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Ohio State’s explosive passing game and shut-down defense dominate Maryland

Maryland had 16 passing yards while J.T. Barrett threw for 261

Maryland v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

This has been a good four-game run for Ohio State to ramp up for its tough late-season games. Post-Oklahoma, Ohio State’s average score has been 53-14, which is close to the Buckeyes’ 62-14 win over Maryland.

Obviously the level of competition has been low, but as Oklahoma showed yesterday, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still lose. With Nebraska and Penn State next, and Michigan State now looking like a tougher game than it did before the Spartans’ win over Michigan, the toughest games are still to come for Ohio State’s renewed championship run.

OSU vs. Maryland

Metric OSU Maryland
Metric OSU Maryland
Rushing SR 60% 20%
Rushing opp rate 45% 20%
Rushing exp plays 10% 0%
Rushing stuffed rate 20% 27%
Passing SR 53% 17%
Passing exp plays 21% 0%
Overall SR 56% 19%
Overall exp rate 15% 0%
3rd down % 57% 14%
Red zone TDs 100% 0%
Scoring opps efficiency 5.6 0
Drive efficiency 71% 33%
Three-and-out drives 0% 33%
Pts off turnovers 14 0
Havoc rate allowed 10% 24%

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 fifth touchdown to go up 34-7 with a few minutes left in the first half. J.T. didn’t get pulled until Ohio State went up 48-8, however.

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

  1. Number of explosive runs allowed on defense
  2. Defensive passing success rate
  3. Offensive passing success rate

Offense: More explosive passing

Key stats:

  • 45% rushing opportunity rate
  • 53% passing success rate
  • 21% passing explosiveness rate

J.T. Barrett was 20-of-31 for 261 yards (8.4 YPA) with three touchdowns and no interceptions overall, but in non-garbage time — which wipes out three J.T.-led drives — he also had a 53% passing success rate and a 21% passing explosiveness rate. Of his efficient passes, 40% were explosive (i.e., went for 15+ yards).

That continues last week’s trend. Against Rutgers, J.T. had a 25% passing explosiveness rate (three total explosive passes in non-garbage time, compared to four this week) and 50% of his efficient passes were also explosive.

J.T. spread the ball around so that there wasn’t a single dominant receiver. Binjimen Victor narrowly led the team in receiving yards with 55 on four catches and Parris Campbell led with six catches, but six players had more than 35 receiving yards on the day — and all six of them had at least one explosive play.

But besides the raw statistics, what was maybe most impressive was how J.T. was really ripping his passes. There was seemingly zero hesitation after he would make his read. He threw a few passes before receivers were open, put a few passes so receivers would have to go up and get the ball, and put a few passes in tighter windows. His touchdown pass to Victor is a good example of trusting his receiver to make a play — it was third-and-six from the eight-yard line, and Barrett used Victor’s height to get the touchdown. With Victor and Baugh’s touchdowns, we finally saw a tight end and tall receiver used in the red zone — which is nothing to dismiss, regardless of the opponent.

J.T. is now second in the Big Ten in passing yards per game with 252 — just 14 yards per game fewer than Trace McSorley. But J.T. averages .5 yards per pass more than McSorely (8.7) and has three fewer interceptions. Barrett is actually 38th in the country in passing yards per game too, and tenth overall in QB Rating.

That was a lot about the passing game. The run game was a little less exciting, as Dobbins got close, but failed to crack 100 yards before getting pulled, and Ohio State only had a 45% rushing opportunity rate overall. Ohio State had two explosive runs out of twenty attempts in non-garbage time. The Buckeye offensive line did not totally dominate the Maryland defensive front — which is fine, considering the passing game was as explosive as it was, but you have to wonder what would happen if the run game has another just-OK day while the passing game is slowed too. Branden Bowen’s injury undoubtedly increases that risk.

In fact, it seemed like Ohio State’s second drive of the third quarter was just to prove that the run game could dominate if it wanted to. On that drive the Buckeyes called nine runs and two passes, and all nine were efficient runs.

Defense: Dominating performance

Key stats:

  • 17% passing success rate
  • 0 rushing explosive plays
  • 24% havoc rate allowed

Maryland had a 19% overall success rate and no explosive plays in non-garbage time. Outside of Johnson’s one 35-yard run and Maryland’s one fourth-quarter touchdown on a drive that started at the Ohio State 27-yard line, the Buckeye defense was completely dominant — even the second- and third-string players.

Ty Johnson is a great player, as he showed on the 35-yard run and 100-yard kickoff return touchdown, but overall he had just 12 carries for 57 yards. Removing his explosive run and he was held to 11 carries for 22 yards the rest of the game.

There’s not too much you can say about the Maryland passing game — they completed three total passes on 13 attempts for 16 yards. Star receiver D.J. Moore was a total non-factor.

In the last three games, Ohio State has allowed 196 total passing yards, with quarterbacks averaging just 3.3 yards per pass. They’ve also grabbed four interceptions. That doesn’t mean a ton considering they faced a UNLV freshman, Rutgers, and Maryland’s third-stringer in that time period, but you can at least say that the secondary is playing as well as could be hoped for. I don’t want to read too much in to how the Buckeyes’ performance from the last three weeks projects against a top opposing quarterback.