Statistical Analysis: Comparing the 2013 Buckeyes to 2002 and 2006

AndyVance's picture
October 17, 2013 at 12:39p

Today's post about the offense not yet running full tilt, on all cylindars, got me thinking about how this year's team stacks up against some of the best Buckeye teams of days gone by, at least, during the Tressel era. Here's a recap from the front-page piece:

Ohio State ranks in the top 20 nationally in total offense and rushing offense. The Buckeyes have scored 36 touchdowns, average 493 total yards per game – 281 on the ground – and gain nearly seven yards each play. Yet, they aren’t clicking.

Let's do a little statistical comparison, comparing this year's squad to the 2002 team that went 14-0, and the 2006 team that lost to Coach Meyer's Gators in the national title game (yes, that national title game):

Year points scored total offense rushing yds/gm passing yds/gm
2002 29.3 (41st) 364.5 191.3 173.2
2006 34.6 (8th) 384.5 169.8 214.7
2013 46.8 (6th) 492.9 280.7 (10th) 212.2 (78th)

So it's probably true that the game has changed in the years since those teams took the field, but it's safe to say that when it comes to our offense, we aren't in Kansas anymore. Let's look at the Defense:

Year Points Allowed Total Defense Rushing Yds/GM Passing Yds/Gm
2002 13.1 (2nd) 320.9 77.7 243.1
2006 12.8 (5th) 280.5 98.3 182.2
2013 19.2 (24th) 326.2 86.2 240.0

On the face of it, as improved as our offense is compared to those two great teams of the Tressel era, the defenses are performing at a fairly similar level to the 2002 squad. That 2006 defense, on paper, looks absolutely amazing. In terms of yards allowed, the current squad through 6 games has actually allowed slightly fewer passing yards, while still being pretty dominant against the rush. Points allowed, obviously, is the bigger difference, allowing more than 19 points a game, while the two comparison squads barely allowed 13.

EDIT: Okay, reader Knarsci challenged me in the comments for not making this a true apples-apples comparison since the 2002 and 2006 stats included full, 14-game seasons, while the 2013 figures included only the first 6 games, against cupcakes. This is a fair criticque, so I went back and compiled game-by-game statistics using data from to get data for only the first six games in each season. Here's the look at our offenses:

Year Points Scored Total Offense Rush Yds/Gm Passing Yds/Gm
2002 36.0 410.0 240.8 169.2
2006 32.8 386.7 151.5 235.2
2013 46.8 492.9 280.7 212.2

Looking at the same teams through six games, it's clear that the Ohio State of today is putting up more points and more yards of offense, but on a much easier schedule. The 2002 team faced Kliff Kingsbury's Texas Tech Red Raiders and a ranked Washington State team (along with Kent State, Cincinnati, Indiana and Northwestern), and the 2006 squad faced a ranked Texas Longhorns squad, as well as Iowa and Penn State (as well as Northern Illinois, Cincinnati and Bowling Green).

Here's what the defensive comparison looked like through six games:

Year Points Allowed Total Defense Rush Yds/Gm Passing Yds/Gm
2002 16.2 360.0 79.8 280.2
2006 9.3 300.7 118.0 182.7
2013 19.2 326.2 86.2 240.0

The first thing that jumped out to me is that the 2006 defense, through six games, was a brick wall. That squad didn't allow teams to score points - it held all but two of its first six opponents to fewer than 7 points, and allowed no one so score more than 17. Against the rush, the team was good, actually holding UC to a rushing total of -4, although that really swung the average - without UC, they allowed 142.2 yards per game.

Taking that into account, the current squad is maybe better against the rush, though not as good as the more consistent 2002 unit, though nowhere near as good at holding teams scoreless on drives as the 2006 squad. If you had that teams stingy goal line performance married to the 2013 unit's scoring ability, that lovechild might just be able to conquer the world.

Taken a step further, look at the team's performance minus the blowout against FAMU and perhaps we get a little more realistic interpretation of what this team has done thus far:

Year Points Scored Total Offense Rushing Yds/Gm Passing Yds/Gm
2002 (6gms) 36.0 410.0 240.8 169.2
2002 (full) 29.3 364.5 191.3 173.2
2006 (6gms) 32.8 386.7 151.5 235.2
2006 (full) 34.6 384.5 169.8 214.7
2013 41 470.8 259.2 211.6
Year Points Allowed Total Defense Rushing Yds/Gm Passing Yds/Gm
2002 (6gms) 16.2 360.0 79.8 280.2
2002 (full) 13.1 320.9 77.7 243.1
2006 (6gms) 9.3 300.7 118.0 182.7
2006 (full) 12.8 280.5 98.3 182.2
2013 23 375.4 93.4 282

Okay, again focusing on the defense, we can say that this team has been nowhere near as stingy through its first six games - not counting a hapless FAMU - as the 2002 or 2006 squads. They have, however, matched the 2006 team in shutting down the rush, and are about on par with the 2002 team through six games in stopping the pass.

