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Baylor ended this season being described as a "darkhorse" for a national championship playoff, if such a thing existed. That was after being 3-4 and seemingly out of bowl contention at one point. Amazing? Yes, and just part of the 2012 ride.
If you will recall the Statistical Preview posts I did this year for the various games-- and I might go back and organize them into their own hub for easier access, since chasing down each one was quite the task-- once we had individual unit data available from FootballOutsiders.com for Baylor's offense and defense, I put them into a spreadsheet for each game. One such spreadsheet, the last in the line for Baylor's game against UCLA in the Holiday Bowl, looked like this:
Has the Ball ...
Has the Ball ...
|2012 F/+ Rk||38 (+7)
||28||2 (+0)||32||92 (+12)
|2012 F/+ Special Teams
|2012 FEI Rk||19 (+4)
||12||1 (+0)||25||99 (+8)||25|
|2012 S&P+ Rk||36 (+3)||32||15 (+0)||44||81 (+6)||23|
|2012||1 (+0)||23||117 (-5)||50|
|2012||3 (+0)||46||115 (+3)||47|
|2012 Ex Rk||9 (-2)||41||112 (+4)||35|
|2012 Me Rk||4 (+5)||60||121 (-2)||37|
|2012 Va Rk||2 (+1)||29||109 (+0)||57|
|2012 Rushing S&P+ Rk||8 (+2)||36||75 (+6)||40|
|2012 Passing S&P+ Rk||17 (-2)||54||81 (+10)||18|
|2012 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk||9 (+0)||61||65 (+11)||23|
|2012 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk||10 (-1)||14||93 (+1)||37|
(this is just an example, it is not intended to mean anything right now)
Though there was a lot of information in each of these posts, I thought presenting everything together in a relatively compact manner made more sense than spreading things apart, as I did earlier in the season. It also made it easier for people who were looking for information to find it in one place. This is how I intend to do things next season now that I have the format down and people seemed to enjoy the concept.
For this post, I've gone back through each week's statistical preview and pulled the relevant data for Baylor only in order to show how we progressed through the season. Much to my chagrin now, the fact that I didn't always do things the same way means that some of the information I wanted isn't available, but more's the pity. I think you'll see from the chart below that Baylor as a whole improved significantly in the latter weeks of the season, though most of that improvement was isolated to the defense since our offense was already so good. Later, when I have a little more time and I'm not on a computer running Excel 2002, I'll update the post with graphs to make it a little more pretty. This should do for now.
|Final 2012||Texas||ISU||KU||OU||KSU||TT||OSU||UCLA||Final 2013|
Each column represents the statistical rankings for our team from the week of the given game, meaning, for example, that when Baylor played Texas this season, our run defense was ranked 101st by S&P+. The next column shows where we were after the Texas game and before we played Iowa State. The last, obviously, is the final rankings of the season after all the games have been played. Rather than paste in a long explanation of each type of metric, I'll say this: if you have a question, please feel free to ask. I'm no expert, but I'll do the best I can. You can also consult FootballOutsiders itself, using the drop-down menus at the top of the page, for their explanations. It's what I would paste over, anyway.
What I think the data shows generally is that the Baylor team that left the field after drubbing UCLA was a far better one than that lost in Austin nearly 3 months prior. Offensively, we were about the same, but defensively, there was no real contest. Every measure above shows tremendous improvement over the course of the season, and that defensive improvement, more than anything else, fueled Baylor's late-season run. And make no mistake about it, there was tremendous room for improvement in the first place. 124 is as low as it gets for FBS football.
Somewhat counter-intuitively, the trough for our offense seems to have been the week of the Iowa State game (the week before, not the week after), despite the fact that we performed relatively well against Texas' defense. Our offensive S&P+ that week of 19 was the lowest of the entire season that I can find, and our passing offense was in a bad place. FEI still loved us, obviously, but it always did. I expect Art Briles and Brian Fremeau (the creator of FEI) to start picking out china patterns and baby names soon if they haven't already. For the defense, the bottom was either that same week or after Iowa State, both of which seem to fit with my recollection. Those were dark times.
Luckily, things got much better by the end of the season, and looking at this chart, it's no mystery why Baylor ended the season on a 4-game winning streak. Our offense, which had always performed at a high level through the season, finished at his highest point yet, running and passing the ball extremely well. Our defense climbed all the way to 85 in FEI and 76 in S&P+, both of which represent huge jumps from earlier in the season. It's no stretch to say that if the season continued, that positive trend would continue. It's not easy to jump basically 30 spots in defensive S&P+ in four games (OU to post-UCLA), but our team did it, and that's extremely impressive. If this improvement carries over into 2013, the pro-Phil Bennett lovebeams emitted from this blog might be the catalyst for First Contact.
It should be the goal of every football team to end the season stronger than you started it, and though the data I have is limited to the Texas week and beyond, I feel comfortable saying we accomplished that goal. Baylor ended 2012 as a team nobody wanted to play, the winner of a probably-biased poll here on ODB about the best team in the Big 12 after the bowls, and with reputable CFB voices calling them a "darkhorse" should a national championship tournament exist. Baylor fans know it, and now so can everybody else.
P.S. Don't you just love seeing all those 1s for offensive FEI? Seriously, the Briles/Fremeau wedding is going to be just lovely.