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Ohio State projected to finish with top S&P+ this season

News flash: The Buckeyes are really good at football.

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Ohio State vs Southern California Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

“Good lord, Ohio State is stacked”

-Bill Connelly, SBNation

Ok, I have to admit that as much as I enjoyed the “Moneyball” book, and the shift to analytics-based evaluation that it helped inspire, understanding all of the advanced statistics that have become so en vogue in recent years is not my area of expertise.

Basically, I suck at match.

However, if Bill Connelly says that the advanced metrics indicate that Ohio State is stacked, even my tiny, little, numerically-challenged brain knows that is a big deal.

Connelly has the Buckeyes projected to be No. 1 in his S&P+ rankings, and even considered putting them in a tier by themselves when ranking and categorizing all of the teams in the Big Ten Conference. Connelly notes that while the 2017 OSU offense was strong— seventh in Offensive S&P+ and third in offensive success rate— with a new quarterback in Dwayne Haskins, Urban Meyer (and his two-headed offensive coordinator of Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day) might have to loosen the reigns a bit.

Since J.T. Barrett very rarely made negative plays, the need was never there for him to make the big, exciting ones to compensate. However, with a first-time starter (albeit one that has proven to be immensely talented), there might be a few more turnovers and missteps that require a bit more exciting play-calling.

It also helps that Haskins will have virtually the entire complement of skill players back from last year to help smooth over any rough edges that stick out for the sophomore starter.

On the other side of the ball, things are in a somewhat similar situation. Ohio State’s defense finished eighth and fifth, respectively, the past two seasons in Defensive S&P+, so the foundation is there for another great season in terms of the metrics. However, coordinators Greg Schiano and Alex Grinch will need to find a few more sturdy replacements than the offensive coaches do, thanks to the constant stream of starters from the Buckeye defense to the NFL.

That being typed, OSU has recruited very well in the linebackers and secondary levels, and there are more than enough studs ready to prove their worth once given the chance.

With all of those numbers, returning top-talent, and blue-chip replacements waiting on deck, Connelly has Ohio State projected as the favorite to win every game this season, and only two of their games (on the road against Penn State and Michigan State) are below 74 percent probability. These two are the only games in which the Buckeyes are projected to win by less than 11 points.

Thanks to the B1G East having four teams projected in the top 11 of the S&P+, this translates to 10.4 projected regular season wins for the Buckeyes, while claiming the top overall S&P+ projected ranking (No. 2 on offense and No. 10 on defense).

While we clearly know that college football isn’t played on spreadsheets, what all of Connelly’s numbers and algorithms say is that this should be a really exciting season for Ohio State football.

“Few coaches are as associated with the college spread-to-run offense as Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer. And since the advent of the “shotgun spread” offense over a decade ago, a favorite dichotomy has arisen between “college” and “pro-style” systems.”

-Ross Fulton, Rivals

Land-Grant Holy Land is fortunate to have a number of really great football minds breaking down film for us on a weekly basis during the season. However, until the games kick off, it couldn’t hurt to brush up on some film study from one of the best in the business.

In this first of two columns, Fulton does a deep dive into the fundamentals of Ohio State’s running game. He explains the basics of OSU’s offensive principles not only in how they are employed by the Buckeyes, but how they fit into the larger scope of football strategy.

Fulton also does a tremendous job explaining the techniques and theories behind the basic premises of the schemes. As he notes, the base for Urban Meyer’s offense is (and always has been) the zone read; however, he also explains the run-pass option, gap blocking, and more.

Reading through the fascinating breakdown, the question kept occurring to me was how would this offensive philosophy change with Haskins under center? While he is certainly athletic enough to run when needed, this is the first time since Meyer has been in Columbus that the entire offense will be built around a QB that wasn’t a dominant running threat. Even when Cardale Jones was the starter, the offense was still fundamentally the same as it had been for Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett; and we saw how that ended up working for Jones.

So, now that the personnel for OSU is slowly moving to a more pro-style scheme under Day, I wonder how Meyer and the Buckeye coaches will be able to modify what is at the core of their philosophy to fit a quarterback that just does things differently.

Obviously figuring that out will be much easier given the return of two fantastic running backs (Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins) and nearly everyone who caught a pass last season

“Ohio State Athletics paces the Big Ten Conference in number of student-athletes earning B1G Distinguished Scholar recognition for the third straight year as 129 Buckeyes did so for the 2017-18 academic year.”

-Ohio State Athletics

The Big Ten’s Distinguished Scholar Award was established a decade ago to recognize student-athletes who meet a handful of qualifications, including maintaining a 3.7 grade-point average; and for the third year in a row, Ohio State led the conference in honorees, this time with a record-setting 129.

Aided no doubt by the incredible number of varsity teams that OSU fields, 21 Buckeyes posted perfect 4.0 GPAs, including current WNBA player Stephanie Mavunga, who maintained the average while pursuing her master’s degree.

In other OSU academic news, it was also announced that the men’s basketball team earned a National Association of Basketball Coaches Team Academic Excellence Award. To qualify for the award, every player on an NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA team that competes during the season must contribute to a cumulative 3.0 GPA. The only other B1G school to earn the honor was Northwestern. Congratulations to all of Ohio State’s Distinguished Scholars and to the entirety of the men’s basketball team.