Classic Study Hall: Florida vs Ohio State (2006)

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 08: Quarterback Troy Smith #10 of the Ohio State Buckeyes is tackled by Jarvis Moss #94 of the Florida Gators during the 2007 Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on January 8, 2007 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Today we move on to the second BCS title game of the "We have play-by-play data for it" era (I need to come up with a better name for that).  The game itself was a massacre, but at least it was a fascinating massacre, and a harbinger of the era that was about to follow.   (And as always, if you have Classic Study Hall requests, pass them along. I got a couple last time and added them to the queue.)

Team Speed Kills, You Know

The "ESSSSS EEEEEE SEEEEE SPEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED" meme has been around as long as the SEC, I believe, but the modern (and most defensible) iteration of it began, really, in early-January 2007.  That was when an SEC team -- one that required a little bit of politicking just to get into the title game -- took on an Ohio State team that had been considered, since the season's first day, the nation's preeminent team ... and absolutely pantsed them.  Ran circles around them.  It was so bad that, the next season, when Ohio State played well for a while and ended up losing to LSU by a respectable margin (14 points on the scoreboard, four EqPts in the box score, and in LSU's backyard, no less) ... it was roundly viewed that they got dominated again ... but really, a lot of that was just hungover perception from this game.  (In my opinion, anyway.)  Rarely in such a big game has one team seemingly had such a speed advantage over another.

But First, A Gripe

What's funniest about this game to me is that, despite the fact that it was the most straight-forward, decisive title victory of any in the last six seasons, the selection process that resulted in this clear, decisive matchup irked me.  We got probably the most apt result we could have gotten, but I was a bit annoyed regardless.

In 2001, 2006 and 2008, politicking and poll manipulation played (or almost played) as much of a role in title game selection.

  • In 2001, quite a few voters, when realizing that Nebraska was still ahead of Colorado (two-loss Colorado, by the way) in the polls, manipulated their vote to bump Nebraska further down.
  • In 2006, after watching No. 2 Michigan barely lose at No. 1 Ohio State (therefore somewhat proving that they were, indeed, the No. 2 team that everybody thought they were), voters dropped Michigan, apparently because they decided they did not want a rematch.
  • In 2008, Mack Brown made an appearance on every single show on television (pretty sure I saw him on Ice Road Truckers, Dr. Phil and Next Iron Chef that week) to stump for Texas over Oklahoma ... and it worked.  The next week, Texas beat a bad Texas A&M team by 40 at home (Oklahoma had beaten them by 38 on the road) while Oklahoma beat a good Oklahoma State team by 20 in Stillwater (Texas had beaten them by four in Austin), and Texas made up ground in the human polls and, therefore, the BCS standings.

Now ... in 2001 and 2008, the ploys did not work.  And in all three seasons, the voters were not necessarily wrong with their intentions.  (That said, there was a bit too much pro-Colorado sentiment for my tastes in 2001 -- there should have been much more pro-Oregon sentiment instead, something Joey Harrington and the Ducks backed up in the Fiesta Bowl.)  But instead of figuring out how to adjust the BCS system, they were gaming the system, ranking teams based on something other than their own interpretations of merit.

Among other things, I was as un-excited about an Ohio State-Michigan rematch as anybody.  But I've also been less-than-enthused about a lot of NCAA Basketball Tournament finals matchups ... as long as the process is as strong as possible, I have to accept the result.  Choosing two of 120 teams to fight for the national title is a very difficult thing, but of course when adjustments were made to the BCS formula, it was in the name of giving pollsters more control. Sigh.  If you don't like the results, you can change the computer formulas you use -- there are a lot of them, ahem -- or add extra rules like "You have to win your conference" or something ... or you could just give more control of the outcome to the piece of the formula that is least honest and most likely to have its own agenda.

Of course, I'm choosing an odd time to complain about this, eh?  The results of the 2006 bowl season more than proved that a) Michigan was indeed not the second-best team in the country and b) Florida had a very, very strong claim to the national title.  So I'll shut up now.  On to the stats.  Answer the poll question if you so choose.

