To the Booth: The Competition

By Chad Peltier on November 7, 2013 at 11:15a
Sorry Baylor, you didn't make the cut for the collage

The Buckeyes might not have a game this week, but it's nevertheless one of the most important weeks of the season for Urban Meyer's squad. Beginning with two Thursday night games, it will be a decisive week for the other potential national championship challengers.

First up is Oklahoma-Baylor, followed later tomorrow night by the pivotal Oregon-Stanford matchup. On Saturday, Florida State only has Wake Forest (but maybe that's ok), but then Alabama squares off against LSU in the College Gameday game of the week.

So continuing our unofficial bye-week focus on the other BCS challengers – check out the strength of schedule/media analysis, why the Buckeyes will make the title game, and BCS ranking analysis – below I take a look behind the numbers for Florida State, Baylor, Oregon, and Alabama in comparison with the Buckeyes.

As a frame of reference, here are some statistics for the Buckeyes:

Off PPP Def PPP Off YPP Def YPP Turnover Ex Plays Red Zone TD
.64 .26 7.0 4.8 +9 53:20 83%

These aren't the end-all-be-all of football statistics, but this collection of metrics certainly gives a nice quick picture of a team for which to build on. YPP here stands for yards per play instead of yards per point. For the explosive plays column, I compared the number of offensive plays of 20+ yards against the number of 20+ yard plays allowed by the defense.


Off PPP Def PPP Off YPP Def YPP Turnover Ex Plays Red Zone TD
.64 .17 7.2 1.8 +5 49:27 69%

Alabama is extremely similar to Ohio State across the major metrics (especially in their identical points per play), except for a few key differences.

First, Alabama's defensive yards per play is significantly lower than Ohio State's, despite fairly similar defensive points per play numbers. Complicating the picture is that Ohio State's defense has held opponents to fewer explosive plays. So, the Buckeye defense has been better at limiting big plays but gives up more yards per play, even though opponent drive efficiency is similar for both squads.

While both teams have positive turnover margins, Ohio State has been the beneficiary of more turnovers (Alabama has eight interceptions to OSU's eleven).

Finally, the Buckeyes have a significantly better red zone touchdown conversion percentage than Alabama.

In the event of an Ohio State-Alabama matchup and just looking at the numbers, I'd imagine that the Buckeye would play aggressively in pass coverage while attempting to exploit the Alabama corners for big gains in the passing game.


Off PPP Def PPP Off YPP Def YPP Turnover Ex Plays Red Zone TD
.71 .21 8.1 4.4 +13 71:19 71%
Always nice to have a guy capable of running sidewaysDontre would be a tough matchup for any defense

At this point in the season, Oregon has superior numbers for every single metric above except for red zone touchdown percentage.

I have two thoughts here. First, while better than the Buckeyes statistically, the Buckeyes are in the ballpark – and absolutely competitive – in every stat. The only number that Oregon has a wide margin over the Buckeyes is in offensive explosive plays, where Oregon has 18 more than the Buckeyes.

Many are looking to the 2010 Rose Bowl for evidence that the Buckeyes could handle the Ducks this season, but I think that comparison isn't all that worthwhile. That team had an almost entirely different coaching staff, a different offensive system (i.e. the current offense actually has a system), and a different starting quarterback. Conversely, the Ducks were led by Jeremiah Masoli instead of Heisman-caliber Marcus Mariota.

Instead, I think the 2013 Buckeyes could win over the Ducks because we simply don't know enough about Oregon yet. Their only potential challenge could have come from UCLA, and their win over Nebraska looks less impressive each week. We'll learn much more about Mariota and company later when they meet Stanford.

Florida State

Off PPP Def PPP Off YPP Def YPP Turnover Ex Plays Red Zone TD
.75 .20 8.1 4.3 +8 66:20 76%

Like Oregon, FSU has many superior numbers compared to the Buckeyes, except for turnover margin, redzone touchdown percentage, and opponent explosive plays. Again, like Oregon, the Buckeyes are comparable in every metric.

Florida State's most impressive metric is their offensive points per play, which is near the top in the country behind Baylor. Winston is capable of leading sustained drives that end in touchdowns, without just relying on big plays (though they've produced plenty of those as well).


Off PPP Def PPP Off YPP Def YPP Turnover Ex Plays Red Zone TD
.80 .21 9.0 4.2 +5 69:25 72%

Baylor is an interesting case because their numbers are absolutely through the roof (only two teams have kept them under 70 points per game). Further, I'm not sure that Oklahoma is really the best test for Baylor offensively or defensively.

