ANALYSIS: 5 more thoughts on Ohio State’s win at Rutgers

Ohio State’s 35-16 win over Rutgers is, not unlike the Buckeyes’ win at Wisconsin, a little difficult to dissect.

The Buckeyes got a pair of double-digit wins over decent conference foes.

That is the bottom line.

What else have we learned?

1. If you want to be worried about anything, look at the Ohio State rushing defense.

Rutgers not only piled up 232 yards, the Scarlet Knights were consistently good on the ground.

The Scarlet Knights had a rushing success rate of 45%, which is above average, and had seven explosive runs, which tied Notre Dame for the most Ohio State has allowed this season.

Rutgers is a good running team, and they have a good running scheme with the quarterback being a big part, but that’s two weeks in a row the Buckeyes gave up ground consistently on the ground.

Some of this can be attributed to the style of defense Ohio State plays. Jim Knowles wants to get away with playing six in the box as much as he can to prevent big plays, but it that puts a lot of pressure on the defensive line to be disciplined and the linebackers to be on their game.

At the end of the day, yards are yards, but on the bright side the Buckeyes were outstanding in the red zone both on offense and defense.

2. If you want to feel good about just one thing, look at the Ohio State rushing offense.

The Buckeyes’ rushing success rate was 57, which is astronomically high, and they moved the ball on the ground without a bunch of explosive plays (four).

TreVeyon Henderson is just a major difference-maker because of his ability to hit the hole, make people miss and outrun angles, but I also think the offensive line is playing better.

Can he stay healthy? Can they sustain it? Only time will tell.

3. What about Kyle McCord?

The camps seem to have formed among Ohio State fans, and the most vocal are very upset he has not looked more like C.J. Stroud, Justin Fields or Dwayne Haskins Jr. more often this season. For them, every mistake is magnified, and success is easily written off.

I continue to be in wait-and-see mode, but Saturday was a lot like the rest of the season: McCord could have played better, but he was pretty solid overall.

That is not a good thing to be in this day and age because the internet mob is not calibrated to handle anything but great or terrible, and the disaster that is the Twitter (I am never calling it X) discourse lends itself to granular reactions in a desert of results.

I compared his stat line Stroud’s against Rutgers last season, and that broke the brains of a few people. The majority liked it, though, so perhaps there is hope for us all.

The point was not to say McCord is the equal of Stroud — particularly Year 2 Stroud — but to show that Rutgers has a good defense that plays a very conservative style that does not lend itself to putting up gaudy stats.

In both games, the running game thrived in no small part thanks to Rutgers playing two deep safeties so there is always give and take.

And guess what happened after last year’s game against the Scarlet Knights? Stroud said he didn’t care about his stats as long as they won.

4. I don’t think the McCord experience is too unusual for a first-year starter.

The curious thing is fans are fretting him not making as many spectacular throws while his head coach is primarily worried about him just being consistent.

The latter is clearly a bigger concern. McCord hasn’t made many mistakes, but there have been some costly ones, and a few smaller ones have prevented the offense from being more efficient overall.

As I wrote last week, development rarely is linear, but we are running out of games for McCord to smooth out the process.

McCord did some high-level things in the comeback at Notre Dame. He’s also done some pretty bad stuff, including a pair of interceptions at Wisconsin just last week. 

Like any inexperienced quarterback, he’s struggled at times when the picture changes on him. He’s learning to deal with all this stuff in real time, and so is the coaching staff…

5. The biggest picture here really probably lies with the coaching staff struggling to figure out how best to use their personnel.

Perhaps the quarterback could make the play calls look right a little more often, and they could use a few less dropped passes, but overall there have been a lot of fluctuations in what Ohio State is trying to do.

Day and his offensive staff seemed to spend the whole offseason with an eye toward being something they apparently can’t be, which is a power offense with multiple tight ends and a road-grading offensive line.

Since the start of the season, Ohio State has been trying to adjust to that not really working because neither the offensive line nor the tight ends were blocking well enough, and the running backs all have very different skillsets.

Injuries at running back, receiver and now tight end have also complicated the process, but there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel with the line improving, Henderson looking the way he has the past two games and some adjustments to the run scheme.

What will that yield the rest of the way?

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