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Ohio State broke records against Bowling Green because of its explosive passing game

The Ohio State offense set multiple records against Bowling Green due to elite skill talent and a great gameplan.

Ohio State did not open the season as projected. Most of the advanced metrics saw a three-score win for Ohio State. Even the Vegas line was at 28 points in favor of the Buckeyes. Instead, J.T. Barrett and a host of new weapons set the school record for total offense and scored 77 points.

Barrett set a career high for passing yards with 349 — his first time crossing the 300-yard mark since the Indiana game in 2014. The defense was able to hold last year’s 11th-ranked S&P+ offense to just three points. And maybe most importantly, the backups got a full quarter and a half of work, including backup quarterback Joe Burrow’s first-ever game action.

Rushing success rate 73% 45%
Passing success rate 54% 33%
Rushing explosive plays 6 2
Passing explosive plays 7 0
Red zone efficiency 6/7 (6) 1/2 (1.5)
Drive efficiency 8/10 (0) 1/9 (4)

A couple of notes on the table: The OSU defense column is from the perspective of Bowling Green's offense -- so the Buckeye defense had a 55% rushing success rate (45% for BGSU). The drive efficiency metrics -- red zone and overall drive efficiency -- are just for non-garbage time, or when J.T. was pulled with roughly 6:30 left in the third quarter. All other metrics are for the full game. The number in parentheses for red zone efficiency is the average points per red zone trip. Drive efficiency here is the ratio of scoring drives to total drives, with the number of 3-and-outs in parentheses.

The three most important stats

In my preview I wrote that there were three main concerns for the Buckeyes:

1. Bowling Green's passing IsoPPP+ -- the number of big passing plays against the rebuilt Ohio State secondary

2. Ohio State's rushing success rate -- can Weber and Samuel do what Elliott did on his own last year?

3. J.T. Barrett's passing success rate -- which receivers emerge as reliable targets

Bowling Green’s explosive passing offense was shut down

By the traditional measure of explosiveness — a 20-yard pass — Bowling Green didn’t have a single explosive passing play against Ohio State’s secondary. Even with three new starters, the Buckeyes held last year’s 8th-most explosive offense in IsoPPP+ without an explosive pass. The early returns are that Malik Hooker is clearly the star that he appeared to be from the spring game, snagging two interceptions, including one of the top highlights of week one.

It's entirely possible that the 2016 Bowling Green offense is just a shadow of what it was in 2015 -- but if not, then the defense's performance might have been even more impressive than the offense's by holding the Falcons to just three points, forcing four 3-and-outs in non-garbage time, and holding Bowling Green to just a single scoring drive in nine attempts. That's an average of just .3 points per drive.

Weber and Samuel were both efficient and explosive

Mike Weber got his first game action as Ohio State’s starting running back, but there were some questions over whether he and Curtis Samuel could equal Elliott’s efficiency and dependability — especially in third-and-short situations. Weber’s first college carry was an 18-yard run, which set the tone for the rest of his day. Weber ended with a 79% rushing success rate against last year’s 67th-ranked S&P+ rush defense. He also was a perfect 5-for-5 on third-and-short (for power success rate). Though he seemed to always be a shoelace tackle away from taking it to the house, Weber still ended with three explosive runs.

Success rate Explosive runs
Weber 79% 3
Samuel 92% 1

Meyer said during the offseason that Samuel would be the team’s primary playmaker on offense, which some took as hyperbole. But if this game is any indication, then Meyer may have found his most explosive weapon since he arrived in Columbus.

Samuel had a 92% rushing success rate and three explosive receptions to finish the day with 84 yards rushing and 177 receiving. Samuel touched the ball 22 times (beating Urban’s requirement that he see >15 touches per game), and 18 of those resulted in a successful play (82% success rate).

Barrett’s most explosive performance yet

Barrett set a school record for touchdowns, with six through the air, and set a personal-best for passing yards, so it’s no surprise that his passing success rate was 52%. But the most encouraging thing was that his performance included six explosive plays (20+ passing yards). Ohio State struggled to produce explosive plays through the air last season without Devin Smith to stretch the field. Ohio State had just 38 passing plays of 20+ yards all of last season (64th) after managing 56 the year before.

In addition to Samuel, four other players recorded an explosive reception, including K.J. Hill, Noah Brown, Dontre Wilson, and freshman running back Demario McCall. Two things stand out to me on that list of receivers. First, Noah Brown and Samuel, the two most-hyped receivers during the off season, lived up to expectations in week one. Second, is this finally the year that Ohio State’s H-back position lives up to the talent Meyer has recruited there? Samuel and Wilson received a combined 30 touches and produced four explosive receptions.

Beginning of the year easy opponents are excellent for getting young players and backups experience and identifying who will be the team’s go-to players when needed. So far, Weber, Samuel, and Noah Brown look like the team’s core.

If we're going to be picky

...then there are a few things worth improving:

  1. Pass rush by the first team defense -- both sacks were in garbage time, but congrats to Jalyn Holmes and Nick Bosa!
  2. J.T. had one pick-six and nearly had another interception