The offense played up to everyone’s completely unrealistic expectations, and it was glorious. That was the single best offensive performance I have seen since 2014 Cincinnati. What a masterpiece. They did this with limited snaps from JSN as well, which was a concern going into the game.
When I say that everything was working, I mean everything. Running the ball. Excellent. Throwing the ball. Even better. The offensive line blocked well against the pass and against the run. CJ Stroud had 3 questionable throws the entire game, and one of those was a huge gain. Harrison had another huge game. Egbuka continued his hot streak. Fleming caught a couple of touchdowns. Cade Stover continued his dominance.
It is hard to believe that this was the offense that people were calling “clunky” just last week. For me, I attributed it to a couple of different things, but the absence of JSN was paramount. CJ Stroud has a great connection with JSN, and he didn’t look like he had the same trust in the other guys. Arkansas State looked better than Notre Dame, and this game looked even better than that. While it is certainly going to get lost in the narrative of this game, Toledo has a significantly better defense than Arkansas State, and at least to me, it looked like it based on their coaching. They consistently mixed up their looks and overall looked well-coached. While Arkansas State basically had one adjustment switching from a 4-3 to a 3-3-5 halfway through the game, Toledo would sometimes have three different formations in a single drive. This was a significantly better defense that Ohio State dominated.
Here is the play-by-play:
|Time||Yard Line||Down||Distance||O Formation||D Package||Front||High||Type||Box||Play||Player||Yards||Notes|
|14:56||O17||1||10||Gun HZ Stack||4-2-5||Over||4||RPO||6||RPO Omaha||Egbuka||8||Stroud (+1) makes a good read and a good throw to Egbuka, who makes a routine catch.|
|14:49||O25||2||2||Ace Pair Field||4-3||Over||3||Run||7||Duo||Henderson||0||Wypler (-1) gets pushed three yards into the backfield. Toledo runs a stunt which gets around Jackson and Johnson. Henderson (-0.5) tries to bounce this outside, then thinks better of it to get back to the line of scrimmage. He wasn't getting much either way.|
|14:28||O25||3||2||Ace Pair Field Mtn X In||3-4||Tite||3||Run||8||Henderson||4||Johnson (+1) has a nice combo block. Rossi (+1) gets good push to open up a hole for Henderson (+0.5), ,who is patient enough to wait for the blocks to develop.|
|13:58||O30||1||10||Gun||4-2-5||Over||4||Pass||6||Spacing||Ebuka||10||Stroud (+1) throws a good ball to Egbuka, who makes a routine catch. Play-callling +1 against soft coverage.|
|13:19||O40||1||10||Gun Y Mtn Flex||4-3||Under||3||RPO||6.5||RPO Screen||Harrison||7||Stroud makes a good read and throws it out to Harrison, who makes a routine catch. I really like this design for the RPO. Think the handoff would have been fine too. Play-calling +1 because I liked it. Yes I am that shalllow.|
|12:37||O47||2||3||Pistol 3W||4-2-5||Over||3||Run||6||Split Zone||Henderson||8||Dawand Jones (+1) has a good block on the edge. Matt Jones (-0.5) could have held his block a little longer, giving Henderson a little extra room.|
|12:12||T45||1||10||Gun 3x1||4-2-5||Over||3||Pass||6||PA Wheel||Stover||38||Like having a fake off of the quick pitch they've been doing. Stover is schemed completely open. Stroud (+1) throws a good pass downfield, and Stover (+1) makes a routine catch. Play-calling +2 because Toledo had no idea this was coming.|
