Tale of the Tape: Ohio State at the Halfway Point (Offense)

It has been a strange season to date for Ohio State football this 2021 season. Nobody was expecting an early season loss to Oregon, nobody was expecting to see a leaky defense and of course fans were not exactly patient with a team that was looking to replace several big names that will be in the Buckeyes Football record books for years and year to come.

Now the Buckeyes have the benefit of the open week at the halfway mark of the season, six games in the bag and six games to go. Injuries have time to be tended to, the team can focus on itself a little bit and then a sprint will start with games against three teams currently ranked in the AP top-10.

It gave us the opportunity to turn the Tale of the Tape feature inward and instead of looking at just one opponent, we are looking more at the Buckeyes as a team and the remaining schedule on the board. We are going to start with the offense today and will turn our attention to the defense on Wednesday.

Is this Ohio State offense one for the ages? Does anyone on the schedule have the secret sauce to slow down the Buckeyes or is Ohio State the only team capable of stopping Ohio State?

Total Offense563.2 YPG1st
Rushing Offense221.0 YPG26th
Passing Offense352.2 YPG9th
Team Passing Eff. Offense187.763rd
Scoring Offense48.5 PPG3rd
3rd Down Conversion Pct.55.5%2nd
4th Down Conversion Pct.44.4%93rd
Red Zone Offense95.5%T-8th
First Downs (Offense)153 9th

Ohio State QBs/WRs/TEs & Ohio State Pass Offense

We went into this season knowing that the Ohio State offense could be something special and before we get into talking about the wide receivers, we have to talk about the quarterbacks. For the first several weeks of the season there was a vocal segment of the Ohio State fanbase that was mad and ready to see a change at the position as CJ Stroud got off to a mixed start. The numbers were not bad but they were not great, and people around these parts want great, or better. Slow starts, high throws and just some missed reads led to those issues and because of that, Stroud sat out one game due to a nagging shoulder injury, and while some fans were quick to dismiss the shoulder injury, the return of Stroud in the last two games has shown everyone what Stroud is capable of doing when he is mostly healthy (let’s face it, this is not a sport where you are healthy after the first series of the season). We have had the chance to see a little bit of Kyle McCord and Jack Miller along the way, nothing yet from Quinn Ewers, but it has predominantly been Stroud, at least in times where Ohio State is running its offense.

CJ Stroud5191.2104-157-366.2169918339.8
Kyle McCord3207.616-24-166.73482116.0
Jack Miller III395.95-11-045.566022.0

There should be no surprise with how the numbers have shaped up at the receiver position with the top trio of Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba all leading the way in terms of receptions, yards and touchdowns. What may be more of a surprise is the fact that Ohio State has not been able to get too deep into the bench, maybe the deepest bench in college football with players like Marvin Harrison and Jayden Ballard each having only one reception on the year, Julian Fleming having two and Emeka Egbuka finally cracking the mark to get to four. When you add starting tight end Jeremy Ruckert to the mix of the top guys, those four players have 76-percent of Ohio State’s receptions, 79.5-percent of the receiving yards and 85-percent of the receiving touchdowns. Ryan Day’s team has had a couple of laughers down the stretch but with the short season of 2020, there has been the need to get Stroud as much time with the 1s as possible and that might be keeping some of the 2s at wide receiver out of the mix when you would expect and has them relegated to “garbage time” with a greatly reduced playbook. But their time is coming, even if the schedule gets more difficult along the way.

Garrett Wilson63154617.6691.0
Chris Olave63049416.5782.3
Jaxon Smith-Njigba62345219.7375.3
Jeremy Ruckert51113912.6127.8
TreVeyon Henderson6715422.0225.7

It is not easy to measure the six teams that Ohio State has faced against the six teams that Ohio State has yet to face statistically, mostly because the six that have faced Ohio State have that Ohio State game in their numbers while the six who have not, well… do not. Three of the six teams that Ohio State has faced are in the bottom-20 in the nation in passing yards allowed (Oregon – 112th, Tulsa – 118th and Rutgers – 105th) but the numbers look better when it comes to pass efficiency defense where only one team, Akron (122nd) checks in the bottom-20 nationally, but even with that the top opponent in that category is Minnesota at 51st. Ohio State has passed for more than the average defense of its six opponents have allowed over the season in five of six games (only Tulsa held them under their average) to the tune of being plus-619-yards.

