Rutgers Week Mic Check: Measuring Progress Amid Blowouts of Lesser Foes

By Chris Lauderback on November 13, 2019 at 3:05 pm
Justin Fields as been dynamite for Ohio State, particularly on third down and in the red zone.

Ryan Day held his usual Tuesday presser following Ohio State's 73-14 destruction of Maryland

The 59-point win wasn't enough to maintain the No. 1 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings thanks to LSU's win over Alabama but there's no doubt the committee sees now-No. 2 Ohio State as a legitimate national title contender. 

Day's squad certainly passes the eye test and the stats also favor the Buckeyes. Ohio State owns the nation's No. 1 scoring offense and scoring defense, winning its nine games by an average of 42.4 points. 

In yesterday's presser, Day talked about different ways in which he evaluates whether or not his team made meaningful progress while smashing lesser opponents that don't otherwise serve as a measuring stick.  

Q. When you’re looking at film, when you play a game, score 73 points, what are you looking for to tell you that we took a step forward when a game gets out of hand? You talk about tweaking things. What will tell you, yes, we’re better today than we were last week other than the score?

RYAN DAY: Yeah, you start off the first quarter and you figure out how did we come out of the gates, how prepared were we early in the game, how were we playing when they were fresh, we were fresh, what kind of adjustments did we make as we get into the second quarter.

You take a look at third down, red zone, short yardage, how were we executing. Is it just a better player making a play against somebody on the team that maybe isn’t as talented. If that’s the case, that’s not coaching, that’s just good recruiting.

We want to make sure that the execution level and the scheme and all those things are at an all-time high. When talent does equate, we’re still going to be able to execute at a high level. That’s the challenge.

Looking at Ohio State's third down offense, Day should be very pleased. 

The Buckeyes sport the nation's best third down conversion rate (58.2%) and that number only increased after they converted 9-of-14 tries versus Maryland. 

nO. 1 lsu 114 58 50.1% 7
NO. 2 OHIO STATE 110 64 58.2% 1
NO. 3 CLEMSON 119 52 43.7% 37
NO. 4 GEORGIA 115 54 47.0% 19

Ohio State ran the ball eight times for 57 yards on third down, an average of 7.1 per pop, with seven first downs. The Buckeyes also converted 6-of-8 tries of 3rd-and-4 or less.

The passing game wasn't quite as effective on Saturday, completing 2-of-5 passes for eight yards and one first down but it simply wasn't needed versus the Terps. 

In a game where an aerial threat was a bit more needed, Justin Fields completed 6-of-7 third down passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns against Wisconsin's supposed juggernaut unit. 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Buckeyes have been equally impressive holding opponents to a 25.8% conversion rate, good for second-best in the land. 

NO. 1 LSU 135 45 33.3% 29
NO. 2 OHIO STATE 132 34 25.8% 2
NO. 3 CLEMSON 152 44 29.0% 7
NO. 4 GEORGIA 125 37 29.6% 11

The Terps managed only two third down conversions in 11 tries, or 18.2%. Ohio State registered sacks on a ridiculous three of those 11 snaps and held Maryland to 2-of-6 passing for nine yards and one first down. 

So what about monitoring progress in the red zone? 

The Buckeyes lived in the red zone against Maryland. 

As I wrote in Sunday's Five Things, the truly majestic reality is Ohio State actually hurt its season red zone touchdown rate by only scoring 10 touchdowns in 12 red zone trips versus the Terps: 

Ohio State came into the Maryland game with 33 touchdowns in 39 red zone trips, good for a touchdown rate of 84.62%. 

Yesterday's 10-of-12 effort, while hilarious, is only an 83.33% touchdown rate. Do better, fellas.

Even with that subpar performance, Ohio State still ranks No. 2 in in the nation in red zone touchdown rate (84.32%). 

Thinking about "how we execute," Day's comments could be evaluated a handful of ways. One way would be to look at yards per play earned and allowed. 

Ohio State's offense currently ranks No. 7 in the land generating 7.22 yards per play which was slightly enhanced by the 7.50 average versus Maryland. 

Defensively, the Buckeyes rank No. 1 in the country surrendering only 3.52 yards per play. Again, that average was boosted by giving up just 2.83 yards per play to the Terps. Ohio State is the only defense in the country giving up less than four yards per snap. 

However you slice the data or even which data points you examine, all signs point to the Buckeyes continuing to gain momentum in their quest to win the Big Ten and bring home a national title. 

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