Florida 41, Ohio State 14


UF
tOSU


UF
tOSU
Close % 78.6%

STANDARD DOWNS
Field Position % 61.3%
21.6%

Success Rate 43.9%
36.4%
Leverage % 71.3%
59.5%

PPP 0.42
0.19




S&P 0.854
0.558
TOTAL



EqPts 28.6
3.7

PASSING DOWNS
Close Success Rate 40.0%
28.1%

Success Rate 30.4%
6.7%
Close PPP 0.35
0.13

PPP 0.22
-0.04
Close S&P 0.752
0.409

S&P 0.520
0.028







RUSHING
TURNOVERS
EqPts 14.7
5.9

Number 0
2
Close Success Rate 26.9%
47.1%

Turnover Pts 0.0
9.4
Close PPP 0.35
0.34

Turnover Pts Margin +9.4
-9.4
Close S&P 0.621
0.811




Line Yards/carry 3.08
3.36

Q1 S&P 1.224
0.165




Q2 S&P 0.592
0.680
PASSING
Q3 S&P 0.363
0.231
EqPts 14.0
-2.2

Q4 S&P 0.777
-0.080
Close Success Rate 50.0%
6.7%




Close PPP 0.35
-0.11

1st Down S&P 0.538
0.275
Close S&P 0.852
-0.047

2nd Down S&P 0.890
0.749
SD/PD Sack Rate 0.0 % / 7.1%
22.2%/30.0%

3rd Down S&P 0.861
0.005
Projected Pt. Margin: Florida +34.3 | Actual Pt. Margin: Florida +27

The Power of the Mismatch

This game truly highlighted how much a single mismatch can sway a game in one team's favor, sometimes violently.  Florida couldn't run the ball, they were good-not-great in the air, and Ohio State ran the ball in a reasonably efficient fashion.  A majority of this game's plays unfolded to similar levels of success no matter who was on offense. Oh, but when Ohio State tried to pass...

Including a holding penalty that negated the outcome of the play (an incompletion), Troy Smith dropped to pass 20 times.  Here were the results:

  • Incompletion
  • Sack (-7 yards)
  • Sack (-10 yards)
  • 11-yard completion ... on 2nd-and-25
  • Interception
  • 13-yard completion (plus a 15-yard roughing penalty)
  • Incompletion
  • Incompletion
  • Incompletion
  • Sack (-8 yards and fumble)
  • Incompletion
  • 3-yard completion
  • Holding Penalty
  • 8-yard completion on 1st-and-20
  • Incompletion
  • Incompletion
  • Incompletion
  • Sack (-12 yards)
  • Incompletion
  • Sack (-14 yards)

That's one positive result in 20 plays.  If Florida had been playing the Ohio Wesleyan Battling Bishops, one would expect that they would accidentally give up two good plays.  Supposedly off of his game after battling the banquet bulge, Troy Smith -- Heisman winner Troy Smith -- quickly realized he had no protection from his line, less than no separation from his receivers once Teddy Ginn got hurt (matchups aside, this is also a good example of a single skill position player making an incredible difference in an offense; no way was Ohio State winning this game with or without Ginn, but they were amazingly ineffective without him), and no hope.  I cannot even tell you if Smith played well or poorly -- his other ten men were so completely dominated that he never had a chance.  Throw in a pivotal fourth-and-1 stand by the Gators in the second quarter, and this game was a laugher by halftime.  Florida only led by 20 because of Ginn's kick return touchdown (and celebration injury) to start the game, and you couldn't even say something like "Well, Ohio State was flat ... they've still got a chance if they execute better."  The Buckeyes were so completely dominated that I'm pretty sure about 90% of the country turned the game off at the half.  (And if they didn't, then tOSU's hopeless three-and-out to start the second half likely sealed the deal.)

