2||Runh||7||Inside Zone||Pryor||-1||Jackson (+1) and Fryar (+1) with nice blocks. Pryor (-1) cuts it back too quickly.|
|9:43||I13||3||11||Pistol 3W||ESPN||ESPN||2||Run||6||Split Zone||Pryor||5||Jackson (+1) and Dawand Jones (+1.5) give Pryor some space.|
|7:25||O8||1||10||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Under||2||Run||6||Split Zone||Pryor||0||Nobody is able to get to the second level. Toby Wilson (-0.5) falls down before he gets there.|
|7:14||O8||2||10||Pistol 3W||4-2-5||Over||2||Run||6.5||Inside Zone||Pryor||11||Leroux (+2) gets a pancake block downfield, which allows Pryor to get the first.|
|6:34||O19||1||10||Pistol 3W||3-3-5||Under||2||Pass||6||PA Comeback||Booker||11||Miller throws a good ball on the run, while Booker makes a difficult, contested catch on the sideline.|
|5:49||O30||1||10||Pistol 3W||4-2-5||Over||2||Run||6||Split Zone||Pryor||-9||There's a holding call on Jackson (+1), but I didn't see it.|
|5:24||O21||1||19||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Under||2||Pass||6||Dig||Egbuka||24||Miller gets plenty of time, and throws a good pass to Egbuka (+2), who turns it into a huge game after making a difficult catch in traffic. Protection +2.|
|4:42||O45||1||10||Gun 3W||3-3-5||Under||2||Read Option||6||Zone Read||Pryor||6||Miller makes the correct decision to hand it off. Pryor (+0.5) gets an extra couple yards.|
|3:50||I49||2||4||Gun 3W Y Flex||3-3-5||Under||1||Read Option||6.5||Zone Read||Miller||-3||Miller makes the incorrect read, and is tackled for a loss.|
|3:11||O48||3||7||Gun 3W Y Flex||3-3-5||Over||2||Pass||5.5||Dagger||Royer||0||Miller throws an inaccurate pass to Royer, and the ball is uncatchable.|
|End of Game|
No, the offense was incredible. Ohio State’s offense had maybe its most dominant performance to date against the best defensive competition on their schedule thus far. Statistically, this game looks worse than the last few, but there are several other factors that impressed me.
To get it out of the way, yes, I know that Indiana is not a particularly good team. I know that Indiana was missing their two starting cornerbacks. I know that the Buckeyes could relax on offense because of how the defense played. This is all true.
Indiana did everything that they needed to do to slow down the offense. They varied looks, played back to minimize the big plays, and forced Ohio State to make long drives in the rain where any mistake can lead to a drive stalling. Indiana did everything that could be done in order to stop Ohio State (short of having equivalent or better athletes), and it still didn’t work. At all.
This was a better version of what Northwestern and Tulsa did. I talked about the limiting of big plays above. They may not have been dropping eight every play, but they were putting their safeties fifteen yards off the line of scrimmage, and leaving the box with usually only 6 players. I don’t know if this was as much a weakness of Stroud/Fields as it was a weakness of Day, where he will want to stay committed to hitting the deep shot instead of being content to pick up chunks on the ground. With that being said, even the deep plays usually have a checkdown, so the QBs deserve some share of the responsibility. Stroud didn’t disappoint, showing the patience and maturity to consistently take what the defense gave him. Day kept opting to throw the ball too, even with the rain and Indiana’s gameplan, which to me showed a tremendous amount of confidence in Stroud to make the right decisions.
You are going to hear pundits talk about how teams will need to replicate the gameplans of Tulsa and 2020 Northwestern at times for the rest of the year. They will talk about the issues that Ohio State has had when they were forced to take what they can on the ground. I don’t think that is a recipe for success for defenses though. Much like the 46 Bear defense was for the 2014 team, this defensive strategy looks to have been figured out by Ohio State. Opponents will need to try something else.
