Ohio State’s Offense and Its Stars On Pace for Historically Great Year Through First Half of 2021 Regular Season

By Dan Hope on October 14, 2021 at 10:10 am
Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Ohio State’s 2021 offense is on track to be one of the best ever through the first half of the regular season.

Six games into the year, Ohio State has averaged 562.7 yards per game – 27.1 yards per game more than 2018, when the Buckeyes set the Big Ten record with 535.6 yards of total offense. The Buckeyes are averaging 48.5 points per game, which would also be a new school record, topping the 46.9 points per game they averaged in 2019.

Ohio State is averaging the same number of points and slightly more yards than Alabama’s national championship offense last year, which averaged 541.6 yards per game; its numbers so far are nearly identical to LSU’s 2019 championship-winning offense, which averaged 48.4 points and 568.4 yards per game.

The Buckeyes lead the nation in yards per game while also ranking second nationally with 8.55 yards per play – a mark no Football Bowl Subdivision team has reached for a full season since Oklahoma had 8.6 yards per play in 2018. The Buckeyes rank third nationally in both yards per passing attempt (11.0) and yards per rushing attempt (6.22).

Whether Ohio State can continue to put up points and yards at those rates is questionable. Tougher tests are ahead, as the second half of the Buckeyes’ regular season schedule includes five of the Big Ten’s current top six teams in scoring defense – and the conference’s top scoring defense, Iowa, will likely await the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship Game if they get that far.

So far this season, though – and especially in the last two games, in which Ohio State’s offense has not been stopped with C.J. Stroud on the field – the Buckeyes appear to have the best offense in the country and potentially one of the best ever. And they have no shortage of offensive star power.

Despite battling a shoulder injury for the first month of the season and missing the Akron game, Stroud has the nation’s third-highest passer rating (191.2), the second-most yards per passing attempt (10.8), tied for the fifth-most passing touchdowns (18) and the sixth-most passing yards per game (339.8). 

TreVeyon Henderson ranks 13th nationally in rushing yards (605) and tied for fourth nationally in rushing touchdowns on just 70 carries, with the best rushing average among all FBS running backs with 50 carries or more.

And the receiving trio of Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba all rank in the top 50 nationally in receiving yards so far this season, combining for 84 catches, 1,492 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns through Ohio State’s first six games.

If the Buckeyes and their star playmakers can continue to produce at their current rates for the rest of the season, how would their seasons stack up in Ohio State’s record books? Let’s take a closer look. 

(Note: Ohio State could play as few as seven more games or as many as nine more games depending upon whether the Buckeyes make the Big Ten championship game and the national championship game, so for full-season projections, we split the difference and projected what the Buckeyes’ numbers would look like if they played eight more games and maintained their current per-game averages. Projected all-time Ohio State rankings are included where those rankings would make the all-time leader lists currently available in the record book included in Ohio State’s media guide.)

Ohio State’s 2021 Offense Through Six Games
Category Number (All-Time Rank)
Passing Yards Per Game 352.2 (2nd)
Passing Yards Per Attempt 11.0 (1st)
Projected Passing Yards (14 Games) 4,931 (2nd)
Rushing Yards Per Game 210.5
Rushing Yards Per Attempt 6.22 (2nd)
Projected Rushing Yards (14 Games) 2,947
Total Yards Per Game 562.7 (1st)
Total Yards Per Play 8.55 (1st)
Projected Total Yards (14 Games) 7,878 (1st)
Points Per Game 48.5 (1st)

To put Ohio State’s offensive efficiency so far this season in further perspective, Ohio State has never averaged more than 7.3 yards per play for an entire season. Even if Ohio State’s offensive efficiency dropped by a full yard per play over the rest of the season, the Buckeyes would still be on track to set a new school record for yards per play.

The Buckeyes have done and likely will continue to do the majority of their damage through the air, but they’ve also averaged more rushing yards per attempt – though they’ve only averaged 33.8 rushing attempts per game, which is significantly lower than usual – than any previous season in Ohio State history except 2013, when the Buckeyes (led by two 1,000-yard rushers in Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller) averaged 6.8 yards per attempt on more than 45 attempts per game to rush for a school-record 4,321 yards.

C.J. Stroud
Category Number (All-Time Rank)
Passing Efficiency 191.2 (1st)
Yards Per Passing Attempt 10.8 (1st)
Passing Yards Per Game 339.8 (2nd)
Total Offense Per Game 343.2 (2nd)
Projected Passing Yards (13 Games) 4,417 (2nd)
Projected Pass Completions 270 (2nd)
Projected Passing Touchdowns 47 (2nd)
Completion Percentage 66.2 (4th)

Thanks to near-perfect performances in each of Ohio State’s last two games since he took a week off to rest his injured shoulder, Stroud’s passer rating is currently on track to be the best in school history.