What is certain is that Baylor's passing game would be a stiff challenge for the Buckeye secondary. A matchup with Baylor looks to be a shootout on paper, though I think their defensive statistics are mainly the result of their schedule, rather than any overwhelming talent. I would imagine that Herman would dial up a run-heavy game plan that would strive for high drive efficiency and ball control, while trying to keep everything in front of them on defense. The Kansas State defensive gameplan is illustrative here.


Ohio State's four challengers all have several characteristics in common: extremely high explosive play ratios, high turnover margins, high points per play numbers, and get touchdowns out of red zone visits at least 2/3 of the time.

So where does Ohio State have an edge? The Buckeyes are third in the country and tops among the five here in red zone touchdown conversion percentage, continuing Urban and Herman's trend from 2012. They also lead the country in rushing plays of more than ten yards, a testament both to Carlos Hyde and the offensive line. Further, their rush defense is the best of the challengers, with opponents averaging just 2.8 yards per carry.

I'd also caution that these numbers don't control for specific matchups, strategy, or strength of schedule. For instance, while Alabama has the edge over the Buckeyes in both offensive and defensive points per play and yards per play metrics, they were eviscerated by the Texas A&M offense.

Meyer and Herman have shown that they have the ability to gameplan extremely well, and this isn't as easily captured by season-level statistics.


Comments Show All Comments

Chise47's picture

Chad, love your writing!! But after that semi-colon in your heading, you meant to put,"The Others", right?
Because we have no competition!!!

Grayskullsession's picture

Baylor has some gaudy numbers for sure but that is more of an indictment of the Big 12 strength more than anything.

"if irony were made of strawberries, we' d all be drinking a lot of smoothies right now."

saevel25's picture

The thing I love about this Ohio State team, they run the ball. That is what will keep them in games. Against Oregon and FSU, I think Urban can put together 2-3 long slow methodical drives to give the defense a rest. Also, this defense goes up against a high speed offense every week, and they are 2 deep on the D-line.
So what's the term to describe OSU, VERSATILE.
They can power run it, they can finesse it, they can throw it deep, short. I still think Braxton needs to work on the middle of the field passes, but he's at least trying them this year with some success.
I think this team has the man power and variety of plays and styles to compete under any situation.

Seattle Linga's picture

Well said 25 - We have so many and too many options available - clearly most defenses will have to pick their poison if we keep playing this way.

buckeyepastor's picture

I think Carlos Hyde is our best weapon in all of these circumstances.   All of these teams are very good and very explosive.  I can see where these teams would take away a lot of what we like to do on offense, but I don't see any of them taking away Carlos getting his yards.   And conversely, heavy doses of Carlos Hyde create long drives for our offense, keeping their playmakers off the field.   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

NCBuckeye1's picture

Re: the Florida State/Wake Forest game, not that it is likely to happen, but Wake has ALWAYS given Florida State trouble. They may not beat them, but its possible the score is way closer than people think it should be.
Full disclosure, Wake Forest is my hometown school, so maybe I am just drinking the Kool-Aid?

"Without winners, there wouldn't even be civilization." -- Woody

Maffro's picture

After the win at Clemson, I said that the Wake game is the most important on FSU's schedule. The Seminoles that existed when I was growing up would dominate this game; the Seminoles that have been around for the last decade would lose it. This game will tell me everything I need to know about whether FSU is "back" or not.