Here is the QB charts from a spectacular showing. I have also reversed the order so that the most recent game is on top:
|CJ Stroud||Perfect||Good||Scramble||Pressure||Okay||Batted Down||Throw Away||Inaccurate||Bad Read||RPO||Read Option||Score||Weighted||Notes|
|Indiana||5||18||1||1||2||0||0||2||0||1/1||1/1||92.3%||93.5%||Third straight Heisman level game. He's no joke.|
|Maryland||7||18||1||2||5||0||0||0||0||1/1||2/2||100.0%||100.0%||Best game of the year. Few RPO's/zone reads. Mostly just straight up passing.|
|Rutgers||5||14||0||0||1||0||0||1||1||2/2||5/6||90.5%||88.9%||Elite. About a perfect game.|
|Tulsa||1||12||0||2||3||0||1||3||1||3/3||1/1||72.2%||70.0%||Day decreased the degree of difficulty after some early misses. I may have missed some hand-offs on the RPO. May also need to add a weighted score.|
|Oregon||9||23||1||2||5||0||0||8||3||5/5||0||75.0%||75.0%||He's the real deal. Will be a Heisman Finalist.|
|Total||27||85||3||7||16||0||1||14||5||12/12||9/10||85.2%||85.0%||Best QB in the country right now, with Corral, Bryce Young, and Kenny Pickett as peers.|
|Kyle McCord||Perfect||Good||Scramble||Pressure||Okay||Batted||Throw Away||Inaccurate||Bad Read||RPO||Read Option||Score||Weighted Score||Notes|
|Indiana||1||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1/1||0||100.0%||100.0%||That ball to Egbuka was ridiculous.|
|Maryland||0||3||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0/1||100.0%||100.0%||Looked pretty good in limited time. Penalties and line play cost him.|
|rutgers||0||2||0||0||1||0||0||1||0||0||1/1||66.7%||66.7%||Not much to take from it. Lots of holding calls which I thought were questionable.|
|Akron||0||10||0||0||1||0||1||4||1||4/5||0||62.5%||58.8%||Based on this performance, a good step or two down from an injured Stroud, let alone a healthy one.|
|Total||1||18||0||1||2||0||1||5||1||5/6||1/1||73.1%||71.4%||Akron was easily his worst performance. He's been great since then.|
|Jack Miller||Perfect||Good||Scramble||Pressure||Okay||Batted||Throw away||Inaccurate||Bad Read||RPO||Read Option||Score||Weighted||Notes|
|Indiana||0||2||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||1/2||66.7%||66.7%||Made some nice passes, especially the one to Egbuka. Good option|
|Maryland||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0/1||50.0%||33.3%||While I think he could have thrown the last ball to Egbuka instead of Royer, it was a good pass. He looked fine.|
|Rutgers||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||2/2||Late garbage time.|
|akron||1||5||0||0||1||0||1||0||0||0||1/2||85.7%||85.7%||Genuinely looked excellent, though it was Akron.|
|Total||1||8||0||0||2||0||1||1||1||0||4/6||75.0%||71.4$||He's really good for a third-stringer. OSU could still win a Big Ten championship with him.|
Statistically, this was one of Stroud’s worst performances of the year, though that probably tells you more about how good he has been all season. My biggest question going into this game was his ability to limit turnovers against a defense that isn’t afraid to mix up its looks, especially considering what Stroud prioritizes in the passing game. He didn’t have much of a problem, though he did have one near interception in this game to Marvin Harrison Jr. Even for that throw, he was under heavy pressure. I think he emphatically answered this question, showing a tremendous amount of maturity and patience when things didn’t develop how he expected them to. Multiple times, he was able to buy some time in the pocket, keep his eyes downfield, and complete a pass after not seeing his initial read. Perhaps the most impressive one was the touchdown to Ruckert that was taken off the board due to Matthew Jones being downfield. He had one earlier though to Ruckert that was much less flashy, but still quite impressive. He only threw it to him from only six yards downfield, but Ruckert turned it into a first down and a few more.
