To the Booth: Penn State By the Numbers

By Chad Peltier on October 24, 2013 at 11:15a
15 Comments
Quit reading defenses, Hackenberg! You're just a freshman!

Both the numbers and strategy indicate that Ohio State's performance against Iowa should leave plenty for Buckeye fans to feel good about heading in to Penn State week. Iowa may only barely make bowl eligibility this season, but their defense is top-notch and you have to give Greg Davis credit for his offensive gameplan. 

While Penn State has been an on-and-off team this season, the fact that Bill O'Brien has Christian Hackenberg, Allen Robinson, and fifty tight ends on the roster to work with against the Ohio State secondary should make you a little nervous. How nervous exactly? Well, that's what we'll take a look at below: 

The Nittany Lions Cometh

My main concern going in to the Penn State game is the fact that O'Brien has Hackenberg, Robinson, a legion of tight ends, and film of the Iowa game. The Buckeye defense was generous enough to allow Jake Rudock 245 yards and three touchdowns, despite Iowa not having a receiver close to Allen Robinson's caliber. There's also no doubting that Hackenberg is much more dangerous than Rudock:

  Comp % Yards TD INT YPA YPG
Hackenberg 58% 1672 11 6 7.3 284

Not bad at all for a freshman.

The not-quite 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio probably has Withers and Fickell (and Roby and Grant) licking their chops for turnovers. It will be interesting to watch whether the defense plays more man coverage with Roby back on the field or opts for more cover-3 zone looks with the possibility of triggering on short passes or emphasizing turnovers and big plays. Regardless, the defense must begin to better align to offenses' strong side and play with sufficient zone depth.   

Below are what I believe to be some of the most important metrics for comparing teams: offensive and defensive points per play, offensive and defensive yards per point, explosive play ratio, the turnover ratio, and red zone efficiency. 

  Off PPP Def PPP Off YPP Def YPP Ex Play Turnovers red zone
OSU .600 .302 6.58 5.07 33:18 +5 91.4%
PSU .417 .334 5.52 4.74 30:26 -4 92.0%
PSU's run game won't win it for themThe run game isn't as formidable as in years past

My thoughts:

  • The Buckeye defense has a better PPP than Penn State and a worse YPP, which might indicate a couple of things. First, it's possible that Penn State's opponents have scored with better field position than Ohio State's opponents. Alternatively Penn State might have allowed more drives that end in points relative to Ohio State, which has given up a lot of yards, but less points. It's probably a combination of both. 
  • However, I'm interested in the "better field position for opponents" hypothesis because of Penn State's poor turnover margin. It's hard to win consistently with a -4 turnover margin, and I wouldn't be surprised if Penn State's offensive turnovers have given opposing offenses good field position. 
  • For all of the explosive plays that the OSU defense has given up this season (like that terrible, lumbering 85 yard pass to the Iowa tight end), the Buckeye defense is actually fourth in the country in limiting plays from scrimmage of more than 20 yards. Peers? Florida State, Oregon, and Michigan State (Alabama has allowed four more than the Buckeyes). 
  • Building off of that, Ohio State has the advantage in both explosive plays allowed and created this season. However, the Buckeye defense has been much steadier and consistent than I initially expected, stringing together longer drives as opposed to relying on big plays. This has led to a high drive efficiency rate, as we saw against Iowa (86%). 

Finally, I have some random observations courtesy of digging through cfbstats.com:

  • Some good news? Penn State allows an average of 2.3 sacks per game, which is worse than the FBS average. The defensive staff will likely hope to rattle the freshman quarterback early and often. Ohio State, coincidentally, is averaging 2.3 sacks per game as well.
  • 24% of Penn State's receiving yards have gone to tight ends. In particular, watch out for Jesse James and Kyle Carter, as well as former Buckeye target Adam Breneman.
  • The normally stringent Penn State defense is 48th in the country, allowing 23.7 points per game. Like Iowa, the strength is in the rush defense, which allows just 118 yards per game on the ground and 218 (6.7 yards per pass) through the air. Almost every team in the Big Ten seems to boast a top rush defense these days, with seven in the top-30.
  • Ohio State is sixth in the country in total points scored, with an average of 45 per game. This is despite being "just" 15th in yards per play (6.58). 
  • Against Michigan, Zwinak had just three of eight carries as efficient according to the RBSR, while Bill Belton had eleven efficient carries out of 27 total. 
15 Comments

Comments

smokeybandit's picture

"Some good news? Penn State allows an average of 2.3 sacks per game, which is worse than the FBS average. The defensive staff will likely hope to rattle the freshman quarterback early and often."
 
