Ohio State’s win over Purdue may not lend itself to overthinking at the end of the day.
The Buckeyes won by four touchdowns: Is that enough to know? Is the defense still a concern? What about the running game?
Those questions lingered Saturday night, and watching it again did not change much.
The biggest one might be the most important: Is the Ohio State passing game so good the other things don’t matter?
- On the final query, the answer very well could be yes. The bottom line is the pass protection typically is very good, and the receivers typically can’t be covered. That leaves C.J. Stroud with the job of getting them the ball so they can do their thing, and he typically does. If he has time to throw, it’s over. He will find the open man and get him the ball, and that guy will probably be behind the defense. If he’s not, he might just break a tackle or two and score anyway. That’s a good little tool to have in the box for Ryan Day.
- Rewatching the game confirmed a few things about the running game. The Buckeyes did appear more interested in trying to run against Purdue than they were against Nebraska even if the number of defenders in the box wasn’t favorable. Until the last series, they weren’t as successful, but it didn’t matter because the traditional running game is still doing its job in the grand scheme of things. Teams still have to respect it, which makes the job of Stroud and the receivers easier.
- That was particularly true of Purdue, who tried to man up against the Ohio State receivers and failed miserably. Like Nebraska, Purdue typically made sure it had one more guy in the box than Ohio State had blockers, but the Boilermakers were more aggressive up front and got some wins that way (as was the case with Penn State) whereas Ohio State was usually able to stay on schedule against the Huskers.
- While Nebraska suggested Ohio State throw the ball, but Purdue demanded it. Difference in the outcome is obvious: The Cornhuskers played conservatively in the secondary and held Ohio State to 29 points. The Boilermakers gave Ohio State one-on-one opportunities and gave up 59.
- Ohio State also still managed to hit big plays in the running game, though with the benefit of Purdue mistakes. On TreVeyon Henderson’s 57-yard touchdown run, Purdue star end George Karlaftis shot inside on the snap and left his gap wide open. I don’t know if that was by design or he was freelancing (no one else was slanting, and the linebackers was very slow to fill that gap if he was supposed to) but the result was a disaster regardless. That made all the space necessary for Henderson. For a normal human, that might have been just a 5-15 yard run, but he was too fast for the safety or the backside pursuit.
- Ohio State outflanked Purdue with its alignment on Garrett Wilson’s touchdown run. The Buckeyes motioned both tight ends from the right to the left side of the formation, and Purdue only shifted one extra defender to that side so they were outnumbered. Then Ohio State left Karlaftis unblocked knowing Wilson would be able to run around him with a head start, so the rest of the play was pretty easy to block.
- There were a handful of times in the first three quarters where something went wrong with the blocking, whether it was a straight missed block, miscommunication or bad timing (or the running back missing the hole). That is something that still needs work. They got it clicking with Miyan Williams on the final drive, but was that Purdue being worn out, or did everyone up front get on the same page finally? Time will tell.
- The Purdue offense is good, so they are going to find some success. The first touchdown drive was well-schemed and benefited from a couple of missed tackles that extended plays, then they put four eligible receivers to the right side and Ohio State only countered with three defensive backs so Ronnie Hickman got caught in no-man’s land with two guys to cover. They hit another big one in the third quarter when Bryson Shaw seemed distracted by play action and allowed a post route to get behind him, which he acknowledged after the game can’t happen.
- The last touchdown drive for Purdue is, like Ohio State’s last offensive possession -- harder to know how to classify. Did the Buckeyes slack off or get too conservative? Or was it mostly the result of the less-athletic second team linebackers being in the game? Purdue targeted them for a couple of big plays, something other opponents can do only if they are in the game.
- It is safe to conclude Ohio State is not a good enough cover team to survive without a great pass rush, which is true of almost all college football teams. But how many are willing to commit to the quick passing game like Purdue did? That’s already what they do, and they know they can’t run it anyway. The opposite is true of Michigan and Michigan State, so how will the Wolverines and Spartans attack? We’ll see… The Buckeyes gave up 472 yards rushing in their first two games against Minnesota and Oregon but have yielded 601 yards since, but what’s coming is a far greater challenge in that regard.