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Advanced stats analysis: Ohio State’s offense excelled in a decent test

Rutgers’ defense is decent, but both Haskins and Martell were incredibly efficient through the air

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Ohio State Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Like last week, we have to preface all of this by saying that it was Rutgers.

If you added up all of Rutgers’ over their last five meetings with the Buckeyes, they still would have lost to Ohio State in any game by over three touchdowns. The total score in those games is 271-27. The average score is 54-5. So we have to view these results in that context.

But, at the same time, Chris Ash’s Rutgers teams have been getting steadily better, and his defenses have been at least solid. So the fact that Ohio State quarterbacks missed on only three of 33 passes and the offense rolled like you’d expect it to over a straight-up bad defense does mean something.

Stats definitions

Here’s the full advanced stats glossary.

  • In the tables below, scoring opportunity efficiency looks at the average points scored per scoring opportunity — a.k.a. drives with a first down past the opponents’ 40-yard line.
  • Drive efficiency looks at the percentage of drives that were scoring opportunities.
  • Rushing opportunity rate is the percentage of runs that gained five or more yards.
  • Rushing stuff rate is the percentage of runs that were for no gain or a loss.
  • Explosive plays are those that gain 15 or more yards.
  • Success rate: A common Football Outsiders tool used to measure efficiency by determining whether every play of a given game was successful or not. 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down.

Garbage time kicked in with the first snap of the third quarter, since the Buckeyes were already up 35-0. That means Ohio State had 7 offensive possessions and Rutgers had 8 that are counted towards the S&P+ total. For more on garbage time and game states, check this piece out.


Ohio State offense vs. Rutgers defense

Metric Ohio State
Metric Ohio State
Rushing success rate 65%
Rushing opportunity rate 60%
Rushing explosive plays 10% (2)
Rushing stuffed rate 15% (3)
Passing success rate 68%
Passing explosive plays 18% (4)
Overall success rate 67%
Overall explosive rate 14%
3rd down % 64%
Red zone TDs 100% (3/3)
Scoring opportunity efficiency 100% (5/5)
Drive efficiency 71%
Three-and-out drives 29% (2/7)
Pts off turnovers 0
Havoc rate allowed 10%
Average starting field position 36
  • Rutgers came into the game with the 15th-ranked S&P+ defense, which was likely an early-season over-adjustment by S&P+ to the Scarlet Knights’ first game. But, they were still projected to be 29th in defensive S&P+, so they likely do have a solid defense, even if the Buckeyes didn’t make it look like that on Saturday. So overall results — 67% overall success rate, four explosive pass plays in the first half, perfect scoring opportunity efficiency, and 71% drive efficiency — should be impressive, because they are.
  • According to Bill Landis, “Against Oregon State, the Buckeyes averaged 21.5 seconds between plays, and a blistering 17.2 seconds from the start through to their second scoring drive of the third quarter.” Last season they averaged 23.2 seconds per play. This week against Rutgers, their pace slowed down from last week to 23.6 seconds per play in the first half.
  • Johnnie Dixon has the most absurd receiving stats. Last season only four receivers in the entire country had a higher marginal explosiveness rating than Dixon, who scored touchdowns on 8 of his 18 catches last year. He’s on a similar pace this season, with five catches, two touchdowns, and 99 total receiving yards. He and Terry McLaurin, who added a 51-yard touchdown to his two from last week, look like genuine deep threats. McLaurin actually has three touchdowns this season on five receptions, and is averaging 34.4 yards per catch so far this season.
  • The Buckeyes have the best third-down conversion rate in the country, converting 72.4% of their attempts. They also have the most first downs per game (33.5) and are second in average yards per game (650).
  • The offensive line only allowed one sack during the first half, and two all game. A 10% havoc rate allowed isn’t incredible, but it’s still solid against a good defense.
  • But overall I had three primary takeaways from this performance. First, Dwayne Haskins really looks better than advertised. Completing 20/23 passes is absurd by itself, and he also had a strong deep ball and excellent touch on intermediate and short passes. Watching him throw, you really got the sense that he could attack whatever part of the field he wanted to, and he has the confidence in his arm to take those shots. I’m guessing Ryan Day has similar confidence in his abilities, as seen by the playcalling. Haskins’ stat line — 20/23 for 233 (10.1 YPA) and four touchdowns, no picks — is pretty incredible. If he manages a similar performance against TCU next week, then I’ll be hard pressed to think of a defense on the schedule that could stop Haskins and the passing game (TCU ranked 16th in projected defensive S&P+).
  • Second, I was really impressed with Tate Martell’s performance too. Last week his passing looked like it needed some work, and from limited playtime (he still only had 10 throws this week), he doesn’t look like Haskins throwing the ball, but you’ve got to be impressed when a quarterback goes 10/10 and averages 12.1 yards per attempt, with 8 rushes for 95 yards (leading the team).
  • Finally, the running backs looked fine, but nothing to write home about. After outdoing himself against Oregon State, Weber had a pedestrian 8 carries for 31 yards (3.9 YPA). Dobbins was just a little better this week with 12 carries for 73 yards (6.1 YPA). But part of the running backs’ relatively slow day was due to the offensive game plan, as well as the defensive looks Rutgers was giving.
  • As Day said in the post game conference, “You know, overall, we wanted to throw the ball a little on first down. We did that. It was more about what they were giving us... But I thought that we did a nice job of throwing the ball early and then kind of running it late.”


Rutgers offense vs. Ohio State defense

Metric Oregon State
Metric Oregon State
Rushing success rate 17%
Rushing opportunity rate 17%
Rushing explosive plays 8% (1)
Rushing stuffed rate 33% (4)
Passing success rate 22%
Passing explosive plays 0%
Overall success rate 20%
Overall explosive rate 3%
3rd down % 27%
Red zone TDs 0
Scoring opportunity efficiency 0%
Drive efficiency 0%
Three-and-out drives 63% (5/8)
Pts off turnovers 0
Havoc rate allowed 17%
  • The defensive numbers overall mean a little less than the offensive numbers, considering how bad Rutgers’ offense is. However, Rutgers does have a few more playmakers than they have in previous years (Raheem Blackshear, for instance), and the Ohio State defense allowed 31 points and a number of explosive plays to an Oregon State offense that was just as bad last week.
  • So you’ve got to feel good that Rutgers’ longest gain was 15 yards, their leading receiver had 13 yards, their quarterbacks averaged 2.2 yards per pass, they had more three-and-out drives than not in the first half (5 to 3), and they failed to create a scoring opportunity in the first half.
  • Rutgers had one more successful play (6 total) than havoc plays allowed (5).
  • National rankings after just two games don’t matter a ton, especially without opponent adjustments, but Ohio State ranks 7th in the country with 8 sacks so far this year. Last week it was Nick Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones; this week it was Chase Young (2 sacks) and Bosa again (1 sack, 3 total TFLs). Bosa is second in the country with 3 sacks and 10th with 5 tackles for loss.
  • Overall, the takeaway is that the defense did a better job preventing a bad offense from hitting explosive plays. This was less about the opposing offense than just fixing defensive mistakes.
  • Responding to a question about the defense, Day said, “Yeah, obviously Greg and all the guys on defense have a high standard that they hold themselves to on defense. And they didn’t like to put up that number like that. So this week we called up Nick at the end of the -- at our, you know, at our meeting there right at the end we brought the team up, he addressed how this week it was a tough week of practice. And they got after the guys. You could see it during the game. They were in the backfield, I felt like, every other play, really creating havoc. I thought they played with an edge, which was great moving forward.”

Jordan Fuller’s return certainly helped, and I thought Shaun Wade played really well, too.