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Hoegher's 2012 Previews: The Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State: I have to thank you. Not just for the awful season you just went through, though that was fun*. The problem is that the poor season makes it a little harder to hate you. It's like kicking someone when they're down, it just feels wrong somehow (the same thing happened with Michigan over the last few years). It's much more fun to see a successful giant cruise along, and then laugh when they stumble. Duke vs. Lehigh this year, Michigan vs. Appalachian State (see, I'm even throwing you a bone), etc. Schadenfreude is more gratifying that way, and 6-7 squads don't inspire that same fervor.

But then! You had to go hire Urban Meyer, who acted like a stupid jerk meanie** and you all got huffed up about how you were coming back to take over the Big Ten and it was going to be back to the days of the old powers, etc. And all that good, old fashioned hate came rushing back. So thank you :) ***

*with the exception of that one game which we won't acknowledge.

**I actually don't really care about the recruiting thing. That's the way of the game. Still, I don't have to like it if a Wisconsin recruit goes somewhere else.

***I fully acknowledge that Wisconsin has had our down years as well, and I will deserve all the scorn sent my way when we go 7-5 this year.

Consistency, Thy Name is Tressel (Ohio State Performance 2005-2011)

2005-2011 Overall

Figure 1: Ohio State Yearly FBS Rank (2005-2011)

2005-2011 Adj Off, Def

Figure 2: Ohio State Yearly Adj Off, Def Rank (2005-2011)

2005-2011 Win %, Luck

Figure 3: Ohio State Yearly Win % and Luck (2005-2011)

Damn, Sir Sweatervest. You're the opposite of Ron Zook (who still beat you in Ohio Stadium, it should be noted). There's not a lot to say here, to be honest. Ohio State has been a top 10 year-in and year-out (excepting the obvious). The defensive consistency has been very impressive (never ranking worse than 5th 2005-2011), and it's actually one of the easier areas that I think that Ohio State can improve in 2012. Luke Fickell was the defensive coordinator for all those years listed above, and I think a return to that specialization will be very welcome on the Ohio State sideline.

The offense could be better, true (except 2006 WOO TROY SMITH), but when you've got a Top 5 defense consistently, you don't really need much from the arms and legs of your ball handlers. (Nick Saban says hello and also to not look him in the face*). Urban Meyer has something for that anyway [sigh].

*this should be easy, as Nick Saban is 3 feet tall.

Let's Agree to Never Speak of This Again (Ohio State 2011 Season)

2011 Performance

Lost Gator Bowl vs. Florida (17-24)

First things first: Ohio State wasn't that bad in 2011. They weren't the Ohio State of old, but they weren't nearly as bad as you'd think they deserved with a 6-7 record. Primarily, this is because of their fairly difficult schedule (that'll happen when you actually schedule good teams out of conference HINT HINT WISCONSIN). It also helps when you play obscenely well against the two most difficult teams on your schedule (that being Wisconsin and Michigan... sorry Spartans).

On that note, this may be one case where the numbers fall a little short. My numbers have Ohio State with the 46th best offense in 2011. Not good, but not bad and still in the upper half of the FBS. However, that's almost entirely due to two games of awesome performances against the Badgers (ugh) and the Wolverines. Other than that, the Ohio State offense was below average to awful (Bauserman says hey) Here, see for yourself:

2011 Weekly Performance

NOTE: Rel Off in blue, Rel Def in red. A reminder that Rel Off > 1 = good, Rel Off < 1 = bad, Rel Def < 1 = good, Rel Def > 1 = bad.

Take out those games, and Ohio State's Adj Off reverts to (roughly) 0.67 (rk 110th). Yeah, Ohio State still played those games and [sigh] even won one of those. Still, those are pretty clearly some strong outliers, even in the last half of the season (when Braxton Miller took over for the broken down Jeep that was Joe Bauserman*).

*which reminds me. Examine Weeks 3 and 5 (ignore the fact that Nebraska was Week 6) there and view the [obligatory]:

HAHAHAHA

Anyway...

The defense was decent, though regressed toward the end of the season. Moving on!

Return to Normalcy (Ohio State 2012 Preview and Projections)

2012 Projected Performance

2012 Projected Results

NOTE: The numbers below each opponent indicate the projected score differential. Numbers in parentheses are negative (as indicated), other numbers are positive (as indicated)

Avg Opp Rank: 50.0 (Avg Non-Con: 75.0, Avg Conf: 37.5)

Final Record: 9-3 (5-3), Avg MOV: 8.8 pts, Bowl Prediction: [ineligible]

The good thing for Ohio State fans is that with the Tressel Consistency Matrix working the past decade of Buckeye football, one bad year doesn't hurt you too much. The bad thing is that last year still counts the most, so you won't be seeing a Top 10 prediction here (other than that Adj Def, of course).

Obviously, the wrench in this equation (as it was with Illinois) is the new coach. And a good coach at that! I still think Urban Meyer will take a year to really get his team gelling in his system, but he's got plenty of tools. Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde, and Jordan Hall are 3 of the top 4 runners from 2011, and they're all returning. I assumed Braxton Miller kind of sucked at the actual "throwing" part of being a QB, but CFBStats says I'm wrong and I need to stop being bitter about last year's game... ahem.

