Here is a snapshot of The Rivalry as of Hate Week 2022 as seen through Differential Statistical Analysis (DSA - simpler than it sounds). For a primer on the terms used herein, click HERE. That's enough of an intro for Hate Week. Here it is, unvarnished:
Differential Statistical Analysis
SO: Scoring Offense
SD: Scoring Defense
DSO: Differential Scoring Offense
DSD: Differential Scoring Defense
RO: Rushing Offense
RD: Rushing Defense
DRO: Differential Rushing Offense
DRD: Differential Rushing Defense
YpCo: Yards per Carry - Offense
YpCd: Yards per Carry - Defense
DYpCo: Differential Yards per Carry - Offense
DYpCd: Differential Yards per Carry - Defense
PO: Passing Offense
PD: Passing Defense
DPO: Differential Passing Offense
DPD: Differential Passing Defense
PEo: Pass Efficiency - Offense
PEd: Pass Efficiency - Defense
DPEo: Differential Pass Efficiency - Offense
DPEd: Differential Pass Efficiency - Defense
Stat Ohio State Michigan SO 46.455 39.364 SD 16.909 11.727 DSO 1.973 1.574 DSD 0.652 0.505 RO 203.55 243.82 RD 107.91 79.55 DRO 1.392 1.606 DRD 0.721 0.529 YpCo 5.528 5.507 YpCd 3.075 2.787 DYpCo 1.448 1.355 DYpCd 0.808 0.718 PO 289.18 208.82 PD 175.46 161.73 DPO 1.390 0.951 DPD 0.811 0.788 PEo 182.32 147.70 PEd 119.94 100.46 DPEo 1.494 1.184 DPEd 0.940 0.813
Numbers that lead the nation are shown in red. It should be noted that, while Ohio State's Differential Pass Efficiency - offense (1.494) is second in the nation to Tennessee (1.518 vs FBS opponents), CJ Stroud leads the nation's starting quarterbacks at 1.499 (Hendon Hooker is 2nd at 1.431).
Those familiar with DSA might remember that these numbers can be used to provide a crude prediction for the game. It is called a prediction, but no one actually believes that this (or any) analysis is capable of distilling this rivalry down to numbers. But where this rivalry is concerned, we leave no stone (or Buckeye) unturned. This year the predictions are tweaked by a new modifier we call rigidity, which measures how well a team holds up to better competition, something that is vitally important in a game this big.
DSA Prediction for the game:
Stat Ohio State Michigan Points 27 28 Rushing 120 180 YPC 4.3 4.4 Passing 226 168 Pass Eff. 151.2 140.8
There you have it. Unvarnished, unadulterated. DSA predicts the unthinkable.
Vegas Disagrees - But Why?
As for the other games this week (if you're one who believes in the existence of such), DSA lines up with the Vegas predictions (line) for each game with amazing reliability. So why do DSA and Vegas see this one differently? There are several possibilities.
It is possible that the Vegas line is based entirely on a belief in Las Vegas that Blake Corum is too injured to be a factor in The Game. That seems unlikely, as this line hasn't moved much since the pre-season (though there was a wider range of available lines shortly after the Corum injury than you usually see). Perhaps they know that some of Ohio State's players that have been out of commission will be redeployed. Also impossible for us mortals to know; only the scions of Vegas seem to have this information before game-time in the college football world.
Held in Reserve
There is the belief by some, most notably Austin Ward of Lettermen Row, as expressed in a radio appearance this week, that the Buckeyes have been holding back all year, and that the fully operational death star will not be unleashed until this week. This is one that all Buckeye fans would love to believe, but what reason have we to believe it?
On the plus side, there is the fact that previous Ohio State coaches have done it. Tressel famously went with a formation and personnel package that he hadn't used all year. On another occasion he lined Ted Ginn up as a tight end and ran him up the seam, something he hadn't shown all year. I could go on, but so could we all. John Cooper said that, "In order to break a tendency, you have to establish a tendency" or something to that effect. Other Ohio State coaches have done similar things throughout the years. But to what extent can this be counted on?
It seems likely that the Buckeyes might show something different on Saturday, not because it's been held back for use against the skunk bears (a Native American term for them, not mine), but because Day has been working on improving weaknesses against lesser opponents. This certainly seemed to be the case in some games, as he doggedly worked on the running game until finally taking what the defense was giving a time or two to create a comfortable margin.
Whether Day has been holding anything back for one reason or another, the question then becomes, is it wise to have done so? Speaking only for myself, it seems to me that the team's confidence seems to be dancing on rotten ice right now (for at least part of the team anyway). Can that just be reclaimed in a week of practice? Then there is the larger question: has Day really been holding anything back at all?
Perhaps the Offense...?
