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3 players to watch: Ohio State

Too many to choose from.

Michigan State v Ohio State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Daniel Plocher Dan Plocher contributes to Maize n’ Brew in several areas including podcasts, game previews/recaps, and various YouTube videos.

The No. 2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes have five-star talent all over the team. But everyone knows how lethal their offense is. From top to bottom, it is among the best offenses in the country, and arguably is No. 1.

Michigan is going to have its hands full tomorrow against the OSU offense. Here are the three players to watch for the Buckeyes tomorrow.

Redshirt Freshman QB C.J. Stroud

Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was completely shut down by the Michigan defense last Saturday thanks to a pass rush that caused him fits all day. The Wolverines are hoping that pressure will continue this week against a much better offensive line and an even better quarterback in C.J. Stroud.

Stroud may be the best quarterback in the country and is most certainly the best Michigan will face this season. The redshirt freshman had a rocky start at the top of the season but has had four 400+ yard games throughout the year.

Most notably, he shellacked Michigan State’s defense a week ago for a career-high six touchdowns and 432 yards on 91.4% completions. In the past two weeks (both against top 25 opponents), Stroud has completed an absurd 86.3% of his passes on 73 attempts. It’s safe to say he is playing his best football of the season at the right time.

Part of Stroud’s unbelievable play comes from his offensive line. He’s been sacked just two times in the past two weeks and a total of nine times all year. Dialing up pressure and getting some hands in his face will play a pivotal role for Michigan’s chances of winning.

Stroud’s play has garnered plenty of attention. He’s a semifinalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year, the Maxwell Award, Davey O’Brien Award, and is on the Manning Award watchlist. He’s also been a six-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week and is in contention for the Heisman Trophy as well.

Sophomore WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Ohio State has three receivers who could finish the season with more than 1,000 yards. Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson are both projected first-round picks in the NFL Draft. But Stroud’s favorite target this year has been Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who has already surpassed that 1,000-yard mark.

The sophomore has a team-high 1,132 receiving yards. He also leads the team with 69 receptions and is averaging 16.4 yards per catch, the highest on the team. In between the 20s, he’s the biggest weapon the Buckeyes have to get down the field.

Over the last three weeks, Smith-Njigba is averaging 11.3 receptions for 149.3 yards and a touchdown per game. His 15-reception and 240-yard game against Nebraska certainly helped that, but he’s crossed the century mark five times this season. That doesn’t include the three 90+ yard games he’s had this year, too.

Locking Smith-Njigba down will be no simple task, and it’s going to be impossible to stop all three of the Buckeyes’ receivers without putting pressure on Stroud. But Smith-Njigba is the guy Michigan is going to have to know where he is at all points on Saturday.

Freshman RB TreVeyon Henderson

Speaking of weapons that have more than 1,000 yards, running back TreVeyon Henderson has been a problem for defenses all season long. The true freshman is averaging 7.3 yards per carry this season and has plenty of five-star moments on a weekly basis.

Last week, he only had nine attempts because the Buckeyes didn’t even need him in the clobbering of Michigan State. But I expect then to utilize him a bit more this week against the Wolverines.

In open space, there isn't much of a bigger threat than Henderson, and Ryan Day loves to get him on the outside. According to PFF, 611 of his 1,091 yards on the season have come from runs outside of either offensive tackle.

If he gets around the corner, your defense is in big trouble. The Wolverines are going to have to do their due diligence in containing Henderson this weekend or he will run up and down the field with ease.