Ohio State once again struggled early on offense but rode a dominant defensive effort to a 24-10 road win at Wisconsin on Saturday night. The Buckeye defense continues to play at the highest level since at least 2019 and Jim Knowles once again had all of the answers. Now the Buckeyes continue to look for answers on how to start faster offensively, but are able to do it as an undefeated team who will certainly be occupying one of the four playoff spots on Tuesday night.
Let’s get to the Instant Observations….
1. I’ve typed so many words about this over the years that I’m going to keep this simple. QB sneak, every. single. time. on 3rd and 4th and less than a yard. Do it until it is stopped multiple times. Ok? Ok. Good talk.
2. Another gem from Jim Knowles. The defense kept Ohio State in the game while the offense was turning the ball over left and right in the first half, including some big, big stops when given a short field. Just like last week, he didn’t always bring extra pressure, but he had a great feel for when (and where) to bring it. He teed Lathan Ransom up for a sack, which he missed, and also the big TFL inside the 5 and the Badgers were pretty helpless offensively minus that first drive of the second half.
3. I don’t know what the answer is to Kyle McCord’s first half struggles/slow starts. Tonight was mostly a struggle, not just a slow start. The first interception was just a really poor decision. I could live with the second one in a vacuum as I felt the DB made a nice break on the ball and a better-than-you-would-expect catch on the play, but those turnovers tonight were costly and turned a game that probably should have been a blowout into a nail-biter well into the fourth quarter. Has to get cleaned up. They can’t start slow offensively in Ann Arbor in four weeks.
4. What more can be said about Marvin Harrison Jr.? I felt I had to go with someone on defense last week for the game ball, but this week it is definitely Marv. This is the second consecutive week where he has been the driving factor in a win for the Buckeyes. In an environment where it should actually be more difficult for him to find open space with Emeka Egbuka out, he has taken his game up a notch.
5. I didn’t give Marv much of a chance to win the Heisman trophy this season until these last couple of games. It had nothing to do with Marv, really. It’s just such a QB driven award at this point. But as Caleb Williams’ chances have taken a huge hit, we’re left with a lot of good QB’s but no one is doing anything generational out there and all of these guys seem to have a game or two that you can point to as a wart on the resume. If Harrison Jr. has a big game in Ann Arbor in a few weeks to put Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game, I think he has a very real chance of pulling this off.
6. TreVeyon Henderson was outstanding tonight. He looked fresh, fast, and explosive. In year’s past, you didn’t necessarily need the homeruns from the run game, you just wanted to keep C.J. Stroud on schedule. This year’s offense needs a little extra help in generating explosives and he certainly did that tonight, was a huge difference in the game and would have received my game ball if not for Marv doing Marv things.
7. Another welcome back for Denzel Burke. Didn’t hear his name very much, because he continues to lock down his side of the field. Made a great play on an arm punt that in past years you know somehow the receiver comes down with it over the Ohio State secondary, and also made a couple of nice plays in run support. I think he has played at an All-American level this season and will be interested to see what the folks in charge of postseason recognition think.
8. Tyleik Williams is playing like someone who is going to be in the NFL for the 2024 season. He was once again a disruptive force tonight. He has turned himself into a complete defensive lineman. He rushes the passer, he stuffs the run, and he continues to seemingly bat down one or two balls every game. Just playing at a really high level this year and doing it far more consistently than he has in the past.
9. For the second straight week I thought the opposing head coach was too conservative with some of the decision making. Last week it was Franklin punting early in the game on 4th and 1 from the 45. This week it was Luke Fickell punting on 4th and less than a yard from his own 35. Would that have been really aggressive? Yes. Do the teams in this league need to be aggressive like that to slay the dragon? Clearly yes, as none of them outside of Michigan have been able to beat Ryan Day yet.
Ohio State had just went up 17-10 and while the Wisconsin defense was able to ultimately get the ball back, the Badgers were just coming off their lone touchdown drive and had a chance to keep momentum going.
10. I’m as curious as the next person as to where Ohio State will be ranked when the initial playoff rankings are released on Tuesday night. Ohio State’s ranking will tell us a bit about the committee’s thinking in terms of resume versus eye test. You could argue Ohio State should be at the top of the rankings based on resume but could probably argue them as low as 4th on the eye test.