It used to be said that "Defense Wins Championship". In fact, "used to be" is something that applied just a few years ago, but college football has changed. Offenses have gotten to the point where the best of them can score at will against anyone. Is the Buckeye offense at that level? In a word, no. But they were approaching that level earlier this season.
At mid-season, a two-post analysis was done that showed that the Buckeye offense was far beyond any other offense in the country in the first 3 quarters, and that being the most dominant team in the country was hurting their traditional statistics as they coasted through every fourth quarter. Click HERE if you would like to see the details. The short version is that Ohio State was scoring 5.833 offensive touchdowns, on average, in the first 3 quarters of games, Tennessee was second at 5.0, and the rest of college football was even farther behind. The Buckeyes were crushing everyone and then coasting.
A repeat of that analysis shows that Ohio State is no longer the juggernaut they were at the time, but they are better than TTUN by a larger margin than even DSA would have you believe. This is best examined by showing Yards per Play (Y/P) and TouchDowns per Game (TD/G) for each team, by quarter. The following tables show each team's offensive output by quarter for all 11 games to this point in the season. Ranks for each stat are for all of FBS.
1ST QUARTER Y/P Rank TD/G Rank Notes Ohio State 8.503 1 1.818 1 That's Right; We Bad Michigan 7.069 19 1.182 8 6 way tie for 8th place
2ND QUARTER Y/P Rank TD/G Rank Notes Ohio State 6.463 32 1.000 56 12 way tie for 56th Michigan 6.157 48 0.909 69 8 way tie for 69th
3RD QUARTER Y/P Rank TD/G Rank Notes Ohio State 7.268 8 1.727 1 That's More Like It Michigan 6.300 40 0.909 32 14 way tie for 32nd
4TH QUARTER Y/P Rank TD/G Rank Notes Ohio State 7.287 1 1.364 4 3 way tie for 4th... Michigan 5.973 25 1.364 4 ...with Clemson
Before we get to the important bits, let's get this out of the way... The second quarter issues that we thought might be a coincidence in the early season... Yeah... Whatever has been causing that all season; it doesn't last all season if it's a coincidence. Not to that level. Not #1 in the country in touchdowns per game in the first and 3rd quarters and #56 in the country in the 2nd. No... That's not a coincidence. The odds of it being a coincidence are far too small to be believable. Having said that, the conversation will be left there, not because one cannot think of an explanation, but because there are so many possibilities.
Having dispensed with the weirdness (after a fashion), let's get right to the point. Ohio State is better than TTUN in every single quarter, even the second quarter. The only place where they tie Ohio State is in Touchdowns in the 4th quarter. TTUN's BEST quarter for Touchdown production is the 4th, where it is tied with Ohio State's 2nd worst quarter of Touchdown production. The Buckeyes' worst quarter of TD production is better than two of TTUN's quarters (2nd and 3rd), and two of Ohio State's quarters are better than TTUN's best quarter, and the Buckeye's 3rd best quarter ties TTUN's best.
But the most important takeaway may be this, and it bears repeating. The Skunk Weasels score more offensive touchdowns in the 4th than in any other quarter, and that's when the Buckeyes are coasting.
I know what some of you are thinking. You're thinking that TTUN equals the Buckeyes in the 4th quarter because they have man-balled their opponent into submission by that time, right? If that's so, explain this:
In the first 3 quarters of games:
BUT - (Yes, that's a big but)
- Ohio State: 5.50 yards per carry - Pass Efficiency 177.09
- Michigan: 5.52 yards per carry - Pass Efficiency 147.10
In the fourth quarter of games:
Why does Ohio State's rushing efficiency increase in the 4th quarter while the same can't be said for the Skunk Weasels? Perhaps the Buckeyes are tougher than you think.
- Ohio State: 5.59 yards per carry - Pass Efficiency 211.36
- Michigan: 5.46 yards per carry - Pass Efficiency 149.93
Before turning to the defense: None of this pretends to be dispositive. The biggest question on all of our minds is, can the Buckeye offense return to that elite level that we saw earlier in the season; the kind of offense that needs only a mediocre defense to see it through to a National Championship?
If you dig a little deeper for context about that defense though, you might find that the offense might not have to be world beaters.
What About That Defense?
It turns out that Ohio State is even better on offense than most stats make them look because of all of the substitutions and clock-killing in the fourth quarter, while TTUN are bullies in the fourth quarter, at least on the scoreboard. Might the same be true on defense? Is there a way to dig in to the defensive numbers to see if one of these teams is building stats on the backs of weak opponents while the other is massively substituting and perhaps trading yardage for clock at certain points in the game?
