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Advanced stats: For Ohio State-Maryland, a lot will hinge on preventing big runs

The Terps’ best shot is to control the pace of the game with lots of explosive runs from Pigrome, Johnson, and McFarland

NCAA Football: Temple at Maryland Art Pittman-USA TODAY Sports

For some teams, their record doesn’t quite match their statistical performance. But that’s not the case with Maryland, whose 5-5 record pretty much sums up their team.

They have 5.1 second-order wins and rank 55th in overall S&P+, meaning that they’re a perfectly average team. They beat Texas in Week 1 and had a huge win over Minnesota, but they also were shut out by Iowa and nearly by Michigan State. They also lost to Temple early on.

But, they do have pretty clearly defined strengths and weaknesses, which means that they should be a solid gauge of how the Buckeyes have improved (or not) — especially when it comes to stopping the run and preventing explosive plays on defense.

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 vs. Maryland

Teams OSU offense Maryland defense
Teams OSU offense Maryland defense
S&P+ Rk 10 42
Success rate 15 40
Marginal efficiency 14 47
IsoPPP 90 31
Marginal explosiveness 86 33
Open play big play rate 67 34
Avg. FP 50 74
Points per scoring opportunity 24 36
Rushing S&P+ 78 55
Rushing marginal efficiency 68 77
Rushing marginal explosiveness 114 14
Rushing opportunity rate 46 34
Rushing stuff rate 80 88
Passing S&P+ 13 40
Passing marginal efficiency 8 33
Passing marginal explosiveness 63 89
Sack rate 14 82
Standard downs S&P+ 27 45
Passing downs S&P+ 22 55
Havoc rate 13 93

And here’s the defense:

OSU vs. Maryland

Teams Ohio State defense Maryland offense
Teams Ohio State defense Maryland offense
S&P+ Rk 32 93
Success rate 30 109
Marginal efficiency 54 105
IsoPPP 115 8
Marginal explosiveness 101 9
Open play big play rate 98 70
Avg. FP 2 97
Points per scoring opportunity 39 16
Rushing S&P+ 42 29
Rushing marginal efficiency 38 36
Rushing marginal explosiveness 105 7
Rushing opportunity rate 16 49
Rushing stuff rate 7 83
Passing S&P+ 74 106
Passing marginal efficiency 57 126
Passing marginal explosiveness 84 23
Sack rate 48 110
Standard downs S&P+ 55 78
Passing downs S&P+ 111 39
Havoc rate 16 70

And definitely check out the full team advanced stats profiles for both teams.

We can tell a few things just from looking at the radar profiles:

  • Like usual, Ohio Stat’s offensive advantages are in its passing game and staying on schedule (marginal efficiency, havoc rate), while its weaknesses are in creating explosive plays.
  • Maryland’s offense is weird. Its strengths are in creating explosive plays, especially on the ground, and getting points off of scoring opportunities. But overall, the Terps are very inefficient down-to-down.
  • Passing downs might also be a challenge for Ohio State.

Let’s get to the questions that will decide the game:

What will Maryland’s offense look like without Kasim Hill?

Maryland’s Kasim Hill tore his ACL against Indiana and will miss the remainder of the season. That’s really a bummer because this is Hill’s second ACL tear in college.

The Terps haven’t been a pass-heavy team this year, running on 72.6 percent of standard downs, which is ninth-most in the country, and they also haven’t been very effective at it, ranking 106th in overall passing S&P+. The Terps offense has thrown for less than 100 yards in half of their games this season.

But, when they do pass successfully, they’re often really explosive. Maryland ranks 23rd in passing marginal explosiveness, and 15.2 percent of their passing attempts have gone for 15 or more yards. It just doesn’t happen all that often.

And Hill’s replacement, sophomore Tyrell Pigrome, has been less efficient through the air, averaging a yard less per attempt (just 4.4), and with a -9.9 percent marginal efficiency. He’s completed about 55 percent of his 31 pass attempts this year.

