The Buckeyes stepped up in their first huge road test of the season, running away from Oklahoma in the second quarter and then never looking back.
|OSU Off||OU Off|
|Rush success rate||66%||44%|
|Pass success rate||50%||39%|
|Rush explosive plays||7 (18%)||5 (16%)|
|Pass explosive plays||2 (10%)||4 (13%)|
|RZ TD efficiency||75%||33%|
|Scoring opps efficiency||83% (6.33)||60% (3.4)|
|Drive efficiency||60% (4)||45% (2)|
|Points off turnovers||17||0|
In the table above, scoring opportunity efficiency looks at the percentage of scoring opportunities (drives that cross the opponents' 40 yard line) that end in a score. The number in parentheses is the average points per scoring opportunity. Drive efficiency looks at the percentage of drives that were scoring opportunities. The number in parentheses is the number of three-and-outs the offense had. I didn't include the final garbage time drive in the stats here.
The stats suggested Ohio State had to do four things to win on the road against the Sooners:
1. Finishing drives -- on both offense and defense
2. Offensive rushing success rate
3. Generating explosive passing plays
4. The defense must generate either sacks or turnovers -- but at least one
The Buckeyes did all of those things: they got touchdowns more often than not out of scoring opportunities, they ran the ball extremely effectively, the created a few big pass plays to Noah Brown, and the defense constantly pressured Baker Mayfield, leading to two sacks and two interceptions.
The offense took advantage of scoring opportunities
Maybe the single most important statistic from the game was how relatively efficient the two offenses were when they created scoring opportunities. The Ohio State offense averaged 6.33 points every time they had a drive that crossed the Sooners' 40, while the defense held the Sooners to just 3.4 points per scoring opportunity. The Buckeyes were almost twice as efficient with their scoring opportunities.
The defense allowed the Sooners to move the ball -- the total yardage difference was just 443 to 404 in favor of the Buckeyes -- but the young Buckeye defense played an incredible bend-don't-break game by limiting the Sooners to just a 33% red zone touchdown rate. A comparison between the two offenses' red zone touchdown percentages tells the same story as looking at the scoring opportunities -- the Buckeyes weren't able to be slowed down in the red zone.
The reason for the Buckeyes' and Sooners' varying degrees of success with scoring opportunities had a lot to do with how the offenses were built. The two offenses had the same number of explosive plays, but the Buckeyes were notably more efficient than the Sooners. That little bit of inconsistency for the Sooners offense often made them less reliable in the red zone, more dependant on big plays, and with significant third downs. The Sooners were just 5/13 on third downs, likely because they averaged 6.9 yards to go.
The Buckeyes consistently moved the ball on the ground
The disparity in the offenses' efficiency was because of their varying abilities to run the ball effectively. Ohio State could count on Weber and Samuel to consistently move the ball on the ground, while the Sooners were much more reliant on explosive plays.
The Sooners actually had a higher percentage of their passes go for explosive plays than the Buckeyes did (13% to 10%), but were also more reliant on those explosive plays too, because they were 11% less efficient passing and 22% less efficient running the ball. That's a huge disparity: both teams managed nine explosive plays on the other, but the Buckeyes could count on a successful run two thirds of the time, but the Sooners were effective on less than 50% of their rushing attempts.
The defense completely shut down Samaje Perine, holding him to a 29% rushing success rate. Perine was much more of a between-the-tackles, straight line runner, but the defensive line hit the backfield and the linebackers filled all gaps before Perine could get any momentum. Joe Mixon was far more effective (56% rushing success rate, 3 explosive runs), and it was surprising that the Sooners didn't try to run him more, since his agility and vision allowed him to hit the small holes that were available. The secondary makes most of the big plays so far for this defense, but the front seven really stepped up tonight (behind a seemingly endless defensive line rotation), constantly pressuring Mayfield and limiting the Sooners' rushing efficiency.
All of Ohio State's primary ball carriers were efficient: Weber had a 67% rushing success rate, Samuel had a 78% success rate, and Barrett was at 50%. This again speaks to the offensive line, which had a 58% total team rushing opportunity rate.
The passing offense was more than explosive enough for a constraint
The Buckeyes completely dictated the pace of the game, sprinting out to what would end up being an insurmountable lead in the second quarter, then controlling the pace of the game. But in only 68 total snaps, the Buckeye offense had nine plays (13%).
We said that the offense needed explosive runs on the edge and explosive passes on the perimeter. The Buckeyes delivered, along with far more explosive runs up the middle of the defense than expected. Noah Brown's huge night was obviously the highlight, as he more than proved that he can be the top receiving option. This fear of allowing Brown or Samuel to connect on explosive passes to the perimeter (along with Barrett running the ball) allowed the run game to be much more effective.
Finally, the defense pressured Mayfield, taking advantage of his gunslinger tendencies to create two (almost three!) interceptions. From there, the offense managed two touchdowns. But if you include the two turnovers on downs, then the offense managed to produce 17 points from turnovers. We said that the Buckeye front seven needed sacks or turnovers to win, and they only got two sacks but nevertheless constantly were chasing down Mayfield after winning their battles against the Sooners offensive line.