Purdue is kind of like the antimatter version of Minnesota.
Minnesota won its first three games before dropping its only games against Big Ten competition. Purdue lost its first three games by a combined eight points, with S&P+ post game win expectancies over 59 percent in all of them, but has won its last three games by at least two scores. Purdue has 4.5 second-order wins, meaning that even though the Boilermakers are 3-3, they’ve played more like a 5-1 or 4-2 team. (Post-game win expectancies take your most predictive advanced stats for a game, put them in a blender, and then tell you how often on average you’d be expected to win that particular game. Second order wins add up your post-game win expectancies.)
Where Minnesota was definitely a defense-led team with an offense that ranked in the 100s, Purdue has a top-20 opponent-adjusted offense that is insanely explosive, but a defense that ranks in the 80s.
Minnesota still found some offensive success against Ohio State – even if it didn’t translate to the scoreboard – despite a poor offensive statistical profile, and effectively limited Ohio State’s offense, especially in the red zone. Purdue has a profile that matches up perfectly with Ohio State’s defense, and a defense of their own that should allow the Buckeyes to score plenty of points.
So are we in a for a shootout? Or even an upset?
If you’re unsure about the definitions for any stats, check out the advanced stats glossary.
These charts are intended to help visualize relative strengths and weaknesses. The farther apart the two teams’ radar points are from each other for any given statistic, the more lopsided that matchup is expected to be. The closer to the outer edge of the radar, the better. Here’s the above data in table form:
OSU on offense
|Teams||OSU offense||Purdue defense|
|Teams||OSU offense||Purdue defense|
|Success rate||9 (51.3%)||91 (33%)|
|Open play big play rate||65 (7.9%)||77 (7.7%)|
|Avg. FP||81 (29.4)||30 (27.4)|
|Points per scoring opportunity||6 (5.75)||72 (4.52)|
|Rushing marginal efficiency||46||66|
|Rushing marginal explosiveness||112||73|
|Rushing opportunity rate||32 (52.9%)||51 (44.6%)|
|Rushing stuff rate||79 (19.6%)||34 (22.3%)|
|Passing marginal efficiency||5||102|
|Passing marginal explosiveness||34||52|
|Sack rate||19 (3.3%)||60 (6.4%)|
|Standard downs marginal efficiency||9||108|
|Passing downs marginal efficiency||11||30|
|Havoc rate||5 (10.5%)||86 (15.1%)|
And here’s the defense:
OSU on defense
|Teams||Ohio State defense||Purdue offense|
|Teams||Ohio State defense||Purdue offense|
|Success rate||19 (35.8%)||33 (45.6%)|
|Open play big play rate||107 (8.9%)||8 (11.9%)|
|Avg. FP||5 (24.8)||64 (30)|
|Points per scoring opportunity||21 (3.7)||64 (4.64)|
|Rushing marginal efficiency||41||76|
|Rushing marginal explosiveness||97||8|
|Rushing opportunity rate||12 (38.8%)||34 (50.6%)|
|Rushing stuff rate||21 (24.1%)||6 (12.2%)|
|Passing marginal efficiency||53||37|
|Passing marginal explosiveness||97||20|
|Sack rate||15 (9.7%)||42 (4.8%)|
|Standard downs marginal efficiency||72||37|
|Passing downs marginal efficiency||23||53|
|Havoc rate||4 (22.6%)||58 (15.1%)|
And definitely check out the full team advanced stats profiles for both teams.
Let’s get to the questions that will decide the game:
Will this be a shootout?
I wouldn’t be surprised. Jeff Brohm is known as one of the most creative offensive minds in college football thanks to his record setting offenses at Western Kentucky. In just 1.5 years, he has transformed Purdue’s offense to the 17th-best in the country by opponent-adjusted S&P+.
The Boilermakers are solid efficiency-wise, ranking in the 30s in both success rate and marginal efficiency, and they’re a top-ten explosiveness team, no matter how you choose to measure it – IsoPPP (9th, measuring the magnitude of only successful plays), marginal explosiveness (6th, taking IsoPPP and adjusting it against expected performance by down, distance, and field position), and big play rate (8th, getting 20+ yard plays on 11.9 percent of open field plays). They’re a little more explosive on the ground than through the air (8th vs. 20th), and much more explosive on standard downs instead of passing downs (2nd vs. 69th).
So whether you look at explosiveness by magnitude or by rate, or look at rushing or passing, the Boilermakers are able to consistently generate big plays.
And this may come as a surprise, but Ohio State’s defense is one of the worst in the country in allowing big plays, whether you measure it by magnitude or rate – they rank in the 100s in every category above.
Maybe the one saving grace is that the Buckeyes defense tends to allow the biggest explosive plays on passing downs (129th, or second-to-last in the country, compared to 49th on standard downs), which is when Purdue is the least explosive.