|11:23||T7||1||7||Goal Line||Goal Line||Goal Line||0||Run||11||Power||Henderson||7||Fryar (+1) with a beautiful block. Stover (+1) and Rossi (+1) have good blocks. Henderson (+1) pushes the rest of the way behind Jackson (+0.5). Touchdown.|
|10:25||O25||1||10||Gun Jet Mtn||4-2-5||Over||4||RPO||6.5||RPO Hitch||Harrison||16||Stroud (+1) makes a good read and a good throw to Harrison (+2), who gets good yardage after the catch.|
|10:17||O41||1||10||Gun HB-H Swap Jet Mtn||4-3||Over||1||Run||7.5||Jet Sweep||Williams||11||New play-call for Ohio State. Really like this formation, as it will create more matchups for JSN in the backfield. Same one they used to get the slant one-on-one with Ojabo against UM last year. Adding a run is a good counter. Play-calling +1. Johnson (+1) and Smith-Njigba (+1) with lead blocks.|
|9:44||T48||1||10||Pistol 3x1||4-3||Field||2||Run||7||GT Counter||Williams||2||Johnson (-1) needed to take the inside defender, which would have allowed Williams to cut this upfield.|
|9:14||T46||2||8||Gun 3x1||4-2-5||Under||4||Pass||6||TE Seam||Stover||34||Stroud (+2) throws a perfect pass, and Stover (+1) makes a difficult catch. Play-calling +1 for pulling out TE seam, which has not been part of the playbook much. Protection +0.5.|
|8:34||T12||1||10||Gun||4-2-5||Over||4||Run||6||Inside Zone||Williams||4||Good blocking, and a fine rush. What you want, basically.|
|8:00||T8||2||8||Gun||4-3||Over||4||Pass||7||Comeback||Harrison||8||Stroud (+2) throws a perfect pass, and Harrison (+2) makes a difficult catch for a touchdown. Johnson (+1) does a nice job on the end. Protection +1.|
|6:28||O41||1||10||Pistol 3W Orbit Z||3-3-5||Tite||3||Run||6.5||Mid Zone||Williams||13||Dawand Jones (+2) and Stover (+1) lead the way for Williams to get a big gain. Matt Jones (+1) gets a good block as well on the edge.|
|6:13||T45||1||10||Pistol 3W||4-2-5||Over||3||Pass||6||PA Dagger Variant||Harrison||42||Stroud (-2) makes a bad read, but the defender got too excited and didn't catch it. Harrison (+1) makes a routine catch before nearly scoring. Protection +2 here with Wypler (+1), Johnson (+1), Matt Jones (+0.5) and Stover (+1) having excellent blocks.|
|5:47||T3||1||3||Goal Line||Goal Line||Goal Line||0||Run||11||Power O||Williams||0||Williams (-2) probably has a touchdown if he just follows the pulling guard here. Don't know what he saw. Play-calling +1.|
|5:03||T3||2||3||Goal Line||Goal Line||Goal Line||0||Run||11||PA Corner||Stover||0||Stroud (-2) throws an inaccurate pass to Stover, who can't make the spectacular catch. Play-calling +1 as he is wide open.|
|4:33||T3||3||3||Goal Line||Goal Line||Goal Line||0||Run||11||Jet Sweep||Egbuka||3||Egbuka (+1.5) does a nice job of reading the unblocked defender to get a touchdown. Rossi (+2) helps make this possible with a crushing block on the corner. Touchdown.|
|3:08||O29||1||10||Ace Pair Field||4-3||Over||4||Pass||7||PA Post||Smith-Njigba||21||Stroud (+2) throws a perfect pass to Smith-Njigba (+1), who makes the routine catch after getting open.|
|2:53||O50||1||10||Gun HZ Tight||4-3||Over||3||Run||8||Split Zone||Williams||19||Williams (+2) reads this perfectly as he cuts off a nice block from Matt Jones (+0.5) and bounces it outside after another good block from Fleming (+1)|
|2:15||T31||1||10||Pistol Z Tight||3-3-5||Tite||2||Run||6||Split Zone||Williams||10||Matt Jones (+2) and Dawand Jones (+2) both get pancakes, and it is an easy gain for Williams.|
|1:38||T21||1||10||Gun Y Mtn Flex||4-2-5||Under||3||Pass||6.5||Switch Improvisation||Stover||11||Stroud (+2) throws a perfect pass to Stover (+2), who makes a spectacular catch. Protection +2. Dawand Jones (+1) and Johnson (+1) both have great protection 1-on-1 for this play.|
