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Ohio State had one of their most efficient offensive performances since 2014. Again.

It doesn’t get much better than scoring eight touchdowns on the first eight drives, but are there reasons to be worried about the defense?

Ohio State v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

You don’t need advanced stats to tell you how good Ohio State’s offense was against Nebraska. The Buckeyes totally dominated an OK conference opponent, sending a game to garbage time in the second quarter again.

OSU vs. Nebraska

Metric OSU Nebraska
Metric OSU Nebraska
Rushing SR 61% 29%
Rushing opp rate 50% 14%
Rushing exp plays 17% 0%
Rushing stuffed rate 17% 29%
Passing SR 75% 38%
Passing exp plays 25% 13%
Overall SR 68% 33%
Overall exp rate 21% 7%
3rd down % 100% 20%
Red zone TDs 100% 0%
Scoring opps efficiency 7 0
Drive efficiency 100% 0%
Three-and-out drives 0% 75%
Pts off turnovers 0 0
Havoc rate allowed 6% 0%

In the table above, scoring opportunity efficiency looks at the average points scored per scoring opportunity -- drives with a first down past the opponents' 40-yard line. Drive efficiency looks at the percentage of drives that were scoring opportunities. Rushing opportunity rate is the % of runs that gained five or more yards. Rushing stuff rate is the % of runs that were for no gain or a loss. Explosive plays are 12+ yard runs and 20+ yard passes here.

This table only includes non-garbage time numbers — here, garbage time kicked in after Ohio State’s fourth touchdown... in four total drives. That gave Nebraska just 15 plays before garbage time kicked in.

Here are the three stats I said would matter most in our advanced stats preview:

  1. Nebraska’s passing success rate
  2. Ohio State’s havoc rate
  3. Dobbins’ rushing success rate

Offense: One of the best performances of the Barrett era

Ohio State’s per-play success rate was a little higher against Army at 70 percent, but this week’s 68 percent total success rate performance was still the second-highest since the 2014 Big Ten Championship against Wisconsin (69% success rate). But what’s more insane than the per-play efficiency was the incredible drive efficiency: eight drives by the first-team offense, eight touchdowns.

It’s hard to expect much better play from J.T. Barrett. J.T.’s 27/33 (82 percent completion rate) for 325 yards (9.8 yards per attempt) with five touchdowns and no interceptions stat line wasn’t just an outlier performance in a string of games with 150 yards and a 55 percent completion rate. Since the Oklahoma loss, as ESPN noted, “Barrett has completed 99 of 137 passes (72 percent) with 18 touchdowns and no interceptions since the Oklahoma game.” He’s also thrown for 1,351 yards on 137 attempts (9.9 YPA). That’s just sustained excellence.

Yes, Penn State’s defense is at another level from what the Buckeyes have seen since Oklahoma. They rank 14th in defensive passing success rate and 4th in passing IsoPPP. They’re 12th in allowing pass plays of 20+ yards with just 14 given up all season, and 15th in passes of 10+ yards. Their defense is head and shoulders above any that the Buckeyes will have faced this season -- and will face again until the Michigan game.

But as Chaos Week 2017 demonstrated, it’s hard to sustain efficient play over the course of an entire season. Sometimes you just get shut down by Arizona State, Syracuse, or Cal. Four top-ten teams fell in Week 7, and in nearly all of them, previously poor defenses slowed down previously-explosive offenses.

And beyond that, the passing game, and the offense as a whole has shown sustained improvements in ways that are more difficult to quantify. J.T.’s willingness to throw into tight windows, or before a receiver is entirely open, the variety of the playcalling where plays noticeably build off of each other, for example.

So don’t discount J.T.’s performance against Nebraska: 76 percent passing success rate over the course of the game (including garbage time) with an insane 27 percent explosiveness rate. About one in every four passes was a play that gained at least 15 yards against Nebraska.

Finally, Dobbins is as explosive as ever. He’s averaged only 12 carries a game since the Indiana game and he’s still 15th in the country in rushing yards per game, with the 4th-highest yards per carry average of the top-15.

Defense: Dominant for a half

The advanced defensive stats are pretty limited for Nebraska. Ohio State took a 28-0 lead in the second quarter, sending the game into garbage time, when the Huskers had only run 15 offensive plays. Only five of those plays were successful, giving them a 33 percent success rate (29 percent on the ground, 38 percent through the air—with one explosive play).

So the table above still only reports non-garbage time stats, but I also ran some of the full-game numbers to see how things changed when Nebraska found some rhythm on offense later in the second half.

In the first half, Nebraska had a 33 percent passing success rate and a 9 percent passing explosiveness rate. In the second half, they had a 57 percent passing success rate, highlighted by two consecutive touchdown drives, and a 22 percent passing explosiveness rate. The key difference was connecting on a few big explosive passes — especially the 77-yarder to JD Spielman.

Speaking of Spielman, he finished with 11 catches for 200 yards. The game was well out of reach when he did the majority of his damage, but it’s still raises the question of how a better offense would do throwing the ball. Entering the game Spielman was second on the team in targets but had a lower catch rate and average yards per catch than either Stanley Morgan Jr. or De'Mornay Pierson-El.

So the question is whether Nebraska made substantive half-time adjustments to take advantage of Ohio State’s secondary on a night where the defensive line wasn’t making a lot of plays in the backfield (only a single tackle for loss and no sacks!) or whether Ohio State’s defenders weren’t giving maximum effort given the blowout score at halftime. That’s not a question that matters for Nebraska, obviously, but it does make you wonder about Penn State.