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Ohio State's offense was just as bad as you thought it was against Michigan State

It was a worse version of season-long trends for the Buckeyes.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State did not uncover Ohio State's weaknesses -- the Spartans magnified the same issues that were already there. Could anyone have predicted how the Spartans would totally dominate the Buckeyes to the point where J.T. Barrett and Elliott would average just three yards per run and pass? And without their best player in Connor Cook as well? Once again, the Spartans handed the Buckeyes their first defeat after a 20+ win stretch.

A total lack of explosiveness from the offense

3rd down % Exp. pass Exp. rush Scoring opps 3-and-outs Rush success Rush opp rate Pass success Sacks
29% 0 0 2 (18%) 6 50% 17% 25% 1

Ohio State's offense failed to create a single explosive play against Michigan State's defense. Looking at the advanced stats before the game, the Spartans were more susceptible to efficient runs that don't pass the second level as well as explosive passes. The Buckeyes had neither as Ohio State was held to just 132 total yards. You already know that that is the lowest for a Meyer-coached team.

Again, Michigan State didn't expose any issues that weren't already there, but just magnified them. We though that the offense's inconsistent play was maybe a function of their opponents, or quarterback inconsistency, or just the time for the offensive play calling staff to get in a groove. Whichever explanation you use, we expected -- and the advanced stats certainly predicted -- that Ohio State would not only fix those problems during this game, but roll over Michigan State. Instead, unexplosiveness on the ground and through the air, stuffed runs, and inconsistent passing doomed the Buckeyes.

Looking at the chart above, you begin with the fact that the Buckeyes were poor situationally, struggling to convert third downs. Ohio State averaged 5.7 yards to go on third down, meaning that they were fairly inefficient on standard downs. Of their four third down conversions, three were of the six tries that were third and three yards or less to go. The Buckeyes ran on nine of their fourteen third down attempts.

Despite Braxton and Jalin's speed and Michael Thomas's one-on-one ability, Ohio State didn't connect on any down-field passes, and without those, the Spartans could blanket and swarm the line of scrimmage. Michigan will also have this ability.

In terms of drive efficiency, the ratio of scoring opportunities created to three-and-outs is revealing -- 1:3. For every drive that at least made it to the Spartans' 40 yard line, they had two others end in just three plays. If you have a negative ratio here, that's incredibly bad, meaning that you had more wasted drives than chances to score. In general, there's a trend with a significant drop in winning percentage if an offense has more than two three-and-outs. So just seeing six three-and-outs on the stat sheet tells you all you need to know.

Ezekiel Elliott was successful running the ball but not efficient when going by opportunity rate (the rushing stats in the chart above are for Elliott). He converted a lot of short yardage situations, but was unable to get past the second level for rarely even a five-yard gain (likely due to the complete lack of an explosive passing threat). Barrett's night was similar, as he had a 36% rushing success rate.

Though I said that Michigan State merely intensified the Buckeyes' preexisting issues, that's not true when it comes to red zone efficiency -- the Buckeyes were a perfect 2/2 in red zone success rate, scoring touchdowns on both scoring opportunities. The problem instead was generating scoring opportunities.

Finally, though the passing game was almost non-existent, it wasn't really due to the Spartans' defensive line like we expected. Michigan State had just one sack and two hurries on defense.

Can't pin this on the defense

3rd down % Exp. pass Exp. rush Scoring opps 3-and-outs Rush success Rush opp rate Pass success Sacks
47% 1 2 4 (40%) 1 58% 40% 29% 2

How remarkable is it that the Spartans won another rivalry game without leading for even a second during the game? And that the Spartans won without their best player in Connor Cook? And that they lost the turnover margin -2?

Well, the Spartans had only a single three-and-out. That might be all you need to know. The Buckeyes had a 1:3 ratio of scoring opportunities to three-and-outs, and a 6:1 ratio of three-and-outs compared to the Spartans. Further, the Spartans' own ratio was 4:1.

The Spartans weren't very efficient, turned the ball over twice, had a poor passing success rate, and only managed three explosive plays -- but it was enough to put themselves in a position to win. The Ohio State defense played well except when it came to preventing efficient runs. No Spartan rusher averaged more than 4.6 yards per carry, but their 58% rushing success rate was more than enough to keep drives going, as noted by their 47% third down conversion rate. Overall, this loss was certainly not the defense's fault.

So where to now? The Buckeyes will face a Michigan State defense that while looking sloppy in the past few outings, is more than capable of implementing a similar gameplan and not allowing any Buckeye explosive plays. The offense will rely on team captains to regain focus and set new team and season expectations in the wake of one of the most deflating losses of the Meyer tenure.