Math Wednesday: What We're Chasing

By Chad Peltier on May 8, 2013 at 6:30p

Urban has been extremely candid about how and why the Big Ten has fallen behind the SEC in college football.

Ohio State and Alabama have two of the clearest paths to the final BCS ChampionshipThe Chase is on. 

There is simply no sidestepping the fact that the SEC has dominated other conferences, using almost any metric you care to look at

Urban has had enough with excuses - let's remove our illusions about the Big Ten, accept the fact that the SEC is *currently* a better conference, and understand how to fix the problem. 

Rather than being content with winning Big Ten Championships, Urban's staff created "The Chase" as the theme for the 2013. 

I have no desire to rehash others' arguments about when and why the SEC became a better conference, or make lame excuses about the weather to explain performances in bowl games. 

Instead, I want to take a look at what makes the Tide tick - what are their strengths and weaknesses? How do the Buckeyes match up?

In short, what are we chasing?

Make them Grind it out: 

Alabama led the country in fewest plays of 10+ yards given up. This isn't a perfect measure of defensive success, as Michigan's defense was best at limiting plays of 20+ yards (so obviously we should immediately discount this measure). 

Alabama has been known for its lock-down 3-4 defense, mixing cover-4, cover-1 robber, and zone blitzes to great effect. These defenses are known for limiting the run and shutting down big plays. 

Saban's defenses force opposing offenses to grind it out with long drives. Their slow grind score for 2012 was .18, meaning that they gave up just .18 points per play. That means that enemy offenses averaged 39 plays per touchdown scored. In comparison, the Buckeyes gave up an average up .32 points per play last season. 

Have an Efficient Offense: 

The Tide aren't particularly known for offensive fireworks like Oregon or Cam Newton's Auburn team, but their 2012 offense was extremely efficient with their drives. 

A challenger appears! Urban is justifiably tired of seeing this each year. 

Alabama had few wasted plays, ending as 12th in the nation in scoring offense and with a quick strike score of .6. The quick strike score is the sister metric of the slow grind, measuring the average number of points an offense gains per play. 

While the Buckeyes made great strides from the 2011 horror show, they were still less efficient than the Tide, averaging .53 points per play. 

control the clock

No, I could not care less who wins the time of possession battle that commentators are so quick to talk about during games. 

I'm much more interested in tempo and efficiency. In an era when every team seems to be speeding up the game, Alabama's offense seems to move glacially slow. They had the slowest tempo in the country over the past few seasons, averaging just 2.02 plays per minute of possession.  

The Buckeyes don't need to adopt this pace in order to win. What's important is not the tempo itself, but how an offense is able to leverage tempo to either wear out an opposing defense, give their own defense a rest, limit defensive substitutions, or prevent opposing offenses from being on the field. 

Teams can win by either going no-huddle or slowing it down. It's far more important to leverage tempo and be efficient with every play. 

Be the most Disciplined team in the country

A large part of the reason Alabama was able to be so efficient with their offensive possessions is because they rarely turned the ball over. A.J. McCarron only threw three interceptions all season and the team finished 14th overall in turnover margin. Furthermore, they had 8 more takeaways than the Buckeyes did last season. 

Finally, Alabama averaged just 33 yards in penalties per game, which puts them right up there with the service academies. In contrast, the Buckeyes gave up nearly twice as many. 

What the Buckeyes Need to Do

Alabama isn't a flashy team. They have established their dominance through discipline, efficiency, and consistency. Ohio State does not need to adopt the same strategies as Alabama - in no way am I advocating a switch to a one-back, ball control offense or a 3-4 defense.

Instead, the success of the chase will at least be partly dependent upon whether the Buckeyes improve their discipline and efficiency. 


Comments Show All Comments

Hovenaut's picture

The Silver Bullet philosophy is very much alive and well, I see no need for any tweaking there. As soon as some of those young Bucks get some real game time in, OSU can stand with anyone on that front. I don't forsee any basketball games on grass/turf this year.