Stroud’s passing completions, yards and touchdowns, which have been projected out over 13 games rather than 14 games since he missed a full game, are all currently on track to be the second-most in school history behind Dwayne Haskins’ 2018 season, when Haskins completed 373 passes for 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns. If Stroud can stay healthy and continued to play like he did in the last two games against Rutgers and Maryland, it’s not out of the question that Stroud could make a run at Haskins’ single-season passing records.

Even though he has yet to do any real damage with his legs, rushing for just 17 net yards and zero touchdowns so far this season, Stroud is still averaging more yards of total offense per game than any previous Ohio State quarterback other than Haskins in 2018. His completion percentage would currently be the fourth-best in school history, behind Haskins and both of Justin Fields’ two seasons as Ohio State’s starting quarterback, but that could certainly increase as he’s completed 73.2 percent of his passes in the Buckeyes’ last two games.

TreVeyon Henderson
Category Number (All-Time Rank)
Yards Per Rushing Attempt 8.77 (1st)
Rushing Yards Per Game 100.8
Projected Rushing Yards (14 Games) 1,411 (14th)
Projected Rushing Touchdowns (14 Games) 21 (T-5th)
All-Purpose Yards Per Game 129.7 (21st)
Projected All-Purpose Yards 1,815 (9th)
Projected Touchdowns Scored 26 (T-1st)

Henderson is currently on pace to break Ohio State’s school record for yards per carry and tie Pete Johnson’s record for total touchdowns scored in a season. He’s just slightly ahead of pace to break J.K. Dobbins’ freshman rushing record of 1,403 yards in 2017. Being utilized as both a rusher and a receiver by the Buckeyes, he’s also currently on pace to finish in the top-10 all-time in single-season all-purpose yards.

There probably won’t be many games in which Henderson rushes for 270 yards like he did in Ohio State’s third game of the season against Tulsa, which has gone a long way toward his gaudy early season numbers, but he’s also likely to see a heavier workload of carries as the season progresses than he has in most of the Buckeyes’ other games so far this year, considering that he didn’t become Ohio State’s feature back until the Tulsa game and came out of each of the last three games early. 

So while it’s far from guaranteed that Henderson will continue the torrid pace he’s started on in his true freshman season, it’s also possible his numbers could increase with his workload in the second half of the season if he stays healthy.

TreVeyon Henderson
TreVeyon Henderson is on pace to have the most productive season ever for an Ohio State freshman running back.
Garrett Wilson
Category Number (All-Time Rank)
Projected Receptions 72 (5th)
Receptions Per Game 5.2 (8th)
Projected Receiving Yards 1,274 (3rd)
Projected Receiving Touchdowns 14 (T-2nd)
Chris Olave
Category Number (All-Time Rank)
Projected Receptions 70 (T-5th)
Receptions Per Game 5.0 (T-8th)
Projected Receiving Yards 1,153 (3rd)
Projected Receiving Touchdowns 16 (2nd)
Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Category Number (All-Time Rank)
Projected Receptions 54 (24th)
Receptions Per Game 3.8
Projected Receiving Yards 1,055 (6th)
Projected Receiving Touchdowns 7

Ohio State has never previously had two 1,000-yard receivers in a single season, but right now, it’s on pace to have three. As Wilson (who has 546 yards through six games), Olave (494 yards) and Smith-Njigba (452 yards) have seen the vast majority of playing time at wide receiver and targets from Stroud so far this season, all of them have the chance to hit quadruple digits, a number that only five total Ohio State receivers have ever hit in a single season.

Olave (who has seven touchdowns so far this season) and Wilson (six touchdowns in six games) have positioned themselves to potentially make a run at Ohio State’s single-season receiving touchdown record, which stands at 17 (Terry Glenn in 1995). They’re also currently on pace to become the sixth and seventh receivers in Ohio State history with 70 or more catches in a single season – a feat that’s only previously been accomplished by Parris Campbell, David Boston (twice), Curtis Samuel and K.J. Hill.

Olave is also on pace to break Ohio State’s all-time record for career touchdown receptions; currently sitting at 29 for his career, he needs just six more touchdown catches this season to break Boston’s school mark of 34. At his current rate of production, Olave would also break Michael Jenkins’ all-time record of 2,898 career receiving yards, as a projected 14-game total of 1,153 yards would bring Olave to 2,928 yards for his career; a projected total of 70 receptions would bring Olave to third on Ohio State’s all-time list with 181 career catches.

Wilson is currently on pace to finish the season seventh in Ohio State history in career receiving yards, tied for seventh in career receptions and tied for fifth in career receiving touchdowns.

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