I thought about writing up another "Schedule Surveillance" type post, but I figure that there's really one team of interest left on the schedule and it might make more sense to do a deep-dive on that team instead of spending time discussing Rutgers.
In pursuit of that, I've generated similar (though not identical) mini-box scores to the usual Five Factors (one for the offenses, and one for the defenses), but with slightly more elegant measures from Bill Connelly. The major caveat to this is that Connelly doesn't update his rankings until about mid-week, so Connelly's numbers don't include Ohio State's 55-14 drubbing of Illinois this weekend. I don't think that drubbing will affect these rankings much, but it's probably worth mentioning. In parentheses I've include the national rank (out of 128) of each team for Connelly's measures, to add some context.
I was able to sack-adjust the per play numbers for both sides. One other thing: though I'm not as big a fan of using "Red Zone" numbers, these were the numbers provided by the athletics websites, so I went with those. I've at least converted them into points per trip.
Confused yet? Here are the Offenses:
[For some background on IsoPPP and Success Rates, check this out]
The margins here are razor thin. Both teams have essentially had a wash in terms of turnover luck, though tOSU has turned the ball over twice more. Both teams start with some pretty cushy field position. Both teams finish off drives with a fair amount of precision.
The biggest difference is that while MSU is both explosive and efficient (top 10 in both categories!), tOSU is hyper-efficient and somewhat lackluster in terms of explosiveness. This makes the matchup against the #BreakButDontBend MSU defense a poor one, as we'll see right now:
Not surprisingly, MSU shows up at #1 in terms of efficiency while being a half-step behind in terms of explosiveness. The difference in efficiency is pretty major, and sets up a really interesting battle between tOSU rushing offense versus the MSU rushing defense. I'm excited.
The field position deficit is concerning and can largely be explained by Heck Dorland's post about the punting unit. Mike Sadler and Kevin Cronin both need to have solid days as tOSU ranks in the top 25 in terms of both punt and kick return efficiency per Brian Fremeau. Special teams in general are a major area of concern for me in this game.
Both teams have had a fair amount of turnover luck, but for different reasons. MSU has recovered 12 of 13 opponent fumbles, while tOSU has intercepted 14 of 39 total passes defensed (this is about twice the national average rate). MSU has created more turnover opportunities defensively while also avoiding them a little better offensively.
I don't know if I feel better or worse about this game after looking at these figures. If you had to award each category to a team you'd probably have to go like this: Efficiency: MSU, Explosiveness: MSU, Field Position: tOSU, Finishing Drives: Tie, Turnovers: Tie. That's not very decisive.
I can see a scenario in which MSU romps if there is a moderate turnover disparity and tOSU can't take advantage of the break part of the #BreakButDontBend. I can't see a blowout the other way, though, which is comforting. Also comforting: Ohio State's kicker has only converted 9 of 13 field goals. Though Michael Geiger has been worse, at least there's not a major difference if it comes down to the kicking game.
One thing that's worth noting is that while MSU has played two top-20 opponents in Oregon and Nebraska, tOSU has played none. Does that type of experience against elite competition help? I have no idea. I also have no idea if the bye week helps. Who knows.
Make sure to show up to the game and get as loud as possible, for as long as possible. Home field advantage seems likely to be the difference.
(I'll save my prediction for the normal Friday post).