Five of the next six games are against teams that rank in the top-60 nationally in pass yards allowed (only one team ranked in the top-60 in the first six games) and when it comes to pass efficiency defense, all six teams are in the top-55 nationally with Michigan State (54th) and Michigan (50th) coming in with the lowest marks there. Even with that, Michigan is the best defense in terms of yards allowed, one of those strange anomalies when looking at stats, with Penn State coming in as the most efficient team against the pass.

Schedules are not even however and just because this team or that team has done this or that up until now, non-conference schedules vary greatly and nobody has played more than three league games, meaning there is little overlap in quality of opponent. So we went and looked at what Penn State and Michigan have faced to this point, just to get to the numbers of where they are at.

How is Pass Efficiency Defense Determined?

Michigan has faced one top-40 passing offense over the course of the season and that was Nebraska, and the Huskers threw for 291 yards and three scores in that game, well above averages. Michigan has faced two teams in the bottom-30 nationally in throwing the ball while Western Michigan and Rutgers fall in neither category.

It is even worse when you look at the Penn State schedule, you immediately have to throw out one of the games, a Division I-FCS game against Villanova, and sadly the Wildcats may have the most efficient offense that the Nittany Lions have faced, No. 8 in FCS ball. So, who has the best passing efficiency offense on the PSU schedule to date? That would be Iowa, at No. 91 out of 130 teams. Three of Penn State’s FBS foes are in the 90s in that category, while Indiana is No. 122 and Wisconsin is No. 124. Penn State had a field day against these teams, but so has everyone else.

TeamPass DefenseRankPass Efficiency Def.Rank
Indiana223.0 YPG59th123.8346th
Penn State201.3 YPG39th102.125th
Nebraska207.7 YPG43rd117.4933rd
Purdue175.2 YPG16th108.9213th
Michigan State301.7 YPG124th126.6254th
Michigan190.7 YPG28th124.7450th

Ohio State Running Backs & Ohio State Rush Offense

I have never liked to play the comparison game, this player looks like that player or this year reminds me of that year. But I have this 2014 feeling when it comes to the 2021 season, and not just because of losing a non-conference game at home in week two. But rather an undefined running back room at the start of the 2014 season would eventually sort itself out and lead to the emergence of Ezekiel Elliott, even after it appeared that the Buckeyes were going to do running back by committee for way too long. This year we see the Buckeyes sorting things out and TreVeyon Henderson leading the way and being identified as “the guy” at the position as it seems each week a different player steps up as the No. 2 back. For all of the success, this 2021 team will still be known as a passing team with the numbers that we have seen there to date, the Buckeyes have been held under 200 yards rushing in two games already this season, unable to run against Oregon and having the run largely taken away by Maryland. Even with that, the Buckeyes are still averaging 2.3 touchdowns per game on the ground. But what will happen once the weather turns cold and running the ball is the easier path?

Playergpattnet yardsavgtdlongavg/g
TreVeyon Henderson6696058.8954100.8
Master Teague5442525.731750.4
Miyan Williams3322497.817183.0
Marcus Crowley4201035.202225.8
Evan Pryor310505.011216.7

With all of these defense in the Big Ten it comes as a major surprise that Minnesota holds the best rushing defense through the first six weeks of the season. The Gophers are only allowing 77 yards per game on the ground. The Buckeyes ran for 201 yards but 71 of those yards came on one carry and Ohio State did not have a run of longer than 10 yards beyond that. Maryland sold out to stop the run but that seems to be just how the Terps role, ranking No. 48 against the run. For Ohio State’s next six opponents, all have been pretty solid against the run, ranking from No. 29 (Penn State) to No. 56 (Nebraska). Ohio State’s own rush defense ranks in that same area as No. 54, just for comparison.

But is it about rushing yards or is about rushing TD’s allowed? You don’t win the game with yards, it is points.

Michigan leads the way with two rushing touchdowns allowed over six games, Penn State and Michigan State have each give up four over six games while everyone else has five up five or six over the course of between five and seven games (Nebraska played zero week and has not had an open week through last week’s action).

