Urban Meyer and the Unbelievable Buckeyes: Statistics, Anomalies, and Predictions

Submitted by glewe on November 23rd, 2012 at 12:56 AM

Ohio State, as we all know, is 11-0. But there are some interesting statistics that came up in my research on our upcoming rivalry game regarding how OSU got to 11 wins: In 4 of their close games, OSU was outgained by their opponents.

  Total yards (opponent) Total yards (OSU) Turnover differential (OSU)
vs. Cal 512 412 0
vs. UAB 403 347 +2
vs. Purdue 347 342 -3
vs. Wisconsin 360 236 +1

The Purdue game can be thrown out because of B. Miller's injury. Of the remaining, 2/3 were decided only by a touchdown. Turnover margin for those three games collectively was +3 for OSU.

The most compelling statistic is the one against Wisconsin - a difference of 124 yards. Given that Wisconsin ranks #11 in total defense in the NCAA (against our #12), this is promising. We played a harder pre-conference schedule - Oregon State was the only tough competition for Wisco, against our Alabama + Notre Dame - and, Ohio game removed, Wisco would fall below us in Total Defense rankings.

That said, Wisconsin is very strong at defending the run (#9) and pretty good at defending the pass (#25). We are very average at defending the run (#51)* and excellent at defending the pass (#1). OSU is a team heavy on the run.

OSU is bad at defending the pass (#84) and good at defending the run (#17).* Since the advent of Devin Gardner, 63% of our yardage has been in passing yards. More than 500 of those 800 yards came against opponents ranked higher in pass defense than OSU (Iowa #58, Minnesota #16). Even correcting for strength of schedule would likely not fully resolve the parity between Minnesota and OSU's passing defenses.

Expect our run game to be stuffed but for our pass attack to move willingly down the field (Gardner starting). Expect OSU's rush to move downfield but for their pass attack to be stuffed.

Worry if our players turn the ball over. OSU will capitalize on turnovers. Gardner has thrown one interception per game since he has been the starter. Granted, that is with a remarkable play by Marcus Hyde, but nonetheless. We also had a fumble against Northwestern.

It is certain that we can outgain OSU and still lose the game. This is an important thing. At full strength, OSU has bested 3 opponents who have outgained them - 2/3 by 100 yards or more. That's unheard of by my ears. We cannot turn the ball over.

What does this tell us? OSU has come off with some miraculous wins. A +3 turnover margin still isn't that major. Being outgained by 280 yards in 3 of their wins makes those wins look remarkable and unbelievable. OSU has a stellar red zone defense. Otherwise, we learn little. Scheme is a better predictor than statistics like these, but I'm not a schematic minded fellow. Take this all with a grain of salt. Mostly, this is just interesting fluff that hopefully will help guide you in where you look today and tomorrow.

Who will win the game? I have a good feeling. I think we are clearly the better team this year. But this game is bigger than statistics. We haven't won in the Toilet Bowl in 12 years.

Go Blue.

*It is worth noting that we have played rushing offense teams ranked #2, #16, #8, #27, and #33. OSU has played #8 and #17 in the same range. We face the #9 rushing team this weekend. Against #8 Nebraska, we allowed 160 rushing yards - significantly below their season average. #16 Northwestern put 248 up - slightly above their average. #2 Air Force hung 290 - slightly below their average. Alabama put up slightly above their average, and Notre Dame put up less than half their average. Wisconsin has only played #8 and #9 in rushing offense in the same range, holding OSU significantly below their average and Nebraska around their average.



November 23rd, 2012 at 4:15 AM ^

If the unthinkable happens and Ohio does win, it will be fun hearing their fans whine about how "unsubstantiated allegations" took away their chance at the BCS Championship Game.  It will almost feel like they actually had to pay a reasonable price for ten years of cheating under Tressel.  

But not quite.


November 23rd, 2012 at 12:47 PM ^

Seriously, put down the crack pipe. Tressel covered up players selling their personal belongings for tattoo money and he payed for it with his job. Tressel has a 9-1 record against Michigan because he had better players, a better staff and came up with better schemes. All of this hate is just going to drive you crazy during the Meyer years. Let it go.


