I’ve been putting together advanced statistical preview graphics (basically colorized Excel screenshots) for a year (maybe two). I normally post them on my lightly followed twitter and tag other more well-known #okstate twitter personalities for them to RT. Occasionally my graphic previews have been added to the daily update post on PFB, but I was recently asked to write a guest post on PFB going in-depth on the advanced statistics preview. This post is a result of that inquiry however it was never responded to by the PFB staff, so I can assume it was not the quality they were looking for and being as I'm not a writer by any stretch, I can't say I blame them. However, rather than have 2 hours of my time disappear, I decided to fan post it on CRFF.
Most of the advanced statistics I look at come from Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) and Brian Fremeau (@bcfremeau). They’ve put together two systems S&P and FEI that answer a lot of different questions about how a team is doing vs all other FBS teams with an emphasis on opponent-adjusted numbers (schedule difficulty) eliminating plays and drives that are insignificant such as first-half clock kills and end-of-game garbage drives and scores.
I will do my best to explain the statistics as I use them, but if you get lost at any point you can refer to the glossy located here: http://www.footballstudyhall.com/2015/2/9/8001137/college-football-advanced-stats-glossary
The first thing we are going to look at is the Five Factors: efficiency, explosiveness, field position, finishing drives, and turnovers. The more of these factors you win in a game, the much greater the chance of victory you have. Efficiency is defined as a success rate, which means gaining 50% of the yardage to gain on 1st/2nd down and 100% on 3rd/4th down). Explosiveness is measured by how potent or successful your successful plays are when they occur. Field position is the average starting field position for the offense. Finishing drives is how many points scored per trip inside the opponent 40. Finally, turnovers which can be broken down into expected turnovers and turnover luck. Expected turnovers is how many turnovers a team should have based on the number and types of their plays, while turnover luck is an adjustment based on actual turnovers and expected turnovers.
When West Virginia has the ball, they have a clear advantage in explosiveness and success rate, both near the top 30 in FBS. The OSU defense is holding teams to an average success rate but when teams do have successful plays against them, they are often VERY successful (anyone who’s watched any OSU games knows this). OSU has a very strong advantage in opponent starting field position. Teams average starting field position against them is the 22-23 yard line (that’s best in the country in FBS). Sinor does a terrific job as does the kick coverage team. WVU is only averaging 4.5 points per trip inside the 40, while OSU is giving up 5.05, both of these values are pretty bad overall (in the 80-90 range in FBS) so I’ll call this a toss-up.
What about when OSU has the ball? OSU is clearly explosive when successful, but the WVU defense is slightly better than average at limiting the explosiveness of successful plays. I’d give the advantage to OSU here. For success rate, it’s clearly a toss-up. OSU is fairly successful, but the WVU defense is also pretty successful. This should be an area to watch on Saturday. How often is OSU behind the chains and facing 2nd/3rd and long. OSU has a good advantage in field position, starting on nearly the 35 on each possession (7th in FBS); while WVU opponent average starting field position is nearly the 29. WVU is limiting teams to only 3.3 points per trip inside the 40 (that’s 8th in FBS), and while OSU is averaging 5.1 points I think WVU has a decent-sized advantage here.
Both teams are positive in the turnover margin, and surprisingly both teams have nearly the same expected turnover margin. The difference here is OSU defense is out performing their expected margin while WVU is underperforming. OSU will need this trend to continue if they want to win Saturday.
Unadjusted Success Rates
Let’s move on to a couple sets of un-adjusted numbers for each team. There is quite a bit of data here, but I’ll go over what stands out to me and later we’ll look at opponent-adjusted numbers as well. A quick couple of definitions before the graphic however. Standard downs are classified as 1st down, 2nd down and 7 or less, 3rd/4th down and 4 or less. Likewise passing downs are 2nd and 8 or more and 3rd/4th and 5 or more. Line yards are an adjusted number based on yards per rush that attempt to measure the ability of the offensive line. Opportunity rate is the rate the line blocks at least 5 yards for the rusher. Power success rate is the percentage of runs on 3rd/4th down and two yards or less to go, that achieve a first down or touchdown. Stuff rate is the percentage of runs stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage. Sack rate is the percentage of passing plays that result in a sack.
Again, we’ll start when WVU has the ball. The matchups that immediately jump out to me are the passing and passing down success rates of WVU vs the allowed success rates of the OSU D for these categories. This is a big advantage for WVU until they are in a passing down situation at which point it becomes a little more even. However, at that point you have to worry about the big play. OSU’s 2.14 IsoPPP on passing downs while only allowing teams 24.8% success rate essentially means when teams are behind the chains, if they have success it’s often extreme success (chunk plays). If there’s any solace here, it’s that WVU has been below average on having explosive plays on passing downs. WVU is most explosive (compared to average) on standard downs which OSU is better at limiting than on passing downs, but OSU still isn’t great, and quite honestly is terrible (that 1.22 value is 108th in FBS).
