What the Fancy Stats say when OSU has the ball

Submitted by BuckeyeChuck on November 21st, 2017 at 3:22 PM

When Ohio State has the ball, it looks like a rather even matchup of strength vs. strength.

The Fancy Stats tell us that it is an elite offense up against an elite defense, and the parallelism between OSU’s offense and Michigan’s defense is quite striking. It’s S&P+’s #4 offense against the #8 defense.

The strength of OSU’s offense is its efficiency (#1 Success Rate in the nation, the best at keeping “ahead of the chains”). The strength of Michigan’s defense is also its efficiency (#1 Success Rate, the best in the nation at keeping the opposing offense “behind the chains”). This is an amazing matchup of the nation’s best vs. the nation’s best in terms of Success Rate: 55.7% vs. 29.5%!

OSU’s offense is not nearly as explosive as it is efficient (#42 in IsoPPP). Because Michigan’s defense is the opposite of “bend but don’t break” (it’s more like “ATTACK! ATTACK! ATTACK! - then occasionally give up a big gainer”), it ranks 109th in defensive IsoPPP. OSU is a little bit better than average whereas Michigan is below average. Neither is a strength. In fact, IsoPPP reveals both units’ greatest weakness.

Whether or not OSU’s offense is able to stay ahead of the chains will go a very long way in determining which team wins most of the battles when OSU has the ball. I imagine the successes will alternate: certain possessions or sets of downs Michigan’s defense will do good things, other possessions or sets of downs OSU’s offense will do good things. We’ll have to wait to see which happens more frequently.

If OSU gets to 2nd down with 5 or fewer yards to go, and 3rd down with 2-3 yards to go, it’s advantage Ohio State. But if OSU is facing 8+ yards on 2nd down and 5+ yards on 3rd down, then it’s advantage Michigan. (This may sound obvious, but when Michigan has the ball, it’s not the same.)

RUSHING: OSU is the #2 rush offense in S&P+, Michigan’s rush defense is #11. Again, when it comes to rushing efficiency, it’s elite vs. elite (OSU 1st vs. UM 7th). For all the rushing subcategories (like Stuff Rate, Adj. Line Yards, etc.) it’s elite vs. elite. Except for IsoPPP, when it’s OSU’s only non-elite offensive rushing stat against Michigan’s only non-elite defensive rushing stat. Okay, so…that means Michigan is vulnerable at giving up what OSU’s offense does not excel at. <shrug>

PASSING: Again, it’s elite vs. elite (OSU 4th vs. UM 3th). Again again, both sides excel at efficiency (OSU #5 success rate, UM #1!) and are more mediocre at in terms of explosiveness (OSU 39th in IsoPPP, UM’s defense 93rd).

If there’s any clear statistical advantage for Michigan’s defense, it’s in the way of sacks. OSU’s offense is 38% better than the average FBS team at preventing sacks (30th in the nation), but Michigan’s defense is 71% better at getting sacks than the average team (3rd in the nation). OSU is not as vulnerable at giving up sacks on standard downs (26th best sack rate in nation) as they are on passing downs (65th best sack rate, near the national average). However, Michigan excels at getting sacks regardless of what type of down it is (3th in nation with a sack rate on standard downs, 11th in passing downs). Michigan’s D-line, which ranks 15th in Havoc Rate, will be a tough test for OSU’s O-line, particularly on passing plays.

OSU may try to play keep-away from Michigan’s CBs, just as Michigan’s other recent opponents have done. Michigan’s secondary has the nation’s 2nd best Havoc Rate. Michigan’s defense as a whole is 2nd in the nation in Overall Havoc Rate. That primarily comprises Michigan’s D-line, CBs, & Bush. Therefore, the most advantageous matchups for OSU will be to try to target Michigan’s non-Bush linebackers and the safeties.

All in all, the Fancy Stats say that when OSU has the ball it’s a matchup of elite vs. elite. To summarize, the only slight advantage to OSU’s offense is that they may be able to break a few big plays. The advantage for Michigan’s defense will be the opportunity to create big plays with sacks, especially on passing downs. Everything else looks like a stalemate, a give & take of strength vs. strength, which means it will simply come down to execution & RPS.



UM Fan from Sydney

November 21st, 2017 at 3:40 PM ^

Oh, he is. I'm not worried about that part of the game. I'm scared shitless, however, about our offense, especially if O'Korn is playing. Hopefully Brandon can play (doubtful) and if not, Wilton (also doubtful).


Looks like this will be another of many rivalry Saturdays that I don't watch the other great games. I'm too pissed off after losing to OSU, so when that happens, I just go play Xbox or watch movies. I hate that, too, because I'd like to watch the other rivalry games.


November 21st, 2017 at 3:48 PM ^

He's been around 6 years longer than you and created more thoughtful content today than you have since you've joined.

Why do posters that have only been here a month or two think this place is some sort of a cross between M-Live and RCMB?


November 21st, 2017 at 4:02 PM ^

For the record I am sitting in an office full of OSU fans and I'm wearing my Michigan polo and zip up jacket to piss everybody off.  And I will be there on Saturday hoping beyond hope we win.

But jesus man the guy created actual content, didnt take a jab at M and has been around here for a while.  I was defending his post, not his "nuts" son.


November 21st, 2017 at 5:41 PM ^

I think your offense is a better matchup for us than a hypothetical OSU offense that's not very efficient but hyper-explosive. I think your offense against our defense is about a push. I'm less sanguine about the other side of the ball.

I dumped the Dope

November 21st, 2017 at 5:57 PM ^

we are pretty good at stacking up running plays...but tend to give up *huge* gains basically even TD runs from all over the field if the LBs get to blitzing or are over aggressive east/west and get blocked that same way on a misdirection play.  Saw this v PSU and Wisc,

The secondary sometimes takes bad angles or also eat blocks, I'm not dumping on the safeties tho as I don't really focus on their play other than they're "not there to make the tackle".  If anyone's going to fix it, then Don Brown will.  Not sure Lavert Hill should play every down...if he's just coming off a head injury then run-support might not be his best use if we want him available the entire game.

I recall very well the days of Braxton Miller where I don't think he had *any* intention to throw the ball despite dropping back, but had good-enough pass pro which ran the wide receivers ~80 yards down the field to create this huge greenspace in the center of the field that he and Hyde regularly consumed after beating the OL.  Still in my nightmares...I hope its not that.

Slight advantage Michigan not really having another game to play until late December and thus going to play balls-out without worry about "wear" on the starters.  OSU already has a "programmed" game against Wisky, (owning the head-to-head v MSU and PSU if they should stumble).


November 21st, 2017 at 7:18 PM ^

Problem for Michigan is OSU only really needs one snap to bust a big play.  Very high powered offense, and if the offense is going 3&out time and time again the defense will get gassed quickly. 


November 22nd, 2017 at 7:57 AM ^

Nice analysis; not douchey buckeye post is not douchey so give credit where do. I think UM will do a great job overall against the osu offense my concern is there will be a handful of big plays...it's just going to happen and it will put at least 24 points on the board for osu. It's hard for me to see UM scoring 4 touchdowns or more likely 9-10 field goals lol. 

With the offense struggling as it is there is a similar routine that happens in these big games...ti's a push for 3ish quarters and then the young defense just can't quite hold up (I mean shit they can't do it all!) and the offense just goes into a bigger shell and things get ugly. 

Oh that and our quarterbacks keep getting assaulted.