There is a saying that you can pick two out of the three priorities for a quarterback, but not all three. Those priorities are limiting turnovers, limiting sacks, and getting big plays. J.T. Barrett, for example, didn’t turn the ball over much, didn’t get sacked much, but he wasn’t getting many big plays (though 2014/2017 is very different than 2015/2016). Justin Fields didn’t turn the ball over much (especially his first season), routinely hit big plays, but got sacked regularly. C.J. Stroud…does all three. So far, at least. He doesn’t get sacked anywhere near as much as Fields did. He gets big plays all the time. He hasn’t turned the ball over much. I was somewhat expecting him to turn the ball over more in this game, as I would have thought, with as quickly as he reads the field and throws the ball, that he would be baited into throwing a pick or two, especially with his ability to hit the deep ball. Instead, he methodically marched his way down the field over and over again. He may be a rare quarterback that can get all three at different times and is able to choose which two to prioritize based on the defensive philosophy on the other side. I don’t think he is completely out of the woods yet. His ball can be a bit wobbly at times, though I think that was mostly due to his arm early in the year, and it was due to the rain against Indiana. He almost had a ball picked off against Rutgers alongside the pass he attempted to Marvin Harrison Jr. with 4:17 left to go in the third quarter, and I think that this is still something to watch out for, especially with Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan, and the Big Ten West champion still left on the schedule.
Stroud might still be one of my biggest concerns for the offense. If his arm is feeling okay, and he is confident, he should continue his dominance. I am a little worried about those two factors, though. This is certainly a nitpick, as he has been great all season, even for the first three games. There almost isn’t anything to critique on the number one offense in the country, which is to be expected.
He’s making me feel more confident in him as he continues to play better and better competition. If he continues to thrive against PSU, MSU, Neb, UM, and potentially the Big Ten Title game, he will win the Heisman. If he plays well against PSU, I will feel much better about the other four games.
For now though, I want to pump the breaks on that kind of optimism. There are still so many games to play, and so many chances for a nineteen year-old kid to screw up. He seems more mature than the average redshirt-freshman, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he succeeds. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he fades down the stretch. Our expectations are high because of Fields and Stroud’s recent success. I don’t want those expectations to dampen what is undeniably an excellent season, even if his performance dips.
Jack Miller and Kyle McCord have been playing better recently too. I feel more confident in both of them after the last three weeks than I did against Akron. McCord especially seems to have calmed down a lot, and this season has been huge for his development. The biggest question (maybe for both of these guys) is if they should redshirt this season. They have both reached the four game mark. I think one of them will not, as they still need a viable backup to Stroud, and if McCord is the official backup, it will be him. I think it would be nice to preserve his eligibility, but with his talent, it might not matter.
The receivers have also been nearly as unimpeachable. Here is their chart:
|Chris olave||1||0/1||2/2||Indiana took away the deep ball, and Olave was the most impacted.|
|garrett wilson||1||0/1||3/3||2/3||Rain caused the routine drop. He was good as always.|
|Jaxon smith-njigba||2/2||4/4||Huge game for him. I can't believe OSU's third WR is this good.|
|jeremy ruckert||1/1||5/5||He played great. The difficult catch was the one I have wanted to see the whole year. Needs to continue that.|
|cade stover||1/1||Nice catch and a good job being in sync with Stroud on the spacing.|
|Miyan Williams||0/1||Was hit immediately on the checkdown.|
|Treveyon Henderson||1/1||Screen pass, which he took for a touchdown.|
|mitch rossi||No chart.|
|emeka egbuka||1/2||1/1||Great conversion on the third down. Would have been cool if he'd caught the TD.|
|marvin harrison jr.||0/1||2/2||His best game so far. Great size and route running.|
|chris booker||1/1||Contested comeback on the sideline.|
|Evan Pryor||2/2||Screen passes.|
|joe royer||1||1/1||Looked good filling in for Scott.|
|total||3||0/3||10/12||19/20||Receivers made a lot of catches considering the rain.|
I was pretty hard on Jeremy Ruckert the last two weeks, as I have wanted him to become that big target who can get 50-50 balls down the field or in the red zone, and up until the Indiana game, he had not delivered on that potential. He made an excellent contested catch for a touchdown, and was effective as a receiver all day. I am not going to overreact to that single catch; I waited a few weeks before I talked about his issues with having contested catches. However, if he can make a few more plays like that, the offense will be taken to an even greater level, especially in the red zone. He’s been a very effective blocker all year. When he’s making those types of contested catches, though, I don’t think any team in the country can guard that many receiving threats, including Georgia. He can be the piece that puts this offense over the top.