PSU's pass protection has been pretty good.  One of Hackenberg's issues as a freshman has been holding onto the ball too long.  This tends to be where most of PSU's sacks come from.

theDuke's picture

so you're saying there will be a pick 6?

theDuke

TMac's picture

After No Punts against Iowa, will the Bucks need to Punt on Saturday?
I'm thinking NO

Humbuck's picture

At least with PSU we won't be surprised when they line up 3 TE's and run what is a staple of their offense out of that look.  It is on film and we got a good look at it last week.  I don't see the need to sell out to stop the run.  Ideally the secondary gives some looks that help disguise our coverages.  Hackenberg is really good for a true FR but he hasn't played against athletes like the guys roaming our secondary.  (Sounds funny to say, but our pass defense is still statistically better than 6 out of 7 teams PSU has played, including UM and IU)
Hackenberg will put some balls up for grabs.  His TD:INT ratio is what you'd expect from a FR and one way to insure he makes mistakes is pressure.  We don't really even have to sack him, just get in and make him release it higher than he would normally like.  When he has all day he can make any throw, when he gets hands up around him, he tends to sail the ball. 
PSU's rushing defense is a paper tiger. The 61 yards from EMU, 71 from Syracuse and 56 yards from Kent State go a long way to offset the big days from  Storm Johnson and Devin Gardner.  Considering OSU is lining up the best running back and best rushing QB they've seen all year, it should be a fairly efficient rushing day for Hyde and Miller.  Throw in a half dozen touches from Dontre if the defensive alignment loads the box and the road to 250+ is pretty wide open. 

stantmann's picture

I keep hearing and seeing people talk about Iowa's great defense, but I didn't see it. with the exception of the last drive of the first half, OSU converted on every 3rd down, and scored on every possession. That doesn't sound like a great defense to me. I'm not ripping on Iowa either, they are better than people give them credit for, and will give Wisconsin a tough game, wouldn't be surprised if they beat them.
Iowa's offense was spectacular in the first half, held the ball for long controlled drives. That was their best defense, keeping the OSU offense off the field.

Chad Peltier's picture

You didn't see Iowa's great defense because Ohio State has a great offense

Hovenaut's picture

I haven't seen PSU play, besides those four glorious overtime stanzas against we know who, but get the impression Ohio State can control their offense with the pass rush.

I think the front four is prime for their best game yet. Belton and Zwinak are serviceable backs, but if Miller, Hyde and company stay efficient and/or explosive the Nits should be passing and attempting to play catch up by the second half. Sets up nicely for Bosa, Diesel, Spence and company.

Hope to see some semblance of decent coverage from Grant, Pitt and Roby....who I'm sure BOB will test Robinson with early on.

"Success - it's what you do with what you got" - Woody Hayes

sir rickithda3rd's picture

guapo will run on any and all defenses

mark may wins douchebag of the year... again

Boxley's picture

"Guapo, behind this O-line, will run on any and all defenses"
There, I fixed that for you. And I agree 100% with you evaluation.

"...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

GoBucksToledo's picture

I think the Buckeye offense will be too much for the PSU defense, hands down. 
It will also be difficult for Hackenberg to complete passes when he is flat on his back with Spence/Bosa/Washington/etc. standing over him.

KLF Buckeye's picture

Thank you, Chad. This is the kind of data and analysis nerds like me want to see!

AndyVance's picture

The normally stringent Penn State defense is 48th in the country, allowing 23.7 points per game. Like Iowa, the strength is in the rush defense, which allows just 118 yards per game on the ground and 218 (6.7 yards per pass) through the air. Almost every team in the Big Ten seems to boast a top rush defense these days, with seven in the top-30.

Honest question: Is the spate of stiff B1G rushing defenses a product of the conference's traditional focus on the run, or because the lower-tier teams are moving toward becoming these pass-happy type of offenses (looking at you, Indiana), or because we're playing teams that just aren't that good offensively (looking at your, Purdue)?

MN Buckeye's picture

I thought Jesse James was shot to death in Minnesota in 1882. Unless we are talking about a different Jesse James.

alust2013's picture

I'm kind of expecting a similar game to Nebraska last year, except Penn State won't score 38. 

...and Michigan still sucks.