I am addicted to stats and there is no cure for it. Doctors believes I may have dyslexia and labeled me as a nucking fut and I was forced to report to Room 11W at the Nuthouse for my rehabilitation. Still seeing a blur of numbers and blurting out "I-O" randomly when there's nothing, but silence. May the odds of progress be ever at my favor...
Time for Statisticology!
I was able to gather the data on Ohio State and Michigan State's rushing stats for each down for all of their games played this season. I thought we can start out by analyzing how they perform on each down. I believe that this will be the most critical part in winning this game because both teams would want to be able to control the ball without turning the ball over. Everyone knows that three things can happen when you throw the ball, and two of them are bad: incompletion and interception.
Let's start off with OSU's vaunted rushing attack against the Spartans. On 1st downs, both teams ranks 4th nationally against each other and that tells us that it is going to be a slugfest right off the bat. Defenses wins championships, but a great rushing team can overcome that by doing just enough to wear down the defense. Excellent ball control and taking care of the ball will do the trick.
The Buckeyes holds a much bigger advantage when running on 2nd down. The math says that they're at their best when they run it on this down so they may want to take advantage of this because it shows that on 3rd down, the Spartans are amazing with stopping the run -- giving up only 0.29 yard per attempt. That ranks in #1 nationally by far.
4th down is kind of a crapshoot because it can vary wildly. It simply becomes a game of chess with both sides trying to decide on selling out against the run or play safe against the pass. I wouldn't put too much stock on this data.
All I have to say is that I am already salivating at this kind of match-up. That kind of stats is so exquisite to look at and I cannot wait to see how Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde will fare against this kind of test. Dontre Wilson, Jordan Hall, and Ezekiel Elliot should be excited to take on the challenge as well.
Now, let's move on to Ohio State's run defense against the Spartans. It seems to be more lopsided in Buckeyes' favor, but we have to consider that MSU runs at a slower pace than Ohio State does. That would buy the defense more time to organize and recognize the formations, which can impact MSU's yards per carry negatively. That's one thing that Ohio State does so well with their rushing offense because they can play at an incredible tempo, catching the defense out of position and disorganized (as you saw in The Game).
The Spartans seem to love running on 1st down like OSU, but there is one big difference that pops out -- long runs. They nearly have half as many as Ohio State in this category. That tells us that they don't really have that kind of breakaway speed to make big plays in a hurry, but they can be lethal with ground and pound scheme under MSU OC, Jim Bollman -- if they can succeed with that against the Silver Bullets. Ohio State would want the ball more often to put up points on the board and wear down the frontline of Spartans' defense, but MSU could offset that by being patient and try to turn their rushing offense into their best defense against the Buckeyes. Fortunately, it seems like Ohio State can be efficient at stopping the run to force the pass and force incompletions to stop the clock and buy more time for the Miller & Hyde Show on turf.
As the stats show, I do not see any evidence of why Michigan State would beat Ohio State into a submission with their rushing game. They would need to pass the ball or run screen plays to move the chains or they would be giving up more possessions to the Buckeyes, which is the last thing MSU Head Coach, Mark Dantonio, would want to do.
The next blog post will be focused on both teams' pass offense and pass defense since that's another half of the battle, which would be in Michigan State's favor. It should be interesting to see how Ohio State's pass defense would fare since we all saw how they struggled against the air for most of the season. Stats doesn't always predict the outcome -- just take a grain of salt with it since there are many outliers in life.
Here's to the next one...