2014 Season Preview: Weird Stats from 2013

By John Brandon on August 20, 2014 at 3:30p
Eleven Warriors' 2014 Ohio State Football Season Preview

I've always been a fan of statistics and using them to better understand sports. Most of the time, they simply affirm what we believe and see on the field. Other times, though, stats tell a very different story from what we see.

Neither stats nor the "eye test" by themselves tell the entire story; the synthesis of these two provides a clearer picture. With that in mind, let's look at some numbers from last season that tell us something that we might not expect.

The tale of four quarters

The general perception during the Urban Meyer era has been that Tom Herman, the Buckeyes' great offensive mind, was excellent at in-game adjustments and Luke Fickell, the defensive stalwart, was rather poor. However, a closer look at last year's numbers doesn't exactly support this.

Here are Ohio State's points per quarter both scored and allowed, accompanied by national rank:

  Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4
OHIO STATE OFFENSE 15.0 (1) 11.4 (13) 10.4 (8) 6.4 (74)
OHIO STATE DEFENSE 5.3 (38) 7.2 (51) 4.2 (23) 7.6 (81)

Notice how the Buckeyes' best two quarters, offensively and defensively, are the first and third quarters? These are the times when Urban Meyer himself has the biggest impact on the game. The strong first quarter is a product of Meyer's game-planning ability, while the third quarter is a testament to halftime adjustments. In the second and fourth quarters, Herman and Fickell were a bit more on their own for adjustments. In the fourth quarter especially, they appeared to have a hard time against opposing coordinators.

Chris Ash steps in to renovate the passing defense, so defensive adjustments in the second and fourth quarters should improve. But what about the offense? Tom Herman has done a great job, but in-game adjustments don't appear to be his strength.

A side note: the theory that these numbers are skewed by blowouts in which the Buckeyes used backups in the fourth quarter doesn't explain away the disparity. Michigan State and Clemson were the best two teams Ohio State faced in 2013, and the offense scored a combined six points against them. In both cases, the fourth quarter was Ohio State's worst quarter of the game.

It should also be noted that Ohio State actually had the ball more in the second half. They had possession 54% of the time in the second half compared to 48% in the first half, yet scored fewer points. Time of possession isn't a valuable statistic, kids.

Without Braxton Miller's overwhelming talent, in-game offensive adjustments will have to be much better to beat Sparty this year and make a run at the College Football Playoff.

mr. clutch?

This off-season, Ohio State ran a press release about Braxton Miller leading active quarterbacks in game-winning drives. However, some of the other "clutch" indicators don't exactly sing the same tune. Here is Miller's 2013 season by the numbers:

Home vs. Away
HOME 85 117 1040 72.7% 8.89 13 2 180.6
AWAY 61 114 820 53.5 7.19 9 3 134.7
SEPT 19 27 228 70.4 8.44 4 0 190.2
OCT 55 77 677 71.4 8.79 5 1 164.1
NOV 49 84 676 58.3 8.05 10 3 158.1
DEC 8 21 101 38.1 4.81 1 0 94.2
1ST  48 68 657 70.6 9.93 9 1 194.7
2ND 53 86 670 61.6 7.79 7 3 147.0
3RD 34 51 363 66.7 7.12 5 1 154.9
4TH 11 26 152 42.3 5.85 1 0 104.1

Whether it was a product of the offensive play-calling, Braxton wearing down over the course of the game or some other combination of factors, Miller was significantly worse away from the Horseshoe, later in the season and in the fourth quarter.

In Miller's absence, the Buckeyes will need more in the fourth quarter from their quarterback and offense. Can they deliver?

Cardale is the man?

Now that Miller is confirmed to be out for the season, the battle between JT Barrett and Cardale Jones on the depth chart is hugely important. Barrett had just recently surpassed Jones on the depth chart, but I'd like to point out Cardale Jones' 2013 stats: 1-for-2 for 3 passing yards to go with 17 rushing attempts for 128 yards (7.5 yards/attempt). Jones had a limited output, but at least one "advanced" metric thought highly of it.

According to ESPN's College Football Total Quarterback Rating, a metric for measuring all-around quarterback play, Jones was the third best college quarterback in "Adjusted QBR," which is supposed to account for the fact that all of his plays came in blowouts against FAMU, Penn State and Purdue. Mind you, Jones' small sample size could also be skewing the results.

According to ESPN, Cardale was better than Braxton Miller, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and Johnny Football last season; by that standard he clearly deserves to be the starting quarterback for the Buckeyes. I don't put much stock into a rating with such a small sample size, but those are weird stats for you.



dubjayfootball90's picture

Weird stats indeed. Interesting read and brings up some interesting points.