|1:08||T10||1||10||Ace 3W Z Tight||3-3-5||Tite||4||Run||6||Inside Zone||Williams||5||Wypler (+1) and Matt Jones (+1) have a smooth combo block.|
|0:26||T5||2||5||Gun Twin TE Pair Boundary||4-3||Over||0||Pass||9||Rub Corner||Smith-Njigba||0||I think Stroud could have throw to Harrison here, but I do think both were open enough. He throws a good pass, but Smith-Njigba can't make the spectacular grab as the defender made a nice play.|
|0:18||T5||3||5||Gun Y Flex||4-3||Over||0||Pass||7||Improvisation||Fleming||5||Stroud (+1), probably misses Stover. He came off him back to Fleming too quickly. Still, he scrambles outside the pocket and throws a perfect throw to Fleming (+2), who makes the spectacular catch. Protection +1 as Dawand Jones (+1) deals with a stunt beautifully and Wypler (+0.5) handles a one-on-one. Touchdown.|
|10:41||O25||1||10||Gun Twin TE||4-3||Field||4||Pass||7||Comeback||Smith-Njigba||12||One of the most impressive plays of the game, though it didn't look like it. Stroud (+2) throws a perfect throw and Smith-Njigba (+2) makes a spectacular catch. Defender played this flawlessly.|
|10:17||O37||1||10||Gun Twin TE||3-4||Tite||2||RPO||7.5||RPO Screen||Egbuka||28||Stroud (+1) makes a good read. Egbuka (+1) makes a routine catch and follows his blocks. Rossi (+1) and Harrison (+1) give him plenty of space.|
|9:47||T35||1||10||Gun Twin TE Pair Field||4-2-5||Over||3||Run||7||Inside Zone||Williams||2||Stover (-1) gets beat on the backside. That would have given Williams a huge cutback lane.|
|9:25||T33||2||8||Gun||4-2-5||Under||2||Pass||6||Scramble||Stroud||5||Stroud (+1) steps up and sees some free yards on the ground, that he takes.|
|8:44||T28||3||3||Pistol 3W||4-2-5||Over||3||Run||6.5||Split Zone||Williams||12||Wypler (-2, +1) gets beat to the inside, but he is able to recover to push the lineman out of the way. Fleming (+1), Dawand Jones (+1.5), and Matt Jones (+1) all have great blocks to give Williams (+1) space to get some extra yardage after a quick juke on the safety.|
|7:59||T16||1||10||Pistol Twin TE Pair Boundary F Mtn||4-2-5||Under||3||Run||6.5||Mid Zone||Williams||9||Jackson (+1) and Wypler (+1) have great blocks, and Williams (+0.5) is able to shake off an early tackler.|
|7:38||T7||2||1||Gun||4-2-5||Under||0||Pass||8||Slants||Harrison||7||Stroud (+1) throws a good pass, and Harrison (+2) makes a difficult catch. Touchdown.|
|5:24||O10||1||10||Gun HZ Tight||4-2-5||Under||3||Run||7||Split Zone||Hayden||9||Toledo is not coming downhill at all, which kind of makes sense based on the passing game. Still, Hayden (+1, -1) gets a huge hole, though he probably could have cut toward Jackson's back for even more yardage. Still, he falls forward for a few extra.|
|5:13||O19||2||1||Ace 3W HZ Tight||4-2-5||Over||0||Run||9||Duo||Hayden||10||Wypler (+0.5) and Matt Jones (+1) have a solid combo block.Dawayd Jones (+1) sets a strong edge. Hayden (+1) runs hard off Jones' hip.|
|4:32||O29||1||10||Gun||3-3-5||Tite||2||RPO||6.5||RPO Hitch||Fleming||7||Stroud (+1) throws a good pass to Fleming, who makes a routine catch. This is a fine read, though I think a run would have been fine as well.|
|4:09||O36||2||3||Gun Y Flex||4-2-5||Under||2||Read Option||6||Power Read||Stroud||4||Stroud (+1) makes a good read, and is able to pick up the first down.|
|3:31||O40||1||10||Gun||4-3||Over||2||Pass||7||PA Drive||Harrison||21||Stroud (+2) throws a perfect throw, and Harrison (+1) makes a difficult catch.|