While Pigrome hasn’t been as much of a threat through the air, he’s been effective running the ball. He averages 6.3 yards per carry, with a team-high 14.6 percent marginal efficiency and 53 percent of his runs going for 4+ yards. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Matt Canada lean in to a run-heavy game plan with Hill out — Pigrome has more rush attempts than passing attempts this year, after all.

Can Ohio State slow down Maryland’s rushing offense, especially preventing explosive plays?

This is probably the question of the game, especially with Maryland likely to put a heavy focus on the QB run.

Even though Maryland only has the 93rd-ranked opponent-adjusted offense overall, they are top-ten in both IsoPPP and marginal explosiveness. These are both magnitude measures, meaning that they measure how big only successful plays are. For Maryland, that means that when they have an explosive play, it’s usually really explosive.

However, the Maryland offense is rarely successful, and so their overall explosive rate is much lower. Look at their open field big play rate, for example — they rank 70th in 20+ yard plays in the open field. That’s right around where Ohio State is (67th). They’re 58th in total number of 20+ yard plays.

So yeah — overall Maryland’s big plays are big, but it’s not like they’re busting 40-yard plays every other down.

But besides explosive plays overall, Maryland is a good rushing team, ranking 29th in opponent-adjusted rushing S&P+. They’re still more explosive than they are efficient, but they’re still top-40 in marginal efficiency, so this should be a good test for Ohio State’s defense. Maryland is 7th in rushing marginal explosiveness, but also ranks 83rd in stuff rate — a big chunk of their plays (about 1/5th) go no where, but the successful ones are very successful.

The only thing working against the Terps is that Ty Johnson has been injured for the past few games, coming out of their game against Indiana in the first quarter. When healthy, Johnson is explosive — he averages 7.7 yards per carry and 53 percent of his runs go for four or more yards. But it’s unclear whether Ohio State will see that version of Johnson on Saturday, if he can go at all.

Instead, they’re likely to see freshman Anthony McFarland. He still averages 7 yards per carry and nearly eight highlight yards per opportunity, but the marginal efficiency gap between him and Johnson is notable — 1.4 percent to Johnson’s 5.5 percent.

As mentioned earlier, Pigrome is also a big threat with his legs, with a similar opportunity rate as Johnson. I’d guess that Canada will run the two of them early and often against Ohio State.

What will the Buckeyes’ red zone offense look like?

Ohio State’s red zone offense has been a concern this year, even if we’ve seen some schematic and personnel changes in the last few weeks that have been encouraging. If Ohio State didn’t have a few penalty and turnover-related setbacks, it’s reasonable to think that their improvement would have continued last week against a good Michigan State defense, too.

Maryland’s red zone defense isn’t lights out, so it’ll be interesting to see how often the Buckeyes can get touchdowns out of their scoring opportunities. They average 4.13 points allowed per scoring opportunity (36th), but only rank 49th in success rate allowed inside the ten yard line, where Ohio State has had nearly all of their struggles.

The thing to watch will be whether Ohio State uses Tate Martell, heavy packages, or some other option to fix any remaining problems there.

Can the Buckeyes’ run game continue its improvement?

Ohio State’s run game still ranks poorly, at just 78th in overall rushing S&P+. But last week’s game was pretty encouraging thanks to Mike Weber’s hard running against the elite Spartans rushing defense.

As Ross Fulton has noted, Ohio State “has paired down its run game, using more jet sweep action and multi-TE looks to control the backside edge.” Definitely check out Ross’s full article for more.

Maryland doesn’t have an elite rushing defense — they’re 55th overall and 77th in marginal efficiency — but Ohio State has sometimes struggled against even mediocre rush defenses this year. They usually allow you to fall forward for at least some gain (88th in stuff rate), but are pretty good about keeping those gains to less than four yards (34th in opportunity rate), and rarely allow big runs (14th in marginal explosiveness). So this should be an interesting test for the paired-down rushing offense — can they rely on the run game to pick up yards consistently?