Heading into the season, the Ohio State schedule had a handful of marquee games, some interesting games, and a few snoozers. Thus far, it seems like that outlook was about as accurate as can be. The Buckeyes are 4-0 and are hitting their stride. Kyle McCord is decidedly QB1, the defense looks legit, Ohio State has a wealth of skill talent, and they’ve passed every test to this point.
McCord leads the way with 1,055 yards and six touchdowns through the air and, despite the slow start, he has a pair of receivers in the top 10 in receiving in the Big Ten. The running back room has seen TreVeyon Henderson and Chip Trayanum step up by averaging 6.7 yards and 5.8 yards per carry, respectively.
Defensively, Ohio State is second in the FBS in scoring defense while allowing just 8.5 points per game. Even though the sacks are not there, the defensive line has been dominating to the tune of 89% opponent-adjusted pressure rate generated.
At number four in the AP poll a whole month prior to the first CFP Committee rankings, everything is in front of the Buckeyes.
Looking at the Ohio State Schedule Again After the Bye
Four Games, Four Wins
As the late Al Davis put it, “Just win, baby!” As the calendar turns to October, all Ohio State has done to this point is win.
In Week 1, Ohio State dispatched Indiana 23-3 and kicked off the year with a Big 10 win. Since then, the Hoosiers have beaten Indiana State (FCS) and narrowly escaped Akron while losing to Louisville and Maryland. Indiana was not going to be one of the marquee wins but only winning by 20 left things to be desired.
Youngstown State (FCS) came to town in Week 2 and, again, a 35-7 win was not as decisive as it could have been. However, in the three other games where the Penguins went 2-1, YSU averaged 47 points per game. In retrospect, the 28-point win looks a bit better. Even if Youngstown State is an FCS program, they’re 13th at that level with 219 rushing yards per game. Against Ohio State, they managed just 99.
Buckeyes Heating Up
Ohio State came away with a convincing 63-10 win over Western Kentucky in Week 3 and started to look the part of a CFP contender. The Hilltoppers enter October at 3-2 and have been able to move the ball. In those other four games, WKU averaged 306.5 yards passing and could only muster 204 against OSU. Even if that offense is not quite what it was over the last few years, the Buckeyes held the Hilltoppers to 284 yards of total offense whereas their average in the other games is 407.
Finally, the biggest test to date was at Notre Dame in a top-10 matchup. The Irish came into the game 4-0 but had not played a defense quite to the level of Ohio State’s. The one-point win has been the most impressive win among CFP contenders to date and it’s not hard to see why. On offense, Notre Dame managed a total of 351 yards, a far cry from their season average in non-OSU games of 483.2. At the same time, its defense allowed 366 yards to the Buckeyes while holding all other opponents to 252 yards per game.
It Doesn’t Get Easier
The remaining Ohio State schedule features a number of intriguing matchups with will have CFP implications. Before the year, it was expected that the Buckeyes would have three massive games. As the year develops, that perception continues.
Not to be overlooked, Ohio State’s next opponent is just as capable of putting up a fight. Taulia Tagovailoa has the Maryland Terrapins at 5-0 for just the first time since 2001 and he is lighting up the scoreboard. Already, he’s thrown for 1,464 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has a quartet of weapons with at least 18 receptions and over 200 yards each. Maryland gave the Buckeyes fits last year and will be a legitimate test for the Buckeyes’ secondary fresh off of the bye.
Two weeks after hosting Maryland, Penn State comes to town. The Nittany Lions are 5-0 and will be off this week and then will host UMass before traveling to Columbus. There is a strong possibility that this Penn State team could be the toughest test this year. Drew Allar is sitting at just over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns but the offense runs through its two-headed monster at running back. Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton are going to be a tougher test than anything the Buckeyes have faced to this point. Oh, and Penn State boasts the third-best scoring defense, the best passing defense, and the eighth-best rushing defense in the nation to this point.
Save the Date
Finally, the biggest game. The Game. A season-ending trip to Ann Arbor is still the biggest hurdle for Ryan Day and his team. No matter what year it is, this game is the most important on the Ohio State schedule. The last time Michigan went into this game on a two-game winning streak was 1997 which was a fairly decent year for the program.
The talk for the Wolverines to this point has been its top-ranked defense. They lead the nation in scoring defense while allowing just the fourth-fewest total offense. Ohio State is going to need to make sure its offense is firing on all cylinders by the time they hit the road for the titular November 25th showdown. On offense, the Wolverines have not been up to standard. They are only rushing for 184 yards per game, nowhere close to the 239 yards per game on the ground last year. Even if Ohio State is 11-0 heading into this one, alarm bells will be ringing if they lose for a third consecutive year.
Win the Winnable Games
Despite not taking home a National Championship and actually losing to Michigan, there’s one area where Day is significantly better than his predecessor. Day has yet to have suffered a massive upset to a vastly over-matched foe. Urban Meyer lost to the likes of Virginia Tech and was blown out by bad Iowa and Purdue teams. Day can confidently say he has yet to do so. In order to keep their CFP hopes alive, they have to continue to take care of business against teams they should beat.
Maryland, Penn State, and Michigan are all winning a lot of games this year. Outside of those three, the record of the remaining Ohio State schedule is 14-10. Given, that does include three of the top four Big Ten West teams, but it’s still the Big Ten West.
A trip to Purdue is ahead of the Buckeyes after this week. Since 2002, Purdue has taken down Ohio State four times, tied with Penn State and Michigan for the most wins against the Buckeyes in that time. The Boilermakers are 2-3 at this point, led by Texas transfer, Hudson Card. They have a pair of solid running backs but Ohio State should be able to eat up a defense that is giving up nearly 400 yards and 30 points per game.
Wisconsin and Rutgers are two teams that have started off well. Combined, they’re 7-2 and the Badgers lead the Big Ten West. Rutgers looks like a bowl-bound team under Greg Schiano. Kyle Monangai is carrying the load and will test the Ohio State defensive front on the ground. However, they’ve only played one real team (Michigan) and got throttled, 31-7. Wisconsin was a favorite to take the division under Luke Fickell. Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi is one of the best running back duos in the conference. However, both of these games should be won comfortably by the Buckeyes.
The two worst teams on the remaining schedule are Michigan State and Minnesota. Michigan State is in the middle of a massive crisis. Even when they have been good, they’ve been no match for Day’s squad. Minnesota looked like they were going to threaten, but then they lost to an awful Northwestern team.
Overall, the bye came at a good time on the Ohio State schedule. The team can get its collective emotions in check after an uber-emotional win over Notre Dame and can focus on a tough stretch.