Moving on to the OL/DL chart, WVU is good to great in all the categories (Joe Wickline?). The matchups to watch here is can OSU get any sacks of Skyler Howard after getting shut out against Kansas. WVU only allows a sack on about 4% of each pass play. I’m also curious to also see how many plays are stuffed. OSU D gets stuffs on 23% of rushing plays but WVU is good at not allowing stops at or behind the line (only 15% of the time does it happen). WVU has a pretty clear advantage in nearly every category here, but OSU’s ability to limit the run game could help limit that.
When OSU has the ball, the two biggest advantages I see are in explosiveness in passing and on passing downs. WVU D has struggled some in these areas (despite their stellar performance against TTU). I wouldn’t expect much explosiveness from the run game however, OSU’s been terrible at it all season, and WVU is one of the best at limiting explosive run plays. WVU is playing really well against the pass (34.5% opponent success rate, but only average against the run (so there’s success to be had in the run game, just not explosive success). It’s really a mixed bag here on who has the overall advantage however.
I’m incredibly surprised by these WVU D numbers for the OL/DL section. The OSU O is average to terrible in nearly every category but power success rate, the WVU D is nearly worse in every category. Later we’ll see that the havoc rate for WVU is fairly low, and these stats help tell the story. Not getting many stops at or behind the line (stuff rate), allowing success on 3rd/4th and short (power success rate), and not generating sacks (only 3.8% on standard downs and 4.3% on passing downs) yet still performing as well as the WVU defense has tells me that they are very good at what they do, but what they do is all beyond the LOS. This game could hopefully provide some relieve from Mason Rudolph taking hits in the pocket.
Now let’s see how these numbers change once we adjust them for opponents…
Opponent-Adjusted Success Rate+
Doesn’t look as good for OSU, does it? WVU has played some pretty potent teams so far. The average S&P ranking of teams they’ve faced is 43 while average of OSU’s opponents is 63 and that number is bolstered big time by Baylor (#11). WVU’s offense is good to very good in nearly every category and the OSU defense is poor to average. I think the biggest key here will be OSU limiting the big plays and getting off the field on 3rd/4th down. Looking over the WVU defense, again, good to very good numbers across the board, but the OSU offense can at least provide some competition (could this game be a shootout?). OSU makes a living on passing downs which is the worst category for WVU D on these opponent adjusted numbers.
And what if we look at this opponent-adjusted data situationally…
Situational Opponent-Adjusted Success Rate+
This more clearly illustrates the need for OSU defense to get stops early in the game and on early downs, something they have not been good at doing. WVU O has been the best in the 1st and 3rd quarters and on 1st down. Unfortunately, this matches up with OSU’s terrible first quarter defense (nearly last in FBS). WVU’s defense is best on early downs and their effectiveness drops considerably on 3rd down. OSU generally isn’t as good on 1st/2nd down anyway, but that 3rd down offensive rating for OSU is incredible (2nd in FBS). This will definitely be a key to the game on Saturday.
Havoc is the percentage of plays in which a defense either recorded a tackle for loss, forced a fumble, or defensed a pass (intercepted or broken up). PD to INC is the percentage of an opponent's incomplete passes that were either intercepted or broke up.
Again, we’ve seen how good the WVU defense has been playing (both with our eyes and with the opponent adjusted numbers above). I pointed out how surprised I was at their below average values for DL performance and we get a little bit more of a glimpse here. Clearly the WVU secondary is the best group at generating havoc but only intercepting or breaking up 30% of the passes which means they like to play their safeties up for getting stops behind the line. This could provide big plays for OSU’s offense in the secondary if the line can hold up and Mason can get rid of the ball on time (see: http://www.pistolsfiringblog.com/chalk-talk-mason-rudolphs-biggest-weakness/)
The OSU defense is very good at generating havoc, as is referenced by their stuff rate above. The DL leads this group clearly and the DQ interception last week shows they are much more capable than just getting stops behind the LOS. The high PD to INC number for OSU really illustrates their aggressiveness (which we know has caused lots of big plays).
As noted in the five factors section on opponent starting field position, we know that OSU’s punt and kick success rates are tremendous. Zach Sinor has been tremendous and Ben Grogan has also been good. The FG Value (per kick) stat above is based on the distance of a kick and the expected chance of it being made. Missing long kicks is not as harmful to this value as missing short ones. The WVU kicker has missed 3 kicks and is making 75% (100% XP). Grogan has missed 2 and is making 84.6% (97% XP) but there is quite a bit of difference in the value per kick for these two guys. I’d really like to see Barry Sanders take a kick or punt to the house this week, it seems OSU (and the Big 12) is due for some explosive kickoff/punt returns, but they haven’t happened yet. I believe there has only been a single return for a TD so far this year in the Big 12.
What does all this mean? Nothing. These numbers were probably as lopsided as ever for the Ohio State / Penn State game and we know how that turned out. Players must execute and coaches must put the players in a position to succeed. I think there are plenty of things you can take from these numbers however to make watching the game Saturday a little more interesting. I believe Vegas and all the advanced statistical game predictions has WVU by less than a touchdown. I think that’s pretty accurate, but I could certainly see a few wrong bounces going one way or another and WVU blowing out OSU or OSU stealing a victory.
One last thing, there are many more advanced statistics available that were not used in this preview and many that I like to use when looking at games. I hope to be able to incorporate more of them if I do future posts, but the response to this post will determine if there is a future in these types of previews.