Ohio State football: A look into the Buckeye offensive line's fitness

Mewhort-Clemson matchup - Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

How does the Buckeye offensive line compare to other offensive lines in terms of physical fitness? The numbers suggest that Decker and company are bigger than other spread-to-run offenses.

In my post earlier this week (over on Football Study Hall), I found some evidence that pro-style and spread-to-run offensive lines don't have significant variation in average BMIs, while there is evidence that spread-to-run and spread-to-pass teams' offensive lines have different BMIs.

This got me thinking – while there might not be much evidence for physical differences between spread-to-run offensive lines and pro-style lines, is Ed Warinner's (and by extension, Mick Marotti's) group different from all other offensive lines, and other spread-to-run teams specifically?

It's almost impossible to describe the turnaround in Ohio State's offensive line play since Warinner and Marotti joined Urban Meyer's staff. In two years the Buckeyes have gone from a group of underperforming four- and five-star recruits to an elite unit that is producing rushing statistics commensurate with their recruitment hype. The staff has repeated that this transformation is in part due to better physical conditioning. Urban and the strength and conditioning staff have stressed the importance of 4-6 second of relentless effort, which is impossible without a lean, but strong group of offensive linemen.

Measuring Buckeye fitness

BMI is an imperfect measure of physical fitness. It's possible that any variations between the Buckeye offensive line's average BMI and other schools' BMIs is due to variations in muscle, not fat. However, it at least gives us some reference point for analyzing physical differences between teams and between styles of offenses. Here are the results of comparing the Buckeye offensive line's mean BMI with the total in my sample (more methods details here) using a two-sample t-test:

Observations

Mean BMI

Std. Error

Std. Deviation

Ohio State

13

36.807

.549

1.98

All others

372

35.827

.145

2.80

t = -1.2518 Pr(|T| > |t|) = 0.2114

So the important takeaway here is that there's not enough evidence to suggest Ohio State's mean BMI (36.8) differs from all other teams' mean BMIs (35.8) in any statistically meaningful  way (i.e. - it's likely random variation).

The Buckeyes vs. other spread-to-run offenses

But what about differences between Ohio State and other spread-to-run teams in my sample?

Observations

Mean BMI

Std. Error

Std. Deviation

Ohio State

13

36.807

.549

1.98

All spread-to-run

110

35.539

.247

2.59

t = -1.7055                Pr(|T| > |t|) = 0.0907                Pr(T < t) = 0.0453

Here's where things are a little more interesting. The difference between average BMIs isn't much greater than in the previous test (with Ohio State's average BMI still being higher than the comparison group), but there is a much greater likelihood that this result isn't due to simple random variation. We can say with approximately 91% confidence that the mean BMIs differ in a non-random way. It's even more likely that Ohio State's mean BMI is greater than all spread-to-run teams' average BMIs (significant at the 95% level).

At least among spread-to-run teams, Ohio State's offensive line has a higher average BMI. Whether this is due increased muscle or a higher percentage of fat, the BMI can't say. However, based on the results on the field over the last two seasons, it's fairly safe to conclude that the Buckeyes have not only a heavier, but a stronger offensive line than other, more finesse spread-to-run teams (looking at you, Arizona and Oregon).

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