Ohio State started slow on Saturday afternoon but a dominant defensive effort and a late surge on offense allowed the Buckeyes to move to 7-0 on the season and comfortably dispatch of the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday afternoon.
Here are my 10 Instant Observations from a game that was a bit of a roller coaster ride for Ohio State fans…
1. The Iowa offense was as bad as advertised, maybe even worse. The Hawkeyes turned the ball over at will, couldn’t establish the running game, and it was anyone’s guess what would happen once the ball left Petras’ or Padilla’s arm. I don’t know how this can be allowed to continue in Iowa City. You have a good defense, a great homefield advantage and you play in the JV Division of the Big Ten. To have this inept of a unit derail your program can’t be accepted.
2. Still, you have to credit the Ohio State defense for doing what it should do against a bad Iowa offense. The Buckeye defense was dominant today and it bailed the offense out for the first 35 minutes of this game. Last year’s Ohio State defense would have made this game a nightmare, this one was never really in doubt despite the struggles on offense.
3. Is Tommy Eichenberg a legitimate Butkus contender? I think he has to be. He has been the best and most consistent defender on this team and he’s not just a run-stuffing plugger in the middle of the defense. He made several plays in coverage and in space today, including a pick six.
4. Senior defensive end Zach Harrison is among the more underappreciated players at Ohio State that I can remember. Harrison has been a victim of expectations coming out of high school. The thought was that he’d be another elite pass rusher in the Bosa or Young mold. While he’s not going to be one of those 12-sack guys at this point in his career, he has been the Buckeyes’ most consistent defensive lineman this season. He is their best run defender (among all linemen, not just the ends) and he had his best game of the season today as a pass rusher. He was completely disruptive from start to finish and he has been a huge reason for the defensive turn around this year. Time to start appreciating his contributions, which go way beyond sack totals.
5. You have to give some credit to the Iowa defense today. I thought it would be pretty easy for the Ohio State offense today, but it wasn’t for the first two and a half quarters. The Hawkeyes made good use of the bye week and came out today and had the Ohio State offense confused and frustrated in the first half.
6. It was Bizarro World out there for a while. Iowa called a much more aggressive game defensively than what was expected and didn’t show as many two high safety looks. I didn’t think I’d see the philosophy of “stop the run and make C.J. Stroud and the receivers beat you” as it sounds insane at face value, but sure enough that’s what Iowa did a lot of today and it definitely bamboozled the Buckeyes in the first half.
7. But the Buckeyes did well to adjust in the second half and started challenging Iowa’s secondary more. It was an ugly first 35 minutes for the offense as the running backs couldn’t get going and seemed to get frustrated and tried to bounce too much and Stroud was clearly frustrated and forced a few bad throws (the interception was really bad), but ultimately they were able to scrap what they were doing and start taking some shots.
8. I’m usually a “get the starters out” as soon as possible guy, but given the early struggles of the offense today, I liked Day continuing to attack with the starters into the fourth quarter. Don’t wait until practice this week to fix things, get some momentum going right away and get the confidence back before the trip to Happy Valley.
9. I’m definitely not trying to hit the fast forward button on this great college football season, but I can’t wait to watch Caden Curry next year. From the first time watching him as a high school junior, there was a special quality to him and he’s flashing that now in limited opportunities. Staying at home to blow up the Iowa punter in the first half is just a microcosm of the type of smart and instinctual player that he is. Then he gets some run in the second half and he’s out there getting after the quarterback and making plays. Curry is going to be the next super defensive lineman to come out of this program.
10. I don’t know what to think about Jaxon Smith-Njigba right now. What I can say is that it is the definition of a first world problem. You have to feel for JSN and how frustrating this must be given what he envisioned his junior season would be like back in August. But Ohio State has proven that they don’t need any individual receiver for this offense to operate at a high level. Who would have thought entering the year that the Buckeyes would essentially be without their top receiver and not skip a beat?