It’s no surprise that Ohio State’s stocks are rising almost across the board this week.
The Buckeyes used a 35-point second quarter to springboard themselves to a dominant 63-10 win over Western Kentucky Saturday. Ohio State’s defense faced some frustrations early, allowing a second-quarter touchdown drive that made it a 14-10 game, but both it and the offense ultimately did “take the next step,” as Ryan Day promised.
Around the country, intrigue brewed up in a number of unexpected places as the meat of the 2023 college football season approaches.
Seven tackles in a game from an interior defensive lineman is rare at the collegiate level, but that’s how many Williams amassed on Saturday. Those tackle stats don’t include a fumble he recovered in the end zone for a touchdown, though they do include his first sack of the season as Ohio State’s defensive tackles continue generating pressure.
We love a Tyleik Williams defensive touchdown. pic.twitter.com/34N5LULB24— Eleven Warriors (@11W) September 16, 2023
Back from an injury that held him out against Youngstown State in Week 2, Proctor’s start to the 2023 campaign at free safety continues to be a strong one. His tight coverage forced an incompletion on a third-down attempt during Western Kentucky’s first drive and from there he springboarded to a five-tackle day with two pass breakups. The Hilltoppers’ air raid was an important test for Proctor’s coverage skills, and it’s safe to say he passed.
There are a great many more defensive players that could be mentioned in this week’s Stock Up section for Ohio State. Steele Chambers made plays sideline-to-sideline, Denzel Burke continued to look like an All-American and the defensive ends created plenty of pressure even if none of the depth chart's top four got a sack.
It was the defense’s ability to generate big plays – turnovers in particular – that saw perhaps the biggest stock rise on the whole, however. Jordan Hancock and Burke forced fumbles recovered by Davison Igbinosun and Williams, the latter for a touchdown as mentioned above. Chambers intercepted a pass and freshman cornerback Jermaine Mathews Jr. returned a pick of his own for a touchdown.
Jermaine Mathews Jr. to the CRIB. pic.twitter.com/gh6uJn696x— Eleven Warriors (@11W) September 16, 2023
In his first game since officially being named QB1, McCord put forth his best performance to date as a Buckeye. He went a sultry 19-for-23 passing (82.6 percent) with 318 yards and three touchdowns accompanied by no interceptions. He guided the Buckeyes downfield in a hurry for two scores during back-to-back two-minute drills to close out the first half. The offense is McCord’s now, and he’s never looked more confident handling it.
The Huskies entered heavily favored on the road against a Michigan State team without its head coach, but the beatdown of the Spartans that ensued felt like a statement from Washington. Racing out to a 35-0 lead at halftime, UW cruised to a 41-6 win over MSU, with Michael Penix Jr. tossing for 473 yards in the victory.
“Lesser” college football Saturdays
National prognostication heading into this weekend’s college football slate was that it would be a more tame one, but that ended up being far from the case. No. 10 Alabama and No. 4 Texas both found themselves locked in four-quarter battles with Group of Five opponents in USF and Wyoming. Multiple ranked teams were upset and a double-overtime thriller brewed between No. 18 Colorado and Colorado State as clocks ticked past 2 a.m. in the Eastern time zone.
Substitutions at linebacker
Three weeks into Ohio State’s season and still the only linebackers seeing the field during the defense’s meaningful snaps are Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers. Only those two played at the position through the Buckeyes’ first 10 series against Western Kentucky.
Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, given that the duo combined for 18 tackles against Western Kentucky and are among the nation’s best pairings. But those wishing to see five-star prospect C.J. Hicks carve out a role in the defense are going to have to wait for either a return of the Jack position or the 2024 season at this rate.
Doubts this year’s offense could be prolific
A 23-point outing against Indiana and a 35-point showing against Youngstown State may have had some feeling like this year’s offense wasn't capable of reaching the highs of those previously achieved under Ryan Day. The Buckeyes have been amongst the nation’s top three scoring offenses in each of Day’s three prior seasons not plagued by COVID-19, and the 63 points (49 by the offense) OSU amassed against Western Kentucky were more in line with those expectations.
The biggest upset in college football this weekend came when Florida upended No. 11 Tennessee on Saturday. Quarterback Joe Milton, thought by some to be a Heisman contender for the Volunteers, finished with a QBR of 52.6 as the team’s ground game managed a mere 3.3 yards per carry in a 29-16 loss to the Gators.
A 61-yard field goal served as the undoing of No. 15 Kansas State against Missouri, with the Wildcats falling by a 30-27 final. Missouri kicker Harrison Mevis is likely to go down in school lore for his lengthy walk-off kick.
Elite college football powers
Teams heralded among the elite of college football continue to look flawed this season. No. 1 Georgia edged out a two-score win against unranked South Carolina, Alabama and Texas struggled as mentioned above and No. 2 Michigan had its issues putting away Bowling Green early in an eventual 31-6 win. Could this be a year filled with chaos at the top of the sport? We’ll see what happens over the next 10 weeks.