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The Ohio State defense may be one of the best in the country

Even with all of the personnel losses, the Ohio State defense is efficient and comes up with huge plays.

It was a messier game than expected, and not only because of the weather. Ohio State had a dominating victory on the scoreboard -- the Buckeye defense still hasn't allowed a touchdown this season -- so any critcism here is with that dominance in mind.

OSU Off OSU Def
Rushing success rate 43% 29%
Passing success rate 45% 41%
Rushing explosive plays 8 1
Passing explosive plays 2 0
Red zone TD efficiency 4/6 0/3
Drive efficiency 6/13 (4) 1/15 (3)

Explosive runs are runs over 12 yards and explosive passes include any throw over 20 yards. Just like last week, the OSU Defense column is from Tulsa's perspective -- so the Ohio State defense had a 71% rushing success rate. Finally, drive efficiency here is the ratio of scoring drives to total drives, with the number of three-and-outs in parentheses.

In an interview with Stephen Godfrey for Podcast Ain't Played Nobody this offseason, Tom Herman said that two stats are the most important and determine 98% of football games: winning the 1. explosive play battle and 2. the turnover margin.

So despite some pretty sub-par efficiency numbers (last week the Buckeyes ran at 73% efficiency) and far fewer explosive passes than expected (which was somewhat expected given the conditions), those two stats seem to explain the game: the Buckeyes had a 10:1 explosive play ratio and went 6:1 in turnover ratio. The Buckeyes lead the country in turnover margin after two games.

Finally, 48-3 could have been a lot worse. The key numbers are the 6/13 drive efficiency (8/10 last week) and 4 three-and-outs. Ohio State converted just 5 of 14 third downs, so the Buckeyes actually lost the three-and-out ratio battle.

The 3 most important stats

In my preview I noted three critical stats for a Buckeye win:

1. Limiting Brewer's explosive plays (and general efficiency, too).

2. Whether the defensive line can generate sacks, particularly on passing downs, and generally play the game in the Tulsa backfield.

3. Whether Weber, Samuel, and McCall will create more explosive runs this week -- of the 20+ yard variety, rather than just 10+ small-explosive carries.

How about this defense?

I legitimately believed that Tulsa would score at least two touchdowns off explosive plays. Tulsa is no world-beater on offense yet, but they are a top-25 rushing IsoPPP team and D'Angelo Brewer averaged 8.3 highlight yards per opportunity in week one.

But the Buckeye defense completely shut down Brewer and any explosive offense Tulsa could attempt. Brewer had just one explosive run -- a 14-yard carry -- and was held to 3.9 yards per carry and the team had a 29% rushing success rate.

Oklahoma will offer a much more difficult test next week, but this new starting secondary clearly passed its early tests against two other Air Raid offenses. Besides the obvious -- four interceptions! -- this big-play-making defense was extremely efficient as well, holding Tulsa to a 25% third down conversion percentage and keeping Tulsa out of the end zone on three red zone trips.

It wasn't just big plays -- even on drives that didn't end in a turnover, the defense forced Tulsa to be inefficient, which suggests that the defense would have been successful even without the six takeaways.

Effective without as much havoc

Havoc rates can't totally see something intangible or subjective like merely pressuring the quarterback, but Ohio State was just 74th in total havoc rate after week one. But Tulsa allowed four sacks in week one and was particularly susceptible on passing downs, which makes it surprising that the defense only managed two sacks and six tackles for loss.

It's hard to call the lack of sacks a concern yet, given that the line is still forcing bad passes and playing a role in creating turnovers, but it's certainly something to keep an eye on nevertheless.

Still not many 20+ yard runs

It might not have felt like it during the game, but the Buckeyes actually had two more explosive runs than last week. They were just still mostly in the 12-19 yard range, with only three 20+ yard runs this week. Tulsa was 122nd in defensive rushing IsoPPP, so we might have expected more here.

The lack of balance, as well as an unwillingess to vary runs (potentially ahead of Oklahoma next week?) contributed to the disappointing explosive run totals. It was a slower day especially for Mike Weber, who had a 41% success rate and three explosive runs, but Curtis Samuel had explosive runs on half of his carries, with a 63% rushing success rate. Dontre Wilson also made the most of his carries, recording a touchdown run and one of the day's three 20+ yard runs.

What about the passing game and all of the three-and-outs?

With four three-and-outs and going just 5/14 on third down, something was clearly disjointed on offense.

Like usual, third down conversion issues started on first and second down, as the average third down distance was 4.9 yards even without any real outliers. The Buckeyes simply weren't as efficient on standard downs this week.

But the issue was bigger than that -- this week Barrett was just 1/8 throwing on third downs. Maybe that poor passing downs success rate was due to the weather, but that is a surprisingly low efficiency to keep drives going.

Finally, where were all of the explosive passes? Sure, the weather accounts for some of this, but it was also just an off night for Barrett and the play action passing game. Tulsa was 116th in Passing IsoPPP and the Buckeyes were 13th after an extremely explosive performance against Bowling Green, but they managed just two 20+ yard passes this week.

Moving forward, in addition to the defensive line's havoc rate, the number of 20+ yard explosive runs, and general passing efficiency, I'll definitely be on the watch for passing downs success rate and passing explosiveness.