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Maryland’s Ty Johnson and D.J. Moore will be an interesting test for the Ohio State defense

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The Terps may be down to their 3rd QB, but at least he has two top athletes to test the Ohio State defense

Ohio State v Maryland Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Maryland has had an up-and-down year so far. The good: beating Texas and going 3-1. The bad: losing two QBs to season-ending injuries and losing to UCF.

The defense has been much improved from last season, where they ranked 127th and 80th in rushing and passing S&P+ -- they’re now 58th overall. As you can see in the table below, returning 77% of their defensive production from last year has had a measurable impact on the defense. The offense may be down to their third QB in Max Bortenschlager, but they have two solid skill players in receiver D.J. Moore and running back Ty Johnson.

OSU vs. Maryland

Statistic OSU Maryland
Statistic OSU Maryland
S&P+ 2nd 58th
Returning offensive production 50th (68%) 110th (38%)
Returning defensive production 92nd (57%) 24th (77%)
Blue chip ratio 74% 21%
247 Team Talent Composite 2nd (avg. 91.13) 28th (avg. 85.17)
Offensive Plays > 20 Yards 9th (33) 55th (22)
Defensive Plays > 20 Yards 70th (20) 70th (20)
Turnover margin/game 15th (1.2) 29th (.75)

When Ohio State has the ball

OSU Offense vs. Maryland Defense

Teams S&P+ 2016 Rush S&P+ Rush SR Rush IsoPPP Opp Rate 2016 Adj. Line Yards Stuff Rate 2016 Pass S&P+ Pass SR Pass IsoPPP 2016 Adj. Sack Rate Avg FP Drives
Teams S&P+ 2016 Rush S&P+ Rush SR Rush IsoPPP Opp Rate 2016 Adj. Line Yards Stuff Rate 2016 Pass S&P+ Pass SR Pass IsoPPP 2016 Adj. Sack Rate Avg FP Drives
Ohio State 3 3 3 (57.1%) 41 4 (50%) 1 1 (9.2%) 64 25 (47.4%) 29 82 44 (31.4) 26 (5.25)
Maryland 58 127 50 (38.1%) 73 16 (30.5%) 128 58 (21.1%) 80 95 (43.2%) 31 14 14 (25.6) 75 (4.43)
  • A couple of quick notes about Ohio State’s offensive progression through the first five games. First, the offense’s S&P+ percentile performance has improved each game since Oklahoma, from 37%, 81%, 95%, and to 96% last week against Rutgers. Second, Ohio State’s passing offense is now 25th in success rate and 31st in IsoPPP, meaning that it has been both efficient and explosive, without adjusting for opposing defenses. That in itself is a huge jump — Ohio State was 95th and 105th in these two unadjusted stats last year, and 29th and 66th in 2015. Third, Ohio State’s 41st ranking in rushing IsoPPP (again, opponent unadjusted) is better than last year’s at 84th. Ohio State was 43rd in unadjusted-IsoPPP in 2015 with Zeke. What all of this suggests is that Kevin Wilson and J.K. Dobbins really have had tangible effects on passing efficiency and in creating explosive running plays.
  • You can also see J.T. Barrett’s progression throwing intermediate and deep passes in the table below from CFB Film Room. Sure, Army, UNLV, and Rutgers are worse teams than Indiana and Oklahoma overall, but 1) Rutgers might have a pretty decent defense, and 2) You have to be able to complete those passes against lesser opponents before you can do it against stouter defenses — and as last year’s passing IsoPPP showed, that’s not a given.
  • OK, now to Maryland’s defense. The Terps have allowed 41 points to Texas (in a win) and 38 to Central Florida (in a loss). They’re much improved against the run, going from 127th in overall rushing S&P+ and 128th in adj. line yards to 50th in success rate and 16th in opportunity rate. They don’t get many stops behind the line (58th in stuff rate) and the successful plays they allow can be pretty big (73rd in rushing IsoPPP), but they do limit the number of 5+ yard gains overall (16th). The IsoPPP ranking is a little deceptive, because they’ve only allowed 11 runs of 10+ yards in four games (7th) — it’s just that two of those were 40+ yard runs. But I still expect at least a few 20+ yard runs from Ohio State, because the best rushing offense they’ve faced was either from Minnesota or UCF — and those are not good rushing teams.
  • The Maryland pass defense is better at preventing big plays than limiting efficient passes, ranking 95th and 31st in success rate and IsoPPP. You can expect a similar gameplan to what we’ve seen the last few weeks — some explosive runs from Dobbins, some work for Weber and Barrett, and a pretty efficient passing performance. In fact, Maryland’s pass defense numbers are pretty close to Army’s, where Barrett threw for 270 yards at 8.2 yards per attempt. Other teams have followed that lead against Maryland, making their defense rank 96th in standard downs run rate, with runs on just 54.8% of standard downs.
  • Ohio State’s receivers’ numbers are a little distorted because the first team offense has only been on the field for about half of each of the last two games. But the receiving corps really is running about 7-deep if you include Marcus Baugh in there, and some general tendencies are starting to emerge. The most-targeted receiver is K.J. Hill at 16% followed closely by Parris Campbell at 15.4%. Johnnie Dixon and Parris Campbell have emerged as the two explosive options, with Campbell as the yards-after-catch explosive target, and Dixon as the deep-ball target. Dixon is the seventh-most targeted receiver with just 13 this year, but is second on the team in receiving yards (228) because he averages an insane 28.5 yards per catch, which actually leads the country right now. I’d expect all of them to get a good amount of work against Maryland.

