clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UNLV is exactly the kind of opponent Ohio State needs in Week 4

Strong rushing offense, bad defense: sounds like a good matchup for the Buckeyes.

Army v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

UNLV is just the opponent that Ohio State needs in Week 4. The Runnin’ Rebels will give Ohio State’s offense plenty of opportunities to build on their record-setting performance against Army, but UNLV’s offense is a more traditional test for the Buckeye defense.

OK, it’s not that big of a test. But UNLV’s offense had a top-50 rushing attack last season and currently ranks 59th overall in the S&P+ rankings. So far, Ohio State’s defense has seen two extremely pass-heavy attacks (Indiana’s standard downs run rate is 122nd and Oklahoma’s is 105th) and a triple-option offense. Ohio State’s defense hasn’t really seen any offenses so far that are representative of their opponents for the rest of the season. And at least against bad opponents, UNLV has executed well, ranking second in the country in rushing success rate and scoring over 40 points per game.

But UNLV also lost to Howard, so...


Statistic OSU UNLV
Statistic OSU UNLV
S&P+ 4th 104th
Returning offensive production 50th (68%) 9th (90%)
Returning defensive production 92nd (57%) 117 (41%)
Blue chip ratio 2nd (71%) N/A (1.4%)
247 Team Talent Composite 2nd (avg. 91.13) 100th (78.83)
Offensive Plays > 20 Yards 55th (14) 55th (14)
Defensive Plays > 20 Yards 76th (13) 22nd (7)
Turnover margin/game 7th (1.67) 103rd (-1)

UNLV’s offense is as solid as it is because they had 90% of 2016’s production returning.

When Ohio State has the ball

OSU Offense vs. UNLV 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 9 3 3 (57.8%) 44 6 (50.9%) 1 3 (9%) 64 43 (45.9%) 70 82 75 (29.3) 41 (5.1)
UNLV 126 121 27 (34.2%) 96 57 (35.4%) 118 87 (17.7%) 107 50 (35.65) 15 107 86 (29.7) 89 (4.73)
  • The OSU rushing offense has jumped to third in rushing success rate (57.8%) after ranking 29th before the Army game. The passing game made an even more dramatic jump from 83rd (37.7%) to 43rd (45.9%).
  • 2016 S&P+ rankings still weigh heavily into this season’s adjusted S&P+ numbers until they get phased out in a few weeks (any statistic with a “+” is opponent adjusted), but this is a really lopsided matchup: 9th vs. 126th. UNLV’s defense is the fifth-worst in the country right now. So don’t really watch Ohio State’s offensive numbers as a sign for how the offense is doing necessarily -- the more important things to watch will be qualitative. For instance, does Ohio State continue to run a high percentage of RPOs with the passes being mostly at or behind the line of scrimmage? Does Kevin Wilson start with inside runs and RPOs to spread the defense out horizontally, then take deep shots later in the game after the corners play tighter on the line? Is J.T. Barrett’s accuracy any better?
  • I’ll set the over/under for J.K. Dobbins rushing attempts and yards at 12 and 150. This one could get out of hand quickly and I don’t think Meyer and Wilson will want to risk too much on Dobbins, who is their most consistently explosive player on offense right now. But UNLV’s defense was very bad against the run last year, and might only have decent rushing success rate (27th) and opportunity rate (57th) numbers this year because they played Howard and Idaho in their first two games. On the other hand, maybe it was addition by subtraction for the defense last season, since they lost 59% of their defensive production from 2016 (117th). Even if the defense has gotten better, the successful running plays they do allow are often big -- they rank 96th in rushing IsoPPP. That should mean a lot of big runs for Dobbins, who averages 8.3 highlight yards per opportunity.
  • You’d also think the H-backs may get more involved in the run game this week. With Mike Weber sidelined for most of the first three weeks, the rushing offense hasn’t shown many explosive runners outside of Dobbins. For example, while Dobbins averages a great 8.3 highlight yards per opportunity, Barrett averages 3.2, Antonio Williams is at 2.2, and Weber 2.5. Parris Campbell has only had 3 runs, but has averaged 9.3 highlight yards per opportunity. Expect him, and likely K.J. Hill, to get more touches this week.
  • You would also expect Barrett and Haskins (maybe Burrow too?) to get plenty of work throwing the ball against a pass defense that was 107th in passing S&P+ last season. UNLV hasn’t allowed too many big pass plays (4 over 20 yards this season), so we might expect more of the horizontal throws until intermediate and deep passes open up.

When UNLV has the ball

OSU Defense vs. UNLV Offense

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 9 15 30 (34.7%) 12 14 (28.7%) 4 63 (21.7%) 8 88 (43%) 64 78 24 (25.8) 32 (3.47)
UNLV 59 50 2 (61%) 10 25 (45.3%) 82 4 (9.5%) 100 30 (48.7%) 73 15 10 (36.2) 85 (4.2)
  • Ohio State has the third-most efficient rushing offense in the country after three games, going by opponent-unadjusted rushing success rate. Ranked one spot ahead of the Buckeyes? The Runnin’ Rebels (They have running in their name, how could they not?). UNLV has only played Howard and Idaho this season. But in those games, UNLV has been excellent on the ground, with a 61% success rate and ranking 10th in IsoPPP. They are 22nd in runs of 10 or more yards with 21, and tie Ohio State (16th) with 7 runs of 20+ yards. The defense hasn’t had to face a more traditional rushing offense so far this season — like I said earlier, Indiana and Oklahoma are among the least run-heavy offenses in the country on standard downs. This will be a good test of how disruptive the run defense can be. While UNLV has only allowed 9.5% of their runs to be stuffed (4th in the country), you would expect the Ohio State defensive line to really get after their run game and improve their 63rd ranking in stuff rate right now.
  • UNLV’s big names to know are junior running back Lexington Thomas, who averages 9 yards per carry and has a 47.4% opportunity rate, and freshman quarterback Armani Rodgers, who averages 7.3 yards per carry and has an even better 54.2% rushing success rate. Essentially, these two power an extremely efficient rushing offense that is also highly explosive on the ground.
  • 6’5 Armani Rodgers is great on the ground, and has performed well through the air too. Against Howard and Idaho, Rodgers has a 48.7% passing success rate (30th) and only one interception. Rodgers is also UNLV’s highest-rated player on their roster, having decommitted from Cal before signing day last year. His top receiving threat is senior Devonte Boyd, who has twice as many targets as anyone else on the team and more than 4 times as many receiving yards, but just a 38.5% success rate. He’s essentially a big-play machine, averaging 34.7 yards per catch after six catches, and will likely be the guy running deep who could actually challenge the Ohio State secondary. If Army can almost complete a long touchdown pass, then so can UNLV.

The 3 most important stats

  1. Defensive rushing explosive ratio. UNLV’s offense lives on big plays on the ground — it will be a decent test for Ohio State’s defense.
  2. Defensive rushing success rate. UNLV could run on even lesser opponents, but it shouldn’t be able to run on Ohio State. Still, UNLV runs on 77.7% of standard downs — 11th most in the country. Ohio State’s defense should thrive here.
  3. Defensive passing explosive ratio. The secondary is clearly still a work in progress, so it’s not out of the question that the combination of Armani Rodgers and Devonte Boyd could lead to a long score.


  • S&P+: Ohio State 49, UNLV 14, 98% winning percentage
  • F/+: Ohio State by 36.2, 98.2% winning percentage
  • Adj. S&P+: Ohio State by 52, 99.9% winning percentage
  • The Power Rank: Ohio State by 28.9, 97% winning percentage
  • My pick: Ohio State 52, UNLV 14