Targets and Catches

Ohio State
Targets Catches Catch% Target% Rec. Yds. Yds. Per Target
Anthony Gonzalez (WR)
7
2
28.6%
50.0%
11
1.6
Brian Robiskie (WR)
3
0
0.0%
21.4%
0
0.0
Brian Hartline (WR)
2
1
50.0%
14.3%
13
6.5
A. Pittman (RB)
1
1
100.0%
7.1%
11
11.0
Ted Ginn, Jr. (WR)
1
0
0.0%
7.1%
0
0.0
TOTAL 14
4
28.6%
100.0%
35
2.5
TOTAL (WR) 13
3
23.1%
92.9%
24
1.8
TOTAL (RB) 1
1
100.0%
7.1%
11
11.0
TOTAL (TE) 0
0
N/A
N/A 0
N/A

Without Ginn (who attempted one play after his injury to no avail), this unit quickly turned into a group of possession receivers who could not get separation from a Florida secondary that had gone from extreme weakness to extreme strength in just one calendar year.  (It's amazing how quickly ridiculous athletes with four- and five-star ratings can turn things around, eh?)

Florida Targets Catches Catch% Target% Rec. Yds. Yds. Per Target
Percy Harvin (WR)
10
9
90.0%
27.0%
60
6.0
Jemalle Cornelius (WR)
7
5
71.4%
18.9%
50
7.1
Dallas Baker (WR)
6
4
66.7%
16.2%
23
3.8
Cornelius Ingram (TE)
5
4
80.0%
13.5%
58
11.6
Andre Caldwell (WR)
5
2
40.0%
13.5%
6
1.2
Billy Latsko (FB)
4
2
50.0%
10.8%
17
4.3
TOTAL 37
26
70.3%
100.0%
214
5.8
TOTAL (WR) 28
20
71.4%
75.7%
139
5.0
TOTAL (RB) 4
2
50.0%
10.8%
17
4.3
TOTAL (TE) 5
4
80.0%
13.5%
58
11.6

With the running game rather ineffective, Florida utilized quick passes to Percy Harvin to move the chains.  Florida was more than happy to use the passing game for efficiency rather than explosiveness -- you can play it safe when your defense has built you a comfortable lead.

Other Tidbits

  • As a whole, an average leverage rate falls somewhere in the 68-72% range.  Florida stayed on schedule an average amount of time -- a solid accomplishment against what really was a strong Ohio State defense -- but Ohio State's leverage rate was rather dreadful.  Considering you start every possession with a standard down (1st-and-10) it is difficult to fall under 60% -- especially with the Heisman winner on your side -- but the Buckeyes found a way.  In the first half, the Buckeyes ran five times for 35 yards on first downs; but four first-down passes resulted in three total yards and a turnover, and once Ohio State was in a passing down, the drive was over.
  • Ohio State's 0.028 Passing Downs S&P was bad enough; their -0.129 Passing Downs S&P on pass attempts was the single worst passing downs passing performance of the season for a major conference team.  Only passing powerhouses Air Force (-0.335 vs San Diego State), Navy (-0.274 vs Air Force), Idaho (-0.246 vs Oregon State) and North Texas (-0.166 vs Florida Atlantic) had worse performances in 2006.
  • On a similar note, Ohio State's 3rd Down S&P of 0.005 was the sixth-worst performance of the season from a BCS team.  Their 3rd Down Passing S&P of -0.264?  Also sixth-worst.
  • While they justifiably turned conservative later on, Florida's Q1 S&P of 1.224 was easily the highest of the season against the Buckeyes.  Only Michigan (0.960) and Cincinnati (0.855) managed above 0.700 against tOSU in the first quarter that season.  One gets the impression that Florida possibly had a few more tricks up their sleeve if they needed them ... and they didn't need them.

Summary

This was a dominant performance, is the general gist of what I'm saying, ahem.

Got to love the attempts at drama in the video below.  Extracting a dramatic sense from this whooping must have taken some work.

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