Baylor vs. Oklahoma - Statistical Preview

 

It's pretty obvious to the most casual of observers that the Bears have their work cut out for them this weekend when Oklahoma comes to town. Landry Jones's body of work as a quarterback speaks for itself. While Ryan Broyles's injury definitely affects the Sooners' offense, and Dominique Whaley being out as well probabl yhurts too, the Sooners still have plenty of top shelf skill position talent to throw at Baylor in waves - Roy Finch and former Baylor commit Brandon Williams in the backfield, and Kenny Stills, Jaz Reynolds and underrated tight end James Hanna catching passes.

 

Below is a look at what Football Outsiders' Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), Bill Connelly's S&P+ statistics say about how Baylor & Oklahoma have performed to date, and how the two teams' relative strengths and weaknesses will effect the outcome on Saturday night.

Overall FEI S&P+ F/+
Baylor 55 23 55
Oklahoma 5 6 6
Predicted Score Oklahoma 41, Baylor 21 Oklahoma by 15.8

As you can see from the chart above, both FEI and F/+ think that Oklahoma wins comfortably on Saturday night. This probably jives with your thinking about how the game will turn out, it definitely jives with conventional wisdom. I think FEI probably gives both defenses a little too much credit in relation to how many points will be scored by both teams.

Further, the following chart appeared today on the mothership in Bill Connelly's game writeup, showing each team's Adjusted Score margin for every game this season. Adjusted Score is a metric that basically tells you how many points a team would have scored and allowed on a given day, given their performance, if they played a perfectly average FBS opponent. By Adjusted Score, Oklahoma would be 8-1 (their performance against Tech was that woeful, by their standards); Baylor would be 7-2, losses coming in the weeks they played Oklahoma State and last week against Kansas (I apologize for breaking the "Never again will we talk about that Baylor-Kansas game again" rule).

You'll notice further that both teams have had a pretty disappointing downward trend in their performances over the season.

Bayloroklahoma_medium_medium

via cdn1.sbnation.com

Now, let's drill down a little deeper and look at how things should go on either side of the ball. The charts below show each team's respective rank in each category, rather than their raw metric total. For more information on any of the below metrics, go here for F/+, here for FEI, or here for S&P+. All of these numbers are courtesy Football Outsiders.

When Baylor is on Offense:

Baylor Offense Oklahoma Defense
F/+ 55 6
FEI 14 5
First Down Rate 5 5
Available Yards % 5 7
Explosive Drives % 4 52
Methodical Drives % 7 14
Value Drives % 6 13
S&P+ 7 3
Rushing S&P+ 27 4
Passing S&P+ 7 7
Standard Downs S&P+ 9 4
Passing Downs S&P+ 6 11

It doesn't take a genius to know that Baylor's Offense has been really, really good this season, but it isn't exactly as intuitive that Oklahoma's defense has been nearly equally great. You can' t look at yardage and points totals alone to evaluate a Big 12 defense - teams run too many plays, throw the ball too many times, and just generally play at a faster pace than the rest of the country. These metrics pull out all of that noise and equalize things so you can really evaluate a matchup. Here are the two big things about this matchup to me.

  1. Baylor has had a TON of explosive drives this season (drives that average 10+ yards per play) and Oklahoma has had a bit of trouble preventing them. The OU defense is susceptible to the big play. If Baylor has any prayer to win this game, we are going to need Kendall Wright and Tevin Reese to bust off some big gainers downfield in the passing game, and may need Robert Griffin III to break out for a big scramble or two as well.
  2. Oklahoma is incredibly effective stopping the run, and while Baylor's offense has been generally pretty good running the ball this season, we haven't faced a run defense anything like Oklahoma besides Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, and we really struggled to run the ball on them. Part of the reason our offense works is because we don't just run it enough to keep teams honest, we run it well enough to keep teams honest. We need to have moderate success in the running game on Saturday to have any hope of winning.

When Baylor is on Defense:

 

Baylor Defense Oklahoma Offense
F/+ 99 7
FEI 104 15
First Down Rate 113 15
Available Yards % 111 8
Explosive Drives % 115 7
Methodical Drives % 95 74
Value Drives % 108 11
S&P+ 67 11
Rushing S&P+ 58 15
Passing S&P+ 63 22
Standard Downs S&P+ 89 14
Passing Downs S&P+ 41 10

It doesn't take a genius to know that Oklahomas Offense has been really, really good this season, it isn't exactly as intuitive is just as obvious that Baylor's defense has been nearly equally awful...Even when you adjust for the great offenses we've faced, we've just struggled defensively this year. Here are the two big things about this matchup to me.

  1. Remember what I said in the previous paragraph about explosive drives? Well, Oklahoma's been nearly as good at hitting home runs on offense this year as Baylor, but our defense has been horrifically bad in this category. Some suggest we need to blitz more...I don't know that I agree with this, a quarterback like Landry Jones is begging you to blitz so he can throw a post or go route against single coverage and hear Boomer Sooner play. I don't know how we can do it, but if we don't limit Oklahoma's big plays on offense, we're not going to have much of a chance to win this game, and it probably won't be close.
  2. The one thing OU's offense has struggled doing this year is putting together Methodical Drives (drives that last 10 or more plays). You might suggest that's because they get great field position and that they hit big plays on offense, and that's certainly true, but it also suggests that if you can keep them on the field and make them get a bunch of first downs, you're eventually going to put yourself in great position for a stop. We've had a few games this year where the Bears defense was able to get off of the field on 3rd down, but that hasn't been the norm. If we limit big plays and force OU to run a bunch of plays and drive down the field, we at least have a better chance to get a sack or force a turnover.
  3. On that note, our defense has actually been pretty decent this year on Passing Downs (2nd and 8 or more, 3rd or 4th and 5 or more); the main problem has been that we have really, really struggled this year on Standard Downs (everything else). If we can do a bit better tomorrow on 1st and 10, and not allow OU to get in 2nd and 4, 3rd and 2 type situations, our defense actually does a somewhat decent job getting off of the field on third down.
Special Teams
Baylor Oklahoma
Special Teams Efficiency 117 49
Field Position Advantage 93 3

Uhh... yikes. Why we need 3 WR coaches and haven't hired a special teams coach is beyond me, but that's a discussion for another day. Our special teams are historically awful. OU's aren't really that special, but average against awful can look pretty dang good. I guess we can hope that Spencer Roth breaks out of whatever funk he's in (I read too many glowing reports from the coaching staff and comparisons to Sepulveda and Epperson to believe that Roth sucks), and hope that we both a) kickoff the ball in bounds and b) stay in our lanes on kickoffs. Our field position advantage has been terrible primarily because Roth and Ben Parks/Aaron Jones just haven't been able to get any length on their kicks. Our coverage teams have been okay. OU clearly does a great job kicking the ball deep and covering. I'd like it if we run Kendall Wright back there to return punts tomorrow to try and neutralize this advantage.

Overall:

Our offense is great; the other two sides of the ball have really hurt us this year. Maybe we'll have a historical performance to talk about on Monday, but if we do, odds are we're talking about how Oklahoma came to town and laid a country whipping on us.

I hope I'm wrong.

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