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Baylor vs. Ohio State: An Advanced Stats Hypothetical Matchup

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Taking a look at Baylor vs. Ohio State to see what F/+, FEI, and S&P+ have to say about the matchup of the team that got in vs. the team that was left out.

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

If you've done any reading from non-ODB sources or have a social media account of any kind (well, maybe not MySpace. I don't know if you'd have seen this there), chances are you've seen that the Vegas oddsmakers believe that Ohio State would be an underdog to Baylor if the two were to line up on the gridiron. According to the article I just linked, Baylor would be anywhere between a 2.5-3.5 point favorite over the Ohio State Buckeyes, though the sportsbooks aren't unanimous in that opinion. That got me thinking, though. What do the advanced stats have to say about a matchup between the Buckeyes and the Baylor Bears? I decided that it'd be fun to create an Advanced Stats Preview like the ones we've been doing each week for our opponents. The results are very interesting.

Before We Begin...

If you're new here or are an Ohio State fan checking this out, welcome. I've included a sidebar with my primer on the Advanced Statistics that we use to compare teams on the right. If you want more information about the stats, check that out. Additionally, I'm including tables for the "big uglies" matchups again. If you aren't familiar with those stats, hit this link to last week's preview for K-State, which contains the Line stats. For the regulars, I'm also doing something a bit different for this preview. This time around I'm splitting out FEI component stats and S&P+ components into separate tables and talking about those individually. One more note: this preview only looks at the stats themselves, and I'm not going off of recent performance trends or injuries.

As usual, these definitions come from footballoutsiders.com.

One more thing about the EDGE category. If you aren't aware, this is a completely arbitrary method of determining who has an edge in any given statistic. If you aren't aware, if the ranks are 0-10 spaces apart, the matchup is EVEN. If the rankings are between 11-40 places apart, the EDGE category lists the advantage in lower case. If the matchup is 40+ places apart, the advantage is listed in UPPER CASE.

All right, let's begin.

Overall

Category

BU (11-1)

tOSU (12-1)

EDGE

Overall F/+ Rk 9 (27.0%)
2 (36.5%)
EVEN
Overall FEI Rk 9 (.218)
5 (.257)
EVEN
Overall S&P+ Rk 8 (243.9) 2 (266.0)
EVEN
Field Position Advantage 7 (.553)
3 (.576)
EVEN

Clash of the Titans. Ohio State has the edge in every category, but the margins aren't big enough to consider there to be an advantage in the overall stats. Make no mistake, the stats say that these are two evenly matched teams. It would be a pretty titanic clash, if these numbers have anything to say about it.

A Look at the Individual Units

  1. Ohio State Offense -- #4 Overall F/+
  2. Ohio State Defense -- #7 Overall F/+
  3. Baylor Offense -- #11 Overall F/+
  4. Baylor Defense -- #16 Overall F/+
  5. Ohio State Special Teams -- #20 Overall F/+
  6. Baylor Special Teams -- #33 Overall F/+

When Baylor Has the Ball...

Category

Baylor Off

tOSU Def

EDGE

Offensive/Defensive FEI Rk
12 (.504) 12 (-.487) EVEN
Raw OE/DE 10 (.537) 17 (-.374) EVEN
First Down Rate 3 (.793) 10 (.552) EVEN
Available Yards Rate 4 (.604) 5 (.322) EVEN
Explosive Drives 11 (.207) 27 (.907) Baylor
Methodical Drives 6 (.207) 13 (.083) EVEN
Value Drives 6 (.542) 2 (.237) EVEN

This should give you some idea of what to expect from here on out. Baylor's offense appears better than Ohio State's defense by so small a margin that I'm not comfortable declaring Baylor to have an edge. The only place where Baylor has a definable advantage would be in the Explosive Drive category. That being said, Baylor hasn't exactly blown the doors off their opponents. According to the advanced stats, Baylor's offense would be in for a difficult time against the Buckeye defense. Let's take a look at S&P+.

