Ohio State grade card: Orange crushed by stellar OSU effort

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BuckEye Bio

JAXON SMITH-NJIGBA

Position: Wide receiver

Class: Freshman

Hometown: Rockwall, Texas

High school: Rockwall

Height, weight: 6-0, 196

Red zone: Smith-Njigba, a 5-star recruit, has eight catches, including one for a touchdown, this season. He had 34 touchdown catches as a senior in high school. He is the all-time career receiving yards leader in Texas.

NEXT GAME

College Football Playoff Championship

Jan. 11, 8 p.m., ESPN

Last Game

Ohio State 49, Clemson 28

Alabama 31, Notre Dame 14

Scouting Report:

Buckeyes: The two biggest questions for Ohio State (7-0) are how healthy will quarterback Justin Fields be and can it slow down Alabama’s high powered offense. Trey Sermon has rushed for 112 yards, 331 yards and 193 yards in the Buckeyes’ last three games. OSU is playing for its first national championship since 2014.

Crimson Tide: Alabama (12-0) averages 49.7 points a game. Quarterback Mac Jones (4,036 yards, 36 TDs) and receiver DeVonta Smith (105 catches, 1,641 yards, 27 TDs) are Heisman Trophy finalists. Running back Najee Harris has rushed for 1,387 yards. But Alabama has appeared vulnerable on defense at times, giving up 48 points to Mississippi and 45 points to Florida.

Pre-Game Takeaway

Ohio State will be the underdog in this game as it was in its College Football semifinal against Clemson.

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Grading Ohio State’s 49-28 win over Clemson in their College Football Playoff semifinal game:

OFFENSE: A

Justin Fields reminded anyone who might have doubted it after a couple of sub-par performances that he is in the discussion of who is the best quarterback in college football. He also proved he is one of the toughest QBs in college football if anyone hadn’t already noticed that. He passed for 385 yards and 6 touchdowns and four of the touchdown passes came after a hit that was called targeting, which Fields said left the entire right side of his body hurting.

After going three and out on its first possession, Ohio State scored touchdowns the next five times it had the ball and led 35-14 at halftime. Trey Sermon rushed for 193 yards on 31 carries. OSU rolled up 639 yards of total offense and did that without starting offensive guard Harry Miller (COVID-19 issues) and running back Master Teague. Receiver Chris Olave got sweet revenge for his mix-up late in last year’s loss to Clemson with two touchdown catches.

DEFENSE: A

Ohio State’s defense has been the question mark all season and has been called out as the weak link on the team many times. But it responded in a big way against a team averaging 43 points and 507 yards total offense per game. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, a Heisman Trophy finalist, threw for 400 yards but OSU put pressure on him consistently and the Buckeyes’ much criticized defensive backs held up well against the Tigers’ receivers.

Ohio State did not allow any really big plays. Clemson’s longest pass completion was for 29 yards and its biggest rushing play went for 15 yards. OSU’s defense held Clemson to 44 rushing yards, only the second game this season it had gained fewer than 100 yards on the ground.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A

Kicker Blake Haubeil kicked extra points but his back-up Dominic DiMaccio handled most of the kickoffs. Punter Dru Chrisman returned and showed no effects from the COVID-19 issues that kept him out of the Big Ten championship game.

OVERALL: A

Ohio State played by far its best and most complete game of the season at just the right time.

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Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.


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