If you've followed DSA this year, you know that we are now producing a number we call rigidity to determine how well teams hold up to better competition. The same concept can be used to produce a number that determines how well you're defense is doing with respect to how many points your offense is scoring. If you tend to give up more points in blow outs, that number would provide an indication of that. You could take the analysis further by comparing how well your defense does with respect to your opponent's differential scoring composite. By combining these numbers, we can separate teams that allow more points in blowouts from those who beat up on weaklings. The one fly in the ointment is that this analysis can allow teams who are getting blown out to have the same numbers as teams that are dominating. By combining our number with overall point differential, we now have a number that shows which defense has been hurt the most, statistically, by playing with large leads. The top 6 and one other team in this metric, called Defensive Coasting Factor (DCF), are as follows:
Team DCF Rank Ohio State 1421.25 1 Clemson 868.32 2 Cincinnati 659.44 3 LSU 641.04 4 Utah 607.20 5 Alabama 530.24 6 Michigan -56.08 71
While the numbers involved are large (well, some of them are), the adjustments they precipitate in our analysis are moderate. Nevertheless, this analysis shows the same thing that the deeper analysis of the offense showed. The Buckeyes' stats are hurt by taking it easy on vanquished opponents (to a greater extent than for anyone in the nation for the defense), while the Skunk Bears are bullies who have yet to come up against the kid who can stand up to them.
But the DSA numbers show that TTUN is a team to be respected, bully or no. What is clear is that they have not yet played a team that can put an end to the bullying. But is there something hiding in the numbers that we CAN learn from the teams they've played?
And there it is, our favorite question, "Who have they played?"
In the case of That Team Up North, that question can be divided into parts. One, have they played a team the quality of the Buckeyes so far? Obviously not, but neither have the Buckeyes played a team as good as the skunk bears (not my term, I swear). The other part of the question is more about the type of teams faced than the quality of them. So of the teams that TTUN has faced, what quality gave them the biggest issues? It turns out that the numbers tell you the same thing that your eyes do. balanced teams are the skunk bears' Achilles Heal.
As with any other term, we have to define "balanced" carefully. In this case, let's not just look at balance based on regular stats, which can be skewed based on who you've played, but based rather on differential stats. When ranking teams based on their offensive balance using differential stats, Ohio State is the 4th most balanced team in the country, meaning that their Differential Passing Offense and Differential Passing Efficiency have similar rankings to their Differential Rushing Offense and Differential Yards Per Carry. That's good, but as with Defensive Coasting Factor, we need to analyze this to determine who is both balanced AND powerful. One of the teams ranked higher than the Buckeyes in Balance is Eastern Michigan, who is very well balanced, and also very bad at both running and passing. Among the top 15 most balanced teams, only 3 apart from the Buckeyes (Alabama, Penn State and Georgia), are also top 10 offensive teams, and Ohio State is actually significantly better than those 3, despite their high rankings as there is a very steep drop off from the best offenses to the rest of the top 10, and Ohio State is the only elite offense with elite balance.
Where this becomes relevant is when you start comparing defenses based on how well they handle balanced teams. By boiling balance down to a number and comparing each team's game-by-game results, we can come up with a number like Rigidity, but with a twist. Where Rigidity measures how well a team holds up against better competition, and Defensive Coasting Factor measures how much your stats are hurt by blowing teams out, our new number (Balance Rigidity for lack of a better term) measures how well a team holds up against more balanced competition. So where do the skunk bears (again, not my term) rank in terms of this metric? This is what this is all about right? We see that the Buckeyes are very balanced, so how well does TTUN stack up against balanced teams?
Their Balance Rigidity is -57.045, which ranks 128 out of 131 FBS teams.
As in, only Louisiana Tech, Washington State, and South Alabama are worse by this metric.
Yes, TTUN is 4th from the bottom in holding it together against balanced teams, and Ohio State is 4th from the top in balance, but let's keep this in perspective. This is still the top scoring offense (vs FBS teams) against the top scoring defense (vs FBS teams). This is as much about Ohio State getting back to the potential they showed earlier in the season as it is about balance, but when it comes to balance, the numbers speak loud and clear: Few teams have more issues vs balanced teams than TTUN, and NO ONE combines balance with powerful offense like the Buckeyes do.
It Gets Better
So who was the most balanced team that TTUN faced? That's just it: by numbers Penn State is the most balanced team they faced (and UM did well), but anyone who watched both of the Nittany Lions' games against the participants of The Game can tell you that PSU was a total no-show against TTUN. They were awful on every level; they played much better against the Buckeyes. If you eliminate the game vs PSU as the aberration it was, then TTUN's Balance Rigidity goes down to -72.842.
This is a good defense, but their only opportunity to play a balanced offense came against an offense that didn't show up. If the Buckeyes don't similarly pull a complete no-show, look for them to use a balanced attack to score well beyond the DSA prediction.
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