Ohio State’s stocks have fluctuated for the final time before it takes on Michigan in a game that will determine what the Buckeyes play for going forward.
As Ryan Day said after the Minnesota game, “We’re here now.” The development portion of the season is done. It’s time for Ohio State to try and achieve the same three goals Day states before each season: Beat Michigan, win the Big Ten, win the national championship.
The second of those ambitions and likely the third hinge on accomplishing the first. The Buckeyes’ run game, Jack Sawyer and Emeka Egbuka all saw their stocks take a jump against Minnesota while Kyle McCord had some ups and downs and special teams remained an issue.
The run game
In lieu of sticking just TreVeyon Henderson here for the third time in four weeks, Ohio State’s ground attack as a whole looked solid on Saturday beyond just his 75-yard touchdown jaunt and 146-yard, two-touchdown day. The Buckeyes picked up 215 yards on the ground, their highest mark of the season, at a clip of 6.1 yards per carry. Dallan Hayden made his third appearance of the season and gathered 43 yards in eight carries, with Chip Trayanum adding 25 yards on four attempts.
Egbuka surpassed 29 receiving yards for the first time since his injury against Maryland on Oct. 7. Ohio State’s No. 2 receiver picked up five receptions for a team-high 83 yards, including a pair of jet sweeps that counted as forward passes.
Sawyer had the most productive day of his Ohio State career on Saturday, collecting six tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss and a strip-sack that led to a takeaway and goal-to-go field position for the offense, which scored a touchdown thereafter. With 38 takedowns, he’s quietly become the second-leading tackler on the Buckeyes’ defensive line behind Tyleik Williams’ 45.
The Jack Sawyer Game pic.twitter.com/2Lxa4VENP0— Eleven Warriors (@11W) November 18, 2023
On top of Sawyer’s strip-sack, Jordan Hancock intercepted a pass and returned it to the Minnesota 14-yard line before he and a group of teammates were flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct due to “posing.”
Ohio State's defense comes in clutch AGAIN. pic.twitter.com/cKhrCJabjX— Eleven Warriors (@11W) November 18, 2023
Rivalry week, hate week, whatever you call it, game week against Michigan has arrived. The stakes of The Game have never been higher.
One of college football’s most fun stories continued unfolding on Saturday. Arizona has gone from 1-11 in 2021 to 5-7 in 2022 and is now on a five-game winning streak to stand at 8-3 in 2023. The Wildcats took down No. 22 Utah in dominant 42-18 fashion.
Kyle McCord’s consistency
Ohio State’s quarterback was in the stock up section last week, and now he appears in the stock down portion. McCord missed on some easy throws against the Golden Gophers, even if his final stat line of 20-for-30 (66.7% completions) with 212 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions wasn’t that bad.
McCord will have to be at his absolute sharpest in Ann Arbor this week to deliver a win.
Ohio State’s punt return unit failed to secure quality field position for its offense throughout the Minnesota game, with returner Jayden Ballard failing to field boots that pinned the Buckeyes at their own 3-yard line twice in the first half. Both traveled more than 50 yards off the leg of Minnesota’s Mark Crawford thanks to being allowed to bounce. Special teams persist as an issue for OSU this year.
Jim Harbaugh openly respecting Ryan Day
In potential bulletin-board material, suspended Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh avoided answering a question as to how much respect he has for Ryan Day and his coaching staff on Monday, instead talking about his team’s preparation for The Game and saying everything else is “irrelevant.”
We’ll see where this stock stands after The Game, but McCarthy hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in any of his past three games. He threw for just 60 and 141 yards the past two weeks. Part of that is due to a leg injury he sustained against Penn State, but the October Heisman Trophy candidate will be staring down Ohio State’s No. 1 pass defense on Saturday needing better numbers.
Amid their plea to the NCAA for postseason eligibility with a 10-0 record in their second season since moving up to the FBS level, which was denied on Wednesday, the Dukes fell to Appalachian State 26-23 in overtime this weekend to move that record to 10-1.