Beyond the Hashes: Offensive Records Fall

By Chad Peltier on December 15, 2013 at 12:30p

Last week we looked at how we can use FEI and S&P+ – two of the best and most commonly used indices of advanced football metrics – to better understand our stumbling defense. The numbers weren't very pretty

On the other hand, we had the pleasure of watching a record-setting offense all season – one that:

  1. Had two hundred-yard rushers in five different games
  2. Was 57/60 in red zone scoring opportunities and first in the country in red zone touchdown percentage
  3. Was third in the country in rushing yards per game
  4. Shattered the school-record for points per game, which previously belonged to Woody's 1969 team. 

If the defensive review made you nervous for Clemson, here's your pick-me-up. 

S&P+ Excellence 

  Play eff std downs Pass Downs Rush S&P Pass S&P Drive Eff
OSU Offense 138.4 (3) 141.8 (1) 130.8 (13) 164.3 (1) 121.8 (16) 142.6 (3)
  • If you only take one thing away from these numbers, know that no one in the country was more efficient and explosive at rushing the ball than the 2013 Buckeyes. While third overall in efficiency at both the play and drive levels, the Buckeyes are top in the country in both rushing and standard downs S&P+. 
  • To elaborate on the rushing records, the basic S&P+ score combined the "success rate," or play efficiency measure, with the "points per play" metric. Success rate is primarily a measure of efficiency, while the PPP is used in calculations of explosiveness. The Buckeyes were then not only best at consistently picking up first downs on the ground (Hyde rumbling for eight yards per carry), but creating explosive plays (Braxton shooting past the secondary for 45 yarders). 
  • Further, no one comes close to the Buckeyes in Rushing S&P+. Oregon, the second-ranked squad, has a 139.9, while the third place Auburn Tigers are a 135.6. That is an extremely large difference between the first and second ranked teams. For instance, the difference between OSU and Oregon is the difference between the second and 25th-ranked rushing team (Bielema's Razorbacks). 
  • Despite having just the third-best rushing attack, Auburn's Tre Mason was one of two running back representatives at the Heisman last night. I have to think missing three games - and maybe having such incredible offensive linemen - prevented Hyde from receiving an invitation. 
  • Despite declining in effectiveness over the last two games, Braxton's passing was still strong enough to be top-16 in both Passing and Passing Downs S&P+. These figures are opponent-adjusted, so Braxton's relative inefficiency against the Spartans wasn't very penalized, while lighting up Indiana is underweighted. 
  • I and others have talked before about how the cliche that defense wins championships isn't necessarily true. Many interpret that axiom to mean that only defense matters to winning national championships. The S&P+ rankings really challenge that narrow interpretation, with FSU and Auburn owning the first and eighth ranked offenses overall. There might not be a better team statistically – even after adjusting for strength of schedule – than FSU's Heisman-led juggernaut. Of course, that's exactly what they said in '06, too. 

The FEI Agrees

OSU Offense .706 (2) .825 (2) .615 (4) .286 (3) .119 (94) .519 (16) .073  (41) .651  (15)
It was an otherwise uneventful game through the air, but tenacious Philly had this heck of a catchThe receivers were capable of explosive plays too 

Explanations for the FEI components above (offensive efficiency, first down rate, available yards, explosive drives, methodical drives, value drives, and strength of schedule past and future) may be found here. As always, rankings are in parentheses. In case you're really interested in geekin' out, here are game FEI ratings for every FBS team. 

Compared to the S&P+, the FEI is composed of more drive-level (as opposed to play-level) metrics. That matters little to how the numbers perceive the Buckeyes, as they're ranked fourth in the country behind Texas A&M, Arizona State, and Miami. Florida State, the top S&P+ team, is all the way down to tenth using opponent-adjusted drive efficiency statistics. 

