I'd looked at the numbers beforehand and understood that it should be a close game, but I failed to really believe that Northwestern would put up a fight like it did.
I told myself that Northwestern's offensive numbers were buoyed by a weak schedule (somewhat ignoring Ohio State's easy schedule in the process) and that the Buckeye offense would shred the weak Wildcat secondary. I even told a friend visiting Vegas this weekend that the Buckeyes were easy money (thanks Joey Bosa).
Well, turns out that the numbers were right. The secondary struggled without Christian Bryant, Braxton was a little off, and Northwestern was fired up.
Well That Was Close
The Buckeyes and Wildcats had extremely similar games according to the three main efficiency metrics:
Two Buckeye turnovers in the redzone lead to a relatively high yards per play number and low points metrics. Northwestern's offense won the head-to-head matchup according to the other two metrics as all 30 of their points were from the offense as opposed to fumble recoveries and punt blocks.
The Buckeyes' .36 points per play was by far their lowest on the season, making the .46 PPP against Wisconsin look spectacular. However, it is worth noting that the offense would have had .55 PPP if not for the two redzone turnovers. I have a feeling I know what Urban will be preaching to Braxton this week in practice.
- Five of the Buckeyes twelve drives (and just two in the first half) ended in scores. However, there technically weren't any three and outs, so that's something.
- It's very rare for a team to lose the turnover ratio and win, but that's what the Buckeyes did yesterday, 3:2.
- Hyde finished with a 77% RBSR - his best on the season and a truly amazing performance.
- Of the Buckeyes six explosive plays, Hyde was responsible for two of them. Philly Brown accounted for two of them as well. The Buckeyes won the explosive play battle 6:4. If coaches are correct and the explosive play ratio and the turnover ratio are the two most important metrics, then it was the explosive plays that made the difference for the Buckeyes.
- The Buckeyes are second in the country in rushing plays of longer than ten yards and tied for seventh in plays of more than 20 yards. They are tied for 15th in all plays from from scrimmage longer than ten yards.
- Braxton was off for a lot of the night, only ending with a 7.8 YPA passing and 4 YPA on the ground.
- Before yesterday, the Buckeyes outscored opponents 216-21 in the first quarter. The Buckeyes were only ahead 10-7 against Northwestern – and only because of Roby's punt block and recovery.
It could Have Been Worse: 6-0
While the defense gave up 30 points, we have to remember that this Northwestern offense is 13th in the country in success rate and will win a great number of games for the Fitzgerald this year.
Here are some quick hitters on the defense:
- Joey Bosa and Michael Bennett in particular played lights-out games, with 2.5 sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown between them.
- The Buckeyes didn't have any trouble getting to the quarterback, with five sacks on the day. And by "the quarterback," I mean Siemian, since he received all of the Buckeyes sacks. I don't think Colter was jealous.
- We heard a lot about how dynamic Venric Mark would be, and he delivered a 53% RBSR for the day. This was slightly better than Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and James White, indicating that the Buckeyes run defense deserves its praise. The rush defense sits at seventh in the country, with 86.17 yards/game 2.69 YPP. They gave up 3.55 YPP on the ground last season – put that on the defensive line.
- On the other hand, the pass defense is just "meh." They are 59th in the country, giving up an average of seven yards per pass attempt. This is worse than last year, when the secondary averaged 6.4 yards per pass attempt (26th in the country). They receive the 15th most pass attempts in the country as well.
- The longest rushing play the Buckeyes gave up was just an eight yard run by Mark.
So what does this all mean? The Buckeyes are beatable through the air – which we knew already. If Braxton is off, then the offense sputters – which we knew already. However, we learned that the rush defense is pretty darn elite, while Hyde can carry the team on his back if need be. That's good enough for me.