After each Ohio State game during the 2022 football season, LGHL will offer its market analysis of the Buckeyes’ performance. Using a standard bond rating system, we’ll evaluate the offense, the defense, and the special teams, according to this formula:
AA: Very Strong
BB: Facing Major Uncertainty
Then, we’ll take a look at any individual players whose performance stood out (in one way or another!) and assign them a stock rating: Blue Chip, Solid Performance, Penny Stock (akin to a junk bond, dangerously high risk).
The first thing that we noticed against Arkansas State was that the Buckeye big-play offense, missing against Notre Dame last week, is back. Long passing touchdowns, long running plays, almost a long punt return. Marvin Harrison, Jr. and Emeka Egbuka had no trouble getting behind the defense, and quarterback C.J. Stroud was accurate as usual.
But the game was closer, and more contested, than we would have thought. The Buckeyes did manage to insert some of the players from the second or third slots on the depth chart – but not until the middle of the final quarter.
Additionally, there were plenty of mistakes, like missed tackles and penalties, that caused problems. Did the Bucks play better this week than they did against Notre Dame? I don’t think so. The deep passing game was certainly better; the running offense, the pass defense, and the special teams play was poorer. Perhaps Arkansas State, a team that I figured to be the weakest on the Buckeye schedule, is better than expected. Clearly the Sun Belt Conference – Marshall, Appalachian State, Georgia Southern – shone for the day. Whatever the case, Ohio State still has work to do if it hopes to make the playoffs this season.
Overall rating: A Strong
The offensive numbers were right about at Ohio State’s average last year. 45 points was one shy of the average, and 538 total yards were not that far off of last year’s 561. The team passing offense against Arkansas State was 370 yards (380 average last year), and the rushing offense was 168 (180 in 2021). Since the OSU offense was the best in the country last year and the Bucks were still missing starting wideouts Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Julian Fleming, we shouldn’t have much to complain about. Right? Well, the opponent was Arkansas State. I expected more.
The Buckeyes started off strong in both halves, registering touchdowns on the first two possessions in the first and third quarters. But then they would occasionally bog down, go three and out, and be forced to punt. TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams both had good rushing games, but the Buckeyes didn’t seem as dominant on the ground as they did in the fourth quarter against the Irish.
The passing attack looked nearly back to normal. Harrison, Jr. and Egbuka had monster games, with long gains and great catches. Stroud completed 67% of his passes (16/24) for 351 yards and four TDs. No interceptions. With the quick strikes, the Buckeyes didn’t run many plays and lost the time of possession battle convincingly: 37:44 to 22:16.
Overall, the offense was good but not mind-boggling good. A bit of a disappointment, in fact.
Overall rating: A Strong
I almost gave the Buckeye D only an “adequate.” Missed tackles, penalties, and the inability to cover wide receiver Champ Flemings surely gave me pause. The opponent was, I repeat, Arkansas State. But the OSU defense didn’t allow any touchdowns, forced eight punts (and one out on downs), and yielded only 53 net rushing yards on 34 carries for a 1.6 yard per carry average. That average was lowered by the Buckeyes’ 12 tackles for loss in the game. Pretty good.
There were a number of defensive players that played really well (see below) and a few who didn’t. I’m a little concerned that the OSU defense hasn’t yet gotten a takeaway this season. Two games in, I’m not sure what to make of this defense. Better than last year’s? Certainly. Really good? Maybe, but it’s too early to make that call.
Overall rating: BBB Adequate
I’d almost modify this rating into “barely adequate.” The special teams didn’t make any errors that put the game in jeopardy, but there were mistakes galore. When it appeared that the Red Wolves’ second series of the game would end just like the first one – with a three and out – the Buckeye special teams gave them a new possession.
It was actually worse than that because Egbuka had a long punt return for a touchdown, a really beautiful run, negated by two penalties. One would have canceled the return and moved the Bucks back, but it was declined. The Wolves accepted the second penalty, a jumping over the offensive line call against Teradja Mitchell before the kick, and Arkansas State kept possession, a possession that, with the help of more penalties, resulted in a field goal.
There were other issues. Like last week, an OSU punt returner let the ball bounce instead of getting under it for a fair catch. In the fourth quarter, Buckeye punt returner Cam Martinez got out of the way of a bouncing ball but didn’t communicate with his blocker, J.K. Johnson, who was knocked into the ball for an ASU recovery. Sloppy play on the punt return team throughout the game.
Marvin Harrison, Jr. The Red Wolves simply couldn’t cover him. He’s too big, too quick in separation, too fast down the field. He pulled in seven passes for 184 yards (26.3 yds/catch average!) and three TDs. He became only the second Buckeye in team history to twice record three touchdown receptions in a single game. Joey Galloway was the other in 1993 and 1994.
Emeka Egbuka. Egbuka also had more than 100 receiving yards against the Red Wolves, catching four passes for 118 yards (29.5 average). Although he had the punt return called back, Egbuka also ran an end around for a 27-yard rushing gain. Get him the ball!
Mike Hall, Jr. For the second week in a row, Hall was awesome. He wasn’t always in the game, but all three of his tackles were behind the line of scrimmage, and one was one of the two Buckeye sacks for the game.
Steele Chambers/Cody Simon. The two linebackers both played well. (And so did Tommy Eichenberg, actually.) Combined, Chambers and Simon had 12 tackles, three TFL, and one sack. They were really rough on the ASU running game.
C.J. Stroud. He looked sharp the whole game, especially on the long passes. He had fewer underthrown balls than last week and seemed more comfortable throwing to the receivers that he had in the game.
TreVeyon Henderson. A solid game: 10 carries for 87 net yards and a couple of TDs. He got nearly half of his yardage on a 41-yarder on the first Buckeye possession.
Josh Proctor. Last week, Proctor missed a tackle early in the contest and sat out most of the rest of it. Against Arkansas State, he redeemed himself. Credited with only three tackles, he seemingly was all over the field and taking charge of the defense.
Denzel Burke. Burke is supposed to be one of the best corners in the country. But he couldn’t handle Champ Flemings. Maybe Flemings will be an All-American. I don’t know. But I do know that Burke got burned several times by Fleming and also committed two interference penalties. I thought that Cam Brown played better on the other side.
As we head into Week 3, I still have questions about both the Buckeye offense and the Buckeye defense. It’s early yet and plenty of time for the talented Bucks to settle down, but the Notre Dame win lost some of its luster yesterday. On the other hand, Wisconsin looks a lot less menacing than it did a couple of days ago. Let’s hope that JSN and Fleming are back for Toledo.