2016 Season Preview: What the Weirdest Stats From 2015 Can Tell Us About 2016

By Johnny Ginter on August 27, 2016 at 10:30 am
Dare to be weird
Eleven Warriors' Ohio State Football 2016 Season Preview

The problem with statistics isn't just that your average layman is particularly bad at figuring out their significance beyond "I'm going to get mad at this" or "I'm going to be happy about this," it's that more often than not, they're just junk.

As part of the season preview, I've been tasked with bringing you some of the weirdest, most oddball statistics from the 2015 season, which you might imply to be some kind of excuse to take any of what follows as a serious numerical analysis of the 2015 Ohio State football team. You need to resist this urge, because in doing so you will avoid raising your blood pressure to unnecessarily high levels and/or avoid a false sense of security that comes with the knowledge of Big Time Points put up by your favorite players.

Instead, please take these assorted statistics with a giant grain of salt, and then eat a delicious salted pretzel in Salt Lake City while watching a video of a deer eating a salt lick by the Dead Sea as you read this post.

Here's a quick example of what I'm talking about: Cardale Jones was statistically a slightly better quarterback than J.T. Barrett last season. Cardale had a higher passer rating, played better in home games, averaged more yards per attempt, completed almost the exact same percentage of his passes as J.T. did, and despite attempting 16 more passes than Barrett, only threw one more interception (and three additional touchdowns). Barrett, for his part, actually regressed in nearly every significant quarterbacking statistic from 2014.

Now you might take in all of that and go "Man, Johnny really was ride or die for Dolo" and that's unfortunate because that's exactly the opposite of how I felt and still feel. Those statistical statements, while all true, don't always represent the reality of a situation, and it's up to us and our tiny simian brains to attempt to pick part the data that sometimes gets very... well, weird. Just repeat to yourself "it's just for show, I should really just relax" and you should be fine.



In 2015 Ohio State was unsurprisingly a very consistent rushing team. They were 11th in the country overall, averaging 245 yards per game, and were good no matter the situation, be it first half, second half, on the road, at home, losing, winning, whatever. If you were watching the Ohio State offense at almost any given time during almost any given game, you could bet that a rushing play would go for about 5.6ish yards every time.

Having a veteran offensive line and a great running back will help that happen, but this wouldn't be the Weird Stats post without one, so here goes: in one very specific situation, Ohio State was a garbage rushing team. On third down with between four and six yards to go, Ohio State somehow averaged a paltry 2.47 yards per carry. And it's not like this only happened a few times, this happened 15 times throughout the season, with the Buckeyes never pulling off a run of more than seven yards in that situation.


Ohio State struggled with their passing offense in general last season no matter who was at quarterback, with the combined forces of Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett racking up only 19 passing touchdowns, the fewest since 2012 and only two more than were thrown for in 2011, which seems impossible but here we are.

Anyway, what's interesting is that 13 of those 19 passing touchdowns were thrown for on first down. This is actually a pattern of Urban Meyer's Ohio State teams, and maybe just an indicator of how he approaches the risk/reward factor of directing an offense. Speaking of which, interceptions isn't a stat that you as a Buckeye fan probably needs to pay too much attention to; the nine INTs that Ohio State quarterbacks threw for in 2015 isn't a great number, but still less than they threw for in 2014 (12) and matches how many were thrown for in 2013.


It's tempting to paint the 2015 Ohio State offense as a bad one, by Meyer terms. And while that's a little hyperbolic, they certainly struggled in some surprising areas. For example, the 35.7 points they averaged per game was by far the fewest of Meyer's tenure as head coach, and even more irritating is that they averaged more points per away game (39.8) than at home (32.1).

While the running game was solid, the passing game took a step backward for obvious reasons and was ranked 100th in the country overall and only accounted for just over 188 yards per game, a far cry from the 247-plus in 2014.



But I'm not just here to rain on your parade! As it turns out, Ohio State had one of the best defenses in the country last year, and statistically possibly the best since Urban took over as coach.

The rushing defense was a big part of this. Four times in 2015 they were able to hold opponents to 80 or fewer yards in a game, and overall the defense only gave up 3.38 yards per carry, which was good for 14th in the country. In fact, if you take out two back-to-back games in which Ohio State gave up six rushing touchdowns (of 10 total allowed) and 429 rushing yards (of 1649 total allowed), it's possibly the best rushing defense in the country. If only Indiana and Maryland just weren't so damn good.

Wait. What?