Him1stftballl8er's picture

Love the write up Chad. To reenforce some of your points and to add my own; ESPN is putting on a propaganda clinic and the sheeple are eating it up. If the media says it enough people will believe it and they've programmed this country into believing TOSU isn't even in the discussion.
TOSU has played more teams above .500 than Oregon and Bama combined.
FSU has two top ten wins so IMO I would say FSU and TOSU are the most legit teams currently.
Every team has its weaknesses.
Bama has problems scoring in the RZ at 84% good for 56th in the country. You're not going to beat the Buckeyes kicking FG's. And they have no pass rush, 11 sacks...on the year. They have great CB play because they play tight man. Braxton would eat them alive scrambling and running. You can't play man against us. Ask penn state and Iowa. As Chad stated, look at what Manziel and A&M did to Bama. Bama's TO margin isn't very good either and they don't have their typical power run game. We are 4th in the country against the run. All this is a recipe for us being able to beat them.
FSU's OLine is decent at best. They have not seen a stout front seven all year and still are 44th in the country in opponents TFL. That doesn't bode well for them against an TOSU pass rush that has 26 sacks on the year, more than the other 3 teams we're talking about. We lead the B1G in sacks. We also are 8th in the country in TO margin. Not to mention FSU has NO punt team (111th in nation at 33.9 per). Their runD is suspect, and they're very undisciplined. And their RZ D isn't anything to brag about. We are 9th in the country in RZ Offense at 93.5%.
Anyone honestly think Oregon can stop our OLine and Hyde? They're 26th against the run and haven't come even close to facing a power run game like ours, not counting Braxton and Dontre on the perimeter. Oregons RZ offense is 89th in the nation....they are also one of the most penalized teams in CFB. Their opposition to this point is terribly overrated.
It all starts at the LOS and that's our strength on both sides of the ball.
Our pass D is vulnerable but we're beginning to cover that up with a very aggressive pass rush and we are forcing our opponents to play from behind. Our offense has the ability to completely take over the tempo of the game. After studying these 4 teams, we and FSU are arguably the least flawed teams in CFB. What makes us so dangerous is a spread power run game that Oregon nor FSU possess against a strong front seven. Our passing game is ridiculously underrated.
The Ohio State Buckeyes can easily play with anyone and should definitely be in the discussion. 21 in a row and still counting with arguably the best Head Coach in CFB. And ESPN is saying nothing......

The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the promotion of fools. 

buckeyemanda's picture

If I could control football, I'd make it an Ohio State - Oregon BCS Champ, but it doesn't seem to be in the cards. Sigh. Thanks for the article!

fanatibuck's picture

Buckeyemanda I hope you mean Oregon being our opponent in the BCSNC game is not in the cards vs OSU not being in the NC game at all. We positive thinkers are looking for one of the top 3 to at least lose one game.


buckeyemanda's picture

Of course! I meant that Oregon was going to lose (which they did), not that Ohio State's BCSNC hopes aren't in the cards. That is why I'll swallow my pride and root for LSU alongside the rest of the Buckeye Nation.

RedStorm45's picture

Oklahoma is in the top 10 of total defense.  They most certainly will provide a test that the rest of Baylor's garbage schedule has not.  I mean, K-State (33rd in total defense) almost had the Bears and they lost to an FCS school.

Maffro's picture

Couple things I'd like to say about this:
1. OU's defense is hurt bad from losing their top DT and LB and will likely get ripped up on the ground again by Baylor. It'll certainly be the best defense Baylor's faced, but I think folks who are just looking at OU's standard defensive stats will be in for a surprise. Believe it or not, the Texas defense (if they can continue to get their crap together) will likely provide the toughest test for Baylor's offense.
2. Yes, KSU has done the best job against Baylor so far, but KSU's "slowing them down" entailed Baylor still scoring 35 points, with three TDs coming on plays of 50+ yards. Stopping Baylor is not nearly as simple as "oh wait until they play a good team."

Seattle Linga's picture

Baylor will be off everyones radar real soon!

Squirrel Master's picture

Hey Chad, I think you meant Oregon-Stanford later TONIGHT.
kind of threw me for a loop there. I was like "a game like that on a Friday night?"
P.S. I hope LSU beats Alabama in another 6-3 matchup and it is U.G.L.Y.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

stantmann's picture

I believe points per play is a garbage stat. It does not account for the hidden defense, which is the opposing teams ball control offense and possession time. Basically, the more your opponents have the ball, the less chances you have to score. That's why OSU stuffed Oregon in 2010. Since the 2nd half of the Northwestern game, including garbage time, OSU has punted 5x, 1 int, 2 to on downs, 2 fg's and 25 td's. That's an amazing stat. However, the most compelling statistic, and why OSU would beat any of these flashy offensive teams is points per possession on long drives - nobody is even close. OSU is #1 with 4.67 points per drive on drives starting 80 yards or more. 2nd is baylor 4.31, oregon 3.93, fsu 3.63, alabama is further down at 3.45. OSU has the proven ball control offense, to keep the oregon's/baylor's and fsu's from getting 15 possession games. Teams like Alabama, well that is a different story, it's more like B1G ball on steroids...

Chad Peltier's picture

No single metric gives the whole perspective on an offense or defense, but that does not invalidate PPP as a statistic.