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What should our expectations be for Ohio State’s 2018 season?

Is a Big Ten Championship enough?

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Ohio State vs Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With Week 1 of the college football season kicking in to gear today, it’s worth calibrating our expectations for Ohio State’s 2018 season.

All of the advanced stats and preseason ratings are out there, so we have a lot of inputs to go off of.

I’ll be updating these rankings regularly throughout the season, but it’s important to note that the majority of these advanced stats ratings gradually phase in 2018 game results. For example, it wouldn’t make much sense to adjust Ohio State’s ratings based on an (expected) enormous margin of victory over Oregon State in Week 1. In the past, S&P+ has taken 7 weeks to fully phase out preseason projections.

If there are any major stats you’d like me to include and keep track of, please let me know in the comments.

The Rankings

Ohio State advanced stats ratings

Metric Rating Type Notes
Metric Rating Type Notes
S&P+ 1 Team Updated 8.23
Off. S&P+ 2 Off/Def Behind only Oklahoma
Def. S&P+ 8 Off/Def 3rd in Big Ten behind UM, MSU
Resume S&P+ N/A Team - Resume Won't be released for a few weeks
Bill C's Power Rankings 3 Team - Preseason Ranked among "Sure Contenders"
ESPN FPI 4 Team Project 10-2,
ESPN Team Efficiency N/A Team Updated after games are played
ESPN Strength of Record N/A Team - Resume Similar to Resume S&P+
ESPN Game Control N/A Team
FEI 3 Team Most likely result is 11-1, then 12-0, 10-2.
FEI SOS 54 Strength of Schedule
Power Rank 6 Team Predicted Margin Of Victory Against Average Team is 17.4
538 Ranking N/A Team Not released yet
Sagarin 2 Team
AP Poll 5 Team 2nd in Big Ten behind Wisconsin
Massey 3 Team
247 Team Talent Composite N/A Talent Not updated yet for 2018, but I'm expecting 2nd, narrowly, behind Alabama
Bud's Blue Chip % 2 Talent Updated at start of every season; 76%, behind Bama at 77%
Bovada Vegas Odds 3 Betting Odds to win championship. Line is +750

S&P+

I typically use S&P+ most often for my Ohio State analysis primarily because it’s incredibly descriptive for all facets of a team (as opposed to describing a team with just a single number) and it allows you to understand game matchups and storylines with a standardized, objective methodology.

Preseason S&P+ projections are different from in-season S&P+. Here are the three components of the preseason projects, as explained by Bill:

Recruiting is easy. I create a rating based on these two-year recruiting rankings. The recruiting-based projection makes up about a quarter of the overall S&P+ projection.

For returning production, I apply projected changes (based on each team’s returning offensive and defensive production, which are on different scales) to last year’s S&P+ averages. The projection based on returning production accounts for a little more than 50 percent.

For recent history, I get a little weird. I found last year that the previous year’s S&P+ ratings — which make up the starting point for the returning production figures — were carrying a little too much weight. So what you see below is a projection based solely off of seasons two to five years ago. Recent history now carries less weight in the overall formulas, under 20 percent.

So to get up to speed on the the S&P+, I’d also recommend taking a look at the following: the most recent S&P+ projections, this primer on what S&P+ is, this explanation of strength of schedule/resume S&P+, the advanced stats glossary, team statistical profiles (here’s 2017’s), and Bill’s Ohio State 2018 preview.

ESPN

I’ve included a number of ESPN metrics that can all be found here. ESPN has several different types of ratings that in some ways mirror S&P+, but aren’t as deep or descriptive. Here are some definitions:

SOR: Strength of record - Reflects chance that an average Top 25 team would have team’s record or better, given the schedule.

GC: Game control - Reflects chance that an average Top 25 team would control games from start to end the way this team did, given the schedule.

FPI: Football Power Index that measures team’s true strength on net points scale; expected point margin vs average opponent on neutral field. *FPI is updated daily in the current week.

Takeaways

It’s important to note that all college football metrics suffer from inherent limitations on the amount of data that you can collect — there are only so many games in a season and rosters are guaranteed to flip at least every five years. That said, there are a ton of snaps (and possessions) each year, so the advanced stats can still be highly descriptive and predictive, especially as the season goes on.

SB Nation has compiled all of the preseason top-25 ratings (from a number of expert sources in addition to purely quantitative rankings like most of those above) here. Overall, Ohio State ranks third behind Alabama and Clemson. That’s entirely fair to me, because Alabama is the most talented team (247 composite-wise), and the most proven of the past few years, while Clemson has the easier path through their own conference (and therefore to the playoff). Ohio State simply has more volatility with the Meyer investigation and quarterback change, though they likely have a higher ceiling with better recent recruiting than Alabama (average over the past two years).

Vegas currently has Ohio State with the 3rd-best odds to win the championship too, behind Bama and Clemson (+750, compared to +220 and +400, respectively), indicating that the advanced stats are in general agreement.

Overall, the composite team ratings all see basically the same team — one of the four sure-fire contenders for the playoff. The Buckeyes have a difficult road ahead of them, with four other Big Ten teams that are also viable playoff contenders, but their overall strength of schedule should be pretty similar to last season’s. Anything less than 10-2 would be a huge disappointment, but at this point anything less than a Big Ten Championship and a playoff appearance is also a disappointment to the majority of the fanbase. Reasonably though, 11--1 is the safest regular-season guess.