Ohio State Vs. Florida, Gator Bowl 2012: Inaccurate Names, Inaccurate Passes

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Running back Chris Rainey #1 of the Florida Gators runs for yardage during a game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 17, 2011 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

The Urban Meyer Bowl will in no way resemble an Urban Meyer product, but with interim coaches and the Eff It Factor in play, this game could -- could -- be surprisingly watchable.

NOTE: Confused? See the quick glossary at the bottom.

Former team versus future team. Players he recruited versus players he will try to mold. The "Urban Meyer Bowl" storyline is a no-brainer for the Gator Bowl between Ohio State and Florida, but for such an obvious storyline the product on the field will probably not in any way feature any of the characteristics we look for from an Urban Meyer team, at least not offensively. Then again, with Ohio State's interim staff in their final game and a new (interim) offensive coordinator calling plays for the Gators, who exactly knows what to expect?

Team Record AP Rank 2011 F/+ Rk 2011 Off.
F/+ Rk
2011 Def.
F/+ Rk
2011 S.T.
F/+ Rk
Ohio State 6-6 NR 32 61 20 15
Florida 6-6 NR 39 72 16 11
Team Pace Rk Covariance Rk MACtion Rk Schizophrenia Rk
Ohio State 109 20 57 19
Florida 118 19 60 33

Fans of offense and points will probably be hoping for quite a bit of the unexpected in this one, as what we know tends to favor a low-scoring battle. Both teams played at an extremely slow pace in 2011, and both tended to play quite a bit worse against teams they couldn't dominate athletically. When they were winning (a relative rarity in 2011), both schools were doing so with defense and special teams. The offenses may have had their moments, but they were few and far between, especially for Florida.

But hey, if you're into that whole defense thing, stay tuned (while keeping one eye on South Carolina-Nebraska and Georgia-Michigan State as well)!

When Ohio State Has The Ball…

Team F/+
Rk
S&P+
Rk
FEI
Rk
Success
Rt+ Rk
PPP+
Rk
Rushing
S&P+ Rk
Passing
S&P+ Rk
Ohio State Offense 61 68 60 97 51 33 107
Florida Defense 16 31 38 27 40 32 39
Team Std. Downs
Run %
S.D.
S&P+ Rk
Pass. Downs
Run %
P.D.
S&P+ Rk
Ohio State Offense 75.5% 66 44.1% 49
Florida Defense 65.4% 31 35.3% 34
National Average 69.1% 30.9%

It is impossible not to get starry eyes thinking about Braxton Miller playing in an Urban Meyer offense. The freshman quarterback from Huber Heights, Ohio, showed serious dual-threat potential, especially in 2011 when he actually began to learn to pass. In a Meyer offense, quite a bit more efficiency will be demanded of him -- he was very much all-or-nothing in 2011, completing just 50 percent of his passes (but averaging 15 yards per completion) -- but watching him carve up Michigan both through the air (14-for-25, 235 yards, two touchdowns) and on the ground (16 carries, 100 yards) was intriguing, to say the least.

Miller's legs are certainly more advanced than his arm at this point, as evidenced by the fact that he gained 868 pre-sack rushing yards despite only starting about half the season. When combined with Boom Herron (590 yards, minus-1.5 Adj. POE), Carlos Hyde (549 yards, plus-5.3 Adj. POE) and Jordan Hall (384 yards, minus-5.4 Adj. POE), Miller and the Buckeyes are going to run the ball until you prove you can stop them. And it is not immediately clear if Florida will be able to consistently stop them. The Gators were very good close to the line of scrimmage (10th in Adj. Line Yards, 60 non-sack tackles for loss), but if you got past the first level, you could sometimes go a long way. Ohio State was woefully inefficient overall in 2011, but they made just enough big plays to reach bowl eligibility; if they avoid players like Jaye Howard and Sharrif Floyd near the line of scrimmage, they could, in theory, make a few more today.

As against the run, the Florida defense on passing downs was rather all-or-nothing. Sophomore safety Matt Elam was the poster boy in this regard: he racked up nine tackles for loss, picked off two passes and broke up seven more, but he and Josh Evans were still prone to getting gashed occasionally. Meanwhile, if end Ronald Powell wasn't making the sack, nobody was. There may be blue-chippers everywhere you look, but they only occasionally resembled it. This is certainly a solid defense, but there are holes to be exploited. And despite Miller's poor efficiency, one figures he could manage to exploit them once or twice.

Miller is certainly adept at extending plays with his legs, and if he can ever connect with someone like Devin Smith or Corey Brown, good things typically happen. The problem is that passes to them usually hit the turf. None of Miller's top four targets managed a catch rate of better than 56 percent; Smith's 41-percent catch rate was worst among all major conference No. 1 targets. He did, however, average 21 yards per catch. And DeVier Posey's return from suspension did help at least a bit -- in two games, Posey caught seven of 12 passes (a 58-percent catch rate) for 124 yards and a touchdown. He takes a bit of the pressure off of both Miller and Smith.