Here's the year I see the UFM patented spread fueled power run game taking off. Aside from anything Meyer would bring to Columbus upon his hiring, I was very intrigued at the prospects of a Buckeye offense revamped, and the prospects of reaching new heights in productivity, efficiency and explosiveness. The balance to be brought forth with the emergence of the passing game (receivers and the hybrid role) is going to make this offense nasty imho.

Let 'Bama be 'Bama, that's worked for them, great. I like where our program is going as far as on-field strategy, and (hopefully) the results it may bring.

Good stuff Chad.

buckguyfan1's picture

Well done Havenaut... Be your own man so to speak.  Urbz plans to win... Lets Play!

LadyBuck's picture

Can we add "properly tackle" to this list? I think that was one of the biggest things that bothered pretty much anyone watching our defense last year.

BuckeyeSouth's picture

Agreed.  One thing I noticed about Bama in the NC game was that all of their defenders tackled well.

Champions.  Undisputed.  

joeorozco12's picture

I think that would fall under discipline and efficiency. Generically, that sort of covers everything.  

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Excellent article Chad.  Alabama wins by getting back to good ol' fashioned fundamental football.  THey have outstanding linemen and wear you down.  Same as on defense.  THey are extremely stout and basically a mini NFL team with the talent they have. 
I like what we are doing with our recruiting.  We are ramping up there.  The Buckeyes play solid defensive football.  I think we are getting some more playmakers on both sides of the ball.  Overall, the Bucks have positioned themselves very well to challenge the best in college football.  Time to bring home anohter crystal ball!!
Go Bucks!

MuraliPatel's picture

The irony of this is that Alabama uses more or less the same formula that Wisconsin uses, except with much, much, much better athletes.

bedheadjc's picture

"...only through three interceptions...."
Sigh, Sarah's editing is already missed.
J/K Chad, I liked the article!
And I totally agree with Ladybuck; missed tackles killed us. Missed INTs also.

yrro's picture

So essentially, Alabama under Saban are Tressel's teams with a better O-line?

Earle's picture

Interesting idea. Perhaps Saban is Tressel's evil twin?

Snarkies gonna snark. 

MuraliPatel's picture

I would say Alvarez/Bielema's teams are a better parallel. They ran more than power-O left/right and knew when to effectively use play action.

whobdis's picture

I think this is a valid statement..I haven't looked at the w/l numbers but it seems Wisky had as much success against SEC teams than anybody. Frankly they put more emphasis on developing offensive lineman that JT did. It showed in the bowl games. Our guys were overmatched. Our skill level players carried us through the B1G. A year or so ago I remember looking at B1G offensive lineman in the NFL..we were near the bottom. NW and Illini had more. This will need to change if we are to compete at the level Urban expects..and I think it will.

onetwentyeight's picture

Alabama under Saban is basically Saban's MSU teams with wayyyyy better players. Players win games. #Fixed 
Nothing he's doing is super innovative or ground breaking or creative. He gets all the best players. He minimizes mistakes. He usually wins. In College, this = crystal footballs at a place like Bama, but mediocrity somewhere like MSU. In the Pros, this gets you run out of town in a short amount of time after you lose the respect of your fellow professionals (ie the players). 
Saban is not a Great coach, merely good. Great coaches win at every level, regardless of their inherent talent advantages/disadvantages. Urban is a great coach. His schemes worked as well at BGSU and Utah as they do at UF and OSU. Saban has failed when he hasn't had an absurd talent advantage like at LSU or Bama. 
This is also why Saban's strategy of massive talent + no mistake = overwhelming the other side does show cracks when faced with singular, transcendent offensive talents (ie, Manziel). You cant game-plan for someone like that. Thankfully, we have our own Manziel in Brax. I've said this here before but I'll beat my own drum again. I was one of the few ppl who called the A&M upset of Bama before it happened. I've never been on Saban's D*ck and always thought he was just a college football version of Calipari. Guys who can only win when they have the best players aren't Great coaches, and when something unexpected is thrown into the mix for a game (like a Manziel or Brax) they don't have sufficient contigency plans in place. 
I'm absolutely confident Urban will ground Saban into dust should they ever meet. When you give Urban Meyer the same talent as a team led by a good-not-great, limit the mistakes coach, he destroys that coach. We all should know, ok. I still remember. I can't WAIT to be on the other side of that beating when we deliver it to Bama. 

