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Ohio State-Navy 2014 advanced stats preview

Previewing the Buckeyes' matchup with Navy using advanced stats. Click here for an advanced stat glossary.

Streeter Lecka

We are less than two days away from watching the Buckeyes and Mids start the 2014 season. This is really a chance for renewal for Ohio State: Game One A.B. (After Braxton), J.T. Barrett's debut, a chance to turn around the two-game losing streak, and the opportunity to perform better against those Mids than in 2009.

Over the past few weeks we've previewed the 2014 season using advanced stats, with the offense looking to be a juggernaut even without Braxton, the defense set to improve bit by bit, and Urban orchestrating dominating special teams units.

Below, I'll break down the game for the Buckeyes on both offense and defense.

When the Buckeyes have the ball

So the stats below may be a little misleading. That's mainly because the numbers are from last year's final Football Outsiders rankings and you'll be seeing an entirely different product this Saturday. As in, four new offensive linemen, a new starting running back, a new (or a few new) wide receivers, and oh yeah, a new starting quarterback. But hey, last year's offense matches up very well against the Midshipmen on paper!

So, the numbers don't really give us a great idea of what to expect here. Maybe J.T. turns out to be Kenny Guiton 2.0+ and puts up great Passing S&P+ and Passing Downs S&P+ numbers. Or maybe Herman can pound the ball with Ezekiel (Elliott), Rod (Smith), (Bri'onte) Dunn, and (Curtis) Samuel. Or maybe there's a bit of a transition period for this suddenly brand new offense.

Looking at last year's numbers you might expect roughly 45-52 points from the Buckeye offense, considering the ranking differential between the OSU advanced offensive metrics and Navy's defensive ones.

Even with personnel turnover, I would think (based on recruiting) that some positions might actually get an upgrade. The question to me is whether that's evident in the first game of the season. Regardless, the Navy defense shouldn't put up too much of a fight here.

When OSU has the ball Offense Defense Edge
S&P+ 2 80 OSU
Drive Efficiency 3 90 OSU
Rushing S&P+ 1 64 OSU
Passing S&P+ 17 94 OSU
Standard Downs S&P+ 1 62 OSU
Passing Downs S&P+ 18 96 OSU

When the Midshipmen have the ball

Interestingly, Navy is far more efficient on a drive-by-drive basis than on each individual play. I'd guess that has something to do with the triple-option offense, which may be fairly inefficient play after play, but requires just one mental mistake or blown assignment to steadily move the ball down the field. The triple-option requires a great deal of defensive discipline in order to stall drives.

I expected Navy's rushing numbers to be a little better than they were considering that's, you know, their thing. Regardless, they get the nod over the Buckeyes' rushing defense. However, as predicted, even the tepid 2013 Buckeye passing defense can likely handle the Midshipmen passing attack.

While the Football Outsiders College Football Almanac 2014 doesn't go in-depth into Navy, I'd imagine they're a little better getting big pass plays when defenses aren't expecting the pass than consistently connecting in the short and intermediate pass game. The Ash-led secondary will have to watch out for giving up those explosive plays.

When Navy has the ball Defense Offense Edge
S&P+ 42 59 OSU
Drive Efficiency 34 27 Navy
Rushing S&P+ 58 40 Navy
Passing S&P+ 61 99 OSU
Standard Downs S&P+ 79 48 Navy
Passing Downs S&P+ 42 109 OSU

My prediction

The Buckeyes should absolutely win this game. We expected that even without looking at the advanced numbers. Instead, I think the real drama (hopefully!) will come from seeing what the Buckeyes look like doing it. How will the offensive line hold up? Will J.T. Barrett be able to distribute the ball as efficiently as he apparently does in practice? Will the defense be as aggressive as Ash has promised? Here are the things I'm expecting:

  • Decent numbers from Barrett - 225 yards passing, 35 rushing, 0 interceptions.
  • No receiver >100 yards
  • Elliot with roughly 100 yards rushing and a roughly 65% running back success rate
  • sack given up by the line, but less efficiency in total line yards
  • 1 sack, >4 TFLs from the defensive line, with strong play from the linebackers
  • 2 explosive plays given up on defense

Despite the relatively limited predictions we can make for the first game of the season (a problem only made worse from losing Braxton), I expect the Buckeyes to win comfortably by two touchdowns.

Overall Ohio State Navy Edge
Projected F/+ 8 58 OSU
Projected Offensive F/+ 8 32 OSU
Projected Defensive F/+ 31 97 OSU
Special Teams F/+ 5 11 OSU
Overall S&P+ 11 62 OSU
Fremeau Efficiency Index 13 51 OSU