Oklahoma State - Behind the Numbers

Like many of you, I have not had the opportunity to watch much Oklahoma State football this season.  So last night, I took some time to review the box scores from their games in detail and looked at the play-by-play from a couple of their games.  I made some observations that I think provide some insight into how Texas Tech should play OSU this weekend.  You can read them after the break.

Observations regarding the OSU offense.

 

There has been a lot of talk about Bryant (WR) and Pettigrew (TE) for the OSU offense.  Looking over the OSU box scores and the play-by-play for the OSU-UM and OSU-UT games, I noticed that OSU runs the ball 2x as often as they pass it.  The OSU running back, Hunter, is putting up crazy numbers (almost 9 yds/carry against Texas).  Not to take away from his ability to make plays, but it seems to me that Bryant is the beneficiary of that productivity on the ground.  While yardage wise, OSU may appear "balanced" they are a running team at heart. 

 

The next thing that I noticed is that OSU seems to rely on big plays by its offense.  And they seem to get plenty of them.  I didn't count, but there were a number of 20+ yard rushes and long receptions.  But for a primarily running team, they are not methodically moving the ball down the field in 3 yards and a cloud of dust style.  When they get their yards, they are getting them in big chunks.  Explosive.  Scary.

The write ups by Texas bloggers all commented on how good a team OSU really is, and that the 4 point win in Austin was extremely hard fought.  I have to admit, I have been skeptical of OSU as a team.  As I mentioned in a response earlier this week, they seem to be streaky to me.  Perhaps that is because they are reliant on the big play offensively.  When they aren't getting them, things start to melt down.  I think that containing the big play - especially against the run - is the key to Tech winning this game.  The battle of the trenches just became about 10x as important for Tech in this game in my eyes.  The play in the Tech interior d-line will be very important, as it will be their job to plug up the gaps, make a few tackles, and allow the linebackers to make plays downhill.  Again this week, containment by the defensive ends will be important, as Robinson is a legitimate running threat (despite fewer carries this year), and I think Hunter would prefer to run in the open field versus between the tackles.  According to dedfischer over at Tortilla Retort, the OSU offensive line is pretty good.  So our defensive line will have their hands full.

As for the OSU passing game, Tech plays its best pass defense in man coverage.  I think that we need to stick to that plan and trust our corners to make plays.  Trying to double up on Bryant with a safety opens Tech up to a breakaway run by a team that thrives on that ability.  I don't think we should concede to their bread and butter.  Make Robinson beat you with his arm in tight coverage.  He doesn't have the accuracy of McCoy and is prone to mistakes.  Pettigrew is a big target and a potential threat across the middle.  We need our linebackers to make good tackles and our defensive ends to keep him busy at the line of scrimmage.

Observations regarding the OSU defense.

I wanted to know how teams performed against OSU versus their average performance.  I have included a table below of the conference games:

 

Pass O vs OSU

Rush O vs OSU

Avg Pass O

Avg Rush O

% gain/(loss) Pass v OSU

% gain/(loss) Rush v OSU

Texas A&M

218

184

110.67

251.6

96.98

(26.87)

Missouri

390

64

358.3

155.78

8.85

(58.92)

Baylor

162

42

196.1

183.33

(17.39)

(77.09)

Texas

391

113

302.1

171.89

29.43

(34.26)

Iowa State

240

122

219.8

132.33

9.19

(7.81)

 

As you can see, with the exception of Baylor, teams are passing notably higher than their average against OSU.  Based on their low number of sacks, it seems that OSU is not getting a lot of pressure from their pass rush.  They appear to be very good against the run, holding teams to significantly less than their average rushing production, though this may be in part due to the effectiveness of the pass against them.  .  They have a number of linebackers and defensive backs with tackles for loss.  Mostly, I think they are doing a good job of sniffing out the run and making sure tackles.  OSU had 7 TFL against Texas, but they were not big losses (only 13 yds), and the Texas rushing game was not totally shut down (3.5 yd/carry) despite not being a running team.  Overall, this plays out well for Tech in that the strength of our offense is playing into the weakness of their defense.  To me, this defense seems built around defending the run.  What will be interesting to see is how they choose to defend the Tech passing game.  Will they bring in extra DBs to cover our receivers, or will they rely on their linebackers for coverage?  I don't know how their personnel will match up to our receivers, but I tend to believe that the best way to stop Tech is to mix in as much man coverage as possible.  We have seen Harrell pick apart the zone all year long, so I expect OSU to go with more of a nickel defense.  This may allow Tech to sneak in a few running plays, but relying too heavily on the run plays into OSU's strength on defense.

Conclusions:

 

If Tech can get a one or two stops early, I expect that OSU will be playing from behind because they have not shown the ability to slow down the passing game.  That will put Tech in pretty good shape.  If Tech doesn't stop the run, this thing could turn into a race to the finish in which the last team with the ball wins.

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