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Buckeyeneer's picture

Great analysis, Andy. Any idea what our strength of schedule was for 2002 and 2006?

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

AndyVance's picture

According to Jeff Sagrin's ratings at USA Today, the 2002 Buckeyes had the 30th-toughest schedule in the FBS, the 2006 Buckeyes had the 38th-toughest, and the current squad's SOS is ranked 87th. Sagrin hates this year's team with the fiery passion of 10,000 burning suns.
Phil Steele wasn't quite so hard on the Buckeyes: his preseason rankings said we had the #67 schedule in the country. (BTW, Phil said Cal and Purdue had two of the 10 toughest schedules because, in part, they play Ohio State.) Alabama came in at #40 on Mr. Steele's rankings.

AndyVance's picture

Congrove, by the way, says the Buckeye schedule is 55th, comparable with Alabama, Oregon and Baylor - the three teams ranked above Ohio State in the Congrove rankings - and much better than #5 Florida State.

Hovenaut's picture

This is great AV - had forgotten the '02 team had their own issues against the pass at times. Although they did play Texas Tech with Kingsbury and Wazzu with a Heisman contender at QB at the time (if I recall correctly). 
But what helped that bunch out, as I think most of us recall against The U in Tempe, was just how effective the pass rush was. 
They also really tightened up in the regular season down the stretch. 
Wouldn't mind at all to see history revisited with the current Buckeyes. 
Although I'd happily take some of what 2006 had to offer..........including Urban Meyer winning a National Championship at the end of the year. 
Nice job. 

cjmgobucks's picture

Will Allen's interception at the goal line to seal the Buckeye victory over meechigan in '02 on the last place of the game is, in my opinion, a big enough play to overshadow a season of "bend but don't break" porous secondary play...

"When I look in the mirror, I want to take a swing at me."

Wayne Woodrow Hayes

Hovenaut's picture

I almost sent a thank you note to John Navarre for that one. 

Jack Fu's picture

Any time you look at per game stats from 2006, you have to take into account that that was the year of Rule 3-2-5e, which depressed statistics across the board. According to the linked article, on average, that rule cut 7 offensive plays for each team; essentially, games in 2006 featured 14 fewer plays than in the previous season. It might be more accurate to look at yards per play.

Knarcisi's picture

Not quite a fair comparison considering we are only 6 games in, with 4 cream puffs, compared to 13 and 14 game schedules already with their tougher 2nd half. 

AndyVance's picture

Right... but on the one hand it's illustrative to see how a team is tracking relative to two historic teams of the modern era generally considered to be pretty darn good, and on the other hand because we need to have something for comparison.
There is little doubt that these figures will change over the last half of the season - but these are the stats we have to work with. I'm not sure, without going back and doing all of the math by hand (which isn't going to happen), where I would find mid-year aggregate stats for those two teams so we had an apples-to-apples comparison.
FURTHERMORE, one might posit that Ohio State has already faced its two toughest tests of the season, saving perhaps The Game and the B1G championship match.

Knarcisi's picture

Understood. And always appreciate all your work here. The passing yards allowed compared to 2002 were surprising. Take FAMU out, and what is our average this year?

Knarcisi's picture

282 yards passing allowed removing FAMU. Tells a little more realistic story. 

Knarcisi's picture

375 total a game, removing FAMU. 

AndyVance's picture

I went back up and did the game-by-game math on the first six games of the 2002 and 2006 seasons, also, so that provides some additional scrutiny as well.

AndyVance's picture

I also added two more tables comparing both teams to the 2013 stats minus FAMU.

Knarcisi's picture

Andy V = Da Man 

Matt Gutridge's picture

Nice job Andy.
It's enlightening to see that this year's offense is averaging 5 more points per game and allowing 7 more points per game than the 2002 team at this points of the season sans the FAMU game.

DefendYoungstown's picture

Great read...

What we can't do in the air we'll do on the ground.

jenks's picture

I think its really interesting that in 2006 total defense got better from 6 games to the full season, but scoring defense actually got worse. I wonder how often that happens.

AndyVance's picture

I was intrigued by that as well - during the first half of the season, that team let offenses move the ball, but they built a brick wall at the goal line. The metrics just started to revert to the mean, in a sense: they started stopping teams from accumulating as many yards, but offenses figured out how to get the ball across the finish line a little more often.

FitzBuck's picture

Thanks for taking the time Andy and putting this together.  
Now go back to fixing the USDA.  

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

AndyVance's picture

Sorry, Fitz - that may be beyond my phenomenal cosmic powers, and I'm not running for Congress ;)

Run_Fido_Run's picture

and I'm not running for Congress ;)

That's too bad. I'd vote for you, especially if you promise to go to legislative and rhetorical war with the Michigan delegation.

AndyVance's picture

Well, when you put that out there... Hmm, could be fun...