Who Have They Played?!
The content here at Buckeye Planet is created (with apologies to Mr. Lincoln) by fans and for fans. The media will throw context-free numbers at you and call it analysis. Their marketers tell them to assume that their viewers have a 7th to 8th grade level of education. Seriously. Here at BP, we don't make any assumptions about who you are, except perhaps that you're like us. We like our guests with thick skin and sarcastic wit and our numbers with enough context to make them relevant.
The talking heads of college football spew all sorts of stats all the time. When there are a few seconds of dead air to fill, some coiffed and tanned former jock will casually mention a statistic or factoid that's supposed to make himself sound intelligent and informed, and you to feel out of touch with reality, something like: "James Madison has the best rushing defense in the country." You hear it, and your preconditioned response is to throw something at your television and yell (scream it with me, everyone): "Who Have They Played?!"
Who Have They Played?! That's always a fair question. Yes, we think that's even a fair question when it's asked of our beloved Buckeyes. It also happens to be an especially fair (and hilarious) question when the person doing the asking is Desmond Howard (whose Wolverines currently have the 78th ranked schedule according to Sagarin).
One of the ways to dig into the Who Have They Played question is to compare a certain team to everyone else their opponents have played. While each team has played only six or seven games so far, that team's opponents have played about three dozen combined opponents at this point of the season. This comparison - opponents of opponents - injects some context into the statistics while also increasing the number of data points.
Some notes on methodology before we get started:
Just as one can calculate Differential Scoring Offense (DSO) for a single game, you can do the same for the season as a whole. The same can be done for Differential Scoring Defense (DSD); the difference being that higher numbers are better for DSO and lower numbers are better for DSD.
- Games against FCS opponents are factored out. For example, Toledo's shut-out of the Long Island Sharks is not considered. So the 27.25 points allowed per game that the NCAA credits to them becomes 31.14 points allowed per game.
- Head to Head is factored out. So the Buckeyes' 77-burger is also removed.
- The practical upshot is that, for this analysis, Toledo gives up 23.5 points per game to all FBS opponents not named Ohio State.
- Ohio State's 77-burger thus amounts to a juicy 3.277 times as many points as Toledo's other opponents average against the Rockets. We call this the Buckeyes' Differential Scoring Offense (DSO) for that game.
Using these ratios to compare the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions, we get the following:
We could stop here and feel secure that the above analysis shows Ohio State's superiority. Or we could go a step further and combine the above numbers to give us a crude prediction for Saturday's game.
Statistical Analysis Metric Ohio State Penn State Points Per Game - Offense 49.571 33.429 Differential Scoring - Offense 2.235 1.344 Points Per Game - Defense 14.857 18.857 Differential Scoring - Defense 0.538 0.661
Because Ohio State scores about 2.2 times as many points as teams usually give up (their DSO), and as Penn State typically gives up about 18.8 points per game, this gives us a prediction of about 42 points for Ohio State's output. Doing similar calculations with all of the other numbers in the above table renders the following prediction:
Ohio State: 33-42 points
Penn State: 18-20 points
If we stop here, we observe that these numbers comport fairly well with the Vegas predictions (using spread and over/under) of Ohio State -15.5, and total points of 60.5 (a score at the top ends of the predicted ranges - say Ohio State 41, Penn State 20 - would give us both the cover and the over). But what if we could dig deeper into the numbers for that next level of context?
The obvious next question is, of course: Who Have They Played?! Did you build up your stats against weaklings, or are your best performances against better competition? This is difficult with traditional stats because everyone has better numbers against the Little Sisters of the Poor (I'm looking at you Boise State). Comparing differential numbers achieved versus varying levels of competition gives us a uniquely suitable way of determining whether a team is a bully or a hero, elite or not elite. (James Franklin himself may have provided a spoiler as to where Penn State falls on the elite vs not elite scale).
Without going into tedious detail, there is a way of determining how well a team holds up to better competition, and of reducing that analysis down to a single number. The following table gives this number, called “rigidity” for the purpose of this discussion, along with their differential numbers from the previous table.
It is always interesting when the results are unexpected. In this case, it may come as a surprise that the Penn State offense is nearly as rigid as the Ohio State offense (69.9 vs 74.5). But being able to maintain your performance against better competition is more impressive when you (Ohio State) are scoring more than 2.23 times as many points as your competition usually gives up, while your opponent (Penn State) has a factor of only 1.34 times (this is another way of expressing DSO).
Team/Unit (Offense/Defense) DSO/DSD Rigidity Ohio State - Offense 2.235 74.5 Penn State - Defense 0.661 -53.5 Penn State - Offense 1.344 69.9 Ohio State - Defense 0.538 17.7
Leaving out a bit more of that pesky tedious detail, we now have a means of modifying our prediction. Suffice to say it is similar to a best-fit analysis, but modified so as to work with data that is non-linear and multi-modal. To put it in practical terms, Penn State's offense is more rigid than the Ohio State defense, so the prediction for their point total is modified upward. Ohio State's offense is vastly more rigid than Penn State's abysmally flacid defense, so Ohio State's point total is adjusted upward by quite a bit more. This gives us our penultimate prediction:
Ohio State 51The above was called our penultimate prediction, partly because I really like that word and partly because there is one final bit of context to add, one that affects only Ohio State's point total. While by far the most rigid unit on the field is the Buckeye offense, it turns out they are much more rigid in terms of the passing game than in the running game. The same is true of the Penn State defense. As anyone who watched them against Michigan or freshman-quarterbacked Minnesota could tell you, the Nittany Lions are hysterically flacid against the run. The simple truth though is that they are quite rigid against the pass. By being most rigid in the area where Ohio State is most rigid, this makes Penn State a slightly better match up against Ohio State than they might be otherwise, so Ohio State's point total has to be adjusted downward, giving us our final prediction (for entertainment purposes only).
Penn State 21
Ohio State 45
Penn State 21
Follow us on Twitter @buckeyeplanet and @bp_recruiting, like us on Facebook! Enjoy a post or article, recommend it to others! BP is only as strong as its community, and we only promote by word of mouth, so share away!Dismiss Notice
Consider registering! Fewer and higher quality ads, no emails you don't want, access to all the forums, download game torrents, private messages, polls, Sportsbook, etc. Even if you just want to lurk, there are a lot of good reasons to register!Dismiss Notice