As an aside, the tight end passing game is one of the areas that highlights how far Ohio State is ahead of Michigan with regard to offense. It’s not just the talent; it’s the scheme too. Michigan’s base play is split zone with a split flow counter, which Ohio State uses all the time. Split zone is the run where the tight end will block the backside of the formation. Kyle Jones pointed it out in the Film Study this week, where he also called it Crunch. Split flow is the counter to this, where instead of blocking the backside, the tight end (Ruckert) continues to run a flat, while the QB fakes a hand-off and rolls out toward the tight end. This usually leads to a wide open tight end, or a situation where the QB will be able to tuck it and run. Ohio State runs these two plays to perfection. Split zone usually leads to a good run, and split flow usually leads to a wide open tight end, of which Jeremy Ruckert was the beneficiary of several times today. When you watch Michigan though, their split flow play design is poorly thought out, as even though they constantly run split zone, the opposing defenses are rarely fooled, and the tight ends are not open that much. Additionally, because they don’t run split flow enough due to their lack of success with it, split zone can be keyed on whenever the tight end goes across the formation. They can also protect against it with an arc read (tight end runs upfield to block for a pulling QB), but they can’t do that either. Ryan Day is so good with having a counter to everything that Ohio State runs, and they run the counters enough that the opposing defense has to watch out for it.
Chris Olave didn’t get a ton of targets, but it makes a little sense. He’s normally the guy that benefits from big plays, and IU wasn’t going to let any of those happen, so the other guys feasted while Olave was primarily a decoy. Wilson and Smith-Njigba had huge days. He did have the deep ball that Stroud underthrew, but besides that, he didn’t have a ton of chances. His touchdown catch was a thing of beauty, though.
Marvin Harrison Jr. showed why the coaches liked him so much too. This was the first extended action he got this year in terms of targets, and he made a couple of nice plays, including the safety on special team. Ohio State doesn’t really need any more receivers this year, but it’s exciting to see him make a couple of plays late.
The wide receivers, once again, are basically perfect. I am going to try to be more critical moving forward, as things that aren’t working are more interesting than things that are working, but I can’t think of anything this group could do better. They run great routes, they make contested catches, and they block well. What am I supposed to say about them?
While the running backs and offensive line are excellent, there are at least a couple of things to critique there, thank goodness. Here is the running chart:
|nicholas petit-frere||4||0||4||Great in pass protection and nearly perfect in the run. Consistently excellent.|
|thayer munford||12.5||0.5||12||Easily his best game of the year. Something looks to have finally clicked at guard.|
|luke wypler||4.5||0||4.5||Good bounce back game from Wypler.|
|paris johnson jr.||6.5||0.5||6||Another great game for him. He's been about perfect the last few weeks.|
|dawand jones||7.5||0.5||7||It's wild how much he's improved over the year.|
|matthew jones||1||2||-1||His least impactful game so far. He's still starter quality though.|
|toby wilson||0||0.5||-0.5||Holds up fine.|
|donovan jackson||4||0||4||Played a little at tackle which was interesting. He's going to be starting sooner rather than later.|
|josh fryar||3||0||3||I really like his size and athleticism. I get why they almost started him this year.|
|trey leroux||2||0||2||Good to see him get a pancake in his first offensive action.|
|jakob james||0.5||0||0.5||First action of the year.|
|total||45.5||4||41.5||This group has improved so much since Minnesota it's amazing. It takes time for an offensive line to figure it out and gel each year.|
|cj stroud||1||0||1||He throws on the run well. He also does a great job of keeping his eyes downfield. He's so good. He's also not a runner.|
|kyle mccord||0||0||0||No chart|
|jack miller||0||0||0||No chart|
|miyan williams||3||0.5||2.5||Good day, though the offensive line gave him big holes.|
|treveyon henderson||9.5||0||9.5||Best game I've charted from him. The patience that I have wanted from him was there today.|
|Master Teague III||0||0||0||DNP|
|Evan Pryor||4.5||2||2.5||Looked good running the ball. He missed a blitz pickup against a guy who will be in the NFL next year, which is fine for a small true freshman.|
|Total||17||2.5||14.5||Henderson had an unbelievable game. The running backs are all good. Pryor's performance today gives you five quality running backs.|
|chris olave||0||0||0||No chart. Nothing after the catch.|
|garrett wilson||1||0||1||Some after the catch. IU wasn't giving a ton there though.|