|3:09||T39||1||10||Gun Jet Mtn||3-4||Tite||3||Run||7||Wide Split Zone||Hayden||11||Hayden (+1) finds a nice hole, aided by Wypler (+1) sealing off an interior defender. Egbuka (+0.5) and Johnson (+0.5) with good blocks also.|
|2:26||T28||1||10||Pistol Twin TE 3x1||3-4||Boundary||3||Run||7.5||Wide Zone||Hayden||5||Wypler (+1) gets another good block on the inside. Scott (+1) with a good block on the outside as well.|
|1:31||T23||2||5||Gun Twin TE Pair Boundary||3-3-5||Show Blitz||2||Pass||7||Improvisation||Hayden||10||Stroud probably bails a bit early, but he is able to extend the play long enough to make a good throw to Hayden, who makes routine catch. Holding on the defense on Scott.|
|1:24||T13||1||10||Gun HZ Tight||4-2-5||Over||2||Run||8.5||Split Zone||Hayden||2||Stroud gets smoked after he hands it off. Jackson (+0.5) has a solid block here, but it was all kind of fine.|
|0:50||T11||2||8||Gun 11 Empty||4-2-5||Over||4||Pass||6.5||Spot||Fleming||11||Stroud (+1) makes the right read and throws a good pass to Fleming (+1), who makes a routine catch before scoring a touchdown.|
|14:32||T48||1||10||Pistol Twin TE Pair Boundary||4-2-5||Over||3||Run||6||Outside Zone||Hayden||45||Wypler (-2) needs to double one of the defensive tackles, and he does not do either. Preferred is the guy Matt Jones (-2) is supposed to be doubling. Of course, he doesn't make contact either. Stover (+1) gets a good block. Xavier Johnson (+2) has a great block. Hayden (+2.5) weaves through a couple defenders and accelerates as soon as he sees daylight. Impressive run.|
|14:23||T3||1||3||Goal Line||Goal Line||Goal Line||0||Run||11||Zone Lead||Hayden||1||Rossi (-1) misses a blocker coming into the backfield. Hayden (+0.5) does a nice job of churning the legs to fall forward and gain ground.|
|13:59||T2||2||2||Goal Line||Goal Line||Goal Line||0||Run||11||Power O||Hayden||1||Fryar (-1.5) loses his block, and Jackson has to block the guy who comes free.|
|13:10||T1||3||1||Goal Line||Goal Line||Goal LIne||0||Run||11||Fullback Dive||Rossi||1||Touchdown for Mitch Rossi (+1). Play-calling +2 because full-back are underused at the goal line.|
|10:23||O25||1||10||Gun Twin TE 3x1||3-4||Boundary Tite||2||Pass||7||Spot||Egbuka||7||Stroud (+1) throws a good pass to Egbuka , who makes a routine catch.|
|10:05||O32||2||3||Gun Twin TE Pair Field 3x1||3-4||Base||2||RPO||8||RPO Hitch||Egbuka||0||Egbuka (-1) drops a routine catch. Stroud (+1) throws a good pass after making a good read with corner playing back.|
|9:59||O32||3||3||Gun 11 Empty||3-3-5||Tite||5||Penalty||6||False Start||Wypler||-5||Wypler (-1). I know the color analyst said this was Egbuka, but it was the entirety of the team besides Wypler.|
|9:59||O27||3||8||Gun Y Flex||4-2-5||Over||4||Pass||5||Dagger||Egbuka||27||Stroud (+2) throws a perfect pass to Egbuka (+1), who makes a routine catch and cuts upfield for a big gain. Johnson (+0.5) holds up on the outside. Protection +0.5.|
|9:30||T46||1||10||FOX||FOX||FOX||FOX||Run||FOX||Outside Zone||Hayden||4||Stover (+1) has a pretty nice block.|
|9:00||T42||2||6||Gun Jet Mtn||4-2-5||Under||2||Pass||7||PA Seam||Stover||0||Stroud (-2) makes a bad read here and the ball is uncatchable for Stover. I think he threw this because of the moderate pressure up the middle. Hayden flashed open at the end, but it happens.|
|8:54||T42||3||6||Gun Y Flex||4-2-5||Under||4||Run||6||Split Zone||Hayden||3||Matt Jones (-1) can't hold up his block on the edge. Might have been a first down otherwise. Punt|
