Ohio State and Army flew by, but the Buckeye offense was incredibly efficient, showing a potential recipe for success for the rest of the season. The score may not reflect it, but the offense fired on all cylinders for the first time in a while — it was the offense’s first game with a success rate over 60% since Rutgers last season, and just the second time since the 2014 season. And best of all, despite an extremely high percentage of first down passing, the Buckeyes’ passing game was also very efficient by incorporating numerous RPOs.
Ohio State vs. Army Advanced Stats
|Rushing opp rate||64%||33%|
|Rushing exp plays||4 (17%)||3 (6%)|
|Rushing stuffed rate||0 (0%)||9 (17)%|
|Passing exp plays||5 (17%)||0 (0%)|
|Overall exp rate||9 (17%)||3 (5%)|
|3rd down %||50%||27%|
|Red zone TDs||80%||100%|
|Scoring opps efficiency||6.2||2.3|
|Pts off turnovers||7||0|
|Havoc rate allowed||4%||8%|
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 Ohio State’s last touchdown.
Offense: Most efficient since 2014
- 78% Rushing success rate
- 70% Passing success rate
- 88% Drive efficiency
- 6.2 Points per scoring opportunity
The Ohio State offense had only 8 total drives due to Army’s incredible ability to shorten the game (even though they have averaged just 47th in adjusted offensive pace this season, Army managed an insane 18-play, 99-yard, 9:37 drive), so every drive was critical for Ohio State. The Buckeyes delivered with one of the most efficient performances you’re likely to see this season — over 70% success rates rushing and passing on a per-play basis, scoring touchdowns on 5 of those 8 drives, and avoiding any three-and-outs. Drue Chrisman was maybe the player of the game against Oklahoma, but he didn’t get much work against Army.
Army’s defense ranked 79th in defensive S&P+ coming in to the game, and Ohio State typically beats up on non-top-25 defenses, so the important thing to look for here was how the offensive worked, not just that it did work. Even still, the magnitude of their success is notable: the offense’s 73% overall offensive success rate was their best since the 2014 season. Even their 77-point game against Bowling Green last season only had a 64% offensive success rate. 38 points may not look like much in the box score, but they had incredible efficiency and a very high overall explosiveness rate (17%).
I also looked at play calling and success by down this game, and will try to continue that for future games as well:
OSU Offense by Down
|Down||Success Rate||Explosive Rate|
|Down||Success Rate||Explosive Rate|
Ohio State was consistently excellent on first and second down, to the point where they only had 6 third down attempts across those 8 drives. They passed on 22 of 30 first downs (73%), but with a 73% success rate on those first down passes. They were also efficient in their 8 first down rush attempts (50%), for an overall 67% first down success rate. They were also the most explosive on first down, with nearly a quarter of their first downs going for 15+ yards.
Ohio State only had four of eighteen inefficient second down plays, largely because they were so effective on first down. On third down they averaged just 4.3 yards to go — and even then, the average was brought up due to one drive where they threw incomplete passes on first and second down and another that was 3rd-and-9 due to a penalty.
J.K. Dobbins was obviously highly effective in his 13 carries, running for an absurd 172 yards (13.2 yards per carry), with a 92% rushing success rate (that’s just one unsuccessful attempt) and four explosive runs (31% rushing explosive rate). That means that there was nearly a one-in-three chance Dobbins would rip off a big play every time he touched the ball.
But as the first-down playcalling shows, Wilson and Meyer knew that the passing game needs the most work. Barrett had a few obviously off throws, particularly at the end of the first half, but was highly successful with RPOs and the screen game. Wilson seemed to stretch the defensive horizontally while he set up the run game especially in the first half, then used more intermediate passes in the second half. As Ross Fulton noted:
It's a corrective measure right now that will pay dividends down the road— Ross Fulton (@RossRFulton) September 16, 2017
Obviously this was against Army’s defense — which ranked 65th in passing success rate this season and had some injuries — but the important thing was that the playcalling and execution were high, regardless of the opponent. We shouldn’t be surprised that the offense was successful, but the degree of success and how they were successful should be encouraging.
Defense: Containing the triple option
- 39% rushing success rate
- 9% rushing stuff rate
- 3⁄4 on 4th down
- 2.3 average points per scoring opportunity
- 38% drive efficiency
The costs of shortening a game: If you only have 8 drives to work with, then going three-and-out twice is killer. If you only create scoring opportunities on 3 drives, then you have to maximize those scoring opportunities — but instead Army was held to just a single touchdown, missing a field goal and turning the ball over on downs on the other scoring opportunity. Only 38% of Army’s drives crossed Ohio State’s 40 yard line. That is exceptional run defense for Schiano’s defense (who was notably on the sideline this week).
Overall, the defense had enough negative plays (five) and plays stopped at the line to put Army behind schedule for the most part. The Black Knights had just a 50% third down conversion rate, so fourth downs were usually the only reason Army was able to keep drives going. And when you run four times in a row, even small gains add up — which is why Army could convert three of four fourth down attempts. After that initial nearly ten minute scoring drive in the second quarter, I expected a final score that was something like 28-17 because Ohio State just wouldn’t get many opportunities. But the defense improved as the game went on, getting backups lots of playtime (who expected Tuf Borland to be the leading tackler?).