Thursday, December 07, 2006

Is the media framing this game wrong?

The “consensus” among college football fans and pundits seems to be that Ohio State is the favorite in the BCS Title Game because of their dominant offense. Whether this acclaim is deserved or not, what has really concerned this observer in breaking down the statistics on the Ohio State – Florida match-up has been the relatively overlooked aspect of the Buckeye team – their defense.

Statistically speaking, Ohio State has a very stingy defense to go along with their prolific offense. Their scoring defense ranks 2nd in the nation at 10.4 points per game. Florida, by contrast, is 6th, at a very respectable 13.5 points per game.

Personally, I do not think the scoring defense or scoring offense stats are the most accurate representations of either unit, as they include points by any means – turnovers for scores and special team scores. Certainly, they are very telling of the team performance as a whole, but I believe total offense and defense stats (yards per game) better represent the efforts of the units on either side of the ball.

In the Total Defense (yards per game) category, Ohio State still ranks very well, at 13th in the nation with an average of 273 yards surrendered. In this statistic, Florida is slightly better, ranked 10th, surrendering 268.8 yards per game on average.

Statistically, two top defenses will face off on January 8th.

How accurate are those total defensive statistics? If, for instance, one of both teams has not been playing very good offenses, could the statistics be misleading?

I was surprised to find out that neither team has played a top 10 offense this year. In fact, the best offense either team played was Florida’s game against LSU, who ranks 18th nationally.

Florida has played 6 top 50 offenses. They are (team, average yards on offense, yards against Florida, difference) –

LSU 404 318 -86
South Carolina 385 410 +25
Arkansas 379 311 -68
Tennessee 374 220 -154
UCF 373 153 -220
Kentucky 373 249 -124

On the whole, Florida has held the top offenses it played to far less yardage than their yearly average.

Ohio State has played 5 top 50 offenses. They are (team, average yards on offense, yards against OSU, difference) –

Texas 393 326 -67
Northern Illinois 389 343 -46
Iowa 385 336 -49
Michigan 375 397 +22
Michigan State 357 198 -159

I know you can spot the trend, but on average, Florida has held quality offenses to 104.5 less yards per game than their average, while Ohio State has held quality offenses to 59.8 less yards on average.

Obviously, the UCF game inflates these stats in Florida’s favor. Northern Illinois, too, is a team that can’t be said to be “playing on the same level” as Ohio State. If you remove both from the stats, you get the following –

Florida – 81.4 yards less on average
Ohio State – 63.3 yards less on average

So, both teams field pretty good defenses, though Florida has played slightly better offenses than Ohio State, with marginally better results.

But here is the real shocker – both teams will be playing their best offense of the year in the other team!

Up to this point, Florida’s best offense faced was 18th ranked LSU who averaged 404 yards per game. Ohio State ranks 15th, at 410 yards per game.

The Buckeyes best offensive opponent has been 22nd ranked Texas, at 393 yards per game. Florida, ranked 21st, averages 398 yards per game.

Interestingly, both teams had perhaps their best defensive scoring games against these top ranked offenses, with Florida holding LSU to 10 points, and Ohio State holding Texas to 7.

Both teams also had poor defensive games that ended very closely. Florida gave up more yards than average to South Carolina, as did Ohio State to Michigan.

Conclusion

These teams are far closer statistically than many in the media, or many Buckeye fans, want to believe.

However, most observers of this game seem to be missing the point. The story here isn’t simply a sterling Buckeye offense against a rock solid Florida offense, as is being so simply portrayed.

The story is also the Gators are the best offense Ohio State has faced this year.

And while Ohio State is not the best defense the Gators have faced (LSU and Georgia rank better), they are among the best.

It is not particularly surprising that the media might be missing at least half the story here – they usually do. That is why so many national championship games end differently than the prewritten script.

Just ask Ohio State, and Miami, about 2002.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

You just wrote a bunch of BS!!!!

Anonymous said...

Ohio State will destroy Florida, and I for one will be one happy camper.

Ron Zook
Head Coach University of Illinois

Henry Gomez said...

Ron,

Thank you for your vote in the final coaches poll.

That and the players you recruited for us.

Anonymous said...

Top FIFTY? "QUALITY offences?" How about including won-loss records for these "top fifty" powerhouses? Who are you kidding?
--bjk.

Henry Gomez said...

The post speaks for itself. If you can't read, then that's your problem jack.