On the receiving part: I thought y'all were joking when you said that 12 rec 131 yds (Michael Thomas) was a season-like total for a Buckeye receiver, but damn if that's not true. Holy crap, your passing game was awful last year (except for... [sigh]). So that's one area of joy concern, though Devin Smith returns as last year's leading receiver ([sigh]... okay, I'll stop).

The non-conference schedule is probably the biggest thing to help out Urban Meyer as he settles his team into their new roles. Miami (Ohio) was actually better in 2011 than 2010 (according to my numbers, at least) despite going 4-7 in 2011 and winning the MAC in 2010, but they're still not going to be world beaters in 2012. Toledo was definitely a more formidable MAC opponent for the 2011 Ohio State squad to face. California's the best opponent on the non-con slate, but the last time they actually had a football team worth something was 2008. UAB should just be left alone; they're fragile and prone to bursting into tears.

The conference slate is a bit tougher (to say the least). Starting out at Michigan State is a prime opportunity for a first loss, and Nebraska afterward won't be easy either (though hey, that's a predicted win!) Really, it's the ends of the conference schedule (MSU, Neb, Wisc, Mich) that will be the brutal portions, which is kind of unfortunate. But since Ohio State has nothing to play for, that's a little less important (other than THE GAME, obviously). So!

YAY!

Best case for Ohio State: Normally, I take a look at all the projected score differentials in that nice table up there and look at all games within 7 pts as toss-ups. Thus, winning all the toss-ups is best case, losing all the toss-ups is worst case. The toss-ups for Ohio State would be: MichSt, Neb, PennSt, Wisc, and Mich. As it turns out, every projected loss is within those toss-ups. However, I still maintain that the first year of coaching still takes some growing pains, even for Urban Meyer (2005 Florida went 9-3). So while I can see them taking the Michigan game, I see them only winning one between the Michigan State and Wisconsin games, as both are on the road. That's an 11-1 (7-1) record, which would still be nauseating to hear about a good season for Ted to brag about.

BOO!

Worst case for Ohio State: I guess if I were being fair, I'd refuse to put a worst case as losing all the toss-ups. But screw that. In all seriousness, 3 of the 5 toss-ups listed are on the road (two listed as losses), and losing to Michigan wouldn't be terribly surprising (okay, I would be surprised). If Taylor Martinez can learn how to throw and not "throw," that's an issue for Ohio State as well. So we'll assume that Ohio State goes through some growing pains en route to their 2013 season BCS birth for a 7-5 (3-5) record. Uff-da. I wrote that last night, but I change my mind. Ohio State has too much talent to go just 7-5, outside of extraordinary circumstances. Instead, I'll say at worst Ohio State goes 1-4 in those toss-up games (winning against, say... Michigan), for a record of 8-4 (4-4). Sorry for my previous lack of faith.

In conclusion: at least I can take solace that when Urban Meyer leaves in 5 years, Ohio State's going to go in the crapper for a while. After they win 3 BCS Championships, but you take the bad with the good.

Glossary and Explanation of Terms!

For a more thorough explanation, see my primer. Otherwise, the stuff below should be a quick reference guide.

For the purposes of this section, I will refer to Average State University (ASU). ASU scores 25 pts/game on offense, gives up 25 pts/game on defense, and has an Adj Off, Def of 1.00 and 1.00, respectively.

Adj Off - a measure of a team's scoring offense, adjusted for schedule. A team with an Adj Off of 2.00 would be expected to score 50 pts on ASU. A team with an Adj Off of 0.50 would be expected to score 12-13 pts on ASU.

Adj Def - a measure of a team's scoring defense, adjusted for schedule. A team with an Adj Def of 2.00 would be expected to give up 50 pts to ASU. A team with and Adj Def of 0.50 would be expected to hold ASU to 12-13 pts.

Adj Eff - a measure of a team's overall strength, AdjEff = AdjOff/(AdjOff + AdjDef). A perfect rating would be 1.00, a perfectly bad rating would be 0.00, a perfectly average rating would be 0.50. This rating tends to reward teams with good defenses more than good offenses.

Adj Marg - a measure of a team's overall strength, AdjMarg = AdjOff - AdjDef. A good rating would be > 0.00, a bad rating would be < 0.00, a perfectly average rating would be 0.00. This rating tends to reward teams with good offenses more than good defenses.

(NOTE: While I list both Adj Eff and Adj Marg as measures of overall team strength, the "official" rankings are Adj Marg, as I find it tends (usually) to be a slightly better predictor of game results than Adj Eff.)

Opp Rat - the average rating of a team's opponents, as determined by Adj Marg. A relatively difficult schedule will have OppRat > 0.00, a relatively easy schedule will have OppRat < 0.00, a perfectly average schedule will have OppRat = 0.00.

Luck - the difference between a team's expected winning percentage (based on schedule and expected scores) and their actual winning percentage. Luck > 0.00 indicates that a team won more games than they were expected, Luck < 0.00 means that a team won less games than they were expected.

Projected Scores - these are based on a team's Adj Off, Def and their opponent's Adj Off, Def. I won't bore you with the math or reasoning, but suffice to say that expected scores align uniformly with the Adj Marg rankings. The expected score differential is proportional to the Adj Marg differential.

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