Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

Part II: Irish/Buckeyes at Scrimmage

Notre Dame and Ohio State didn’t share a common opponent in 2015. We’ve found a handful of like foes to compare and contrast among the two Fiesta Bowl combatants nonetheless.

Part I of our “Closer Look” series examined Ohio State’s offense and its line of scrimmage successes and failures against the three best teams it faced: Michigan State, Michigan, and, since there wasn’t an obvious No. 3 team of strength, we chose the top remaining defense, Penn State.

We likewise examined the Irish defensive front’s success against the three best foes it faced: Clemson, USC, and Stanford.

Part II below flips the script, first looking at the Buckeye’s defensive efforts up front against its three top foes, with Indiana – the nation’s 16th-ranked offense – replacing Penn State in the study.

OSU DEFENSE AGAINST THEIR BEST
The Buckeye’s performance at the line of scrimmage against the offenses of playoff participant Michigan State, 14th-ranked Michigan, and Indiana, owners of the nation’s No. 16 Total Offense. 

“Chunk Gains” are defined by runs of 10+ and passes of 20+ yards while Stuffs equate to sacks, tackles-for-loss, or gains of 0, 1, and 2 yards (that don’t result in a first down).

Oct. 3 at Indiana: 55 rushes for 176 yards with 27 of their whopping 91 snaps resulting in Stuffs by the Ohio State defense.
-- Total Chunk Gains by the Hoosiers (5) = 38p, 21p, 20p, 11r, 79r TD. IU also dented the Buckeyes pass defense for first down gains of 15, 16, and 18 yards.

Nov. 21 Michigan State: 51 rushes for 203 yards with 18 of their 67 snaps ending in Stuffs by the Buckeyes defense.
-- Total Chunk Gains by the Spartans (6) = 36p, 12r, 19r, 14r, 11r, 20r

Nov. 28 Michigan: Rushed for just 57 yards on 25 attempts and suffered 14 Stuffs in its 72 snaps against the Buckeye defense.
-- Total Chunk Gains by the Wolverines (6 all passes) = 20, 22, 24, 21, 39, 20. Michigan’s longest rush on the afternoon was and 8-yard gain.

IRISH OFFENSE AGAINST THEIR BEST
Notre Dame’s performance at the line of scrimmage against the defenses of Clemson (No. 7), USC (No. 70), and Stanford (No. 50).

“Chunk Gains” are defined by runs of 10+ and passes of 20+ yards while Stuffs equate to sacks, tackles-for-loss, or gains of 0, 1, and 2 yards (that don’t result in a first down).

Oct. 3 Clemson: Held to 116 rushing yards on 33 attempts. Clemson registered 17 Stuffs against the Irish offense including 15 combined vs. C.J. Prosise and DeShone Kizer.
-- Total Chunk Gains (12): 20p, 10r, 11r, 16r, 14r, 26r, 23r, 23p, 20p, 33p, 34p, 56p TD.

Oct. 17 USC: Rushed for 214 yards on 35 carries, suffering 14 Stuffs (including 4 sacks) in 60 plays against the Trojans defense.
-- Total Chunk Gains (14): 20p, 12r, 16r, 10r, 12r, 17r, 25r, 26r, 23r, 25r, 31r, 35p, 75p TD, 45 p

Nov. 28 Stanford: Suffered just seven Stuffs in 60 snaps against the Cardinal defense while rushing for a stunning 299 yards on 35 carries.
-- Total Chunk Gains (16): 14r, 43r, 10r, 14r, 10r, 17r, 10r, 10r, 23p, 20p, 22p, 22p, 75p TD, 48r, 62r

A CLOSER LOOK
Clemson ranks as the logical comparison to Ohio State’s 10th-ranked defense, but the Buckeyes faced just one offense ranked among the nation’s top 50 (Indiana), and the Irish attack is far stronger up front than that of the Hoosiers, victims of an incredible 27 Stuffs in a close loss to then No. 1 OSU.

Statistically sound, the Buckeyes lofty defensive ranking is likely equal parts talent, scheme, and hideous offenses faced. Notre Dame’s offense represents the best – across the board – Ohio State will have seen since winning the national championship last season.

Irrespective of the offenses faced, Ohio State held each of its opponents to 28 points or less, with IU’s 27 points in a 34-27 loss easily the most consequential scores. (Maryland put up four touchdowns while yielding 49 to the Buckeyes.)

Notre Dame’s offense was at its best at season’s end, ripping holes through Stanford’s front seven throughout the contest. Though Ohio State possesses more talent at each level of defense than do the Cardinal, the Irish will doubtless have the opportunity to put up four, perhaps five touchdowns as yardage piles up over the course of the contest.

But as noted in our Part 1, Ohio State’s offense will do the same.

That makes red zone success the contest’s likely turning point – matchups on both sides of scrimmage we’ll analyze as the game draws near.

Note: Next in the series, a look at the teams’ top playmakers against the best foes faced.


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