BigBuck623's picture

I'd like to see a comparison of Saban's teams at LSU/Bama when the lines he's played have been equal in talent.  Manziel had almost an unfair twosome at OT this year on the line, and Damontre Moore on defense.

buckeyeblur5's picture

If Urban meets Saban again as the head coach of our Buckeyes I truly hope that he grinds him into dust.
However, I must disagree with your statement that Saban is not a great coach. 
You state that he is doing nothing innovative, ground breaking, or creative.  It may appear this way on the surface but Saban's real genius lies in the way he teaches his schemes.  He definitely teaches ground breaking techniques to his defensive backs (they are not coached to back-pedal, 90% of other teams are) and he is widely considered to be one of the most innovative defensive backs coaches in the country at any level.  He teaches the most sophisticated defensive scheme in college football in such a way that his players know their jobs so well that there is no hesitation. 
The reason what he is doing defensively doesn't look that innovative is because many teams from around the country run variations on his defensive scheme.  Even today Ohio State's defense (originally brought by Mark Dantonio) uses the EXACT same terminology as Saban's for many calls.  The defense we used to win the national championship is the exact same defense, word for word that Saban used to win at LSU.  Now, each scheme has evolved over the past decade to adjust to their available personnel, but the base remains the same. 
Saban is not super involved with the offense (kind of how Urban is with our defense) but he makes sure that the offensive game plan is set up to control the tempo for his defense and score enough to win.  Does it always work out perfectly for him? No, but his teams are tough, disciplined, and flexible enough to make adjustments.  
I'm not arguing that Saban is the best coach in the country or that he is better than Urban.  However, the man is a great coach, not based on WHAT he does but based on HOW he does it.  Great coach or not, I still hope the Buckeyes take him out behind the woodshed in the title game.
Go Bucks!

Toilrt Paper's picture

If the NCAA has any balls they will make the SEC do what Meyer is doing starting this year. He will guarantee a 4 year scholarship to every football recruit. That can only be rescinded do to academics, breaking team rules or criminal activity. STOP THE SEC'S OVER SIGNING and STOP the taking of scholarships just because a Freshman is deemed better than an upperclassman.

cinserious's picture

To bad the NCAA doesnt have any balls and wont make this change. However they will institute some radical recruiting changes out of nowhere and pretty much deregulate any recruiting rules whatsoever. WTF!?!?

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

Catch 5's picture

The NCAA is not mandating it, but starting with this years signees, Bama is offering 4 year scholarships as you suggest.

Make their asses quit! - Nick Saban

chubler's picture

Any Florida/Bama/SEC fans amongst?
I'd be curious to know how Meyer's Florida teams (best prediction for what OSU will look like?) compare with Saban's Bama teams in terms of TOP and starting field position for the offense. With the great defenses, Bama's "plays per touchdown" or quick-strike stat could be very skewed. With faster offenses, you tend to score more points, but the defense suffers from less rest- maybe the quick strike drops but the actual offense is superior.

onetwentyeight's picture 
Urban: 31 - Saban: 20
Both men had their own respective Heisman winners (Ingram, Tebow). #1 v #2 in rankings going in. 

Catch 5's picture

You stopped a little early.

Urban 13 - Saban 32
Both men still had their respective Heismen winners (Ingram was a backup in 2008) and were again #1 and #2 going in.

Then the 2010 game: Urban 6 - Saban 31.

Make their asses quit! - Nick Saban

MN Buckeye's picture

I'll take Urban over Saban any day.

nickma71's picture

If the SEC was as good as they claim, they would have not avoided USC like the Bubonic plague during the BCS era. Just ask Darren McFadden.

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

For the Silver Bullets, got to continue to work on tackling, and catch some interceptions this year.  Offense has to be even more efficient and explosive than they were last year.  The passing game is where the most improvement is needed.  They were better than the previous year debacle, but if they continue to improve in that area, with the running game this team already has - nobody will be able to stop the Buckeye offense.

Class of 2010.