|6:36||T39||1||19||Ace 3W HZ Tight||4-3||Over||1||Pass||8||PA Shallow Cross||Egbuka||29||Stroud (+1) throws a good pass to Egbuka (+0.5), who makes a routine catch. Play-calling +1 for getting Toledo to bite.|
|6:00||T10||1||10||Pistol 3W Z Tight||4-2-5||Under||4||Run||6.5||Split Zone||Hayden||3||Wypler gets off of the double-team a tad early, but not much. I think Matt Jones (-0.5) looks like he's coming off a little early too though, where he needs to maintain that block.|
|5:39||T7||2||7||Ace 3W Z Tight||4-2-5||Under||0||Pass||8||PA Throw Away||Stroud||0||Protection is fine here. If he steps up to the left, he can get some more time, potentially scrambling that way. I do think he wants to throw it to the field though, as that is where he is looking initially, so I don't blame him for scrambling out that way. Kind of fine with all of this. Stroud (+1) could do better, but he could do a lot worse too. Made two defenders miss. Throw away.|
|5:10||T7||3||7||Gun 11 Empty||4-2-5||Over||2||Pass||7||Slant||Egbuka||7||Stroud (+2) gets to his third read and makes a good throw to Egbuka (+1), who makes a routine catch. Egbuka also slows up when he realizes it is zone. Good to see that adjustment from the Notre Dame game. Touchdown.|
|End of Charting|
The story of this game was primarily the sheer numbers that were put up. 77 points with nearly 750 yards. That is nearly a perfect offensive performance. The offense genuinely looked as good as could be expected.
I think the bigger story of the game is that Ohio State answered one of the various concerns that had popped up over the year – their running back depth. After Evan Pryor’s injury and Henderson getting knocked out of the game, the Buckeyes were down to one returning scholarship running back in the game. Dallan Hayden was going to have to play in this game, and his readiness would be tested.
He passed with flying colors.
So too did TC Caffey, who looked plenty competent even as a freshman walk-on. After that game, I think Ohio State could get away with playing either of those two in a pinch. While Henderson’s injury hopefully isn’t too serious, Ohio State can feel comfortable with those guys in the game. Hayden’s 45-yard run (3Q 14:32) and Caffey’s TD (4Q) were two of the best plays of the day, mostly because of what they meant for the rest of the team. Chip Trayanum can stay and work at linebacker. The team doesn’t have to worry about Henderson and Williams as much; they can be relied on more as there is a solid spare.
A final note about the running backs: I have seen it said that Henderson looks like he is trying to break everything, and I just don’t get it. That is how he looked last year, no doubt. This year, he looks much more patient to me. Is he perfect? No, not at all. Still, unlike last year when he either tried to hit the big play or just lowered his head for every defender that came near, he seems to be getting much more comfortable with his skillset and the needs of a P5 running back. He tries to slip by defenders instead of just trying to run them over unless he can run them over. He cuts it upfield on outside zone runs more often, leading to more 5-7 yard gains, even if it is at the expense of more 20 yard gains. He looks better in between the tackles and is at times trading efficiency for big plays. In this offense though, that is exactly what is needed. This offense is plenty explosive in the passing game. An added element of efficiency allows this offense to get whatever it needs whenever it wants. Maybe I am crazy. I just like what I’ve seen from him more this year. He and Miyan Williams both look much improved from last year.
Regardless, here is how the rest of the offense turned out:
|Donovan Jackson||2||0||2||100||No mistakes, but no mind-blowing plays either.|
|luke wypler||7||6||1||53.8||Very up and down game for him.|
|paris johnson jr.||6||1||5||85.7||Changed my pass-protection grading again and PJJ is the biggest beneficiary. Brick wall.|
|dawand jones||8.5||0||8.5||100||Best I've seen him play. Another guy that was a lot better in pass pro than I remember.|
|matthew jones||7||4||3||63.6||Started outstanding, and fell off a bit late.|
|josh fryar||1||1.5||-0.5||40||Only charted goal line sets, and he was servicable.|
|total||31.5||12.5||19||71.6||Really happy with the tackles. Those two spots were the biggest question marks toward the end of the season. Best I've seen the two tackles play in a single game.|
|cj stroud||31||6||25||83.8||Great day for Stroud. His accuracy was as good as ever, and he wasn't afraid to scramble outside the pocket. Made a couple of questionable throws, but this is partially because he is taking more risks with the football. Kind of an interesting storyline to follow as the season goes along.|
|kyle mccord||0||0||0||0||Did not chart, but this was the best I have seen McCord play thus far. He made all the right throws with accuracy and zip. Very impressive outing.|
|miyan williams||3.5||2||1.5||63.6||Linemen were good, so he didn't have to do much.|
|treveyon henderson||1.5||0.5||1||75||One Drive.|
|dallan hayden||6||1||5||85.7||Spectacular debut. Looks like he can get meaningful snaps this year.|
|total||42||9.5||32.5||81.6||Hayden and McCord are the core of a bright future.|
|jaxon smith-njigba||4||0||4||100||Limited time, but it was all good. Hopefully he is full strength this coming week.|
|julian fleming||5||0||5||100||Always going to score well because of his blocking. First touchdown catch was also impressive.|
|emeka egbuka||5.5||1||4.5||84.6||Good game minus the drop. Looking much improved over the first week.|
|marvin harrison jr.||9||0||9||100||Living up to the hype the last couple of games.|
|cade stover||9||1||8||90||I've seen enough. Upgrade over Jeremy Ruckert.|
|mitch rossi||6||1||5||85.7||Another good performance from him as well.|
|jayden ballard||0||0||0||0||Didn't chart. Again though, his best game as a Buckeye. His touchdown reminded me of Jameson Williams in 2019. Shocking speed.|
|xavier johnson||2||0||2||100||Awesome block on Hayden's long run.|
|gee scott jr.||1||0||1||100||Looks so much better blocking than last year.|
|total||41.5||3||38.5||93.3||Maybe the group that has improved the most from the first week.|
|protection||7||0||7||Did not notice a mistake in my charting, really. Best I've seen them look.|
|play calling||11||0||11||New plays, new concepts, a lot of fun.|
The best place to start is with the offensive line, first by directing you to that protection number at +7/-0. That is the best protection I have graded in the last couple of years. While this may not seem like a big deal, the one area on Toledo that has some genuinely good talent is the defensive line, and the front seven in general. This was a great performance from them.
The offensive tackles played well. I haven’t had a game where both tackles scored this highly. I changed the way I do protection grading, and I think it may have helped this out. To get a neutral protection score, the offensive line has to hold for around 2.5 seconds, which is the length of the average pass play from last year (that I charted). If they hold longer than that, they will get points based on the difficulty of the protection. If, for example, Dawand Jones is one-on-one with an end and blocks him for 5 s, he will receive +2. Both tackles had some excellent protection in this game, and it showed up in their scores. Well done to the both of them.
It is also worth noting that the two that scored lower, Wypler and Matt Jones, were overwhelmingly positive until a little later in the game. One of their worst sets was on Hayden’s 45-yard run, so maybe I shouldn’t have taken points off at all. Still, I like what I have seen from the line this year, though Wisconsin will be around the same level as Notre Dame. They played well in the Notre Dame game, so I think there is a chance that they continue their strong play this weekend. Another good performance against Wisconsin will have me feeling great about this line.
