The Ohio State football team’s 49-10 dismantling of Rutgers Saturday did not see love from national voters, remaining No. 3 in the Associated Press Poll.
No matter, the Buckeyes look to continue business as usual against Michigan State Oct. 8 in their first road matchup of the season.
The trip to East Lansing, Michigan, gives Ohio State its first taste of a hostile environment as it continues its march towards returning to the Big Ten Championship. The team’s shown adaptability with head coach Ryan Day implementing different gameplans seemingly every week.
Here are five takeaways from Saturday’s game.
The offense can win with ‘classic’ Big Ten football
Third-year quarterback C.J. Stroud threw 154 yards against Rutgers, his fewest as a starter. However, it wasn’t needed, as Ohio State took some pages out of former head coach Jim Tressel’s playbook and dared Rutgers to stop the run.
Third-year running back Miyan Williams bullied the Rutgers defense throughout the afternoon, rushing for a career-high 189 yards and five touchdowns — the latter tying the single-game school record for rushing touchdowns. Second-year tailback TreVeyon Henderson did not see action after a late scratch from the lineup.
With Rutgers’ defense lined up to prevent Stroud from airing it out, Day and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson adjusted accordingly to feed Williams as often as possible. The Cincinnati native rushed for nine yards per carry behind an offensive line that allowed nine negative yards rushing for the night.
Simply put, Saturday showed Ohio State doesn’t need to dissect opponents through the air, showing it’s more than capable of delivering death by a thousand rushes.
Williams establishes his own Heisman candidacy
Speaking of Williams, he showed Saturday why he might be the more dangerous runner in the dynamic duo of him and Henderson.
Nicknamed “Chop,” Williams effectively filled in for the reigning Second Team All-Big Ten selection by establishing his own case for the Heisman Trophy.
The 5-foot-9, 225-pound running back tied the single-game touchdown record and became the first Buckeye to rush for five touchdowns in a game since 1984 . His performance vaulted him into a five-way tie for fourth-place nationally in rushing touchdowns.
With the extent of Henderson’s injury unknown, Williams showed not only he’s capable of carrying the load of carries himself, but he’s a Heisman Trophy candidate. After not making the list last week, the third-year back is tied for 10th-best odds to win the prestigious award, according to FanDuel Sportsbook .
While Stroud is the current favorite, and Williams isn’t likely to replicate Saturday’s historic performance, perhaps Williams could be the first Buckeye to hoist the Heisman since 2006.
Ohio State has its ‘top-10’ defense
Before the season began, Day brought in defensive coordinator Jim Knowles from Oklahoma State and said during Big Ten Media Days in July he expected Ohio State to have a “top-10” defense . Through five games in 2022, the Buckeyes are managing to do just that.
Ohio State currently sits 10th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in defensive yards given up per game, averaging 263.8 yards allowed. As for other categories, the defense sits inside the top-15 in yards per play given up and total yards allowed, ranking 14th and 13th in the FBS, respectively.
With the new-look 4-2-5 defensive scheme working wonders for Ohio State, it’s the noticeable progression in players, like fourth-year linebackers Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers , that stand out about the defense.
Although they haven’t been particularly tested by an explosive offense, the Buckeyes defense is on track to finish with the elite defense they missed a season ago.
Secondary has one problem
If there’s anything Buckeye Nation notices about Ohio State players, it’s when a problem during one game becomes a pattern over multiple. The secondary, while improved, is still prone to giving up big plays.
Second-year defensive back Denzel Burke allowed a 14-yard touchdown reception to Rutgers senior wideout Sean Ryan, which gave the Scarlet Knights an early 7-0 lead. Burke, the reigning Freshman All-American selection in 2021, is having an uneven second season in Columbus where he and the secondary are prone to allowing the occasional big play.
Although it hasn’t cost Ohio State anything meaningful in a game yet, the big plays allowed by the secondary are going to be problematic facing a more potent offense, like Michigan or a potential College Football Playoff opponent like Alabama. It’s a glaring weakness in a team that’s looked fairly unstoppable during games this season.
Punt receptions look a little shaky
The touchdown reception by Ryan early in the first quarter came off a muffed punt by second-year receiver Emeka Egbuka. Egbuka, who was a game-time decision to play, was limited to four receptions alongside the fumble.
This season, Ohio State punt returners are showing a propensity to field punts over-the-shoulder rather than beneath it, as most players field punts. Similarly to the big plays through the air, punt receptions aren’t anything that proved too costly for Ohio State but still a chink in the armor of what appears to be the most complete team in the country.
One muffed punt on a Willie Mays catch is an accident, but if Ohio State players struggle with punt receptions later in the season, it could lead to unnecessary free points for its opponents, not unlike what happened against Rutgers.