Math Wednesday: Long-Term Program Success

By Chad Peltier on May 15, 2013 at 6:30p

Almost a year ago I took a look at what factors affect a Big Ten football program's rise and fall over time.

No hanger-ons for next yearBraxton is an "exceptional player talent and fit" at Ohio State

I found that new coaches, poor recruiting over time, and a single elite player can have a great impact upon teams' year-to-year success. We had reason to feel bullish on Ohio State's chances for 2012: 

The good news is that Ohio State doesn't have any of these warning signs - the community and athletic department love Urban, he has a 5-star quarterback, and his recruiting classes are out of this world. I'm not predicting 12-0, but there is every indication that next year will be far better for Ohio State.

I guess I should have been a little bolder in my prediction. 

Brian Goldstein over at Football Study Hall recently took a look at the same subject for all NCAA teams and found a similar result: 

What the best teams do have in common is either exceptional player talent (and fit) -- see Auburn 2010; or they have exceptional coaching talent, like Oregon or Oklahoma State... No matter how sophisticated the tactics or shiny the uniforms it still comes down to execution and leadership.

With these trends in mind - namely, exceptional player fit and coaching talent - what predictions can we make for next season? 

It's useful to take a look at some macro statistics about Ohio State from the past four years. While both metrics reward drive efficiency and explosiveness, FEI ratings values turnovers more than S&P ratings, while S&P includes FCS/FBS matchups. 

  2012 2011 2010 2009
FEI Rating 9 35 8 4
S&P Rating 23 37 3 10

While it was obvious that 2011 was a terrible year – that's what losing your three year starter at quarterback and long-tenured head coach will do to you – what's amazing is that the Buckeyes were still not up to their normal S&P standard in 2012. 

Bringing these OHIOs to Pasadena for 2014. It's all about Year Two for these two 

So what changed between 2011 and 2012? We have three variables here - exceptional player talent, player fit, and coaching talent. Braxton Miller was constant in 2011 and 2012, but what varied was how he was used and the coaching behind him. 

This is not at all an indictment of Coach Fickell, but instead I want to emphasize the importance of designing a coherent offensive system and then recruiting players that fit this system.

Braxton certainly improved his throwing mechanics and rapport with receivers, but the most important change was simply the offense that he was running. 

My main point - and this is both good and bad news - is that Ohio State largely over-performed last season. This was excellent because the Buckeyes went undefeated in a year when we wouldn't expect for them to. Call it the Urban Effect. 

On the other hand, this means that the Buckeyes still have some growing to do in order to make a run at a national championship next season.

This has been captured by some statistical models of next year's Big Ten race, as the Buckeyes have an average of only nine expected wins. 

Yet next year is likely the year for Urban and the Buckeyes when all the pieces should come together - Urban has a junior, Heisman-contender quarterback, a veteran offensive line that could lose four starters in 2014, and a competent secondary that will certainly lose its best player in Roby.  

What's most encouraging is that the Buckeyes went 12-0 in a season where they probably shouldn't have and the numbers indicate that they will only be better in 2013. Not only can we expect the Buckeyes to improve their efficiency and explosiveness on offense and defense, but they also benefit from an easy out of conference schedule

Between the schedule, overall player talent levels, player fit, and coaching talent, the Buckeyes have all of the necessary ingredients to complete the recovery from 2011. 


Comments Show All Comments

SilverBulletNYC's picture

Thank you, Chad. Columbus needs a new liquor store: 26-0. 

The South will NOT rise again!

AcrossTheField11's picture

Is that if we went undefeated in 2013, won the MNC and then won the first game in the 2014 regular season?  Otherwise we'd have to go with "25-0".  Sorry for being a smartass.

Time and change will surely show how firm they friendship... O-HI-O.

Chad Peltier's picture

Big Ten Championship makes it 26

Hovenaut's picture

Ohio State has been blessed with some fine football teams in the past, recent and distant.

No disrespect to the many that have helped shape Buckeye football into what it is today, it's awesome to legitimately ponder the thought that this program could yet attain new heights.

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Interesting article Chad.  The link to the probability tables was interesting to take a look at. 


I cannot imagine Urban Meyer will let the Buckeyes slip to 9-3. If we fall that far its because someone critical to us got hurt (knock on wood, knock on wood). We may lose once and only once. You can bet Meyer will light a fire under them after that happens. It always seemed his Florida teams after a loss always came back with fire in their lungs. Those B1G statistical models be damned.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

USMC11917's picture

With all of this statistical data can you show me why the 2002 Ohio State Buckeyes were able to beat Miami and go 14-0? I know that we had a stellar defense but I don't think these probabilities tell the whole story. Just interested in seeing how that worked for us then based off this modern conversion.

Hovenaut's picture

We know there wasn't any assistance from any penalties that were called.

Toilrt Paper's picture

Losing Braxton in 2 years already scares the crap out of me.

Chad Peltier's picture

The good news is that his successor will (1) likely have some experience and (2) likely be a good fit within Urban's system by that point 

Psychranger's picture

Chad, it's so refreshing to see an article that looks beyond the surface and is willing to temper enthusiasm with research and facts. Your premise that the Bucks over performed last yr and were very fortunate to have won some games against mediocre competition that could easily have been lost. Urban Meyer was and IS the difference. He will always work as hard as he can and search wherever he must to make sure he has some super caliber athletes at OSU. He also has made it clear that although he didn't find a bare cupboard upon his arrival, that there was simply not enough top athletes to reach the goals we've always had in Columbus: to win the NC. He knows how to coach, he knows the type of athletes required, and he also knows where to find them. He'll always try and snag the best of Ohio and other Midwest talent, but he also knows the simple facts re: where the greatest concentrations of championship talent is located and goes for it. We couldn't be more fortunate to have the man that supports the ideas your article puts forth. He'd be the first one to tell you that 2014 and 2015 are the years where we'll all be able to see everything really start to come together. Should be a great ride! Thanks again for a great read.