We're at the first bye week of the season for Ohio State and that gives us a chance to take a look back at the first eight games. From the advanced stats and the AP Poll ranking the Buckeyes on top to start the season all the way to their plummeting ranking following the Indiana game, Ohio State, and the advanced stats have changed significantly over time.
Below are the six major trends I've seen in the advanced stats for Ohio State.
The offense starts slow (but gets progressively better)
|1Q S&P+||2Q S&P+||3Q S&P+||4Q S&P+|
Over the past few years, you could almost always count on the first series -- which is almost always scripted -- to end in a touchdown. Tom Herman and Meyer would already have a set of plays ready to go to take advantage of whatever they had seen on film. And for their part, the players executed extremely well.
That hasn't been the case this season. The Buckeye offense has started slow -- even scoring just a single touchdown in the first quarter last week against Rutgers.
Before, quick starts put the Ohio State offense at a huge advantage (not to mention the defense) because they could control the tempo of the rest of the game, rushing as many times as they liked.
But the Ohio State offense has improved quarter-to-quarter so far, ultimately playing its best football in the second half of games. With J.T. Barrett now at the helm, I'm wondering if this trend will begin to fade away.
Pass defense is improved, but explosive plays are a problem
The pass defense has been incredible this season -- except when it comes to preventing explosive plays. Overall, the Buckeyes rank second in opponent-adjusted defensive passing S&P+ and first overall in non-adjusted passing success rate. So no matter how you slice it, the pass defense is solid.
But the Silver Bullets are 115th in opponent-unadjusted IsoPPP, which is the metric for explosiveness. Because the overall passing S&P+ ranking is so great it means that the pass defense as a whole is solid and it's due in part to the explosive offenses the Buckeyes have faced (Indiana, Rutgers' Leonte Caroo, Daniel Braverman, etc.). But this will be something to watch heading forward -- which opposing receivers have big play ability?
Right now, that would be Illinois' Geronimo Allison and Michigan State's Aaron Burbridge.
Barrett breaks the dual-threat sack trend
Barrett has used his legs for good, not sacks. Typically, dual-threat quarterbacks tend to take more sack than pro-style quarterbacks because they don't work the pocket well and trust their lines, scrambling into pressure rather than away from it efficiently (that's admittedly not the only issue; there's probably some selection bias in terms of what offenses have dual threat quarterbacks and the quality of their offensive lines to begin with).
But either way, Barrett has just a 1.6% sack rate compared to 5.6% for Cardale. Barrett has far fewer attempts than Cardale, but that's encouraging, nonetheless.
Lots of big runs, but plenty of stuffs too
The rushing offense is a little weird. It's efficient -- 21st in success rate, 15th in opponent-adjusted overall, and eighth in opportunity rate, but it's also 43rd in adjusted line yards.
And that's after ranking first in adjusted line yards last season (adjusted line yards is intended to be a measure of the offensive line's run-blocking efficiency, but it's obviously difficult to disentangle the effectiveness of the line versus the running back).
So what happened? I'd guess it has to do with the Buckeyes' 87th-ranked stuff rate. That is, most runs are efficient and allow for explosive carries, but a smaller percentage are stuffed for a loss or no gain, reducing the line's average rating. You can really see with Zeke's carries -- it will go from one yard, two yards, and then a 55-yard gain.
Turnovers are an issue
Ohio State is 77th in actual turnover margin (-1 overall) after finishing 27th (+7 last season).
Guess who is at the top of turnover margin this season? Tom Herman's Houston.
The offense is finishing drives like they used to
This is more observational, but the offense is finished drives much better with J.T. working in the red zone -- Ohio State is now 42nd in average points per trip inside an opponent's 40 yard line (that's considered a scoring opportunity), averaging 5.13 points per opportunity.