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Ohio State vs. Kent State advanced stats recap: Catharsis

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The third 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?

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Urban hit the nail on the head in his recap of the game and the importance of the stats overall: "You still have a sick feeling in your stomach about last week. But we're moving forward...You can't forecast when you make this scheduling that you're going to have a new quarterback and a young offensive line. This is what the doctor ordered."

It's easy to dismiss the statistics from this game as unimportant in the same way that NFL preseason game stats don't really mean anything. However, I think they can be important for two reasons. First, there are some metrics that capture changing offensive and defensive strategy, individual performances regardless of opponent strength, and overall team efficiency. Second, the numbers are important to gauge how the team responded to "getting the hell kicked out" of them last week, as Woody would've said.

J.T. Barrett

Obviously, with six touchdown passes and over 300 yards passing, J.T. looked a lot more under control and composed than in his first two starts. Even his interception was really a dropped pass that took a Kent State rebound.

  • With his 10.4 yards per attempt, the Barrett facilitated an excellent scrimmage for the many young Buckeyes who participated in the redshirt-burning party.
  • When Barrett was in the game, he saw seven total third downs. On five of those third downs, Herman and Meyer trusted Barrett to pass, and he was successful on each of his third down pass attempts. It's not clear whether they would trust him like that in a big game, but I take that as a big vote of confidence, regardless of the opponent.
  • Similarly, the Buckeyes passed on 42% of first downs.
  • I don't have full charting data yet, but some of those third down passes weren't just screens or extended handoffs, either. For instance, on the third and seven on the Buckeyes' opening possession, Barrett hit a streaking (and wide open) Michael Thomas over the middle. This was notable because 1) Michael Thomas is no longer just a spring game star, 2) Barrett hit a receiver in stride over the middle, which can be a more difficult throw, and 3) as the announcers noted, the triangle route combination was an effective rub adaptation to a Virginia Tech-like defensive front from Kent State.
  • 7/25 passes and 49% of yards passing went to receivers, 1/5 of receptions and 12% of yards were made by tight ends (!), and the rest (13/25 receptions) were to running backs or hybrid guys like Dontre and Jalin Marshall.

The offense

  • The Buckeyes were back to last season's level of red zone touchdown efficiency with 6/8 meaningful red zone trips (i.e. not in the 4th quarter) going for a touchdown. That's 75%, which is actually still under where they were last season when they led the country.
  • The Buckeyes snapped the ball every 22.6 seconds throughout the game, which is the same rate as last week. But if you only look at the first half, the Buckeyes snapped the ball every 17.4 seconds!
  • Some other efficiency numbers: average yards per possession equaled 44.9, average points per possession was 4.71, average points per play was .76, and there were an average of 6.2 plays per drive.
  • Average starting field position for the offense was on the Buckeyes' 43 yard line.
  • The turnover margin was zero, leaving the Buckeyes with a neutral turnover margin through three games (that's less than good).
  • In terms of running backs success rates (Jones is included, because if he's going to keep on every read, then he deserves an RBSR):
Elliott Samuel Ball Dixon Jones
86% 80% 70% 75% 100%

The defense

  • The defense held Kent State to nine yards per possession, 2.21 yards per play, and 4.07 plays per drive. That was six three-and-outs out of 14 total drives.
  • After allowing Brewer a chance to convert seemingly almost every third down, the Buckeye defense held Kent State to 2/14 on third downs.
  • Raekwon's debut was nothing but leading the team in tackles (7), tackles for loss (3), and sacks (2). No big deal.
  • Despite not recording a tackle (but he did record a pass breakup), Eli Apple got the start at corner over Gareon Conley.
All in all, it was a dominating effort where the Buckeyes could score at will, earn the shutout, rebuild confidence, and get some younger guys playing experience. While the Buckeye offense still wasn't tested in short yardage situations or where you might need a big bruiser running back, the combination of hard running from Elliot and Samuel with Barrett's distribution of the ball was something to build on. The defense looked stout, even against the pass, which is all you could hope for in a game like this.