Ohio State welcomes Penn State to Columbus on Saturday in one of the biggest Big Ten games of the season. While known for an elite pass attack, the Buckeyes defense has become a source of strength.
Let’s look at the Ohio State defense in 2023 based on my opponent adjusted metrics.
- 19th in adjusted success rate
- 1st in adjusted yards per play
Success rate measures the consistency of the defense on a play by play basis. While a few explosive plays will not impact success rate, they can have an outsized impact on yards per play.
One explanation for Ohio State’s discrepancy in success rate and yards per play is based on explosive plays. The Buckeyes have been excellent in not giving up explosive plays.
However, this is the exact opposite of last season with DC Jim Knowles and many of the same players.
- 4th in adjusted success rate
- 49th in adjusted yards per play
For example, Ohio State gave up four touchdown plays of over 68 yards to Michigan.
How can Ohio State go from bleeding explosive plays last season to containing them in 2023? It could be small sample size. Or possibly DC Jim Knowles has changed his defensive scheme.
But a third reason certainly plays a factor: there is a huge random element in explosive plays. I discussed this in a preseason article on Ohio State and in more depth on a recent episode of The Football Analytics Show.
The randomness in explosive plays means that I trust success rate more than yards per play. I am still high on Ohio State’s defense, as they should be a solid top 20, possibly top 10 unit.
Penn State’s offense has had the opposite experience with explosive plays this season:
- 15th in adjusted success rate
- 60th in adjusted yards per play
This discrepancy in the two metrics exists for both passing and rushing.
Coming into the season, Penn State had questions at QB with new starter Drew Allar. A passing success rate of 11th might be too high.
However, the run game didn’t have the same questions, as Penn State featured star sophomore RBs Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen. Singleton has been the most disappointing, as his yards per carry has dropped from 6.8 last season to 4.1 in 2023.
This does not mean Penn State will suddenly start breaking off explosive plays, especially against a talented Ohio State defense. However, it does mean that Penn State’s offense, especially the ground game, is better than it seems.
My model predicts more than 27 points for Penn State. Even with some windy conditions in Columbus, there is value in Penn State over 20.5 points, -105.
Here are 3 other predictions available to members of The Power Rank.
CFB. Alabama will beat Tennessee by 6.5 points at home. I’m glad I didn’t take any Joe Milton Heisman odds, as the Tennessee offense has been a huge disappointment at 35th in my adjusted success rate. However, the defense has been fantastic at 5th.
NFL. Baltimore will beat Detroit by 3.7 points at home. People in southeastern Michigan still can’t believe the Lions are 5-1 and a serious NFC contender. It gets much tougher in Baltimore. After some doubt on the Ravens last week, the markets are back in line with my numbers (Baltimore -3).
NFL. Kansas City will beat the Los Angeles Chargers by 6.4 points at home. In my adjusted passing success rate, the Kansas City offense seems low at 9th. However, the pass defense is almost certainly too high at 3rd.
Smarter sports betting in less than 5 minutes
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