To the Booth: Northwestern and Mid-Year Review

By Chad Peltier on October 10, 2013 at 11:15a
These two have been crucial to 6-0

A mid-season bye week gives both us fans and the team a week to relax, chart some games, and review the season so far. Below I reviewed the Northwestern charting data as well as the entire year's charting data for general trends and the team's evolution so far.

This is the point in the season for guys to get rest, but also to become more consistent and grow in to the team that squashes Michigan at the end of the year. At this point last season the Buckeyes had just gone off for 63 on Nebraska and apart from the shootout with Indiana, wouldn't give up more than 23 points for the rest of the season. That will be a tall order without Christian Bryant patrolling the secondary, but the coaches have had six games and now two weeks of practices to identify structural and personnel weaknesses and gameplan for the easier matchups to come. 

Below I'll warm up with some Northwestern charting statistics before breaking down the season thus far. 

Charting Northwestern: Roll Hyde

Ross has already pointed out several of the tactical moves that Herman and Meyer implemented in the second half of the Northwestern game, including Heuerman slice blocking, play action, checking down to Hyde, and bouncing runs outside. 

Both Guiton and Miller have been clutch with play action this season, but Miller broke his personal bests in play action completion percentage and explosive plays against Northwestern. 

Below is a breakdown of Miller's play action vs. regular passing, courtesy of ESPN's stats department:

  Play Action No Play Action
Comp-Att 11/15 4/11
Yds 163 40
Yds/Att 10.9 3.6
20+ Yd Comp 4 0

Braxton Miller completed 11-of-15 passes for 163 yards off play-action on Saturday, with four of the completions going for 20-plus yards. Miller set career highs in completions, attempts, yards and 20-plus yard completions off a play fake. Miller completed six of his play-action passes to Philly Brown, four of which went for 20-plus yards.

Herman and Meyer debuted or reintroduced a few interesting play variations against Northwestern, including the play action pass from initial inverted veer look that opened the first quarter (for a 20 yard gain).

This play action pass and a quarterback draw were two of the only plays to be run out of the Buckeyes four-wide with double slot receiver look. The formation itself certainly wasn't new, but the playcalling out of it was very particular. Some other innovations:

  • Philly was excellent in yards after carry against Northwestern, totaling 27 YAC on two passes in the first series alone. He would add another 25 YAC tiptoeing down the sideline in the fourth quarter on his 40 yard gain. 
  • The first five games saw extensive running back motion from the pistol to the gun. This was almost nonexistent against Northwestern, where Herman instead opted to motion Heuerman from being split out to a wing or to trips.
  • Another relatively new formation was to bunch two wide receivers in tight next to the offensive line and have them block down. In the fourth quarter the Buckeyes ran this play four times for 28 yards, or 7 YPC. They also did a quarterback outside zone with Hyde lead blocking and the receivers crashing inside in order to get Miller to the edge. The Buckeyes found plenty of success running this play against Michigan last season with Heuerman in the wing. 
  • Miller charted six minuses in the first quarter, all for different reasons: inaccurate passes, tentative reads, throwing into coverage, and not following blocks. All of these improved in the second half as Herman adjusted to Northwestern's extra box defender. In contrast, Heuerman had a weaker showing in the fourth quarter by missing on two blocks that could have resulted in big runs on the edge for Hyde and Miller.

Mid-Year Review

After reviewing the stats from all six games as well as the charting data, I noticed a couple of interesting things:

Meyer and Herman have a workhorse for their offenseHyde will be essential to another undefeated season
  • The play calls that were most explosive were quite a bit different against Wisconsin and Northwestern than when Guiton led the team against SDSU, Cal, and Florida A&M. Against Northwestern and Wisconsin, almost all of the biggest gaining explosive plays were through the air, including the play action off of inverted veer, drop back pass with a check down to Hyde, and a vertical stretch from an empty open look. Guiton's games had several rushing explosive plays, including Elliot's 56 yard run from inside zone in the base set and Kenny's 44 yard scramble with the quad receiver formation. Many of the differences in explosive plays is due to the the quality of the opponent. 
  • The defense is still apt to sub in an additional defensive back and go to a dime look on third downs.
  • I looked at the ratio of charted passes for Miller and Guiton (dead on, catchable, bad, and throw away) and found that either our charters have gotten harsher for Miller or his passes are slightly less accurate overall. While his completion percentage is still high, Miller went from a 5:1 ratio of good to bad passes against Buffalo to a roughly 2:1 ratio against Wisconsin and Northwestern. Guiton was fairly constant, posting equal numbers of dead on and catchable passes, and a 4:1 ratio overall of good to bad passes. 
  • The Buckeyes have improved their yards per play from 6.33 at this point last season to 6.62 now. 
  • Sacks were a problem for the defense last season, but the Buckeyes have six more sacks (16 total) than last year's squad did after six games. Noah Spence, Michael Bennett, and Joey Bosa are all key here, as are the backups defenders like Steve Miller and Jamal Marcus. 
  • Turnovers are fairly random, but the Buckeyes had three more interceptions last year compared to this year (7). 
  • It's been shown to not really affect the outcome of games, but the Buckeyes have 12 fewer penalties and 103 fewer penalty yards than last season. 

All in all the Buckeyes have improved of Meyer's first year, though I think all would agree that the pass defense and pass offense have room for growth this bye week. 

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