Of the teams left on the schedule Penn State leads the way at No. 29 in rush defense with Michigan State (38th) and Michigan (39th) up next. With few “national rushers” on the schedule, outside of Kenneth Walker (MSU), Blake Corum (Michigan) and TreVeyon Henderson (OSU), many of these defenses have not played top backs and will not until they face one another over the next several weeks.

What are we to make of Penn State’s rush defense based on who the Nittany Lions have faced to date? The top rushing offense faced was Wisconsin, as expected, but at that point people thought that Wisconsin might be good. They would be wrong as the Badgers have been a mess. Auburn is a close second at No. 32 in the nation. As mentioned before, Villanova is a FCS team and really doesn’t make our radar, and two opponents, Ball State and Indiana are in the 100s nationally running the ball, as in they can’t run the ball. Iowa just misses that cut at No. 99.

TeamRushing DefenseRankTDs Allowed (Games played)
Indiana130.6 YPG53rd6 (5 games)
Penn State111.3 YPG29th4 (6 games)
Nebraska133.9 YPG56th6 (7 games)
Purdue124.4 YPG45th5 (5 games)
Michigan State118.8 YPG38th4 (6 games)
Michigan119.3 YPG39th2 (6 games)

Ohio State Offensive Line & Line Protection

Offensive line is always the most difficult position to talk about because if they are doing something well, you are not supposed to notice them and if they are doing something wrong, you notice them and get angry about a hold or a false start or worse yet, allowing a quarterback sack. The Buckeyes have had to move players in and out of the lineup with time missed by players like Thayer Munford and Harry Miller. Ohio State went to the unexpected lineup of moving Munford inside, starting Dawand Jones at right tackle and moving Nick Petit-Frere to left tackle. This has allowed the unit a lot of flexibility with being able to sub Matt Jones in freely and of course seeing Luke Wypler at center in Miller’s absence.

Ohio State has given up eight sacks on the year and six of those took place in the non-conference games, with just two happening against league foes, granted Ohio State has only faced one top-20 team in sacks (Maryland) and while the Terps did get one, that was against McCord in the late stages of the game.

The Buckeyes only have one team left on the regular season schedule that has a name in sacks and that is Michigan State, who is No. 5 in the country with 23 sacks through six games. Michigan (53rd) has 14, Nebraska (101st ) has 12 (through seven games) and Penn State (91st) has 11 through six games. That does not mean that Ohio State only has to worry about the Spartans, sacks happen, especially when you run a lot of deep plays or complex routes, but to date, none of Ohio State’s foes outside of MSU has really shown much consistency in getting after the quarterback.

What about scoring?

Finally we look at scoring defenses as the Buckeyes are No. 3 in the nation in scoring offense at the tune of more than 48 points per game. Putting up 50-plus points on a team that has only played six games will ruin an average quickly, so Akron, Rutgers and Maryland saw their numbers take a hit, granted not much was going to save Akron this season. Up until this point, the best scoring defense that the Buckeyes had faced was Minnesota, who was holding teams just to 19.5 points per game, and that is with Ohio State hanging 45 on them in the opening game of the season.

Once again, Penn State leads this category for Ohio State foes yet to be played but both Purdue and Michigan rank in the top-10 as well. As we have said in two previous segments, Penn State has that FCS game against Villanova and if you are not a North Dakota school, we are not really interested in including your FCS stats into this analysis. Auburn and Iowa both average more than 30 points per game while Wisconsin is scoring on average fewer than 20 per game. Purdue has played five games with the open week and held Oregon State 13 points below its average, the best offense faced at No. 36 with two opponents (Illinois 17.7 ppg – 119th, UConn – 16.0 ppg – 126th) coming in at the bottom 20 of FBS. Michigan has played six games and has not faced a team that ranks higher than No. 48 in the nation with Nebraska and the Huskers were only three points off their season average. The remainder of the schedule played to date is in the 70s and lower with none of the other five teams averaging 28 or more points per game.

TeamPoints Allowed Rank
Indiana28.2 PPG90th
Penn State13.8 PPG5th
Nebraska17.9 PPG22nd
Purdue15.4 PPG8th
Michigan State19.3 PPG27th
Michigan15.5 PPG9th