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Stats Snapshot: The Big 12 through four games in 2020

October 15, 2020
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The Big 12 has started off with a few surprises.  How is each team doing and what are some statistics that stand out when I look at the data?   I tend to keep stats more focused on simple and easy to digest statistics rather than explain an algorithm of advanced calculations.  Let’s dive in.

Yards

To evaluate yardage I use yards per drive.   It skews less than yards per play (plays can be 33x a median play) and it doesn’t let different numbers of plays being run distort it like total yards does.

League Offense

Below we see each team’s average in Power 5 games compared to their opponent’s average allowed in other P5 games. 

  • Baylor is weighted down considerably by their poor outing in Morgantown after 36.5 against KU.   
  • Iowa State is doing better after games against OU and Tech which has helped.   
  • KU is massively struggling after facing two good defenses.
  • KSU is decent but underperforming what their opponents otherwise allow.
  • OU is still productive but has come back down to earth for the first time since 2015.
  • OSU is doing really well but part of that is nearly 50 YPD on starting offense drives vs KU and a couple long runs skewing their WVU average up.
  • TCU and UT are underperforming where their opponents otherwise average.
  • Tech gets generally what their opponents otherwise give up.
  • WVU has a low average but has also faced two strong defenses that they otherwise outperform.

League Defense

On defense the story is a little different.

  • Baylor and OSU have done well defending KU and WVU.
  • KU and Tech have not done well in league play on defense.
  • KSU and ISU have surrendered a higher average than their opponents otherwise average which is surprising.
  • OU is giving up a tiny bit more than the comparison average.
  • Texas and TCU have done well relative to expectations.
  • WVU has done well against OSU and really well against Baylor but since the comparison figure is Kansas it’s hard to tell just how good they are.

About those Upsets and Near-Upsets in Non-Conference

Week one was a bad one for the Big 12 and how did the yards and field position break down here?  The yards per drive for each team is in the colored columns and the transparent sections are the “hidden yards” in average starting position.

  • KU’s three turnovers helped squander a yardage advantage by gifting field position.
  • KSU’s defense couldn’t stop ASU well but the field position and turnovers helped them stay close.  ASU was really dangerous in the air and hit two runs for a combined 83 yards.
  • Even without the two direct non-offensive scores for ULL it’s clear that ISU was losing the field position battle in a game that is otherwise a defensive stalemate.
  • Tech barely eeked out over an HBU team who they struggled massively to stop and lost field position to.  The big edge for them was 5 touchdowns in the red zone for Tech and HBU scoring one touchdown on three tries for a paltry 2.33 per trip.
  • Tulsa against Oklahoma State was heavily influenced by the injury to Spencer Sanders and his immediate backup squandering the next seven possessions.  Illingworth hit a couple huge passes and OSU ripped off a long run on the final three drives that mattered to pull it out.   OSU’s defense absolutely crippled the Tulsa offense.

 

Team Specific Stats

Here we are going to take a quick look at some notable details I see for specific teams.

How is KSU winning despite such high defensive yards surrendered?

Kansas State has been better than expected on offense but the bigger impact has been field position.   It has been a positive equalizer for KSU this season.

One major contributor to this is their victories in the turnover battle, particularly in the OU game and the Arkansas State game where it helped dramatically add hidden yards to the equation.  Being able to consistently generate their own turnovers and hold onto the ball themselves has been very big.

The turnover drive percentages are dramatically in KSU’s favor.   Bill Snyder might not be there but the field position and turnover tenets of “Snyderball” is living on in Manhattan.

The defense has been better for UT.  However is the new offense working in Austin?

It’s working well during a two minute drill comeback but otherwise not well.  When you split out late game rallies in the OU and Tech games out it looks great.  When you look at virtually any other time in the Power 5 games it’s generally struggling.   Against TCU a disproportionate percentage of their offense was three big passes and two long runs.  It obviously still counts but given their issues generating explosive plays in other games it’s not likely to be a trend.

Texas detonated UTEP who was simply outclassed and matched what TCU otherwise gave up but hasn’t been able to hit big shots often against Tech or OU.

What’s been going on with ISU?

Their offense has been better the last two weeks but Tech’s defense isn’t strong and the jury is still out on OU.   The team who won field position won each game so far.

The teams who have been able to move it on them tend to do so in the air and their yards per sack adjusted attempt bears this out.

What have we seen from OU?

For the first time in a long time they aren’t productive running the ball in any consistent manner.  Below is the combined QB and RB non-sack carries with long outlier runs split out.   This year shows OU struggling to get under 4 yards per carry prior to a long outlier or two skewing the average.   Their combined figure is below what OU’s QB & RB run game averaged without outliers last fall.   Part of this is a less mobile QB which makes the defense’s job easier but I don’t think many people expected this steep of a drop.

Defensively they have been poor at preventing big pass plays.   With the exception of UT who hasn’t generated a high percentage of big passing plays in any game except UTEP.  It’s part of the tradeoff for their agressive tactics but they shouldn’t be giving up this many.

What is something that has hurt TCU?

They have lost the explosive play differential in every game.   They have plenty of speed but those have been a killer.

*BONUS* About those SEC defenses...

Notice anything odd for a league that prides itself on defense?   It’s almost like they have tougher schemes to defend now...

 

 

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Tags: Big 12, S11, Football, 2020
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Stats Snapshot: The Big 12 through four games in 2020

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