Let's get right into it... As soon as the College Football Playoff Committee announced the matchup, I went to my handy dandy spreadsheet and made a matchup sheet which as @Jon Tweets Sportspointed out is "good on good." Even though this a study of the OSU v Michigan game, I would like to frame this with what Georgia does on offense to shine a light on what I think might be the difference in the game.
Georgia Offense v Ohio State Defense
Georgia's offense ranks in top 10 several key metrics and top 15 in others. On the flip, the OSU has improved on the defense from 2021, allowing just 19.4 PPG (13th in FBS) and 4.4 (7th) Yards Per play and hold opposing offenses to a 4th best 33.2% success rate. What is interesting to me and what I believe what Maryland and Michigan might have exposed is the Ohio State Pass Defense.
While the Buckeyes are allowing the 5th best passing success rate to opposing offenses, they rank 81st in pass pass faced. This clearly isn't anything they did, but consider that none of their opponents resmebled an efficient passing offense.
@OhioStateFB ranks 19th in pass success rate allowed. But only @UMichFootball and @NDFootball ranked top 30 in Pass Success Rate faced. And no opponents's offense ranked higher than 45th in Pass YPA with 4 opponents ranked 117th or lower and in Pass YPA— Dawg Stats (@DawgStats) December 28, 2022
With that one mind, also consider that in their last two games, Ohio State allowed season high passing EPAs to Maryland and Michigan. (please note that discpencies in the the above chart and this one are because this one is play by play data which I calculate and I filter sacks as pass plays and probably missed some that were penalties - within margin of error)
With that let's watch the game and look at the stats. Ohio State actually had a higher offensive success rate, but very low YPP both running and passing the ball. Clearly you can see how Michigan won handily with the yardage average and the explosiveness. That will be the case when you have 3 TD scoring drives of 2 or fewer plays and hold the Buckeye offense to a 20% success rate and -.244 EPA in the Red Zone. Also note that OSU had 15 plays in redzone on 4 drives and settled for FGs on two of them and turned over on another.
Ohio State Drives the length of the field on a 14 play touchdown scoring drive to take a 7-0 lead. The rest of the game the Buckeyes offense would only have a 43% success rate and .093 EPA which amount to 1/4 of the efficiency of the Michigan offense
Ohio State has dominate the game at this point. In just under 20 minutes of game time, they have 32 offensive snaps to Michigan 16 and despite that with the turnover on downs, they have just 10-3 lead.
Michigan goes three and out, and OSU moves the ball but sputters out on a couple of balls which could have been caught. Then Michigan get it's first big play of the game. On third an 9 curl (?) route to Cornelius Johnson, OSU defender can't make a play and it's a tie game. OSU starts the next drive with two chunk plays to get the ball inside the 30 of Michigan. A false start and back to back incompletions and OSU settle for a FG.
Now Michigan has life and answer with a another TD to Johnson. This one on given up by Martinez with 4 defenders playing the underneath receiver. Ohio State answers with a Bomb to Harrison who was covered fairly well. I wrote about the middle 8 on twitter, and looks like OSU is poised to win that battle and maybe the game. But the next three drives (not counting the kneel down) would total just 53 yards. In the middle of that. Michigan goes on a 75 yard TD drive which had 4th down conversion, some McCarthy runs, and 45 yard TD to... wait for it.. their TIGHT END, Loveland.
The game would effectively be over with Drive 20. Michigan gets the ball with 5+ minutes left in 3rd and take an 11 point lead aided by a DPI on 3rd and 11. Buckeyes get the ball back with 13 minutes left in game and muster a 3 and out and then settle for another FG. Followed by a 75 yard off tackle run by Donovan Edwards. Ohio State mount another redzone drive which ends in a INT. But, watching this game in its entirety, you have have to wonder about the Buckeye toughness. The Defense looked broken in third and despite having the two best offensive players in Stroud and Harrison - they didn't every really mount a threat especially in scoring opportunities.