Category

Baylor Off

tOSU Def

EDGE

Offensive/Defensive S&P+
11 (120.0) 4 (129.7) EVEN
Play Rating
14 (125.7) 19 (120.5) EVEN
Success Rate
9 (.493) 23 (.374) Baylor
IsoPPP
24 (.930) 29 (.770) EVEN
Std. Downs S&P Rk 15 (123.8) 19 (119.1) EVEN
Pass. Downs S&P Rk 24 (125.3) 33 (117.5) EVEN
Rushing S&P+ Rk 23 (121.1) 37 (110.0) Baylor
Passing S&P+ Rk 11 (131.4) 10 (129.8) EVEN
Drive Rating
9 (134.0) 3 (177.1) EVEN

See what I mean about being incredibly even? Baylor's offense has the slight edge in almost every category, but the difference is negligible. The hopeful sign for Bears fans it that one of the advantages is in Success Rate, which makes up 80% of the underlying S&P before opponent adjustments. This would suggest that while Baylor may struggle at times, the Bears would have a good chance at moving the ball against Ohio State's defense on a regular basis. Interestingly enough, FEI and S&P+ disagree on explosiveness, as IsoPPP shows no advantage for Baylor, while the FEI component Explosive Drives is the only advantage on the FEI side of the stats. It would appear that Baylor's best chance of moving the football against the Buckeyes would be to establish the ground game early, then taking to the air once the secondary starts leaning forward a bit. Regardless, the Bears would have their hands full with this Ohio State defense.

Baylor's O-Line vs. Ohio State's D-Line

Category

BU (11-1)

tOSU (12-1)

EDGE

Adj. Line Yds 26 (113.2) 59 (101.1) Baylor
Std. Down Line Yds 30 (3.24) 56 (2.85) Baylor
Pass Down Line Yds 3 (4.28) 84 (3.54) BAYLOR
Opportunity Rate 25 (.431) 60 (.383) BAYLOR
Power Success Rate 17 (.753) 86 (.707) BAYLOR
Stuff Rate 8 (.137) 65 (.194) BAYLOR
Adj. Sack Rate 56 (107.2) 12 (137.4) OHIO STATE
Std. Downs Sack Rate 74 (.049) 29 (.065) OHIO STATE
Pass Downs Sack Rate 33 (.058) 5 (.125) Ohio State
Front 7 Havoc --
2 (13.8%)
--

Now there's something for Baylor fans to hang their hats on, but also some cause for concern. Looking at the offensive line numbers seem to tie into the numbers above, suggesting that Baylor would have a much better time of things by establishing the ground game first before taking to the air. Ohio State has the advantage in terms of sack rates and are extremely disruptive according to the Havoc Rate, but if Baylor were able to establish the run by gashing the Buckeye defense with Shock Linwood, Devin Chafin (assuming he's healthy at the time of the game), and Johnny Jefferson, the Bears might give Ohio State pause when thinking about bringing the heat on Petty. This matchup is definitely the key to Baylor's success on the offensive side of the ball.

When Ohio State Has the Ball...

Category

tOSU Off

Baylor Def

EDGE

Offensive/Defensive FEI Rk
9 (.560) 23 (-.353) Ohio State
Raw OE/DE* 4 (.618) 35 (-.206) Ohio State
First Down Rate 6 (.772) 12 (.566) EVEN
Available Yards Rate 2 (.643) 29 (.385) Ohio State
Explosive Drives 6 (.243) 94 (.169) OHIO STATE
Methodical Drives 109 (.096) 22 (.096) BAYLOR
Value Drives 3 (.593) 31 (.323) Ohio State

The Bears aren't starting off looking too good. Advantages across the board for Ohio State, with the most glaring disparity being, as usual, explosive drives. The problem here is that Ohio State is very explosive. Baylor fans know all too well the trouble that the Bears have with explosiveness on defense. The game plan is as simple as it is unchanging: throw the ball deep on the Bears. You're likely to either have a completed pass or a pass interference call. That's the sad reality of the Baylor secondary at this point, though they were burned less deep against K-State, and more on intermediate passes due to Waters having time to make himself a sandwich then eat it before throwing the ball. The Buckeyes would succeed by following the same game plan. Let's see if S&P+ offers the Bears any more hope than FEI.