When Florida Has The Ball…

Team F/+
Rk
S&P+
Rk
FEI
Rk
Success
Rt+ Rk
PPP+
Rk
Rushing
S&P+ Rk
Passing
S&P+ Rk
Florida Offense 72 43 90 38 13 19 26
Ohio State Defense 20 27 21 26 19 20 23
Team Std. Downs
Run %
S.D.
S&P+ Rk
Pass. Downs
Run %
P.D.
S&P+ Rk
Florida Offense 66.1% 13 34.4% 80
Ohio State Defense 64.1% 24 31.4% 33
National Average 69.1% 30.9%

If Ohio State can exploit Florida's defense for a couple of big plays, it might be enough to squeeze out a seventh win because, at first glance, Florida won't be able to generate too much more than that against the Buckeyes either. The Gators' statistics above are fascinating. They had one of the largest differences between S&P+ and FEI; as a reminder, S&P+ measures per-play proficiency while FEI measures how well you actually put points on the board. On a per-play basis, Florida was at least competent, ranking in the top 40 of most major categories (with an enormous deficiency on passing downs). But they were one of the worst teams in the country at turning field position into actual points. Drama at the quarterback position didn't help -- the Gators spent the season with either ineffective senior John Brantley or overwhelmed freshmen Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel behind center -- but still, the difference is startling.

Aside from the quarterback position, Florida's major personnel seems to be the one-dimensional nature of most of their skill position players. Chris Rainey (790 rushing yards, minus-0.8 Adj. POE; 350 receiving yards, 8.0 per target) and Jeff Demps (539 rushing yards, plus-15.4 Adj. POE; 165 receiving yards, 9.2 per target) are fascinating open-field backs, but they aren't necessarily adept at running between the tackles. Bigger back Mike Gillislee, meanwhile, has all sorts of between-the-tackles proficiency but hasn't been able to grasp other aspects of the offense (blocking, receiving) consistently enough to see the field. Receivers like Trey Burton and tight end Jordan Reed have solid hands (Burton more than Reed) but little big-play ability, and major deep threat Andre Debose can't run anything but a go route. (Debose easily led the team with 423 receiving yards, but if you can only run one route with any proficiency, you can only be targeted once or twice per game.)

In the end, Florida offense scores when either their defense or special teams set them up well, or when Rainey and Demps break big plays. Ohio State seems relatively well-equipped for stopping these two. More efficient offenses were able to do some damage -- Miami, Penn State and Michigan were all able to average six yards per carry or better -- but Florida's modus operandi does not in any way include the word "efficient." The Buckeyes neither made nor allowed many big plays, but if they were to make a play, it probably came from the line. End John Simon (15 tackles for loss, seven sacks) and tackle Johnathan Hankins (11 tackles for loss, three sacks, Ohio State's No. 3 tackler) spent a lot of time on opponents' side of the line of scrimmage. If they can clog running lanes and disrupt plays before the ball can even get into the hands of Rainey or Demps, Florida's offense will not be much fun to watch.

(Then again, good athletes plus an interim offensive coordinator could mean all sorts of interesting trick plays. We'll see.)

The Verdict

Ohio State by 0.7.

On paper, this game is another complete tossup, but one should always be wary when this many interim coaches are playing primary roles. You both coach and play differently when you have nothing to lose from losing, and the Eff It Factor could be big in this one.

--------------------

A Quick Glossary

Covariance: This tells us whether a team tends to play up or down to their level of competition. A higher ranking means a team was more likely to play well against bad teams while struggling (relatively speaking) against good ones. (So in a way, lower rankings are better.) For more, go here.

F/+ Rankings: The official rankings for the college portion of Football Outsiders. They combine my own S&P+ rankings (based on play-by-play data) with Brian Fremeau's drives-based FEI rankings.

MACtion: This is a look at how closely teams are associated with big-play football (like those high-scoring, mid-week MAC games). Teams that rank high on the MACtion scale play games with a ton of both big plays (gained and allowed) and passing downs. For more, go here.

Pace: This is calculated by going beyond simply who runs the most plays. Teams that pass more are naturally inclined to run more plays (since there are more clock stoppages involved), so what we do here is project how many plays a team would typically be expected to run given their run-pass ratio, then compare their actual plays to expectations. Teams, then, are ranked in order from the most plays above the expected pace, to the least.

Passing Downs: Second-and-7 or more, third-and-5 or more.

PPP: An explosiveness measure derived from determining the point value of every yard line (based on the expected number of points an offense could expect to score from that yard line) and, therefore, every play of a given game.

S&P+: Think of this as an OPS (the "On-Base Plus Slugging" baseball measure) for football. The 'S' stands for success rates, a common Football Outsiders efficiency measure that basically serves as on-base percentage. The 'P' stands for PPP+, an explosiveness measure that stands for EqPts Per Play. The "+" means it has been adjusted for the level of opponent, obviously a key to any good measure in college football. S&P+ is measured for all non-garbage time plays in a given college football game. Plays are counted within the following criteria: when the score is within 28 points in the first quarter, within 24 points in the second quarter, within 21 points in the third quarter, and within 16 points (i.e. two possession) in the fourth quarter. For more about this measure, visit the main S&P+ page at Football Outsiders.

Schizophrenia: This measures how steady a team's performances are throughout the course of a full season. Teams with a higher ranking tend to be extremely unpredictable from week to week. For more, go here.

Standard Downs: First downs, second-and-6 or less, third-and-4 or less.

Success Rate: A common Football Outsiders tool used to measure efficiency by determining whether every play of a given game was successful or not. The terms of success in college football: 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down.

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