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Ohio State vs. Navy 2014 advanced stats recap: 'It's in the rear-view mirror'

The first game of the season is in the rearview. You've watched the game and seen the stats, but what do the advanced numbers say about the Buckeyes?

Rob Carr

"Best thing about it," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said, "is it's in the rear-view mirror."

It sounds like Urban wasn't exactly pleased with his team's performance and statistically, it's easy enough to see why. However, the stats versus Navy were always going to be wonky -- that's the pitfall of scheduling them. You just don't see the triple option enough to become experts on it on defense. Offensively, the Buckeyes shouldn't have much excuse for not piling on yards -- except, that's right, replacing eight starters.

The major statistical takeaways for me:

  • J.T. Barrett is capable of leading this team and can certainly build on that performance.
  • Can't take much away from the performance of the rush defense, or the pass defense, for that matter
  • The offensive line has some work to do.
  • Points per play for OSU offense was .62 on only 55 total plays. The defense held Navy to .25 points per play.


That would be Navy's total rushing yards. This will not do good things to Ohio State's Defensive Rushing S&P+. But while that's an ugly, ugly number to swallow starting the season, expect things to get better from here on out. Defensive stats first Navy are always going to be kind of funky -- it's just the nature of playing against a team running out of the inverted wishbone.

I think we can be encouraged by some individual performances -- Adolphus Washington, Darron Lee, and Tyvis Powell, for instance -- but a little concerned about the front seven right now. Time will tell when the Buckeyes play a more traditional rushing team.

Funny enough, the Buckeyes defensive drive-based stats (like the FEI) should actually be very solid even if the play-by-play (like the S&P+) stats are fairly abysmal. For instance, of Navy's ten possessions, seven of them ended in either a turnover or punt -- good for a 30% drive scoring rate. That's not good for Navy. It was tough to watch, but for the most part, the defense bended but didn't break.

"There's a standard set for offensive line play for many, many years. It didn't resemble an offensive line at Ohio State the first two quarters."

The offensive line allowed five TFLs, one sack, and two QB hurries against Navy. Navy does not have the best front seven the Buckeyes will see this season.

One of my favorite stats is Running Back Block Success Rate, which attempts to separate the yards that a running back gains from those that the offensive line is responsible for. Against Navy, that number was 45%, under the Buckeyes' nation-leading 54% last season. That isn't great, especially against Navy, who were ranked 64th in Defensive Rushing S&P+ last season.

Urban: "We wanted to open it up a little bit more in the first half but we didn't. It wasn't because of him; it was because of our offensive line."

ESPN Stats and Info's research notes illustrate this point extremely well. Below are Barrett's passing numbers separated by half:

1st Half 2nd Half
Comp-Att 8-11 4-4
Yds/att 8.7 32.5
TD-int 0-1 2-0
Air yds/att 3.3 18.5

Funny enough, "opening it up" actually meant less passing and all play action. As ESPN notes, all of Barrett's second half attempts were off of play action. Of course, those gaudy numbers are entirely buoyed by the 80-yard bomb to Devin Smith, but they're still indicative of a trend towards Braxtonization of the passing game (that is, play action after the defense has keyed in on the run game).

So which running back was best?

When Urban Meyer was first hired I had only one reservation. I love watching running backs bowl people over, and that just wasn't something that any of Urban's running backs did at Florida (except for Tebow). Demps, Moody, and Rainey -- his running back core for many years -- were all quick and agile, but wouldn't plow you over for yards after contact and couldn't be trusted on 4th and one.

It looked like my worries were unfounded with Carlos Hyde, as Urban's Buckeyes were a power run team out of a spread formation. However, with recent running back recruiting and yesterday's rushing stats you have to wonder if the power run game won't be the focal point of this team. That's not necessarily a bad thing, this was just one performance, and that performance was still largely effective. I was still surprised at this stat line:

Carry/yds Avg RBSR Exp carries
Barrett 9/50 5.6 38% 2
Elliot 12/44 3.7 58% 1
Samuel 7/45 6.4 57% 0
Marshall 3/7 2.3 67% 0
Wilson 6/43 7.2 83% 1
Smith 2/6 3.0 0% 0

RBSR stands for Running Back Success Rate and is calculated based on whether a rusher successfully picks up certain yardage depending on the down: 50% of necessary yardage on first down, 70% on second, and 100% on third and fourth down. This is a measure of efficiency and is based on how well a back does what he is supposed to do -- pick up first downs and touchdowns.

Looking only at the average yards per carry it would be easy to think Ezekiel Elliot had a terrible game, Jalin Marshall was ineffective, and Samuel or Wilson should get the bulk of the carries. However, when looking at the RBSR, it's clear no one really separated themselves from the pack, but everyone performed fairly well. Hyde's RBSR hovered in the 60s for much of last season. Elliot didn't light the world on fire, but he did move the chains more effectively than his average yards per carry suggests. However, if any back looked a little better than the others, it was Wilson, who excelled in both yards per carry and RBSR.

Explosive carries are pickups of more than 15 yards (so if the line is credited for the first five, the explosive carries are where the running back picks up at elast ten on his own). Surprisingly, Barrett led the way yesterday in Braxton-like fashion.

Excellent individual defensive performances

I think it's probably a good idea to close on a high note. How about the defensive stat lines for Tyvis Powell (13 tackles), Darron Lee (seven tackles, one fumble recovery for a touchdown, two TFLs, and one QB hurry), Curtis Grant (seven tackles, one TFL, and one sack), and Adolphus Washington (six tackles, two TFLs, and one sack)? The key will be in just putting all of these defensive performances together for excellence as an overall unit.