Skull Session: Buckeyes Top SP+ Ratings, Ohio State Averages Nearly a Point Per Play, and the Buckeye Defense is Solid

By Kevin Harrish on October 25, 2021 at 4:59 am
Skull Session

Good morning. I will be watching this throw on loop this week until C.J. Stroud inevitably does something more insane on Saturday night.

If that throw happened in a video game, I would complain that it was unrealistic.

Word of the Day: Ethereal.

 NEW NUMBER ONE. After Ohio State's fourth straight nationally-televised homicide, it seems that Bill Connelly's SP+ computers had no choice but to rank the Buckeyes as the top team in the land.

Ohio State was projected fourth in the preseason SP+ ratings, 5.2 points from No. 1 Alabama. The Buckeyes had some key players to replace on both sides of the ball, and a defense that had been shaky at times in 2020 was projected just 27th overall.

Two weeks into the season, after a frustrating win over Minnesota and a loss to Oregon, the Buckeyes had fallen only to fifth, but their defense was down to 39th, and they were nearly eight points away from No. 1. They were still clearly good -- especially on offense, where they still had more upside than anyone in FBS -- but in a conference that featured three other top-10 teams, their odds of winning out weren't great. They were teetering in the national title race.

Fast-forward six more weeks. The Buckeyes have looked utterly spectacular for four straight games. Granted, they played the teams currently ranked 33rd, 56th, 65th and 127th in SP+, but they beat them by an average score of 58-11. They are an easy No. 1 in offensive SP+ -- the second-place offense is 4.5 points behind theirs -- and their defense has rebounded to 20th.

This, combined with the second-best special teams unit in the country, has driven a change atop this week's overall SP+ ratings. Despite Georgia's overall dominance, the advantage the Buckeyes have crafted over the field on offense has pushed them to No. 1. On a neutral field, SP+ would favor them by 0.6 points over Kirby Smart's 7-0 Dawgs. Can't imagine many of us saw that coming as Oregon was putting away that Week 2 win.

I've heard and made plenty of comparisons to the 2014 national title team this year, but that 2014 squad didn't look like *this* after seven games.

I mean, seven years ago today, the Buckeyes beat unranked Penn State 31-24 in double-overtime in a game where they had less than 75 yards passing. Ohio State eventually looked like a death machine that season, but it sure wasn't at the end of October.

This year's team is different. And the best kind of different.

 A POINT PER PLAY? We're seven games into the season and we're already running out of ways to describe how obscenely, ungodly good Ohio State's offense has been this season.

So here's another stat to wrap your head around: the Buckeyes averaging nearly a point per play offensively, according to my pal Bill Landis of The Athletic, who also wrote some words about Ohio State's murderball.

Saturday night’s 54-7 win in rainy Bloomington was just more evidence to back the claim that Ohio State has the best offense in college football. It’s terrifyingly good, capable of beating you in multiple ways. It’s aggressive and balanced, and it’s ascending. The Buckeyes defense has shown improvement since a shaky start, but the truth is that it needs to be only so good to complement an offense that looks as though it could score in bunches on any team.


In sync is one to put it. Another would be to say that it feels like Ohio State’s offense is operating in a video game on easy mode, with all of the sliders turned up to 100. It’s almost comical how effortless it’s looked the last three games.

The offense has had 24 drives with Stroud at quarterback against Rutgers, Maryland and Indiana. It has scored touchdowns on 20 of them. The other four were a field goal, a kneel down at the end of the half against Maryland, a three-play drive to end the first half against Rutgers and a punt to open the second half Saturday night. That was the first time the first-team offense had been held to a punt since the second quarter of the Akron game on Sept. 25.

In its last 156 plays with Stroud at quarterback, the offense has scored 150 points. The math on that comes out to … one second while we compute … nearly a point per play. That’s absurd. So absurd that at some point, it doesn’t really matter who you’re playing. It doesn’t matter that Indiana was playing without its two top corners. I’m not sure that really would have changed the outcome. We’re talking about an obscene level of efficiency.

That last #take is basically my stance about the rest of the season – Ohio State is going to obliterate every single team left on the schedule because there's just no team that can possibly score enough. It doesn't matter if your defense is marginally better than the last team to lose by 40 points. Your offense can't keep up, and your defense probably won't do all that much anyway.

As I said, the Buckeyes are going to murder everybody the rest of the season until they get to the College Football Playoff. Then, maybe we'll see if Georgia can slow them down with their historically great defense. But I'm not convinced the Dawgs won't get stuffed face-first into a blender, either.

 BULLETS BACK? As Landis said, your defensive performance only matters so much when your offense can basically teleport the ball into the end zone at will. But that's not stopping the Buckeye defense from being low-key pretty damn good.

Of course, Ohio State hasn't exactly played a bunch of fantastic offenses the past few weeks, but that's never stopped them from looking like ass in the past, so this is still an improvement regardless.

Also, doubting these defensive performances because of the opponent is not exactly a fair standard. It ignores the fact that everybody all across the country plays a lot of games against horrible teams, probably even most games. The teams you're comparing the Buckeyes to have also had their stats boosted by terrible teams – it's college football.

All that to say, if you're ranked No. 18 in the country in scoring defense after Week 8, that's probably not a fluke.

 IMITATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY. You don't earn the title "The Best Damn Band in the Land" and expect folks not to attempt to copy what makes you successful.

... especially your rivals.

The shade was obvious, as was the inspiration. But TBDBITL ain't tripping about it; they'll just show them up on Saturday.

Personally, I have no problem with Michigan's shameless imitation of Ohio State. In fact, I think their football team should have tried that like, two decades ago.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "Daydream Believer" by The Monkees.

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