Category

tOSU Off

Baylor Def

EDGE

Offensive/Defensive S&P+
1 (136.3) 11 (123.9) Ohio State
Play Rating
1 (154.6) 28 (113.9) Ohio State
Success Rate
3 (.519) 30 (.380) Ohio State
IsoPPP
16 (.960) 49 (.820) Ohio State
Std. Downs S&P Rk 1 (141.1) 40 (109.1) Ohio State
Pass. Downs S&P Rk 1 (184.1) 24 (122.5) Ohio State
Rushing S&P+ Rk 1 (148.1) 19 (120.3) Ohio State
Passing S&P+ Rk 1 (163.8) 45 (108.2) OHIO STATE
Drive Rating
2 (153.2) 5 (167.0) EVEN

Nope. Abandon all hope, ye who examine S&P+. Ohio State has the best offense in the nation, at least according to Bill Connelly's S&P+. There's no advantage to be found here for the Bears. The Buckeye's offense is successful and explosive, a terrible combination for the Baylor defense. They are effective both on the ground and through the air, suggesting that they would be able to shift back and forth depending on the looks the Baylor defense gave them. The Bears would have to get pressure on whomever the quarterback for Ohio State was at the time of this game in order to prevent the worst from happening, and it might have even happened anyway. Perhaps the Line play may offer some shred of hope...

Ohio State's O-Line vs. Baylor's D-Line

Category

tOSU (12-1)

BU (11-1)

EDGE

Adj. Line Yds 2 (135.0) 9 (123.2) EVEN
Std. Down Line Yds 9 (3.48) 14 (2.48) EVEN
Pass Down Line Yds 19 (3.83) 6 (2.26) EVEN
Opportunity Rate 1 (.512) 21 (0.340) Ohio State
Power Success Rate 37 (.714) 6 (.538) Baylor
Stuff Rate 15 (.149) 16 (.239) EVEN
Adj. Sack Rate 69 (99.2) 9 (144.9) BAYLOR
Std. Downs Sack Rate 107 (.071) 35 (.062) BAYLOR
Pass Downs Sack Rate 44 (.064) 27 (.096) BAYLOR
Front 7 Havoc --
20 (11.7%) --

Okay, there you go, Bears. There's your key to the game: Create chaos with your defensive line. Ohio State is strong both with the running game and the passing game according to S&P+, but these numbers suggest that the Buckeyes' offensive line is stronger in run protection than it is with pass blocking. That being said, the Bears' defense is much weaker against the pass than it is the run, so maybe, just maybe, the Bears' front 7 could create enough chaos in the passing game to force Ohio State to try and pound the rock, a much better matchup for the Bears than if Ohio State were to continue to take to the air. If the Bears see the backfield as infrequently as they did during long stretches against K-State, this would be one very long game for the Baylor defense. Defensive Coordinator Phil Bennett would have to dial up some frequent blitzes that would absolutely have to be successful, or else the defense gets torched through the air.

All told, this is not an ideal matchup for the Baylor defense that has not looked spectacular at times this fall.

NOTE: I'm going to forego special teams because this is already 2,000 words and I don't think that special teams are going to make a difference in this game.

The Bottom Line

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't that. These numbers suggest that perhaps the Selection Committee was right to put Ohio State into the College Football Playoff after all, a thought not frequently uttered amongst Baylor fans. When I undertook this little endeavor, I never expected to these types of numbers; having watched Ohio State and come away fairly unimpressed, it would appear that I misjudged the Buckeyes and relied upon my own "eye test."

It's clear that the matchup wouldn't be the blowout that many Baylor fans think it would be; nor would it be a lopsided victory for the Buckeyes. My assessment of this game, according to the advanced statistics: SHOOTOUT! Both Baylor and Ohio State hold small edges on the offensive side of the ball. Both would require careful game planning and near-perfect execution to achieve victory. A turnover at a key moment or a special teams touchdown might be the difference maker here (perhaps I should have looked at special teams).

My head tells me that the Bears are likely the losers in this game, given these numbers. My heart, on the other hand, reminds me that the last time the Bears faced a team that the Football Outsiders stats favored over the Bears, they crushed them 48-14. If you've listened to any podcast, you know how I'm picking...

My Prediction: Baylor 55, Ohio State 52 (OT)

What do you think?