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Baseball has sabermetrics. Basketball has KenPom’s efficiency rankings. What does football have?
When it comes to advanced analytics, the game of football has lagged behind the other major American sports. Additionally, the college game trails well behind the more powerful (and better resourced) NFL.
That hasn’t stopped stat wizard Bill Connelly from introducing the college football world to advanced statistics. Athlon Sports brought in the accomplished author and statistician to help our readers become smarter and better football fans and the response has been exciting to say the least.
Connelly provided Athlon Sports’ magazines with a myriad of interesting, illuminating and critical advanced stats for every Big 5 team in the nation. Here are the Big 12’s best.
Baylor defensed (intercepted or broke up) 82 passes in 13 games, the most of any major conference team and fifth in all of FBS. The Bears were also 12th in the nation in tackles for a loss with 99. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett has crafted an aggressive, physical defense that forces mistakes as opponents grow desperate to keep up with the explosive Baylor offense. It worked in 2013.
Iowa State: 6.3
Iowa State’s offense has never been particularly impressive under Paul Rhoads, but the typically salty defense struggled in 2013. Iowa State allowed 6.3 yards per play against Big 12 opponents, worst in the league. Run defense was the primary culprit, but it was bad combination with an offense that averaged just 4.7 yards per play in Big 12 play (ninth).
Kansas wasn’t particularly good at creating scoring opportunities, but the Jayhawks were even worse at converting opportunities into points. They averaged just 3.1 points per trip inside the opponent’s 40 in conference play in 2013. Nobody else averaged under 3.6. Meanwhile, Big 12 opponents averaged 4.6 points per trip inside the 40 against the Jayhawks, ninth in the conference.
Kansas State: 6.9
Kansas State’s offense averaged 6.9 yards per play on first down in 2013, 15th in the country. The first-down run was just effective enough to set up a strong downfield passing game, especially in the second half of the season; the Wildcats averaged at least 16.0 yards per completion in five of their last seven games.
Oklahoma didn’t allow many big plays in 2013, but the Sooners did allow some enormous ones. Oklahoma allowed just 155 plays of 10 or more yards — a respectable 20th in the country — but allowed 14 of 40 or more, tied for 80th. Ten of the 14 came via pass, which certainly isn’t surprising given the conference.
Oklahoma State: 3.3
Oklahoma State allowed just 3.3 points per trip inside its 40-yard line in 2013, fifth in the country. Field goals are failures for an offense — more often than not a sign of a missed opportunity — and the Cowboys held opponents to basically a field goal per trip.
TCU allowed just 4.8 yards per play to Big 12 opponents in 2013, barely behind Oklahoma State (4.75) and Baylor (4.78) for third in the league. The defense has been as successful as the Horned Frogs could have hoped in moving to perhaps the most explosive offensive conference in the country, but the offense, beset with injuries and attrition, has not kept up its end of the bargain.
In 15 games with David Ash as its primary quarterback, Texas has averaged 6.4 yards per play and gone 11–4. Without him, the Longhorns have averaged 4.9 yards per play and gone 6–5. Defensive struggles played a large role in Texas’ fall to 8–5 in 2013, but Ash’s injury troubles were as or more important.
Texas Tech: 4.7
The Red Raider defense did reasonably well in limiting big plays in 2013, but they struggled to stiffen when points were on the line. In Big 12 play, Texas Tech allowed 4.7 points per trip inside the 40, worst in the conference. A few more forced field goals will go a long way.
West Virginia: -5.6
When West Virginia’s offense failed, it failed quickly. The Mountaineers were terribly inefficient on offense and had no return game to help them out. The result: a drastic field position disadvantage. WVU had a minus-5.6 field position margin (average starting field position: 28.7; opponents’ average: 34.3), losing ground on nearly every possession and eventually giving in.