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1/12/15  ||  277 Ohio State Team Total Over 34 (1 unit)

RESULT = WIN

BIG PICTURE

When Oregon’s opponent scores at least 27 points, their overs are 23-3-1 (89%) since 2009.  While obviously the average total on these games is not the lofty number we have in this particular game, when their opponent scores 27+ points, an avg of 79 ppg were scored in these games.  And in non-conference games, the over never lost.

Enter Ohio State, who has scored at least 27 points in 26 of 28 games the past two seasons, and has gone over the total in 12 of their last 13 games (with the only under falling short by 1 point.

KEYS TO SCORING

When you need points, you need a few elements.  You need to get into the red zone, by either skipping 3rd downs or converting them into 1st downs, and you need to convert in the red zone when you get there.

In this matchup, of all the bowl games we’ve seen, this is the strongest matchup in favor of the over when it comes to the red zone matchup.  Ohio State’s 4th ranked offense goes up against the 90th rated Oregon defense, and Oregon’s 9th rated offense goes up against the 68th rated Ohio State defense.  Clearly, this favors points.

Jump to the first key to getting into the red zone, which is 3rd down conversions.  And you have two teams which rank in the top 6 offensively, versus the Ohio State defense which ranked 42nd and the Oregon defense which ranked 102nd.  This is actually the strongest matchup in favor of the over of any game we’ve seen this bowl season.

Finally, its also critical to look at bypassing 3rd down.  Here, we have two top 5 EDSR offenses, with Oregon ranking #1 and Ohio State #5, going up against Ohio State’s 48th rated defense and Oregon’s 81st rated defense.

HISTORICAL COMPARISON

Clearly, we have a matchup of two great offenses.  This game is unlike a National Title game we’ve seen in years.  In the 2012 title, Alabama and LSU had the #1 and #2 red zone defenses.  In 2013, Alabama and Notre Dame ranked #1 and #4 in red zone defense.  Even last year, which featured stepped down defense and saw 65 total points, was not near to this matchup.  Florida State ranked 53rd in red zone offense and 32nd in 3rd down offense.  But they were top 30 in both red zone defense and EDSR defense.  As mentioned earlier, both offenses this year are top 10 in both red zone and 3rd down, and neither defense is close to top 30 in red zone or EDSR.

From a run/pass efficiency, we actually have a matchup here of the #1 and #2 overall offenses, and both are top 5 in run and pass.  Defensively, Ohio State ranks 52nd vs the run and 7th vs the pass, while Oregon ranks 48th vs the run and 31st vs the pass.

Below, I’ve included a comprehensive matrix of run and pass efficiency matchups, as well as red zone matchups, for all of the National Title games the past 10 years.

For all of the rankings, the closer to #1, the better the unit is.  Thus, better ranked units are shaded green.  Worse units are ranked lower, and are shaded red.

A few quick takeaways:

– This is the best matchup of offenses since Texas beat USC 41-38 back in the 2006 Rose Bowl, 10 years ago.
– This is by far the worst matchup of defenses we’ve seen in a National Title game during this span.
– Oregon’s defense is the worst overall run/pass defense we’ve seen the last 10 years.
– Of the last 20 teams to play in a National Title game, we’ve NEVER seen two run defenses this bad, and they rank 19th and 20th in efficiency of the 20 teams to play in title games this span.
– We’ve never seen two red zone defenses this bad in the last 7 years (as far as I took them back).
– We’ve never seen two red zone offenses this good since 2008’s Florida v Oklahoma game, but in that matchup, both teams had top defenses.

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

One of the biggest things to factor into some of these numbers, like red zone efficiency, is that I have not factored in strength of schedule.  So for example, let’s look at Ohio State:

Defensively, they are allowing TDs on 70.3% of red zone trips.  That’s 117th of 128 teams!  They played some terrible red zone offenses this year, but on average, their opponents scored TDs on 61% of their trips into the red zone.  That means Ohio State allowed almost 10% MORE to these teams.  Now they face Oregon, who scores TDs on 67% of its drives.

Offensively, Ohio State scored TDs on 71.7% of red zone trips, which was 13th in the country.  On the season, their opponents allowed just 57% of trips to be converted to TDs.  So Ohio State out-performed their YTD average by over 14%.  Now they face Oregon, who allowed 61% conversions on the season.

You can do the same analysis for Oregon.  They allowed TDs on 61% of red zone drives to teams who averaged 59%.  And Oregon scored TDs on 67% of its drives vs teams who allowed 60% on average.  While not as profound as the numbers with Ohio State, the point remains:

Whether you look offensively or defensively, neither of these teams performed TOWARD AN UNDER.  They allowed a higher rate than their opponents averaged when playing defense, and when on offense, they scored more than their opponents allowed.

