SvoNotes: Digging A Little Deeper

Six games into the season, some things were coming into focus as far as just what type of team the Buckeyes have in 2013, but some stats were also a bit overlooked. Jeff Svoboda went in search of some of those numbers and came up with a few that might make you look at OSU a bit differently.

In college football, there's what I like to call big stats and small stats.

The big stats aren't that hard to find. There's rushing offense, scoring offense, total defense, etc. – the kinds of numbers you see in newspaper stories, on ESPN, and more.

Then there's other stats that take a little bit more digging to figure out, numbers that provide detail you might not otherwise have about a team.

With Ohio State facing an open week this week, I went out trying to find some of those small stats – numbers that people might not know but illuminate what's really going on with the Buckeye football team.

Truthfully, I didn't find as many as I had hoped, but some of them are kinda cool, so I hope you enjoy. Sourcing for this column comes from the NCAA stat site,, and (sometimes) my own head.

Ohio State is the only team in the country with three players with 160-plus yards in a game. Carlos Hyde ran for 168 yards against Northwestern, a total that matched the output of Jordan Hall vs. California, while Ezekiel Elliott had 162 yards vs. Florida A&M. Not bad, eh?

I can't verify this one 100 percent – the NCAA stat site only shows the top 30 single-game rushers in the nation this year, not illuminating the entire list – but Wisconsin doesn't qualify, and there aren't many other challengers on the list that I could find. So we'll run with it.

What does it mean? It shows the Buckeyes have as good a stable of backs as we thought at the start of the year, and the offensive line is pretty darn good, too. Braxton Miller could top 160 at some point, too, this year.

The Big Ten is the run-heaviest conference in the nation. The percentage of run plays in the Big Ten was highest in the country, with Loop teams running it 58.3 percent of the time through Oct. 6. The SEC was next at 57.5 percent, with the American Athletic Conference last at 50.5. Meanwhile, Big Ten teams had the least completions per game at 18.25, with the SEC next at 18.57.

What does it mean? Well, not a ton, actually, but it is interesting to see how similar the Big Ten and SEC are. Of course, to some, that means the Big Ten is stuck in a bygone era of three yards and a cloud of dust, while the SEC plays physical, pro-style football, but I prefer to think both leagues know that controlling the ground is still the best way to win games.

Ohio State is 53rd in the nation in offensive plays per game at 75.2 (in games involving only FBS teams). There was talk this year OSU would have a more up-tempo offense, and honestly, it does. The Buckeyes go with the "jet" tempo more often this year, and it has been quite effective, but OSU doesn't employ nearly the drag-racing style of someone like Cal.

That has taken a steep dip since Big Ten play started, too. OSU ran 61 plays vs. run-heavy Wisconsin, and Northwestern's ball control offense kept the Buckeyes to 74 plays.

What does it mean? The Buckeyes can go any tempo and still be effective, honestly, but the jet isn't the preferred mode of transportation.

Ohio State is just one of nine teams with a 90-plus-yard pass this season, but the team's deep-ball prowess is overrated. At least in practice. Urban Meyer pointed to the team's confidence in its deep passing game as much stronger than last year, but the big chunks of yards haven't come like they did last year, according to the numbers.

Of those teams with a 90-yard pass, only Central Michigan has no other passes of 50 or more yards at this point. By this time last year, OSU had two game-winning TD passes to Devin Smith of 60 yards or more.

In fact, OSU has six or more passes of 30 yards this year – a total that places eighth in the Big Ten, a full nine plays behind Indiana.

In all, the numbers are pretty similar to this point. Last year, in five games in August/September, OSU had 36 passes of 10-plus yards, 13 of 20-plus, five of 30-plus, and four of 40-plus. This year the numbers read 35, 14, 5 and 4.

What does it mean? Ohio State might be more comfortable going deep this year, but the Buckeyes have shown it just about as much as they did last year.

Ohio State is 32nd in the nation in sacks allowed per game at 1.33. Coming into the season, one of the coaching staff's big concerns was whether Miller would get better at scrambling, as he had one of the worst sack-to-dropback ratios in the nation each of the past two years. That hasn't been a huge problem this year, though.

What does it mean? Kenny Guiton has helped here, too, but Miller was sacked just once vs. Northwestern's solid pass rush. He's getting better at scrambling – not just that, but keeping his eyes open downfield, too.

Ohio State's rushing defense is just one of three in the nation to not allow a 20-yard run. Uh, wow. That's, like, really good, and it gets better. Last year, Adam Muema of San Diego State, Venric Mark of Northwestern and Melvin Gordon each had at least two runs of 50 or more yards. I can give you more stats on each, but trust me – each is among the most explosive backs in the nation. And none of them could even break off a 20-yarder vs. OSU.

All in all, Ohio State is sixth in the nation in rushing defense (86.2 yards allowed per game) and second in the Big Ten even while facing three really good rushing attacks in six games. Bravo, front seven.

What does it mean? Last year's problems against the run are a thing of the past. This front seven is as fundamentally sound as it comes.

Ohio State is in the top third of the nation in both kickoff returns and punt returns. It doesn't feel that way since the Buckeyes haven't busted a big one other than Philly Brown's long return vs. FAMU, but the Buckeyes have been solid in both realms.

OSU has been victimized by touchbacks in the kicking game, but when the Buckeyes do bring it out, they average 23.5 yards per return, 36th in the country through six games – and don't forget how big Dontre Wilson's team-best 51-yard return vs. Buffalo was. The punt numbers are even better, as the 13.5-yard average is 22nd.

What does it mean? The Buckeyes haven't been great in returns, but they haven't struggled as much as it seems, either.

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