The tight-ends also got a ton of positives for blocking, and very few negatives. I said last week that if Stover had another game like the last couple of weeks I would declare him as an upgrade over Ruckert, and he has done just that. Honestly, Ruckert was one of the only players on the offense who I thought underperformed last year, so I probably could have said it more definitely last week. The biggest question I had though was if Cade Stover was better than himself last year, and he continued to show that he was. The catch along the sidelines while Stroud was scrambling (1Q 1:38) was the most impressive. After these first few weeks, he has shown an ability to make difficult and contested catches that I haven’t seen from a tight end at Ohio State since Heuerman and Vannett. He had two 30+ yard receptions.
His value doesn’t even come mostly from the receiving end, either. He is an outstanding blocker at the position, and he makes nearly every block he’s asked. He feels like a real mismatch out there right now, which is not something I could have ever imagined saying just three weeks ago.
Rossi had another great game, including the touchdown run. His blocking was probably the best of all the tight ends a year ago, but he looks even better now. This position has been massively improved with mostly the same players from last year. Gee Scott Jr. has really looked the part as well. The biggest question for him has always been his blocking, and I haven’t really seen a bad one from him yet. Now, they were two G5 teams, but if his blocking is just fine, he could see more playing time going forward, especially if JSN can’t get fully healthy. I never thought I would be excited about Ohio State’s tight ends, but here I am.
The other big notable takeaway from this game was the variety of new plays and formations. The +11/-0 was also uncoincidentally the only time I can remember giving a perfect play-calling score. The first interesting call I noticed was an RPO Screen to Harrison (1Q 13:19) with the wrinkle being motioning Cade Stover out to the boundary to help block for Harrison. This is the smallest of the plays that I noted, but it was one that I think could work regularly, and it has high upside. Sometimes on these RPO relief screens, the RPO doesn’t provide that much benefit. Sure, there can be a guaranteed 4-5 yards on early downs, but I think a lot of teams will take that. Sending an extra blocker out that way can help the screen out, but it also gives the quarterback a lot of information about where the read is going to go. When Stover motions out wide, Toledo doesn’t send an extra defender to the edge, so Stroud has an easy throw read. However, if a defender follows Stover, that leaves one less defender in the box. With an unblocked defensive end, that could mean a zone read is attached to this play. Combining these concepts could be deadly, though we will have to see if Stroud keeps it in the future. Regardless, I like it a lot, and I think they have a little flexibility with what they can do in the future.
There was also the PA Wheel to Stover (1Q 12:12), which was mostly notable for the type of play-action involved. Instead of faking an inside run, they faked the quick toss that they had run for the past couple of weeks. This was like what Notre Dame ran on Ohio State for one of their three big passes. It’s a great way to introduce a play-action to a concept that is creating greater variation for the run game. It is just wonderful to see the offense having more variety in the run game, and therefore the passing game via play-action.
Finally, the Jet Sweep to Miyan Williams out of the formation where the running back and the receiver essentially switch places (1Q 10:17) was great to see. This was the formation that they used in the Michigan and Utah game to isolate Smith-Njigba on a linebacker/defensive end. The jet sweep from this formation has the most utility if the defenders are playing man and are ready for JSN to line up in the backfield. In this case, a corner will be essentially lining up as a linebacker. A jet sweep then will force said corner/nickelback to fill against the run. In this case, the targeted player runs way up field and JSN easily blocks him to give Williams a huge hole. I never saw the use of putting a running back in the slot, but this call makes complete sense now that I have seen it in action. This was probably my favorite play call of the game. It makes this formation a lot more interesting and more viable going forward.
The only other interesting nugget was the amount of goal line snaps I charted – 7 times, or around 12% of all snaps I looked at. This is the most I have seen them play goal line, which I appreciate. Seeing that they are more willing to try and score with a power run game is encouraging.
