“S&P+ rankings have been updated, and they look...relatively normal.”
It was a good bye week for the Ohio State Buckeyes, partly because they were able to, once again, beat the Michigan Wolverines, all while staying off the football field. In the latest S&P+ rankings, a mathematical college football rating system, the Buckeyes jumped from the No. 5 spot in last week’s ratings to the top spot this week. Michigan, who had previously sat at No. 1, fell to the No. 2 spot ahead of Alabama, Louisville and Clemson.
The S&P+ ratings analyze play-by-play and drive data for each college football team for every game, accounting for more than 800 games and 140,000 plays per season. Specifically, the rating focuses on four key factors, including efficiency, explosiveness, field position and finishing drives, with each factor adjusted for a given opponent. This rating is compared overall, as well as for offense, defense and special teams specifically for each team. Finally, the rating accounts for second-order wins, which uses advanced statistics to compare what should have happened in the game (statistically-based projections) to the actual result of the game.
While preseason polls account for much of the data in the first weeks of the season (as there is less on-field information to go on), that ratio decreases as the season goes on until, by week six, all the data is derived from actual on-field play, which explains why LSU remains in the top-20, and Wisconsin is still out of the top-15. This week, the preseason projections fell from 50 percent of the total score to 30 percent, which gave the Buckeyes enough room to jump despite the bye week.
Behind Ohio State and Michigan, Wisconsin sits at No. 16, with Nebraska coming in at No. 23. Iowa, a week out from losing to FCS North Dakota State, sits just outside the top-25 at No. 28.
“I was hoping that everyone would see it the same way I saw it--and they did. We have so much more room for improvement. I’m very pleased with their growth, and they play hard, but those are things that are kind of demanded around here.”
Despite an undefeated nonconference record heading into Big Ten play, including a decisive win over then-No. 14 Oklahoma, the Ohio State Buckeyes still have ample room for improvement, according to head coach Urban Meyer. And last week’s bye week was the perfect time to pick apart and analyze all of the errors that the young squad can improve upon as it heads into this Saturday’s matchup against Rutgers. With such an early bye, too, the team was able to analyze issues early in the season before they progressed into true problems. Even better, the unit already has a quality win over a Power-5 team to analyze alongside as it prepares for a formidable Big Ten schedule.
To improve matters, in a strong display of maturity from the youthful team, Meyer is not alone in seeking improvement in all areas, from penalties to lack of coverage on special teams to offensive and defensive plays that simply did not run as smoothly as Meyer had hoped. H-back Curtis Samuel commented “We won by 21, but we felt like we could have done a much better job.”
That attitude has carried the Buckeyes through the bye week, as the young group continues to grow and gel together. “We have to take advantage of that extra week so we can improve,” added Samuel. “It’s just really the little things that we have to pick up that could potentially be big plays.” So while many on the outside saw a well-oiled machine roll over Oklahoma, those inside the Buckeye camp recognized that they could be much better than they are now, and are committed to fixing those problem areas.
“A great coach can put those conditions in place, but it takes a great culture to keep it going, and the Buckeyes are lucky enough to have that with the kind of leadership we’ve seen from the players and assistant coaches in recent years.”
There is no doubt that Urban Meyer is one of the great college football coaches of our time, having found success everywhere he has been from the start of his career at Bowling Green. However, the “Great Man theory of history,” which would claim that Meyer’s success is his and his alone, is somewhat flawed in this instance. Sure, Meyer has been able to make the necessary calls and changes at his respective posts to be able to create success for the program, but the underlying factor, certainly, is the culture in which Meyer’s programs exist, and what he has done to foster said culture to build continued success.
First, while Meyer deserves much credit for his ability to find talented recruits and mold them into even more talented players for Ohio State, the onus is not on him alone in turning this year’s inexperienced group into the No. 2 team in the country. Players with significant experience at key positions--J.T. Barrett at quarterback, Pat Elflein and Billy Price on the offensive line and Raekwon McMillan, Gareon Conley and Tyquan Lewis all on different defensive units--have helped to lead their various position groups, bringing them up to speed with the talent that was lost to April’s NFL Draft.
Even moreso, Meyer managed to place exceptional help in his coaching staff vacancies, including Greg Schiano and Greg Studrawa, to the staff to assist in player development and take the burden off of Meyer. And Meyer is not afraid to think outside the “Ohio” box, recruiting players and assistant coaches from across the country and, in the case of Australian punter Cameron Johnston, around the world. Buckeyes on the roster represent 20 different states, including a number from Texas, Florida and Georgia in the midst of SEC recruiting hotbeds.
So while Meyer has been instrumental in creating success at Ohio State and elsewhere, perhaps the greater credit is in bringing these groups and individuals together under a common banner--winning yet another College Football Playoff.