2022 Season Preview: Five Predictions for the 2022 Ohio State Football Season

By Chris Lauderback on August 16, 2022 at 10:10 am
Jaxon Smith-Njigba
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Death, taxes, most of my season predictions falling flat. 

But hey, what's the point of having opinions and making bold guesses if you don't document them for others to ridicule at season's end? 

If you've been around, you know the drill. If not, heads up that I try to stay away from the very basic stuff like predicting C.J. Stroud will the best quarterback in the Big Ten, instead digging at least a little deeper, which of course does no favors for my accuracy rate. 

Undeterred, my thick skin is ready to put the 2022 batch out there. Make sure you offer your own prognostications in the comments and we'll revisit all of them when the dust settles on the season in hopefully mid-January. 


TOMMY EICHENBERG LEADS THE TEAM IN TACKLES AND BECOMES FIRST LB SINCE 2016 TO POST 100 IN A SINGLE SEASON

It's wild Ohio State hasn't had a defender post 100 tackles since Raekwon McMillan when he produced 102 during the 2016 season. At the time, McMillan gave OSU a fifth-straight season with a linebacker boasting at least 100 tackles. 

Before that, Ohio State had an eight-year run as Matt Wilhelm, A.J. Hawk, James Laurinaitis and Ross Homan collectively strung together 100-tackle seasons from 2002-09. And of course, from the mid-90s going backward, a 100-tackle linebacker was a given. 

Not so much since Kwon however as Ohio State's defense and college football changed, and frankly, the Buckeyes featured some pretty average linebackers. 

I'm not sure why I have so much faith in Eichenberg to turn in 100. He tallied 64 stops last year to finish second on the team but an incredible 26.5% of those (17) came against Utah in the Rose Bowl. 

That said, I'm buying what defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has been saying about Eichenberg. I think he's going to play a ton, and I think the defensive line is going to do a better job at keeping the linebackers clean. It won't shock me if Eichenberg doesn't reach 100 stops but I'll be surprised if he doesn't lead the team in tackles. 

JAXON SMITH-NJIGBA BECOMES FIRST BUCKEYE WITH BACK-TO-BACK 1,000-YARD RECEIVING SEASONS AND BREAKS SCHOOL RECORD FOR CAREER RECEIVING YARDS 

So this is kind of a two-for-one but the predictions are closely related so we'll go with it. 

Of the six Buckeyes before JSN to post 1,000-yard receiving seasons, all but one did so in their last year in Columbus. Michael Jenkins was back in 2003 after going for 1,076 in 2002 but he finished with 'just' 834 receiving yards as a senior. 

That means Smith-Njigba, after tallying 1,606 yards last year, has a great shot to become the first Buckeye in school history to post back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons. Assuming JSN plays the full season, it seems unfathomable he won't reach 1,000 so I know I'm not really going out on a huge limb here. 

That said, I also have JSN recording at least 1,244 receiving yards which would be enough to move him above Jenkins' 2,898 career receiving yards and into first-place all-time at Ohio State. 

I know 1,244 might read as ho-hum to some after what Smith-Njigba did last year but that number would be the fourth-best single-season by a Buckeye. Plus, while Ohio State will surely sling it around, it's fair to expect Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison will do their fair share of damage through the air and I think TreVeyon Henderson and company will actually get more tries to run the ball this year than in 2021. 

Part of that will be because the running game is better and another factor should be Ohio State's defense not sucking which could lead to less of a shootout playcalling mentality from Ryan Day. Still, I like JSN's chances of turning both these tricks this fall. 

OHIO STATE ONCE AGAIN BECOMES A TOP-10 SCORING DEFENSE

As bad as Ohio State's defense was in 2021, ranking No. 96 in pass defense, No. 100 in third down conversion rate allowed and No. 59 in total defense, the Buckeyes still managed to rank in the top-40, No. 38 to be exact, in scoring defense to the tune of 22.8 points per game. 

To be a top-10 scoring defense a year ago, the Buckeyes would've needed to give up about 18.3 points per game, or a 4.5 points per game improvement. 

With a scheme that might actually confuse an offense from time to time, combined with renewed focus, some piss and vinegar, a year of seasoning for a lot of guys, while also implementing some new faces, I'm bullish on this defense. 

I expect the pass rush to be improved thanks mostly to Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau taking huge steps forward. I think Josh Proctor's return at safety and Tanner McCalister's arrival as an Oklahoma State transfer well-versed in Knowles' defense will also provide immediate dividends in the secondary. 

With better scheme and personnel, what I really expect is for Ohio State to make some major strides in the red zone. After ranking No. 124 in the country last year, giving up touchdowns 72.4% (!!!) of the time, the Buckeyes are going to stiffen up with their backs against the wall and rank at least in the top-40. That alone should help boost the scoring defense to top-10 status. 

TREVEYON HENDERSON BECOMES FOURTH BUCKEYE SINCE 1970 TO AVERAGE AT LEAST 7.0 YARDS PER CARRY IN A SINGLE-SEASON WITH AT LEAST 100 CARRIES

After averaging 6.8 yards across 183 carries last year, I've got Treveyon Henderson bettering that mark, going for at least 7.0 yards a pop this fall. 

If he does, Henderson will become just the fourth Buckeye since at least 1970 to average 7.0 yards per carry or better while recording at least 100 attempts. So far, just Trey Sermon in 2020 (7.5 ypc on 116 att), J.K. Dobbins in 2017 (7.2 on 194) and Carlos Hyde in 2013 (7.3 on 208) have accomplished the feat. 

Behind an offensive line that was better in pass pro than run blocking a season ago, Henderson ranked No. 13 in the country with 13 runs of at least 20 yards, No. 8 with eight runs of at least 30 yards, No. 3 with six carries going for at least 40 yards and No. 2 in the land with four rushes going for 50 yards or more. 

Keeping Henderson fresh shouldn't be an issue with Miyan Williams backing him up and with defenses again forced to account for a lethal passing game, Henderson should again find lots of room to run. 

OHIO STATE GOES 15-0 TO WIN THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF CHAMPIONSHIP 

Newsflash - Ohio State fan picks Ohio State to go undefeated. Yeah, yeah but if you've been around, you know I'm typically more pessimistic than most folks. 

That said, my faith in the defense improving by leaps and bounds, alongside another elite and probably more balanced offense, means the only thing I see derailing this team would be a major injury at quarterback or more than one across the offensive line. 

I like that Notre Dame is week one and of course they're on the road and beset by injuries. I like that Wisconsin and Iowa are at home. I don't mind Michigan State on the road. Sure, Penn State's on the road so there's that. 

Obviously, I love Michigan being at home and OSU coming off a loss in which they lacked toughness and mental fortitude. The fact Michigan can't stop talking about that game is just icing on the cake. 

I have Stroud winning the Heisman Trophy - keeping Bryce Young from a repeat - while leading Ohio State into the College Football Playoff as the No. 2 seed. From there, it's the Buckeyes versus Alabama where anything can happen. 

That said, I like the Buckeyes to win in a high-scoring affair, giving Day his first national title at Ohio State. 

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