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

BoFuquel's picture

Most of the teams we play we just kick the dog of them in the first quarter and it's over. I'm pretty sure that trend will continue this season. Script them plays and they never know what hit'em. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

+1 HS
AndyVance's picture

In the second and fourth quarters, Herman and Fickell were a bit more on their own for adjustments. In the fourth quarter especially, they appeared to have a hard time against opposing coordinators.

Chris Ash steps in to renovate the passing defense, so defensive adjustments in the second and fourth quarters should improve. But what about the offense? Tom Herman has done a great job, but in-game adjustments don't appear to be his strength.

Flashbacks to fourth and short in Indy and Miami: GIVE HYDE THE BALL DAMMIT...

+5 HS
nikolajz1's picture

I'm still not sold on Herman. I think almost anyone could have put up record numbers with last years schedule+ Hyde+ Braxton+ that amazing O-Line. If anything the play calling was iffy throughout the season. 

+2 HS
OSUBias's picture

Eh, Bollman could have turned that offense into a 22 ppg disjointed affront to creativity and people with eyes. 

Shitter's full

+10 HS
BuckminsterFullback's picture

Well, he did say "almost"...

+3 HS
45has2's picture

Eh, Bollman's offense was good enough to beat the Bucks, win the B1G and win their bowl game. The best running back in the nation last year was wasted.

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

-1 HS
OSUBias's picture

Proving again just how awful our defense was. They didn't out scheme us; every big play they had was the result of a massive blown assignment. 

Shitter's full

+1 HS
SPreston2001's picture

I thought I was the only person who felt that way about Herman! I mean hes a good coordinator at times, but at times he just seems to drop the ball!

cw823's picture

I know, so we could get blown out by FSU!  Brilliant!  

+1 HS
gridironguy's picture

I would like to see Braxton Miller"s rushing stats in the fourth quarter to see the complete picture. His passing is only half the story due to the fact that he is a true dual threat.

"Print is dead"

+4 HS
rock flag and eagle's picture

Yeah, I never really understood the "Miller is clutch" argument.  The "clutch statement" defined clutch as leading a game winning drive in the 4th quarter or overtime. The drives were defined as scoring drives that put the winning team ahead for good.  They said Miller had 6 such clutch performances.  But, by my count, Miller had six additional opportunities to lead game winning drives (trailing or tied in the 4th quarter/OT) and failed those times: Purdue (2011), PSU (2011), Mich (2011), Florida (2012), MSU (2013), Clemson (2014).  He also threw interceptions in the closing seconds of Michigan and Clemson losses. By my count, Miller is 50/50 in "clutch opportunities."  That's not "clutch."  It's a coin flip.  It's the law of averages. 

+1 HS
GoldenBuckeye's picture

I hardly call Purdue a failure.  Missed extra point?  Not on Miller.  He was, indeed, "clutch."  If you don't remember Purdue, I recommend watching that last drive.  

In fact, I'm not sure you can call any of those 2011 games his fault.  So that brings you to MSU and Clemson.  He put up 35 against Clemson and the defense let us down.  And we all know the play call that let us down against MSU (in addition to the defense).

+7 HS
vitaminB's picture

A missed assigment was the issue, we could have missed an assignment if Hyde had run too with similar results.

+1 HS
rock flag and eagle's picture

To be fair, I did watch the last OSU drive against Purdue in 2011.  It happened in OT.  Miller had the opportunity to lead OSU to a TD in overtime. (The survey included 4th quarter and OT)  OSU settled for a field goal.  Purdue scored a TD.  Miller was clutch on the penultimate drive, I suppose.

-1 HS
Furious George 27's picture

I hesitate to use the 2011 season since he had realtively no guidance or coaching, the top offensive players missed many games and he was playing on pure athleticism. So sure you can use MSU, but he did rally the team from 17 down against the best D in the country. As for Clemson he led them to 35 on a bad shoulder

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

+2 HS
Dmac3212's picture

I think Miller is clutch but he just doesn't have the skill set to consistently pass the ball when the defense knows it coming. Hopefully he can work on his touch, decision making, and accuracy. All though Miller wasn't the problem last year (defense obviously was), sometimes I wondered that his extreme athleticism occasionally put a ceiling on their offense. At times it became stagnate (tough to do when averaging 40 plus points). I wasn't sure if this was caused by Herman's Braxton centric play calling or Braxton's limitations as a QB. This will be an interesting season. We will see just how great BM is.

