Math Wednesday: Breaking Down the First Half of 2013

By Chad Peltier on June 12, 2013 at 7:00p

Buckeye fans can riddle off dozens of reasons to be optimistic about the Ohio State's chances for The Chase in 2013, but the national media is beginning to catch on as well. 

The first of many for Mr. WashingtonThe defense was surprisingly efficient last season

In particular, writers are noticing that the Buckeyes are full of All American-caliber superstars like Braxton, Shazier, Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington, and Roby.

Ohio State placed the second-most players (5) on Phil Steele's preseason All American team, second only to Alabama (8). Steele had eight offensive Buckeyes and six defensive guys on his All-Big Ten list. 

However, does a team with this many superstars guarantee that the Buckeyes will be favored in, let alone win, all of their regular season games this season? Of course not. 

If we want to begin making predictions and simulations for how the 2013 season will shake out, then preseason top-25 and All American lists are a place to start, but they don't really clue us in to what's really important - matchups between units. I decided to break down the Buckeyes' schedule for next season by comparing offensive and defensive statistical matchups (except Florida A&M - I'll leave it to you guys to sort that one out).

I normalized offensive and defensive yards per play (YPP) data for my comparison. That is, I found each team's offense and defense average YPP and put these scores on a bell curve to see how much better or worse the units were than average. 

The middle of the road offense averaged 5.7 yards per play with a standard deviation of .66 yards per play. The average defense gave up 5.54 yards per play with a standard deviation of .64 yards.

Ohio State averaged 6.08 yards per play, while the defense gave up an average of 5.08 yards. That means that the Ohio State offense was (obviously) better than average, but did not noticeably separate itself from the other "good" offenses. It's almost the same story for the defense, which was among the top-30 teams in defensive yards per play, but not among the elite. 

Yards per play (YPP) isn't an all-encompassing statistic, but a quick look at the top of the offensive YPP rankings does include the usual suspects: Georgia, Alabama, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oregon, and Texas A&M, for instance.

The following scores are in number of standard deviations from the mean. That means it is good to have a positive number for offense and a negative number for defense, but either way you want the number to be as far from zero as possible. 


OSU Offense vs. Buffalo Defense OSU Defense vs. Buffalo Offense
.61 vs. -.57 (Push) -.72 vs. -.69 (Ohio State)

Yes, Buffalo is receiving a sizeable check to come to Ohio State, but Buffalo is not terrible. They gave Georgia a little first-half scare last season and their defense is better than average. In fact, the matchup between Ohio State's offense and Buffalo's defense is statistically pretty similar in terms of normalized yards per play.  

Honestly though, don't think for a second that Buffalo will be shutting down Braxton and company. This might be a case where the statistics are a little misleading. 

The Buckeye defense should be able to contain the Buffalo offense, which is on the other (bad) side of the bell curve. 

San Diego State

OSU Offense vs. SDSU Defense OSU Defense vs. SDSU Offense
.61 vs. -.60 (Push) -.72 vs. .20 (Ohio State)
What a monster hole for Hyde to run through - Wisconsin should be embarressed. The Buckeye offense looks to be more consistent and efficient

Once again, the Buckeye offense and the San Diego State defense looks like a push matchup. 

The San Diego State defense has a couple of All-Mountain West contenders (woo hoo!), but the Buckeye offensive line should be just fine handling the Aztecs' relatively weak defensive line and Braxton can pick on their green cornerbacks.

The Buckeye defense wasn't exactly Silver Bullet quality last season, but it was still much better than average in terms of limiting defensive yards per play. This bodes well for limiting the Aztec offensive attack, which is led by running back Adam Muema. 

With both defenses' numbers suggest a low-scoring game, it's hard to imagine this game being anything but lopsided in Ohio State's favor. 


OSU Offense vs. Cal Defense OSU Defense vs. Cal Offense
.61 vs. .19 (Ohio State) -.72 vs. .12 (Ohio State)

The Buckeye offense catches a break. The Cal defense was worse than average last season and I expect the rematch to involve more Buckeye offensive fireworks. Cal gave up close to 6 yards per play last season. 

While the Cal offense is breaking in to a new air raid scheme, they will have a ways to go in order to match the Buckeye defense. 


OSU Offense vs. Wisconsin Defense OSU Defense vs. Wisconsin Offense
.61 vs. -1.13 (Wisconsin) -.72 vs. .42 (Ohio State) 

Wisconsin was known more for their offense in 2012, but the defense rated very highly in terms of yards per play (just 4.82). For a comparison, the Buckeye defense held an also respectable 5.08 yards per play. That's what happens when you allow 49 points to Indiana. 

Though it's not what I would have predicted, the Buckeyes should be well positioned to handle the Wisconsin offense once again. The Badgers, while certainly better than average, weren't mind-blowingly above the pack with Montee Ball in the backfield. 


OSU Offense vs. Northwestern Defense OSU Defense vs. Northwestern Offense
.61 vs. -.46 (Ohio State) -.72 vs. -.53 (Ohio State)

Some are saying that this Northwestern squad could be the Buckeyes' toughest game in 2013 until Michigan, but the Buckeyes should be favored on both offense and defense. Northwestern's two-QB offense was nonetheless below average, gaining 5.32 yards per attempt.

Ohio State's offense should also have the edge against the Wildcat defense, but the margin isn't as extreme in favor of the Buckeyes. 

Next week I will take a look at the second half of the season, but my initial impressions are that either the Buckeye offense wasn't as great as we might have thought (at least relative to other offenses in the country) or yards per play isn't a fantastic statistic. There is some evidence that YPP does make a lot of sense, but it's possible that yards per play allowed is more correlated with winning. Either way, I like the Buckeyes' chances in the first half of the season. 


Comments Show All Comments

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Interesting article and bringing in the math breakdown in pretty cool.  I do think that the toughest games we will have next year will be Wisconsin, Penn St and the Team up North.  Northwestern is also a team not to underestimate as they have really become a good solid team.  Here's hoping that Bucks will be up for the challenge!!
Go Bucks!

BeijingBucks's picture

What's nice about having UFM as a coach is, math aside, you also start to cash in on the intangibles such as 'heart', 'effort', 'juice', and situational play calling.
When winning the math battle as well?  whooosh... please Oh please Oh Please don't be complacent.  I'm almost glad teh SEC is still dissing the Bucks so they can maintain the angry edge.

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

Young_Turk's picture

I'm sure there's a perfectly valid explanation, but I don't understand why the national averages for Offensive Yards per play would be different then the same for Defense.

The middle of the road offense averaged 5.7 yards per play with a standard deviation of .66 yards per play. The average defense gave up 5.54 yards per play with a standard deviation of .64 yards.

For each play in a season, there is a equal and opposite reaction. Or as my accounting friends like to say, Debits must equal Credits.  


UrbanCulture's picture

I didnt think anything of that until this post. Very interesting. I think your argument would be correct if FBS teams played ONLY FBS teams. However, some FBS teams schedule FCS teams early in the some of the offensive numbers the FBS team puts up arent translated to an FBS defense, resulting in the difference in the statistics.

Boxley's picture

Wisconsin will be our toughest regular season game this season, until TSUN. We had better not look ahead to the huge "Northwestern" matchup or Wisky will spank us. Good thing the game is in the shoe.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

German Buckeye's picture

I'm pretty sure UFM will have all their heads on straight, focused for each game.  To get on the field you gotta compete so every player week in week out should be putting forth max effort - what's our slogan - "The Chase"...