When Maryland has the ball

Maryland Offense vs. Ohio State Defense

Teams S&P+ 2016 Rush S&P+ Rush SR Rush IsoPPP Opp Rate 2016 Adj. Line Yards Stuff Rate 2016 Pass S&P+ Pass SR Pass IsoPPP 2016 Adj. Sack Rate Avg FP Drives
Teams S&P+ 2016 Rush S&P+ Rush SR Rush IsoPPP Opp Rate 2016 Adj. Line Yards Stuff Rate 2016 Pass S&P+ Pass SR Pass IsoPPP 2016 Adj. Sack Rate Avg FP Drives
Ohio State 8 15 29 (35.3%) 7 7 (28.6%) 4 16 (26.6%) 8 69 (39.9%) 32 78 2 (23.1) 8 (3.04)
Maryland 53 12 72 (42%) 8 14 (45.3%) 15 100 (21.9%) 101 56 (42.9%) 31 124 7 (34.8) 25 (5.26)
  • Maryland’s offense is in a weird place. As you probably know by now, the Terps are down to their third-string quarterback, Max Bortenschlager, who was 18/28 for 154 yards against Minnesota last week. The Terps are 53rd overall in offensive S&P+ and 56th in passing success rate, which is much better than you’d expect for a team that’s already been forced to start three different quarterbacks this year. So far, Bortenschlager has been solid, but there’s been a huge dip in yards per attempt (Hill and Pigrome averaged over 10 yards per attempt, Bortenschlager averages 4.1 on more attempts than the other two combined). He also gets sacked much more frequently -- 11.1% of the time with 7 total sacks compared to just one for the other two QBs. Ohio State is 9th in overall havoc rate and 5th in defensive line havoc rate, so expect some sacks unless Maryland is able to get quick, short passes going.
  • Ohio State’s secondary has been a major concern this season, and hasn’t really been tested for the past three weeks like Ohio State’s passing offense has. They might have improved, but it’s a little more difficult to tell. They’re up to 69th in passing success rate and 32nd in IsoPPP. Maryland has exactly two receiving threats: D.J. Moore (403 total yards), who accounts for an insane 48.2% of the passing game’s targets, and Taivon Jacobs (178 yards), at 25.3%. No other receiver has more than 11% of targets or over 43 receiving yards. That makes things easier for the secondary.
  • You can also expect plenty of tackles for loss. Maryland ranks 100th in stuff rate (21.9%), while Ohio State ranks 16th. However, Maryland has some of the weirdest running stats you’re going to see: 100th in stuff rate and 72nd in success rate, but 8th in IsoPPP and 14th in opportunity rate. A lot of that has to do with running back Ty Johnson, who currently averages 8.9 yards per carry and 12.3 highlight yards per opportunity with a 45.7% opportunity rate. But there’s a big drop-off between him and running back Lorenzo Harrison III, who averages just 4.4, 3.3, and 39.1% in those categories — but who has the same number of carries. So when Johnson is on the field, the Terps are explosive, and he’s much more efficient as well. But overall, the offensive line is going to allow a fair number of run stuffs, while Johnson will create big plays whenever he gets an opportunity. Containing Johnson will be the number one key for Ohio State’s defense.

The 3 most important stats

  1. Number of explosive runs allowed on defense. Ty Johnson is the real deal at running back, averaging 12.3 highlight yards per opportunity. Containing him will be the primary challenge for the defense.
  2. Defensive passing success rate. Bortenschlager was productive enough to beat a pretty talented Minnesota team last week despite being the third QB to start for the Terps this year. The secondary hasn’t been tested since Oklahoma and might not again this week, but it’s worth watching nonetheless.
  3. Offensive passing success rate. The offense has improved gradually since Oklahoma, and Maryland’s defense should be weaker against the pass.

Picks

I’ve started keeping track of how well the statistical projections are performing relative to the actual margins of victory.

  • S&P+: Ohio State 42, Maryland 16. 93.5% win expectancy
  • F/+: Ohio State by 22.3. 90.1% win expectancy
  • Adj. S&P+: Ohio State by 33.9. 97.5% win expectancy
  • Power Rank: Ohio State by 14.2. 85% win expectancy
  • My Pick: Ohio State 48, Maryland 13