+1 HS
zenshade's picture

I'll agree that the criteria used makes a pretty weak case but overall I think Miller tends more towards clutch than not clutch. Trying to define that with strictly objective criteria that ignores atmosphere and several other game intangibles just seems silly. By the end of the year I think cumulative injuries had caught up to Braxton, moreso than the competition not bringing the best out of him. The real test of clutch is whether or not a player's skills elevate when it matters the most, and I believe Braxton's actually do more often than not.

NW Buckeye's picture

Don't get overly hung up on statistics, it sometimes turns into paralysis by analysis. 

buckeyepastor's picture

Jones' stats are rendered a bit useless by the small sample size.  But the stats on Miller from Sept. to November and from 1st qtr to 4th qtr are relevant.   Well, not so much now as he's out for the season.  But the inconsistency was noticeable.   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

+1 HS
BlueBayou's picture

A side note: the theory that these numbers are skewed by blowouts in which the Buckeyes used backups in the fourth quarter doesn't explain away the disparity.

No, but a change in offensive philosophy due to a blowout may.  If you are winning in the fourth quarter, you usually become more concerned with running the clock out over scoring points.  If you are losing, you are going to gamble and pass more. (opponents).

It should also be noted that Ohio State actually had the ball more in the second half.

The above statement and the statistics provided would seem to lend credibility to the possibility of changing the offensive philosophy in the second half to run the clock and protecting the lead.  A statistic that should be looked at to see if this could in fact be the case would be the offense's run/pass splits for each quarter.  If tOSU went noticibly run heavy in the 4th quarter, that would probably be indicative of an attempt to run out the clock and would probably lead to less points being scored.

+1 HS
whiskeyjuice's picture

Interesting and buys a little more time as we patiently wait (well, not all of us) for the 2014 season to start.

"Championships are not won on Saturdays in November. Championships are won on Tuesdays in August." -- Kerry Combs

TURD_BUCKET's picture

I love football statistics. But I also know that you can find a set of numbers to prove a point or find another set to disprove the same point.

“Being average means you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.” John Wooden

+3 HS
rock flag and eagle's picture

Advanced statistics from Footballstudyhall.com ranked OSU's D Line last season as the 96th best in the country.  Most OSU fans have ignored the advanced stats and cited much less sophisticated stats to explain why the 2013 D Line was (and possibly why the 2014 D line will be) among the best in the country.  You're right.  People can always find data to support their arguments.  The difference is that footballstudyhall is concerned with understanding the performance of 125 different teams.  Most homer fans are only interested in justifying the greatness of their team.

nickel beer's picture

"Mind you, Jones' small sample size could also be skewing the results."

Hah, there's nothing about that big gun that's small.

Dot Your Eyes

+1 HS
USArmyBuckeye's picture

Interesting.....I honestly wouldn't have guessed those numbers for Braxton.  Well, you learn something new every day and I certainly can't wait for him to come back and lead this team in some capacity in 15!!

BucksHave7's picture

QBR doesnt account for quality of the defense does it?


CC's picture

The only stat I need is that there were 4* next to JT's name and 3* next to Cardale's name so JT should start!

mb5599's picture

These numbers also do not take into account the fact that in the fourth quarter we were basically working the clock with El Guapo and our defense was more in a "mini prevent" to make the other team eat clock as they worked their way down the field. So yes, due to the fact that in many games we were comfortably ahead in the fourth quarter, the stats will not look like the quarters 1-3.

Big B

+1 HS
ibuck's picture

Time of possession isn't a valuable statistic

I say hogwash. As Mark Twain said. "There are lies, damn lies and statistics." Except for a safety, the opponent can't score when you have the ball. If your defense is poor, especially if prone to big plays, or you turn the ball over a few times, then TOP won't tell the whole story. But with a decent defense, including return defense, TOP gives valuable information.  Still, no single stat tells the whole story consistently. And Cardale's stats illustrate that.

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.

nickel beer's picture

We've got untested, under-experienced talent at the qb position, but still the Buckeyes do have superior talent to develop and exploit.  I'm sick for Miller and his injury of course is a headshot to the team, but at the qb position I can't think of another time without Miller that the Buckeyes have had this kind of depth in terms of raw talent unless I'm going back into the '90s. And since JT (coach), I haven't gone back there much, for the obvious reason.

Dot Your Eyes

WolverineKiller's picture

The statistic that matters to me is W-L.  There are so many events that happen in a game, missed assignment,  poor tackle, etc.  This is a team sport, while I love to see individual records broke (usually indicative of a solid team) I just care about the W at the end if the day.  I hope we continue to be spoiled.

Just Win.