No. 2 Ohio State posted an impressive win in Week 1 against No. 5 Notre Dame, but could have suffered a big loss during the game.
Top wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba left the matchup against the Fighting Irish in the first quarter with an apparent leg injury, and although he returned briefly in the second quarter, he was out for the entire second half. A report from 247Sports indicates that Smith-Njigba could be out for a game or two due to a hamstring injury.
While the Buckeyes beat the Fighting Irish 21-10, Ohio State certainly didn’t look like the No. 1 in total yards and scoring offense from a season ago without Smith-Njigba in the game. The Buckeyes had just 295 total yards in the game and leaned on their defense and running game to propel them to the Week 1 win.
“[Smith-Njigba is] the best receiver in the country and we’ve built a connection, not just on the field but off the field, that helps us on the field,” quarterback CJ Stroud said, according to 247Sports. “So when he was out of the game, of course, he affected our team, affected our offense. But at the end of the day, when you look at it, we got the job done.”
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Here’s what you need to know about your injury:
Jaxon Smith-Njigba Injury Update
Smith-Njigba could miss a few games due to what 247Sports reports is a minor hamstring injury. A source told 247Sports that he should be ready “in a couple of weeks.”
Missing a game or two for Ohio State shouldn’t be a major problem. The Buckeyes host Arkansas State on September 10 and Toledo on September 17. According to Caesars Sportsbook, Ohio State is a 43.5-point favorite against the Red Wolves. There are no odds yet for the clash with the Rockets, but it is expected to be similarly lopsided in favor of the Buckeyes.
However, if Smith-Njigba missed more of those two games, it would be more of a problem for Ohio State. On Sept. 24, the Buckeyes host No. 18 Wisconsin to kick off the conference portion of their schedule.
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Ohio State Wide Receiver Depth Chart
With Smith-Njigba out, the Buckeyes turned to two different receivers primarily in the slot.
First up was sophomore standout Emeka Egbuka, who began the year with expectations of starting off with a bang. He recorded 40.5 percent of his plays in the slot and 59.5 percent on the sides. Egbuka led the team with nine receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown.
MORE: Complete Ohio State WR depth chart
One of the biggest surprises during the game was former walk-on Xavier Johnson, who ended up recording eight of his nine plays in the slot. On one of those plays, he ran a seam route up the middle, surprising the Notre Dame defense on a safety double and dragging in a 24-yard touchdown reception to put the Buckeyes up 14-10.
RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE ‼️
OHIO STATE TAKES FIRST IN 3RD 👀 pic.twitter.com/WNtRAtGqrA
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNFCB) September 4, 2022
Heading into the year, Ohio State’s wide receiver room was expected to be deep, but inexperienced. Smith-Njigba was the only wide receiver to return with more than 160 career receiving yards from him.
Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. started for the first time to open the season alongside Smith-Njigba. Julian Fleming missed Saturday’s contest, but he is expected to be in the mix for the opening snaps.
Without Smith-Njigba on the field, the next two games could be a time for Stroud to develop a greater connection with some of the younger receivers. But when the bright lights come back against Wisconsin, he’ll definitely want his favorite target back on the field. Smith-Njigba set program records with 95 receptions and 1,606 receiving yards last year, on a team that featured 2022 NFL Draft first-round picks Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson.