Stock Up/Stock Down: Ohio State Defense Improves Across the Board, Pass Attack Sets Records and Stakes for The Game Have Been Upped

By Griffin Strom on November 23, 2021 at 8:35 am
Haskell Garrett and Kenneth Walker
Joseph Maiorana – USA TODAY Sports

A more impressive performance would be difficult to come by.

That goes for both sides of the ball during Ohio State's latest appearance on the gridiron, as the Buckeyes could hardly have looked much better in a 56-7 win against Michigan State.

Things went almost as smoothly on Saturday for Michigan, which now prepares to host the Buckeyes for a rivalry game with sky-high stakes this weekend, but not every team that entered this past week a College Football Playoff contender came out one on the other side.

Here's a look at this week's stock report, which takes inventory of the college football landscape ahead of the final game of regular season play.

Stock Up

Ohio State passing offense

If we highlighted every individual on the Buckeye offense that upped their stock against Michigan State, this week’s stock report might never end.

Instead, we’ll lump several of them together here, and it’d be inappropriate to start anywhere other than the quarterback position. Already a slight Heisman Trophy favorite entering the weekend, C.J. Stroud had 393 yards, six touchdowns and just two incompletions at halftime against a top-10 team in the country. He finished with his fourth 400-yard game of the season and his second consecutive performance with at least five passing touchdowns. Despite Bryce Young’s best efforts later on the same day, Stroud remained the Heisman favorite with his eye-popping exhibition.

Many theorized that after monster games from Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Garrett Wilson in the two contests leading up to Saturday, Chris Olave was due for a big outing of his own. Those theories proved prophetic against Michigan State, as the senior wideout had seven catches for a game-high 140 yards – his first 100-yard effort in five games – and hauled in a pair of touchdowns catches to boot.

The other two starting wideouts kept their stock sky high as well, as Smith-Njigba and Wilson combined for 17 catches, 231 yards and three scores in their own right.

Record-setting performers

All-time Buckeye records were either surpassed or approached left and right during Ohio State’s 49-0 first-half explosion against the Spartans.

Stroud completed a new program-record 17 straight passes during a stretch in the opening 30 minutes, passing the previous mark of 16 set by both Justin Fields and J.T. Barrett. Stroud also looked poised to break the Buckeyes’ all-time single-game passing touchdown record, but he wound up only matching it, as his six scores tied him atop the leaderboard with a host of previous Ohio State passers.

With two first-half touchdowns of his own, Olave broke David Boston’s career receiving touchdowns record. The California native’s 34th and 35th career score placed him in sole possession of a prestigious program-high mark during his final game at Ohio Stadium.

Shockingly, given the 56-point final score, TreVeyon Henderson neither tied or broke Maurice Clarett’s freshman touchdown record of 18 on Saturday, as Henderson still sits one away from that number entering The Game this weekend.

The entire Buckeye defense

Even after a 28-point destruction of Purdue on Nov. 13, some stopped short of showering Ohio State with effusive praise due solely to the performance of a defense that allowed 31 points and nearly 500 yards to the Boilermakers.

No such criticism could be leveled at the Buckeye defense this week, as the unit had its best game of the season, shutting out the Spartans entirely until a fourth quarter touchdown after Kerry Coombs and company had already pulled their starters from the game.

Pass defense was thought to be the weak point for Ohio State, but the Buckeyes forced Payton Thorne to throw more incompletions in the first half than he’d thrown in any full game this season. Michigan State was limited to just 224 total yards on the afternoon with only 158 through the air and 66 on the ground.

Much like the Ohio State offense, any number of individual performers could be singled out for their standout defensive efforts on Saturday. But perhaps nothing illustrates the collective nature of the Buckeyes’ success better than the program itself awarding the entire defensive line its player of the game honor after shutting down Kenneth Walker and the Spartan offense in the blowout.

Stakes for The Game

Maryland was far from the toughest opponent Michigan has faced this season, but the Wolverines handled their business nonetheless in a particularly dominant showing to set the stakes as high as possible for next weekend’s rivalry game.

A second loss would have put Michigan out of College Football Playoff contention, but its matchup with the Terrapins was never in doubt, as the Wolverines put up their highest point total against a Power 5 opponent this season in a 59-18 beatdown on the road.

Michigan looks as dangerous as ever, and so does Ohio State as both teams ready for a renewal of the rivalry following a year off due to COVID-19. With identical records and potential top-five rankings heading into Saturday, all the postseason implications that one could hope for are on the line in Ann Arbor for Ohio State and Michigan.

Braelon Allen

Through the first four games of the season, Wisconsin running back Braelon Allen had just 49 yards on 12 carries for the Badgers. Since then, Allen has rushed for at least 100 yards in seven straight games, culminating in a career-best performance on Saturday.

Following up a 173-yard, three-touchdown game against Northwestern the week prior, Allen went for 228 yards and three scores on 22 carries against Nebraska on Saturday, leading Wisconsin to a 35-28 win over the Huskers at home.

The Badgers have now rattled off seven wins in a row since starting the season 1-3, and sit just one win away from a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Stock Down

Noah Ruggles’ perfect season

If you have to nitpick something about Ohio State’s nearly flawless game against Michigan State, perhaps you could point to the first error of the season made by Buckeye kicker Noah Ruggles.

The North Carolina transfer was 16-for-16 from field-goal range on the season entering Saturday and had not missed a single extra point on the season either. On a 38-yard field goal attempt midway through the third quarter against the Spartans, Ruggles finally missed his first kick of the year. It was his only field goal attempt of the day.

Ruggles remains perfect on extra points, having now knocked down all 65 he’s attempted this season, but he can no longer claim a mistake-free season for Ohio State.

Kenneth Walker

Two serious Heisman Trophy contenders stepped onto the field at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, but only one retained that status by the end of the game.

While Stroud bolstered his case for the award with an eye-popping individual output in a 49-point blowout, Walker finished with just 29 total yards on seven touches in the loss. Walker entered the weekend as the nation’s leading rusher, but can no longer stake that claim after a season-low effort in almost every category.

The blame should not fall solely on Walker for those numbers, as the Wake Forest transfer simply didn’t get the ball enough to make an impact after the Buckeyes put Michigan State at a deficit from the jump, but the results of the game likely ended his chances to take home the Heisman this season.


The CFP committee can no longer cling to Oregon’s early season head-to-head victory over Ohio State as a reason to keep it ranked ahead of the Buckeyes.

The Ducks lost their second game of the year on Saturday, and it came by no slim margin. Mario Cristobal and company got blown out 38-7 by Utah, a team that was favored to beat Oregon despite its No. 3 CFP ranking entering the weekend.

Numerous tight wins and close calls against unranked Pac-12 opponents – not to mention a loss to Stanford – already made Oregon’s ranking questionable to many, but a second loss should effectively drop the Ducks from playoff contention moving forward. 

The Buckeyes will no longer get the playoff rematch against Oregon that some fans desired, but a bump up in the rankings is probably preferable anyway.

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