Beyond the Hashes: Offensive Records Fall

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

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. 

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