A Look at Baylor's Rushing Offense in 2013

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The more I think about it, the more I realize that Baylor is probably going to rely heavily on the ground game in 2013 with our top two rushers from this season coming back and a new quarterback breaking in without a returning star wideout. How does that look with against our 2013 schedule?

For starters, I have very few doubts about Art Briles' ability to get Bryce Petty ready to go for September 7, 2013 against Buffalo in Waco, and the ones I do have are very small. Petty has all the physical tools you need to succeed in Briles' offense and 2013 will be his fourth in the program. He's not Robert Griffin III in 2008 or even Nick Florence in 2009 in terms of experience, even if it he is also probably not RGIII in terms of talent. This is a QB who knows the ins and outs, was reportedly better than Florence at times last spring, and actually brings a different dynamic to our offense than we saw in 2012 from the more sprightly Florence.

Still, with Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, backs who combined for over 1900 yards rushing and 20 TDs in 2012, returning, I don't think it's a stretch at all to suggest that we will run the ball more in 2013 than we did this year. If such a thing were legal in the United States and the option was presented to me, I'd actually bet quite a bit of money that we will. We ran the ball 597 times in 13 games this year, averaging 45 carries per game. That's a healthy number. But as I've mentioned before, that average was trending up considerably toward the end of the season: in Baylor's first seven games, we ran the ball 269 times, an average of 38.43 rushes per game. In our last six, we ran it 328 times. That's 54.67 rushes per game. I think the target for 2013 should and will be much closer to the second number than the first, and we can conservatively estimate 50 rushes per game. Over 13 games, that's 650 rushing attempts, almost a 9% increase from 2012.

With this in mind, and considering I'm one of the early drivers of LacHeisman2013 (or at least, I think of myself as one), I set out today to break down our 2013 schedule in terms of rush defenses by how they performed in 2012. It's obviously not perfect for projecting forward-- nothing really is-- but it should give us a rudimentary look at what we might expect to see next season. As we move forward in the offseason we'll break things down more completely with departing players, probable replacements, and the like, but this should do for now. The furthest number on the right is each team's "Rush S&P+" from FootballOutsiders, a measure that basically attempts to determine how good each team was against the run this season. Here's what I got.

Rush S&P+ Yrds/G Nat'l Rank 2012 Result (if any) Diff
Buffalo 69 155.42 55 Didn't play n/a
SMU 13 117.92 15 220 102.08
ULM 67 142.23 39 169 26.77
WVU 47 159.92 60 119 -40.92
KSU 36 126.85 20 342 215.15
ISU 30 176.85 75 115 -61.85
KU 57 192.58 91 299 106.42
OU 60 192.23 89 252 59.77
TT 55 175.31 74 278 102.69
OSU 28 141.69 37 319 177.31
TCU 9 105.38 10 106 0.62
UT 68 192.15 88 299 106.85
Sum vs. Opp Ave 794.89
Avg. 2012 S&P+ Rank 44.91666667

The "Diff" category was just something I threw in there because I was curious to see how we performed as a whole against our schedule's average rushing total allowed. It doesn't really mean anything for this exercise except that, against teams we will play next season, we gained nearly 800 more yards in 2012 than they gave up on average. That also includes two games, West Virginia and Iowa State, where we gained fewer yards than they typically gave up. So that's somewhat interesting.

The reason I wanted to put this together was to see what kind of defenses we might face next year, and on that note, the news is largely good. Only two teams we played this season, TCU and SMU, had defenses inside the top 20 in average rushing yards given up per game. That stat is backed up by S&P+, which ranked those two teams ninth and thirteenth, respectively. The next-closest team on our schedule in Rush S&P+ was Oklahoma State, and we rushed for 319 yards against them in the second-to-last game of the season.

There's very little rhyme or reason to the statistics as they translate to a game-by-game analysis. Against Iowa State, who ranked 75th against the run in overall stats but 30th in Rush S&P+, we only ran for 115 yards. Against Kansas State, who was 20th and 36th, we ran for 342. Much of the latter is probably due to the fact that we were behind for a lot of that game while in the former, we were ahead, but we also ran for 299 yards against Texas (88th and 68th in 2012) and we trailed in that game, too.

What I see when looking at our 2013 schedule is one that, for the most part, should make Glasco and Lache lick their chops. The only true "elite" team I see on our schedule against the run is TCU, who probably possesses the best defense we'll face next season, period. I don't entirely trust SMU's numbers, either absolute or adjusted, because of their strength of schedule. I know S&P+ is supposed to account for that, but I still don't buy that their defense was that good against the run, generally, or is likely to be that good next year. Call it bias if you want.

Like I said, this is quite the rudimentary way to do things, but I think the point stands: Baylor's offense could be primed for a big year running the football next season in both our offensive objectives (limiting the pressure on Petty, giving carries to Lache and Glasco, moving the ball effectively overall, etc.) and the teams we play. I'm excited to see what our rushing offense can do in 2013, especially against teams like Buffalo and ULM, who we should be able to defeat handily as it is. The counterpoint is that we'll lose quite a bit with Ivory Wade and Cameron Kaufhold graduating, and that's certainly a concern. Bringing back Cyril Richardson and giving another year of experience to Spencer Drango and Troy Baker, however, could offset our losses. It's not like this is the first year where we had issues on the interior, since this was the first year where our interior line actually looked the way it did.

By the way, were you surprised to see that Texas was the worst defense we faced in 2012 among FBS opponents against the run (the only team not represented on this chart from 2012 is Sam Houston State, a FCS school)? Now you know why people in the 40 Acres are so upset with Manny Diaz.

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