On top of the great line play, the surprisingly excellent running back play, and the phenomenal tight end performance, it would seem totally unnecessary to add anything else. Of course, Stroud had one of his best days throwing the ball too:
|CJ Stroud||Perfect||Good||Scramble||Pressure||Okay||Batted||Throw Away||Inaccurate||Bad Read||RPO||Options||Passing Percentage||General Percentage||Notes|
|Toledo||8||13||1||1||1||2||5/5||1/1||84.6||83.8||More aggressive than I can ever remember him being, but this might be a function of playing Toledo. Will be interesting to see how he does against Wisconsin. Pin point accurate in this one. Overthrow to Stover is the only inaccurate throw.|
Stroud was nearly perfect on a purely throwing basis, maybe the best I have seen an Ohio State quarterback throw. There was only one inaccurate pass and no okay passes. That is exceptional. Every throw except for one was on the money, and that was the missed throw to a wide-open Stover in the endzone. The other two noteworthy negative events was the pass to Harrison that was nearly intercepted and the throw to Stover that was also nearly intercepted.
I do think Stroud was being extra aggressive in this game. There was very little dumping the ball off to the checkdown; Stroud was opting to scramble around for extra time to throw instead. He was going for blood on every throw. Now, this might just be a Toledo thing, but I also noticed a little bit of this against Notre Dame as well. It is something to watch going forward. Another game or two of playing like this and I think we can say it is a permanent change.
Also, while I didn’t chart it, Kyle McCord had the best game of his career. The touchdown pass was solid, but his best throws were the quick outs and hitches to Ballard. He looked comfortable throwing, showing off his arm strength and good accuracy. Hopefully he continues to look like that this year, just in case.
The same can be said of Jayden Ballard, who had a Jameson Williams 2019 against Miami (OH) moment where his speed genuinely shocked me. His touchdown run was a thing of beauty. More than that, he looked comfortable on some of the shorter throws as well.
For the guys that I did chart, here are their catching notes:
|Marvin Harrison Jr.||3/3||4/4|
|gee scott jr.|
Julian Fleming and JSN had solid days on limited opportunities. It was good to see Fleming get a couple of touchdowns, as I know he has been waiting a while to make an impact due to injury. Marvin Harrison has looked like a first-round pick ever since the second-half of the Notre Dame game. He looks like he could be one of the best in the country, as advertised. Emeka Egbuka is also impressive, to the point where I don’t know how you can take him off the field much either. The last touchdown catch he had (3Q 5:10) was particularly impressive, as he recognized the zone, slowed up, and made a wide-open catch after Stroud found him. This was the issue that prevented him from scoring a touchdown against Notre Dame a couple weeks ago – he didn’t sit down on the route, so the throw was behind him. It is a small thing, but small things like this are the difference between touchdowns and missed field goals. 28-10 against ND would feel a lot different than 21-10. The fact that he has made the adjustment after a couple weeks is good to see, and it bodes well for the offense moving forward.
Honestly, for the wide receiver group, as long as you have three of JSN, Harrison, Egbuka, and Fleming, the offense is probably fine. Even if two of them are out, I think that the two tight end sets have been effective to the point that it might not even matter.
What should we worry about for Wisconsin?
It is exceptionally hard to play this well for two straight weeks. This was not an average performance; it was excellent. The only group that plausibly could have underperformed were the starting running backs, and even they just didn’t rack up a ton of positives because the blocking was good. If they play this well against Wisconsin, the ceiling for this offense will look a lot higher. As it stands, I would be a little surprised if they break 40. Still, lots to like from this one.
Also, and it is a small thing, but multiple times the Buckeyes took three downs to get to the endzone on first and goal situations. Is this really a problem? Probably not, but it is worth looking out for just in case.
What should we not worry about for Wisconsin?
The running back depth. I think Henderson’s injury would seem a lot more dire if Hayden and Caffey were less than impressive. Now though? I think Ohio State could survive without Henderson, if need be, though I do think they are best with him. This offense looks to be incredibly deep right now.
What should we be excited about for Wisconsin?
A bunch of things. The tight ends look real, which will be vital against Wisconsin’s front. The wide receivers are continuing to improve every week. The whole offense has continued to improve.
A wildcard here is Stroud’s aggressiveness. This may be good or bad. However, if he can stay aggressive while minimizing turnovers, this offense will be talked about as one of the all-time greats. He needs to show it against a few different good defenses, but it is looking awfully promising.