November 23rd, 2012 at 4:04 PM ^

Well yeah, he had better players, but why? Because he fostered an environment where boosters had easy access to players and coaches knew about extra benefits and simply turned their heads. That is no doubt a recruiting advantage.  He finally got caught because some of the player benefits he allowed coincided with a criminal investigation. That doesn't mean he wasn't allowing these things to happen before that. Just because you and every other bucknut thinks ESPN/Yahoo/SportsbyBrooks (that uncovered much more than just tatgate) had it out for you doesn't make it a conspiracy. The NCAA got him for what they could and put the banhammer on him. Without subpoena powers, they weren't going to spend the resources to dig any deeper. Good thing the media didn't have that problem.

Ohio State hasn't beaten Michigan legitimately since 1998. Put that in your crack pipe and smoke it.


November 23rd, 2012 at 6:09 AM ^

Great post. With OSU, I try to never forget the players. They've had some bad coaching intervals over the years, but they're rarely lacking for talent. Relative to other Big Ten team, anyway ...


November 23rd, 2012 at 8:36 AM ^

I wouldn't remove the Purdue game. The Purdue defence was stellar against OSU up until Braxton's injury and held him to almost nothing on the ground. He doesn't get injured and Kenny Guiton doesn't come in late, I think Purdue wins that game.


November 23rd, 2012 at 9:54 AM ^

Agreed. OSU was actually losing that game BECAUSE of Miller's presence. Miller was responsible for all 3 of OSU's turnovers (1 INT and 2 lost fumbles) and had been completely shut down by Purdue. When Guiton came in, he presented an entirely different style of play than Purdue had game planned (very successfully) for.

On a related note, I find it remarkable that Miller is still even in the Hesiman discussion given his mostly mediocre play in conference games. He put up most of his passing stats against their awful non-conference schedule (7 TD to 2 INT in 4 games non con //  7 TD to 4 INT in 7 games in conference play) and has been held in check by several of their conference opponents this season, Purdue and Wisconsin being the best examples. Honestly, Michigan SHOULD be able to keep his numbers to a reasonable level given the way he has played in B1G games this year.


November 23rd, 2012 at 9:49 AM ^

This was informative and a good read. Thanks for sharing this data.

One thing that this did make me think of was something that was intriguing was the average differential between what the Ohio State offense gains in comparison to what its defense gives up. Going back through the data I have, it comes out to 50.3 yards, whereas ours is 87.9  yards - a small but possibly significant advantage to us in a closer game. It should also perhaps be noted that, aside from games where the Buckeyes were outgained, in five games this season, the difference in total yards between Ohio State and their opponent has been less than 100 yards. 


November 23rd, 2012 at 9:58 AM ^

being used for passing defense have a hidden factor.  I wonder what you would see if you factored this in by compl percentage, avg yard per pass etc instead of just yards.

Minny and Iowa are buried usually in the second half and teams just pound the ball with the run and go home.  

While I love stats you have to account for human variables or use other stats like ypa when team leading vs being behind........




November 23rd, 2012 at 10:00 AM ^

OSU is similar to non-qualifier schools (Rutgers, Kent State) that play a marginal schedule and sneak out a handful of wins against their only legitimate competition.

Give them credit for ugly wins, just like we should have found a way to win in Lincoln and especially at ND. Get a win in Columbus and end their illusion of dominance.


November 23rd, 2012 at 11:21 AM ^

I live in Ohio so I tend to watch all of OSU's games.  Those numbers don't surprise me - much like under Tressel, Ohio's special teams have been a big factor.  They tend to pick up a lot of "hidden yards" through solid special teams play, which allows them to be more efficient wiht the yards they do gain.  Also, the punt return touchdown against Wisconsin was probably the biggest play of the game.

Honestly, I think the special teams matchup is the biggest of The Game.  If we are constantly losing the field position battle by giving up long punt returns or letting punts bounce and roll for 10-20 yards, or if we give up a special teams touchdown, I don't think we can win.  We need our special teams to really step it up this game.  If Norfleet wants to earn that Legends jersey, he may want to channel his inner-Breaston for this game.  Also, most importantly, PUNT COVERAGE PLEASE!!!


November 24th, 2012 at 10:21 AM ^

As a Michigan fan and current resident of Columbus, Ohio I am begging Michigan and any holy diety I can think of for a victory today.  OSU fans are by far and away the most obnoxious sports fans in the history of organized sports and a victory will only encourage them further.  We cannot allow this.  We must send them back to the trailer park in tears.  Go BLUE!!!!