Inside the Box: Iowa Routs the Buckeyes in the Second Quarter and Incinerates Its Pass Defense on First Down

By Vico on November 6, 2017 at 2:35 pm
Ohio State's defense was bad and should feel bad. Boo this defense. Boooooo.

So, that didn't go as expected.

Iowa blew the doors off Ohio State in what is arguably the worst loss for Ohio State in the Urban Meyer era. The 31-point differential matches what Clemson did to the Buckeyes in shutout form in the Fiesta Bowl, but at least Clemson was a national champion squad. Iowa? Not so much.

This feature will be devoid of any superlatives since a loss like this necessitates only shaming. There will be plenty of it to go around, focusing mostly on the defense. We'll first start with a quirk about the ESPN telecast.

Ohio State is a Great Second Quarter Team (Against Awful Teams)

Full disclosure: I missed the entire second half because of a meeting and had to go rewatch it (well, skim it) later. That said, I watched the first half closely and remember an ESPN chyron that talked up Ohio State as arguably the best second quarter team in the country. At that point in the game, the Buckeyes were +90 against all opponents in the second quarter.

This all belies that 1) Iowa effectively ended the game in the second quarter and 2) Ohio State was the best second quarter team in the country against the crummier opponents on its schedule.

Ohio State in the second quarter
Ohio State is the best second quarter team in the country when it plays garbage opponents.

The graphic above includes the scores for Ohio State against its opponents for all games this season. You'll see a pattern. Ohio State was evenly matched against opponents in the second quarter in its first three games against Indiana, Oklahoma, and Army. 

Thereafter, Ohio State starts pummmeling teams in the second quarter, but only after those teams that appear on the schedule are abjectly terrible. We can qualify that Nebraska is experiencing a small turnaround in its past few games but it's still not a quality opponent.

More recently, Penn State and Ohio State each scored 14 points in that instant classic from two weeks ago. 

As for Iowa? Well, you saw what happened...

Iowa's Passing Game Torched the Buckeyes on First Down

There are any number of metrics the Buckeye fan can highlight to explain the loss on Saturday. Take your pick. J.T. Barrett's four interceptions, including the pick-six to start the game, certainly didn't help.

Here's one that caught my attention: Iowa obliterated the Buckeyes through the air on first down. Nate Stanley is one of the better quarterbacks in the conference but no one would confuse him for Baker Mayfield. The problem? Ohio State's passing defense confused him for Baker Mayfield. 

Ohio State's pass defense was the same wind sock against Iowa it was against Oklahoma.
Ohio State's pass defense was the same windsock against Iowa it was against Oklahoma.

Nate Stanley was 10/15 throwing the ball on first down for 136 yards. As you'll see from the graph, that looks an awful lot like what Ohio State's passing defense conceded against Baker Mayfield in the only other loss on the schedule.

There are any number of explanations for why Ohio State's passing defense was so bad on first down. The one to which I'm most partial highlights just how terrible Ohio State's linebackers were. Indeed, the film study for that loss seems to keep circling how ill-prepared the linebackers were for what amounted to Iowa's vanilla offense. 

Here, "vanilla" simply refers to the fact there's nothing Iowa did on Saturday that they hadn't shown all season. Ohio State's defense, particularly its linebackers, were just awful on the field on Saturday.

This will manifest in other peculiar item from the box score.

Iowa Had Its Best Rushing Game of the Season Against the Buckeyes

The Buckeyes were supposed to be stout against the run. Yet, Iowa accumulated 243 yards on the ground on 6.39 yards per carry against Ohio State. Its second play from scrimmage, a 30-yard rush from Akrum Wadley, set the tone for the rest of the contest.

Iowa's rushing offense is No. 92 in the country so Saturday is conspicuous for a lot of reasons. 

Ohio State's Rush Defense Through 2017
Ohio State's rush defense was bad against Iowa and it should feel bad.

One, it's unquestionably the worst performance for Ohio State against the rush this season. The previous worst was Army, which accumulated 259 yards against the Buckeyes. However, that's a function of Army's offense, which will brute-force more than 200 rushing yards against anyone. Notice the contrast in the 4.47 yards per rush for Army to Iowa's 6.39 yards per rush.

Two, it's unique as Iowa's best rushing game this season. Iowa is not exactly Georgia Tech or Arizona against opposing rush defenses and yet Ohio State made them look like those best rushing teams in the country. 

Iowa's Rushing Offense Through 2017
Ohio State did worse against Iowa than Illinois did because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Iowa's previous best was against Illinois, which is the worst team in the conference. And yet, the Illini's defense fared better against the Hawkeyes than the Buckeyes did.

View 11 Comments