The passing defense was also very good in general. Their 184.5 yards allowed per game was good for 16th in the country, and while they didn't tally nearly as many interceptions as 2014, they were still able to hold opposing quarterbacks to a very low 104.78 passer rating.

My favorite stat from the passing defense is that they gave up only 14 passing touchdowns, the lowest total since 2010's Rose Bowl team.


Ohio State's defense was extremely consistent in a lot of ways, but probably the most interesting and weird stat from 2015 is the breakdown of passing yards and rushing yards given up in home games versus away games.

The total numbers are remarkably similar: in away games the Ohio State defense gave up a total of 2045 yards on a total of 430 plays, and in Ohio Stadium they gave up 2002 yards on a total of 469 plays. What makes this a patented Weird Stat is that the way they did it is completely reversed. As in, in away games they gave up 1439 passing yards and 606 rushing yards, and in home games they gave up 959 passing yards and 1043 rushing yards. For whatever reason, Columbus seems much more conducive for opponents to grind themselves into dust before 105,000 shrieking fans. Not that I'm complaining.



While it's obvious that the offense as a whole regressed in 2015, nowhere is that more evident than when you look at J.T. Barrett's overall statistics for last season. A guy who possibly would've walked home with the Heisman in 2014 became an also-ran due to a botched quarterback situation. For example, it's pretty obvious that the coaching staff had no idea how to incorporate him into the offense once he was cemented as the starter. In five games in 2015, Barrett had as many or more rushing attempts than passing attempts, which is a waste of a player who completed over 80% of his passes in October (albeit with a very small sample size).

Braxton Miller, literal wizard imbued with the ancient power of the Maia, is also another example of this wasted potential. In all of 2015, Braxton never had more than 10 touches in a game, and in the final three games of the season he only totaled 11 offensive plays. That's bad.

Zeke and the running game fared much better, obviously. Zeke's 23 rushing touchdowns was good for third in the country, and nicely complimented the 1821 yards of rushing he put up total, which is completely insane. He also had more third quarter rushes of over 10 yards than everyone not named Leonard Fournette.

However, since this is Weird Stats, I also feel compelled to point out that I'm extremely happy that he also continued his trend of inexplicably being a bad running back in the second quarter of games; in 2014 he only rushed for 4.83 yards per carry in the second quarter (despite averaging 6.88 yards per carry overall), and in 2015 he was even worse, only managing 4.38 yards per carry in the second quarter (despite averaging 6.30 yards per carry overall).


The 2015 defense was probably even better than we realize, and in part it was because of some really great individual performances from players who might not have been marquee names. For instance, Tyquan Lewis really, really hates Indiana. 3.5 of his 14 tackles for loss and one of his eight sacks came against the Hoosiers. He also apparently really likes road games, because even though he played in more home games, he accumulated 3.5 more TFLs away from Ohio Stadium than inside of it.

Another example of an Ohio State player with a vendetta against a very specific opponent is Josh Perry, who got super pissed at Michigan State and lit them up with 15 tackles. That's a lot of tackling, but Perry's career high in tackles actually came in 2014 against Penn State, where he had 12 solo tackles and 18 in total. Neither Lewis or Perry got the kind of attention that Bosa, Lee, or Apple got last season, but they were just as instrumental to the success of the unit as a whole.


  • Ohio State did not play a single Big Ten team with a real grass field last season
  • Northwestern had a better third down conversion percentage than Ohio State did in 2015, which is incredibly annoying
  • Hawai'i threw 26 passes and completed exactly eight of them
  • Michigan State made the Buckeyes punt nine times. The only other teams to make Ohio State punt seven times or more were Minnesota and Indiana, somehow?
  • Ohio State only gave up eight rushes of 20 yards or more, but three of those went for 50 yards or longer
  • In the last three years, Ohio State kickoffs have gone out of bounds 18 times. In the last three years of Jim Tressel's reign in Columbus, that happened twice. Fire Urban?

Again, the weirdness of these stats are not an endorsement of their value. While I really, really enjoy the fact that Ezekiel Elliott was tied for the most rushes of ten yards or more in the third quarter, I don't really feel that it adds a whole lot to the discussion about the 2016 football team.

With that said: who cares? This isn't about reading statistical tea leaves, dammit! This is about looking smart in front of your friends, and to that end I hope and pray that you use this guide to impress the hell out of some arrogant cousin-in-law you're stuck watching the Nebraska game with. Godspeed.

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