Yesterday we detailed how Clemson’s dynamic passing attack could dominate a struggling Ohio State pass defense.
Ohio State counters with a similarly prolific offense, built instead around a bruising ground game. How have the Buckeyes been so successful running the ball and can Clemson stop them?
Ground and Pound
The Buckeyes run on over 60 percent of their plays, ranking among the top 15 teams in FBS.
Ohio State Rushing This Season
No team has been more efficient on the ground than Ohio State, averaging an FBS-best 7.0 yards per game.
The key to Ohio State’s rushing attack is its ability to gain yards up the middle. The Buckeyes have rushed for 2,432 yards inside the tackles this year, nearly 500 yards more than any other school from a BCS automatic qualifying (AQ) conference entering bowl season.
The offensive line has also been dominant in opening up holes for the Buckeyes, who average 4.5 yards per rush before contact, the highest rate among AQ teams.
Carlos Hyde 4th Quarter Rushing
FBS Ranks This Season
Carlos Hyde leads the OSU rushing game, averaging a Big Ten-high 141 yards per game. He has been one of the nation’s most consistent backs, gaining at least five yards on an FBS-best 61 percent of his carries.
Following the Buckeyes’ tendency to pound the ball up the middle, Hyde has done most of his damage inside the tackles. Hyde is averaging 7.4 yards per rush to that location, and has gone for over 100 yards inside the tackles in three of his last four games.
Hyde is not the only Buckeye who dominates on the ground. Braxton Miller has proven to be among the best dual-threat quarterbacks this season, as one of four FBS players with at least 1,500 pass yards and 1,000 rush yards this season.
Relying on Miller’s rushing skills and decision-making, the Buckeyes have been one of the most effective teams this season using the read option.
Ohio State Read Option This Season
Only three schools have gained more rushing yards on zone-reads than Ohio State, and its average of 7.7 yards per rush is the highest among BCS-AQ schools with at least 100 zone-read rushes this season entering bowl season.
Miller seemed to find his legs during an off week before Ohio State faced Illinois on Nov. 16th. Miller has topped 100 rushing yards in all four games since then, including an average of 75 yards on zone-reads, while averaging more than nine yards per rush.
Clemson will be challenged to stop Ohio State’s punishing rushing attack, despite the fact that it has generally been effective stopping the run, allowing 3.7 yards per rush (fourth-best in ACC).
The Tigers struggled to contain two of the league’s best rushing teams, giving up a combined 571 yards against Syracuse and Georgia Tech. Clemson showed its vulnerability up the middle against those squads, with 304 of those 571 yards coming inside the tackles.
Clemson also was no match for one of the nation’s most read-option-heavy teams in Syracuse. The Orange torched them for 205 yards on 21 zone-read rushes, an average of 9.8 yards per rush.