Well, it may not have been the 11-touchdown explosion the team logged against Toledo, but Ohio State's offense still put up a boatload of points in their Big Ten opener.
Wisconsin's defense had neither an answer for C.J. Stroud and the Buckeye wide receivers nor TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams on the ground.
Jim Knowles' defense gave up some yards and some points when the outcome of the game was long since decided, but overall it was an impressive performance for a unit that had only three scholarship cornerbacks available.
Let's break it down.
TL;DR: JUST THE FACTS, MA'AM
Ohio State's passing game was once again sensational (yes, that's exactly what we said last weekend), and there is zero question that Brian Hartline has assembled the best wide receiving corps in the country. C.J. Stroud threw for 281 yards and five touchdowns in what wasn't his best night.
TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams each crossed the 100-yard mark rushing, and the Buckeyes managed 539 yards of total offense – relatively balanced between passing (281) and rushing (258).
Defensively, the Silver Bullets were short-staffed with Denzel Burke and Cameron Brown unavailable at the cornerback position but nonetheless held the Badgers to a single score in the first three quarters of football.
HOW IT WENT DOWN
Stroud throws darts. His intermediate throws are some of the most impressive balls you see thrown all weekend.
But Saturday night's win wasn't his best game.
Yes, he threw for five touchdowns, but his 63% completion rate was well below what he's been throwing in recent weeks, and he tossed his first interception of the season. Consider also that in the second quarter he only connected with a receiver on one of his five passes passing for 5 yards along with the pick mentioned above.
While Jaxson Smith-Njigba remained on the sidelines recovering from the injury sustained during the Notre Dame game, Julian Fleming scored his third touchdown in two games. Emeka Egbuka remained the workhorse of the unit in JSN's absence, logging six catches for 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
And as "Route Man Marv" Harrison had a quiet night by his lofty standards, Cade "Farmer Gronk" Stover had one of the best nights of his career, catching four passes for 51 yards and finding the endzone twice.
With the running game humming along behind exceptional offensive line play, the Buckeyes were rarely in a position to even think about kicking the ball away:
Jesse Mirco punts for the first time midway through the third quarter. pic.twitter.com/jZW2xt27Lp— Eleven Warriors (@11W) September 25, 2022
Wisconsin should have been one of Ohio State's most demanding tests regarding opposing defenses until hosting Michigan. That should send chills down the spines of Big Ten defensive coordinators.
- Cade Stover: Farmer Gronk is blossoming into a legitimate NFL-type talent. His big-play ability has turned him into one of the surprise stars of the season thus far.
- Miyan Williams: Henderson is definitely the home-run hitter out of the backfield, but Williams' anger and intensity as a tailback make him the kind of guy you hope you don't have to bring down as a defender.
- The Ohio State offensive line: the Buckeyes won in the trenches, no question.
Ohio State played exceptional defense for three quarters. It wasn't until garbage time that the Badgers managed to find anything resembling rhythm offensively, and the Bullets still managed to hold Wisconsin to just 297 yards of total offense.
Tommy Eichenberg is the clear alpha dog of the Buckeye defense, logging 14 tackles (7 solo and 2 for loss) and generally being all over the field. But Tanner McCalister was a revelation, logging five tackles of his own and hauling in an interception early in the game.
When November arrives, one shudders to think how good this unit might be.
- Eichenberg: he keeps getting better week after week.
- McCalister: for that pick alone, but he made several crucial plays on the night.
- Josh Proctor: had an excellent pass breakup late in the game, along with a 6-tackle night.
DID THE DEFENSE SUCK 30% LESS THAN LAST SEASON?
Loyal listeners of The Eleven Dubcast (subscribe wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts!) will know that I've repeatedly rejected the notion that Ohio State's revamped defense needs to be among the Top 5 in the country. As good as Ryan Day's offenses have been, Jim Knowles doesn't need to turn the Silver Bullets into the '85 Bears to win championships. They just need to suck 30% less than they did last season.
To put that into perspective, last season's defense coughed up an average of 372.9 yards and 22.8 points per game. It hurts just writing that, trust me.
So it seemed only logical to include a new feature in The Debriefing each week this season to gauge how well the defense is meeting that goal, and at the end of the season to see if "The 30% Hypothesis" holds water.
Wisconsin managed 296 net yards of total offense, which is NOT better than 30% less than Ohio State's average allowed last season, and 21 points, which is also NOT better than 30% less than last year's average points allowed.
VERDICT: Not really. Ohio State's defense was solid for three quarters, but statistically, the unit did not suck at least 30% less than last season. That said, the way this unit is trending doesn't bode well for Big Ten offenses the rest of the way out, and for what it's worth, after the Toledo game, the unit was ranked 16th in the country by Bill Connelly's SP+ ratings.
JIM TRESSEL'S LEAST FAVORITE MOMENT OF THE GAME
"I can't remember the last time I got a full night's sleep on gameday," Coach Tressel said to Lady Ellen over breakfast Saturday morning. A man who never misses getting eight full hours if he can absolutely help it, the distinguished gentleman from Youngstown nevertheless appreciated that "the boys" would get the nation's attention for their Big Ten opener.
With Autumn officially here, Tressel spent the morning putting his summer vests into winter storage and stocking his dresser drawers with his fall favorites. Then he worked through his seasonal home maintenance checklist, changing the furnace filters and cleaning the gutters before whipping up a batch of his famous #QuietTime Chilli for the game.
He was settling in with a bowl of hearty stew as Wisconsin booted the ball across the field for the opening kick. Looking forward to a solid outing between two fundamentally sound programs, Tressel nearly spilled his chili all over the fine rug Barry Alvarez gave him for Christmas in 2003 when Chip Trayanum muffed the catch.
"Tiddlywinks!" he muttered as he settled his mind from the near-miss. "You have to keep your eye on the ball... literally and figuratively!"
Let me win, but if i cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt. - Motto of the Special Olympics#QuietTime— Jim Tressel (@JimTressel5) September 24, 2022
Fortunately, the rest of the night was much less stressful for the five-time national champion, and he managed to get himself tucked in to visit the Sandman by midnight.
IT WAS OVER WHEN
...Miyan Williams punched it into the endzone from the 3-yard line early in the second quarter. Wisconsin's defense had no answer for the best offense in the country. Although the Buckeyes seemed to lose focus at times with the outcome no longer in question, the Badgers never found themselves anywhere near within striking distance.
UP NEXT: Ohio Stadium hosts its fifth-straight home game and second conference opponent of the season when Rutgers comes to Columbus next Saturday. The Scarlet Knights are 3-1 on the season but are coming fresh off a 27-10 loss to Iowa in their Big Ten opener. Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network.