Not only are the Boilermakers explosive, but they are also pretty efficient, too. They’re 33rd and 37th in success rate and marginal efficiency, meaning that they stay on schedule, for the most part. They rarely allow negative running plays (6th, only 12.2%), even if they’re not as efficient on the ground (76th) as through the air (37th).
Can Ohio State slow down Rondale Moore?
Rondale Moore has gotten a lot of well-deserved respect this week. He’s exactly the kind of slot receiver who has been incredibly effective against Ohio State this year, just like KJ Hamler.
It’s pretty cool that Purdue’s biggest recruiting win in recent memory has actually met or exceeded expectations on the field. He leads the team in targets (58), catches (45, more than the next two leading receivers combined), yards (558), and catch rate for players with 10 or more receptions (77.6%). Despite his explosive abilities, his numbers don’t scream explosiveness at first glance – averaging 12.4 yards per catch – but he has a spectacular marginal explosiveness rating of .55.
He’s also a threat in the run game, where he has just nine carries all season, but totals 139 yards (15.4 yards per carry, 30 highlight yards per opportunity). That means that when his offensive line allows him to get at least four yards, he averages 30 more yards per carry.
I will be incredibly impressed if Ohio State can hold him under 100 receiving yards.
What about the other Purdue receiving threats?
Sadly, Moore isn’t the only big receiving threat on the Purdue offense. The second-leading receiver is senior Isaac Zito, who has just a 55.6 percent catch rate, but 399 yards (20 yards per catch) and a team-leading marginal explosiveness rating of .9 (Moore’s is .55).
The third-leading receiving threat is tight end Brycen Hopkins, with 19 catches for 352 yards (18.5 yards per catch, 67.9 percent catch rate).
The combination of these three receivers is deadly for Ohio State. You have the extremely efficient and explosive Rondale Moore in the slot, the even more explosive Isaac Zito, and an explosive tight end who can make big plays by putting linebackers in conflict and/or create coverage mismatches. Purdue’s leading receivers seem optimized to target Ohio State’s weaknesses in the alleys, putting linebackers in run/pass conflict, and beating man coverage.
Can the line handle Purdue’s pass rush on passing downs?
Purdue doesn’t have the world’s best defense for creating havoc overall, ranking 86th in overall havoc, and they don’t even have better than an average pass rush, period (60th). But they are really good at getting to the quarterback on passing downs, ranking 22nd, with nearly a 12 percent sack rate.
Ohio State showed a little bit of weakness in pass protection for the first time last week. Minnesota’s Carter Coughlin managed to sack Ohio State twice, and Thayer Munford is just probable to play this week.
Purdue’s pass rush is best from the linebackers, and no single player dominates. Four defenders have 3-plus sacks, but Cornel Jones leads the way with 11 tackles for loss and 13 run stuffs.
I wouldn’t normally expect this to be a weakness for Ohio State, but it’s worth watching, considering last week’s performance.
Does the run game improve at all?
This, besides the defense’s willingness to give up big plays and/or screens, has been the team’s biggest concern.
While it’s true that a fair number of passes against Minnesota were actually RPOs (and therefore get counted as run game success), the run game’s performance has still been lackluster — ranking 46th in efficiency, 79th at getting stopped at or behind the line, and 112th in the magnitude of big plays. J.K. Dobbins only has a single 20-plus yard run this season.
We’ve gone through the reasons why in other posts, but a lot of the problems can be traced back to opposing defenses being willing to go all-in to stop the run, packing the box and creating opportunities for unblocked defenders to make plays in the backfield. There’s also some suggestion from Kevin Wilson that maybe the play calling has been too all-over-the-place instead of identifying and working on a few things that are working.
Purdue’s defense isn’t elite against the run — they rank 66th in marginal efficiency, but they do make a lot of stops at or behind the line — 22.3 percent, or 34th. That’s really solid, considering the defense’s overall rankings. So that’ll be one of the biggest things to watch on Saturday night.
The answer to the run game’s problems may be to just keep throwing, but you’d still like to have some evidence that the Buckeyes can run when they absolutely need to.
Will Ohio State do better in the red zone?
Related, Ohio State’s offense has had a bad habit of stalling out the closer it gets to the red zone. The Buckeyes are truly elite between the 40-20 yard lines — receivers seem to have enough space to create separation for Haskins to exploit.
The stats really bare this out: sixth in overall points per scoring opportunity (from inside the 40), 13th in 30-21 yard line success rate, 30th in 20-11 yard success rate, and 69th in success rate inside the 10-yard line. The Buckeyes are just 61st in red zone touchdown percentage. That declining gradient of success near the goal line is a big problem.
Purdue’s red zone defense is pretty poor across the board — ranking 81st to 110th in various success rates inside the 30, but this will nevertheless be something to watch.