USC-Ohio State: Advanced Statistics Tell a Different Story

Jon EllsworthContributor ISeptember 19, 2009

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 13:  Joe McKnight #4 of the Southern California Trojans looks for running room while playing the Ohio State Buckeyes on September 13, 2009 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. USC won the game 18-15. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

I ran some statistics on the USC/Ohio State game—I know, it is a bit compulsive, but its how I roll.  Many Trojans fans had a bad taste in their mouth after the game, including myself.  For me, I look at each game as a predictor of performance in future games.  I try to find weaknesses and strengths and analyze how USC will match up next week.  So get your thinking caps on:

USC—5 three-and-outs (counting the safety)

OSU—4 three-and-outs

*Both with 11 drives

USC—72 plays + three penalties accepted against

OSU—54 plays + four penalties accepted against

USC—4.3 yards per play (2008—5.6 yards/play)

OSU—4.9 yards per play (2008—3.2 yards/play)

I think a huge part of the bad taste in my mouth comes from the inconsistency of USC.  Ohio State outperformed USC on yardage statistics, though only marginally, up until the final drive.  USC made less yards with more chances.

Some Football Statistics

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Counting the success of individual plays in context of downs and distance (from "The Hidden Game of Football")

An Explanation: Counting Single-Play "Wins"

1st down 'win'= gaining 40 percent of needed yardage (usually four yards)

2nd down 'win'= gaining 60 percent of remaining yardage

3rd down 'win'= gaining the 1st down

4th down 'win'= gaining the 1st down

USC—41 percent total 'win' plays

50 percent wins in the first half

31 percent wins in the second half, all but two wins coming on the final drive (eight 'wins' on the final drive + one win on the two-point conversion).

OSU—34 percent total 'win' plays

43 percent in the first half

27 percent in the second half

These 'wins' statistics may seem irrelevant, but they serve as a predictor of each teams' ability to get the yardage they need.  In the first half, both Ohio State and USC were efficient at gaining needed yardage.  The second half had both teams struggling to gain needed yardage, with Ohio State struggling more, which did them in.

One conclusion that we can draw is that USC's defense won the game in the second half.


Six plays of 20+ yards (two on final drive)

11 plays of 10+ yards (three on final drive—including 20+ gains)


Five plays of 20+ yards

Nine plays of 10+ yards

We can see just how pivotal the final drive was for USC.  Without it, USC is outperformed in every way.

Needless to say, USC fans can look at these and other stats and feel uneasy about USC's season.  The offense did not perform anywhere near last year's output and the defense allowed a number of explosive plays.

What is most unnerving is the idea that with one or two more successful plays from Ohio State, everything turns on USC and the Trojans lose.