  • Besides the surprisingly efficient Hurricanes, the Buckeyes are among the most-consistent offenses between the S&P and the FEI, indicating efficiency and explosiveness on both individual play and drive levels. 
  • Of the top ten FEI offenses, South Carolina is the only one to be in the top ten for the "methodical drive" (ME) metric. None of the other nine offenses seem to be built around stringing together long drives. FSU and Auburn are 88 and 89 overall in methodical drives and first and seventh overall in explosive drives. R.I.P. to the three yards and a cloud of dust. 
  • Despite being relatively inefficient throwing the ball at times this season, the Buckeyes were able to rely on Hyde and Braxton running to produce consistently efficient and explosive drives. 
  • When Meyer was hired, he argued that an offense has to at least pick up two first downs in order to win the field position battle and give the defense enough time to rest and recover. Urbanball is Tresselian in its understanding of the importance of ball control and field position, but Urban places greater emphasis on tempo manipulation as an offensive tool. This is evident in the Buckeyes extremely high first down rate (FD), which measures the percentage of drives that result in at least one first down. 

The Buckeye offense was elite at the national level while shattering program records. While the Clemson defense performed surprisingly well this season, it is nowhere near the caliber of the Spartan defense. Though the Orange Bowl is undoubtedly short of many fan expectations for this season, the combination of Hyde and Miller will go down in Ohio State legend as one of the most dynamic ground attacks in Buckeye history. 


Comments Show All Comments

BuckGuy003's picture

Nervous but very excited to see how this team fairs against Clemson. It's not what we wanted but still a good team that can help shed the "bucks can't win big games" tag we have acquired. Go Bucks

Kevbo714's picture

Feed Hyde...

Tom Crean listens to Nickelback...

45has2's picture

Right? Hopefully, the coaching staff looks at the metrics and stops out smarting themselves.

"I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." -W.W. Hayes

ibuck's picture

How did the expression "defense wins championships" become a thing?
Every year the media goes gaga over offense, over-ranking big O teams—as happened with Oregon & Baylor this year (and perhaps FSU as well: the MNC game will tell), generally ignoring defense.  And every year teams with supposedly unstoppable O, but marginal D get beaten by a team with good or great D. And teams with great D win conference championships: see MSU & Stanford this year. And let's not forget Tressel's many conference championships with good to great D, and often just average offenses. Just look at how low OSU offenses were rated (B1G stats) in nearly all of the Tressel years.
Is this defense "cliché" always true? Come on, you're smarter than that. And a New York Times book review is not convincing. Even the reviewer of authors Moskowitz & Wertheim's book notes that their book exhibits "a brash confidence in circumstantial evidence." Are you willing to forego punting?
Giving no stock to defensive prowess is utterly foolish. And yet it drives the beauty contests called polls. Hopefully, with the BCS drawing its last breath, the polls will be regarded as merely the hype they are (used mostly to drive viewer ratings), and be excluded from the playoff committee's criteria for selecting the 4 playoff teams next year.

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

Chad Peltier's picture

I linked a NYTimes book review because I am not able to link the actual book nor their data sets. Their conclusion is not that defense does not matter for winning championships, it's that defense isn't the only thing that matters. You're arguing against a point that Moskowitz did not make himself. Their research demonstrates plenty of respect for defense; they simply caution that the data indicates that both are generally important.

allinosu's picture

If Herman falls into his comfort zone we loose.

Crimson's picture

If we play loose, we win!

Actorjonnyb's picture

Doesn't even matter to me. Clemson is kind of a consolation prize. One we can't win even if we win. Still in shock we lost to an inferior MSU team. And make no mistake, they were inferior. We played (again) down to the level of competition. Offensive stats and records are interesting but irrelevant if you lose when it really matters.
Go Bucks


buckeyepastor's picture

We played against MSU after the first 10 minutes about how we've played all year, and it wasn't enough.  We were not the better team last Saturday night. 

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

urban86's picture

Carlos cannot be stopped...feed him the balll

Seattle Linga's picture

Would like to think they will feed HYDE all game long but time will tell

buckeyepastor's picture

I'll go further than that.  They weren't just they leaders of an offensive juggernaut.  They WERE the offensive juggernaut.   To me, while the pass defense was our achilles heel this year, our pass offense with everyone we had back and with everyone in that unit staying healthier overall than any other unit on the team, was the most disappointing.   They improved a lot over last year, but apart from way inferior opponents never showed the consistency to provide a steady balance to our offense.  I know, I know, we ran the ball a lot more because we were so successful at it.   But I'm not entirely convinced especially in November that if Carlos had been bottled up by someone that our receivers and Miller would have gotten it done.  

"Woody would have wanted it that way"