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Ohio State failed to maximize scoring opportunities against Oklahoma

Holding Oklahoma to 31 points is acceptable; only scoring touchdowns on 25% of red zone trips is not

Oklahoma v Ohio State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Well, we can’t say it was a huge shock, even if it was painful to watch.

In the past year, Ohio State has played six games against teams ranked in the S&P+ top 11: Oklahoma (twice), Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan, and Clemson. They’ve won half of those games. Their combined score was 142-160 for an average score of 24-27. In the last 5 games, Ohio State’s offense has averaged just 22.4 points.

Ohio State vs. Oklahoma Advanced Stats

Metric OSU Oklahoma
Metric OSU Oklahoma
Rushing SR 53% 46%
Rushing opp rate 50% 37%
Rushing exp plays 7 (23%) 1 (3%)
Rushing stuffed rate 17% 26%
Passing SR 31% 59%
Passing exp plays 1 (3%) 7 (19%)
Overall exp rate 8 (12%) 8 (11%)
3rd down % 47% 36%
Red zone TDs 25% 60%
Scoring opps efficiency 4 3.9
Drive efficiency 36% 73%
Three-and-out drives 18% 9%
Pts off turnovers 3 14
Havoc rate allowed 14% 15%

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 5 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 Oklahoma’s final drive.

In the advanced stats preview we noted that four advanced stats would matter most:

1. Defensive stuff rate

2. Defensive passing success rate

3. Offensive rushing opportunity rate

4. The score after the first half

Offense: Inefficient passing, scoring opportunities

Key stats:

  • Red zone TDs: 25%
  • Drive efficiency: 36%
  • Passing success rate: 31%
  • Rushing success rate: 53%
  • Rushing:passing explosive plays: 7:1

Those five stats tell you just about all you need to know about Ohio State’s offensive performance. Despite rushing with a 53% success rate (and a nearly identical 50% opportunity rate) and producing 7 explosive runs (an amazing 23%, or average of nearly one in every four plays), the Buckeyes failed to consistently create scoring opportunities (36% drive efficiency). And when they did, the offense only scored touchdowns on a quarter of their red zone trips. The problems from last year’s offense are still hanging around: the Ohio State passing game is inefficient (with a 31% passing success rate), can’t produce explosive plays (a single explosive pass to Austin Mack after review), and has no deep threat. And unlike last week, none of the eight explosive plays went for a touchdown.

The importance pf explosive touchdown plays really can’t be overstated. Last week Ohio State had only two more explosive passes than this week — but both of them were long touchdowns. The Buckeyes actually had a slightly higher explosive play percentage than Oklahoma (12% to 11%) but Oklahoma was able to convert those explosive plays into touchdown drives. There were no catch-and-run plays this week, and still no completed deep balls. Ohio State relied on an efficiency gameplan, but was inefficient through the air and unable to capitalize on either scoring opportunities or turnovers.

Starting with the good, Ohio State was able to run the ball fairly efficiently with Dobbins. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry on 13 carries and had a 50% rushing success rate. Weber looked solid in his very limited action (3 carries, 29 yards). The surprising thing here is that Dobbins and Weber combined for only 16 carries on 69 total plays. J.T. had more carries than the two combined, with 18, but averaged just 3.7 yards per carry.

J.T. getting a high percentage of the carries is a trend in close games or against top opponents. Since the beginning of last season, J.T. has run the ball 236 times and the team has run it 665 times (meaning that J.T. averages a little over a third of the total carries at 35%). He has received a significantly higher percentage of the carries in 7 games (at more than 40%): Indiana 2016 (52%), Wisconsin (47%), Penn State (43%), Michigan State (53%), Michigan (60%), Clemson (48%), and Oklahoma 2017 (58%). His average in the other 8 games is 24% of the total carries. In all of those games except last year’s game with Kevin Wilson’s Indiana, Ohio State either won a nail-biter or lost. The average score was 22-24.

Essentially, if the game gets close, J.T. is forced to shoulder the load on the ground. But against Oklahoma, that wasn’t because the other running backs weren’t effective — my guess is that Barrett running the ball is simply the lowest risk play call available.

Some weird stats: Ohio State won the third down efficiency battle pretty handily at 47% to 36%, but the Buckeyes’ three-and-out drive percentage was twice as high as the Sooners’, and the Sooners’ overall drive efficiency (the percentage of drives that the offense creates a scoring opportunity) was twice as high as Ohio State’s (73% to 36%). Essentially, Ohio State converted third downs more often, but Oklahoma either didn’t need third downs (only 11 attempts to Ohio State’s 15) because of successful plays on first and second down and explosive scores.

Another weird stat: Tom Herman once said that the team who wins the turnover battle and has more explosive plays wins 98% of the time. Here the picture is muddied — the teams tied for overall explosive plays with eight each, but Oklahoma lost the turnover battle 1-2. Those stats should predict an Ohio State win, but the Sooners were so much more efficient through the air, in the red zone, and in creating scoring opportunities.

Defense: Could only hold on for so long

Key stats:

  • Passing success rate: 59%
  • Passing explosive rate: 19%
  • Red zone TDs: 60%
  • Drive efficiency: 73%

The Ohio State defense played acceptably — Oklahoma’s offense (like Clemson’s) is too good to contain for 60 minutes when your offense is failing to keep up. The differences between the two teams are obvious: Oklahoma could pass the ball efficiently (at 59% success rate) and explosively (at nearly one explosive play for every five passes), and the offense as a whole managed to create scoring opportunities on nearly 34 of offensive possessions. Once they were inside the red zone, they managed touchdowns on 3/5 of their attempts.

Oklahoma got in scoring position early and often, but mistakes doomed promising drives. Their first four drives: turnover on downs, fumble, fumble, and missed field goal. That kind of drive inefficiency through bad luck was simply unsustainable throughout the entire game, since they had gained 189 yards on 31 plays (6 yards per plays). Baker Mayfield threw for 386 yards, meaning that Ohio State’s secondary has already allowed 36% of the total passing yards they allowed all of last year, at 2.2 yards per attempt more than last season too. That gives Ohio State the distinction of being dead-last, 130th, in passing yards allowed in the FBS. Granted, Oklahoma and Indiana almost assuredly have the two best passing attacks the Buckeyes will likely face this season (and may be in the country), but the turnover in the secondary clearly hurt this defense.

Surprisingly, Ohio State actually had a slightly lower havoc rate than Oklahoma did, at 14% to 15%. The good news is that they created a ton of negative run plays, with a 26% overall run stuff rate. The bad news is that Oklahoma nevertheless had a 46% rushing success rate — even though 14 Oklahoma runs were stuffed at or behind the line, nearly half were still efficient plays. The Sooners only had a single explosive run, but their efficiency was enough to balance the outrageously successful passing attack.

To close out, it’s worth noting that Ohio State had two of its toughest defensive games at the beginning of the season, while its offense has obviously had major issues for 2 seasons and 2 games now. The coaching staff made significant changes over the offseason, and now hopefully they will be able to work out the kinks against some easier competition before Big Ten play gets more demanding.