|Jaxon Smith-njigba||3.5||0||3.5||Had multiple plays after the catch. Had a huge day.|
|jeremy ruckeret||6||1||5||His best game this year. He's blocked well the whole year, but he had a great performance receiving.|
|Cade Stover||3.5||1||2.5||Another good game blocking.|
|Mitch rossi||0.5||0||0.5||Release Mitch Rossi.|
|Gee Scott jr.||0||0||0||DNP|
|emeka egbuka||2||0||2||Great catch and run on a long third down.|
|marvin harrison jr||2||0||2||His best game as a Buckeye. Looked great receiving the ball.|
|Chris booker||0||0||0||No chart|
|Joe Royer||1||0||1||Most he's played with Scott out. He looked capable.|
|Total||19.5||2||17.5||Obviously incredible. I think I would be comfortable with anyone on the two-deep on offense starting. They're that good.|
|Protection||9||0||9||Perfect. Only real pressure was the rollout with a pulling guard on a blitz, which is impossible to block.|
|Play Calling||12||4||8||I don't expect Day and Wilson to lose many of these.|
Henderson and Williams are both so good running the football. Williams also made a nice block in pass protection with Stroud rolling out to their left. I still want to see more improvement on this front, but this would put him firmly as the number two back. Teague is still an excellent option, but he is not the runner that Williams is. Williams just needs to be a more complete back before you put too much on him.
Henderson had nearly a perfect game as far as I am concerned. He showed more patience and vision, and was able to turn nothing into something multiple times in this game. He is pretty easily the starter, and I don’t think there is necessarily a close second right now.
I have confidence in five running backs against Big Ten opponents, though I don’t know if I trust anyone as much as I trusted Trey Sermon by the end of last year, or JK Dobbins in 2019. There is still some time yet though, and Henderson is one more flawless game from getting there. As Henderson gets more experience, his vision will probably improve. As Williams gets more reps, he will get better in pass protection. They all have areas of improvement right now, but the floor is extremely high. Also, although I wouldn’t necessarily want to see him in the playoff, Evan Pryor had easily his best game as a Buckeye. He looked awesome in limited snaps.
The offensive line demolished Indiana. Munford in particular had his best game this year, and finally looked comfortable at guard. He cleared a huge hole for Miyan Williams on his touchdown run on the first drive in the game. He and Paris Johnson Jr. had great blocks on Henderson’s touchdown with 1:31 to go in the first quarter. PJJ and Dawand Jones also had big games. Johnson in particular has seemingly gone from the weakest link on the line to arguably the strongest in a span of a month. Dawand Jones hasn’t had a big mistake in the passing game for a few games now, and he is mauling people at the line. It looks like PFF has him as the highest rated tackle in the country, and for good reason.
I am slightly concerned about their performance coming up against the better defensive fronts. I think they should hold up in pass protection, especially with Stroud being as quick of a decision maker as he is. This is another nitpick. It’s exhausting talking about how good the team is all the time. More seriously, I want to see where a potential pitfall might occur down the line. While they are playing great now, things can change at any time.
Overall, this offense is the best in the country for a reason. I am certainly not opposed to being tough on this team (see the Oregon defensive analysis for reference), but it’s hard to be tough on them when everyone can see how well they are doing. The biggest reasons they are doing well is because every position group on offense has a ton of depth, the players are extremely well coached, and the play caller is brilliant.
If there is a concern, it is the relative lack of track record for Stroud and the offensive line. I don’t think the running backs or receivers are going to drop off any time soon, as they have been good for years now. The linemen and the quarterbacks have been good for years now too, so I am 90% sure they will be fine. However, their improvement from the beginning of the year is immense. Because of that quick improvement, their quality of play from the beginning of the year is still fresh in my mind. I don’t think this offense will be any worse than 3rd best in the country, but that can be the difference in a playoff or championship game. Stroud is still my favorite to win the Heisman, but it’s not even November yet, so there is plenty of time to go.
Penn State will tell us more about this offense. This is probably their stiffest test on offense until the Michigan game. Even then, I don’t see how Penn State can stop Ohio State. The only question is whether Ohio State will score 30 or 50, which would tell us a lot about the future aspirations of this team.