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Ohio State 42, Virginia Tech 24: Buckeye big plays were too big

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Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State 42, Virginia Tech 24

Confused? Visit the Advanced Stats glossary here.

Basics Ohio State Virginia Tech Nat'l Avg
Total Plays 56 69
Close Rate (non-garbage time) 80.8%
Avg Starting FP 26.9 32.1 29.6
Possessions 14 14
Scoring Opportunities*
8 5
Points Per Opportunity 5.25 4.80 4.96
Leverage Rate** 65.2% 74.6% 68.3%
Close S&P*** 0.774 0.543 0.586
* A scoring opportunity occurs when an offense gets a first down inside the opponent's 40 (or scores from outside the 40).
** Leverage Rate = Standard Downs / (Standard Downs + Passing Downs)
*** When using IsoPPP, the S&P formula is (0.8*Success Rate) + (0.2*IsoPPP)
EqPts (what's this?) Ohio State Virginia Tech
Total 52.7 29.2
Rushing 31.4 11.8
Passing 21.2 17.4
Success Rate (what's this?) Ohio State Virginia Tech Nat'l Avg
All (close) 47.8% 41.8% 41.3%
Rushing (close) 46.4% 45.5% 42.9%
Passing (close) 50.0% 36.4% 39.6%
Standard Downs 46.7% 48.8% 46.8%
Passing Downs 50.0% 21.4% 29.5%
IsoPPP (what's this?) Ohio State Virginia Tech Nat'l Avg
All (close) 1.96 1.04 1.28
Rushing (close) 1.92 0.64 1.06
Passing (close) 2.02 1.79 1.53
Standard Downs 2.16 0.93 1.11
Passing Downs 1.61 1.75 1.84
Line Stats Ohio State Virginia Tech Nat'l Avg
Line Yards/Carry (what's this?) 3.70 2.86 2.82
Std. Downs Sack Rt. 0.0% 14.3% 5.8%
Pass. Downs Sack Rt. 0.0% 12.5% 6.5%
Turnovers Ohio State Virginia Tech
Turnovers 3 2
Turnover Points (what's this?) 10.8 4.3
Turnover Margin Virginia Tech +1
Exp. TO Margin Virginia Tech +0.73
TO Luck (Margin vs. Exp. Margin) Virginia Tech +0.27
TO Points Margin Virginia Tech +6.4 points
Situational Ohio State Virginia Tech
Q1 S&P 0.901 0.460
Q2 S&P 0.552 0.716
Q3 S&P 0.835 0.442
Q4 S&P 0.800 0.491
1st Down S&P 0.796 0.525
2nd Down S&P 0.881 0.637
3rd Down S&P 0.679 0.444
Projected Scoring Margin: Ohio State by 17.1
Actual Scoring Margin: Ohio State by 18

Here's some of what I said about this game in this week's Numerical:

Ohio State was without three explosive weapons for this game in Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson, and Corey Smith. The Buckeyes nearly gave up on running Ezekiel Elliott against Virginia Tech's anti-run front before they even started; last year's Playoff hero finished with just 11 carries, two fewer than quarterback Cardale Jones.

They also committed a couple of potentially devastating holding penalties in the first half, turning a third-and-2 into third-and-12 and a second-and-8 into second-and-18. Both drives finished with no points. And efficiency was an ongoing issue: of the nine third downs Ohio State faced, six were passing downs requiring five or more yards.

So they were upset? Did they sneak out of Blacksburg by the skin of their teeth? Nah. They gained 572 yards and won, 42-24.

Against what might be the best defense they face until the postseason, they averaged a patently absurd 10.2 yards per play. They ripped off 10 gains of 20-plus yards, only one fewer than Baylor managed against SMU. (Virginia Tech's defense: slightly better than SMU's.) Cardale Jones averaged 20.7 yards per completion, Elliott averaged 11.1 yards per carry, and in the eight times that Braxton Miller ended up with the ball in his hands (six carries, two catches), he averaged 17.5 yards per touch and scored twice.

I don't want to overstate Ohio State's efficiency issues -- the Buckeyes' success rates were still well above the national average against what should still end up proving to be one hell of a VT defense -- but the big-play numbers are absurd. VT will sacrifice big plays in the name of low success rates, but they just didn't have enough to counter Ohio State's stable of athletes. The "bad" success rates were good, and the big-play numbers were absurd.

Chad Peltier saw the same thing at LGHL.

Ohio State was able to exploit the Hokies man coverage on the edge with multiple Braxton and Michael Thomas catches, and Elliott was untouched at the second level to sprint for his 80 yarder on his first carry.

Also interesting, and which almost certainly factored in to Urban's quarterback decision, according to ESPN's Stats and Information:

Both of Cardale Jones' touchdown passes were on throws of at least 20 yards downfield Monday. Jones has completed 59.2 percent of such passes in his career, 22 percentage points better than J.T. Barrett

Were there any red flags? The second-quarter lull was a little bit alarming; even with all the big-play potential in the world, if you rely on big plays, you're going to fight through some slumps, even if they're just two or three drives long. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech's run efficiency was higher than I thought it would be, and when the Hokies were able to dig out of passing downs situations (a general rarity), they tended to make huge plays in those instances.

It's a damn shame that Michael Brewer got hurt; I was intrigued by the game Scot Loeffler was calling to that point. We'll see what they can do with Brendan Motley for a few weeks.