Below is a chart showing a comparison of opponent’s offensive efficiency rankings when it comes to red zone, 3rd down, and EDSR offense.  As you can see, neither of these teams have seen an opponent anything like the one they’re about to face.

Especially looking at the last 5 weeks for each team, the average offensive opponent they’ve faced is borderline laffable to what they will face on the other side of the line of scrimmage Monday night:

AFFECT OF “RESET” GAME

By my raw numbers, I have Ohio State graded as the #3 “over” team in FBS and I have Oregon as the #14 “over” team.  We haven’t seen a matchup like this all bowl season.  The closest would be Toledo v Arkansas (where both teams were top 31) or Michigan State v Baylor (where both teams were top 38).  In both of those games, each team scored 40+ points.  And we even stronger over teams in this game.

Usually, in these title games, you have to worry about slow starts and feeling out, in part due to the long layover between their last game and this one.  In the last 7 National Title games, we saw 14 points maximum scored in the first quarter, and 4 of the 7 actually saw 0, 0, 3 and 6 points scored.

But these teams already played in a National Title-like must-win play in game 1 week ago.  The Ohio State game saw 20 first quarter points and 41 by halftime.  The Oregon game saw 11 first quarter points and 31 by halftime.

I’m referring to the games each team played on January 1st as a “Reset” game.  They had their long break, and then reset themselves.  Getting that game out of the way, shaking all that rust out, and then rebooting for 11 days I think is a PERFECT formula for two offenses to hit the ground running on the fast track of this domed stadium.

RECENT RED ZONE STATS

Last week, the Oregon defense went up against the 53rd rated red zone offense of Florida State.  FSU actually ranks 61st in TD % and 53rd in trips into the red zone this year.  So even against poor opposition, they only averaged 4 red zone trips/game, and were 61st in FBS at conversion rate.

Yet in their first 12 possessions vs the Ducks, they punted just 1 time.  That was the 2nd possession of the game.  On 4 of their first 5 possessions, they drove into the Oregon red zone.  They scored just 1 TD.  Despite making it to the ORE 1, 8 and 11, they walked away with only 6 points on those 3 drives.  Before even halftime, FSU already had it’s season average in trips to the red zone (4).  And these weren’t short drives, either.  On average, they started at their own 27 yard line.

As a matter of fact, in FSU’s first 8 possessions, including the 1 punt, they drove into field goal range every single drive.  On average, they made it to the Oregon 13 yard line on those 8 possessions, despite starting on their own 29 yard line (on avg).

Check this graphic for details of FSU’s drives vs Oregon last week, below:

How is this possible?  FSU ranked 53rd in red zone trips/game, and they ranked just 32nd in 3rd down efficiency.  Well, it won’t get much better for Oregon on Monday night.  Ohio State ranked 11th in red zone trips/game and 13th in red zone TD rate.  By my red zone metric, they’re the 4th best red zone team in the country.  In addition, OSU is 4th in 3rd down conversion rate and 5th in EDSR offense.  They are MASSIVELY better than FSU at both getting into the red zone as well as converting when there.

Take a look at what Ohio State did last week.  They faced Alabama, who ranks 5th in red zone defense.  They allowed the 27th fewest trips and when teams did make trips into their red zone, they were the 3rd best team at keeping them out of the end zone.

But in their first 7 possessions vs this vaunted Alabama defense, Ohio State punted just once.  They fumbled on their own 37 and threw an interception on their own 31.  In the other 4 drives where they didn’t turn it over (2x) or punt (1x), they drove from an avg start of their own 23 to an avg finish of the Alabama 2.  They went 2 of 4 in the red zone, and had to settle for 2 FGs (one from the 4 yd line, one from the 5 yd line) vs this stingy #3 red zone percentage defense.  And on their 8th drive of the game, they scored a 47 yard TD.  As I mentioned, OSU is solid in the red zone and Alabama is equally solid on defense.

Here’s Ohio State’s offensive drive chart vs Alabama:

That’s not the case with Oregon’s defense.  We saw what they allowed to a very mid-grade FSU red zone offense.  Oregon’s defense on the season ranked 72nd in TD% and 91st in trips/game.  That’s a FAR CRY from the Alabama defense, and Ohio State punted once in their first 8 drives, taking 5 of the 8 drives inside the Alabama 5 yard line.

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