Baylor vs. TCU Stats Preview

"Great job on last week's stats preview, jerk! Lolz" -- Gary Patterson, probably. - Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

One week after the worst performance in Stats Preview history, we're back to look at Baylor vs. TCU.

Getting right to it -- I would be remiss if I didn't mention the abject, utter failure that was last week's Oklahoma State Stats Preview in terms of predicting the outcome of the game.  Why that failure happened isn't hard to understand: the season-long metrics upon which I've come to rely for these posts show only what has happened up to the point of their latest update, not necessarily what will happen.  Relying on them to project forward is inherently and necessarily risky, if only because the statistics themselves lack important, sometimes game-changing, context.  They do not, for example, account for upward or downward trends.  Injuries, particularly very recent ones, are also basically impossible to account for statistically.  What we saw on Saturday was a team that the metrics said had been better get beat by one that, for a variety of reasons, is better now.

Because I am not a scout, a coach, or an expert on the sport, I use these posts as the best way I know of to approach the game.  Last week's results haven't shaken my confidence in the overall propriety of that endeavor.  I will, however, attempt at least to take better measure of the role injuries/effectiveness/scheme might play while projecting forward.  If the numbers lack context, the least I can do is attempt to provide it.

A Few Notes:

If you're a TCU fan or someone who hasn't seen my stats posts before, I already know the labels in the EDGE column are totally arbitrary.  Here's what the labels mean:
EVEN = 10 or fewer ranking spots difference
Lowercase = 40 or fewer ranking spots difference
UPPERCASE = 40 or more ranking spots difference.

2013 FootballOutsiders Metrics for the Baylor Bears vs. the TCU Horned Frogs.  If you want to compare Baylor's numbers below to those from last week, hit the link above to the Oklahoma State Stats Preview.

Overall:

Category

Baylor (9-1)

TCU  (4-7)

EDGE

Overall F/+ Rk 4 (36.0%)
56 (3.0%)
BAYLOR
Overall FEI Rk 9 (.235)
55 (.026)
BAYLOR
Overall S&P+ Rk 3 (283.2)
52 (211.8)
BAYLOR
Field Position Advantage 20 (.538) 92 (.476) BAYLOR

Baylor's loss in Stillwater cost us quite a bit in terms of the advanced rankings.  We moved down in overall F/+ from 2nd to 4th, in FEI from 6th to 9th, and in S&P+ from 2nd to 3rd.  TCU is comfortably in the fifties in all three.  The biggest hit taken by the Bears took place on the defense, where we fell from 9th F/+ to 16th.

Looking at the individual units:
1. Baylor O (22.7%)
2. TCU D (13.4%)
3. Baylor D (12.9%)
4. Baylor ST (.4%)
5. TCU ST (-.1%)
6. TCU O (-10.2%)

Finally some good news for Baylor!  Our Special Teams, horrid for most of the season, jumped all the way to 56th in the country in F/+.  TCU's defense, the strength of their team, barely edged out a Baylor unit hard-hit by the loss of MLB Bryce Hager for second in the overall unit rankings for this game.

When Baylor Has the Ball:

Category

Baylor Off

TCU Def

EDGE

Offensive/Defensive FEI Rk
11 (.521)
14 (-.460)
EVEN
Raw OE/DE
2 (.905)
13 (-.435)
Baylor
First Down Rate
1 (.844)
22 (.609)
Baylor
Available Yards Rate
2 (.662)
15 (.361)
Baylor
Explosive Drives
1 (.339)
47 (.109)
BAYLOR
Methodical Drives 101 (.110)
11 (.094)
TCU
Value Drives
5 (.581)
19 (.295)
Baylor
Offensive/Defensive S&P+
2 (151.9) 17 (125.6)
Baylor
Play Efficiency
2 (148.4)
10 (122.3) EVEN
Std. Downs S&P+ Rk.
2 (140.0)
8 (129.3) EVEN
Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 1 (177.3) 29 (114.8) Baylor
Rushing S&P+ Rk 10 (127.2) 20 (120.6) EVEN
Passing S&P+ Rk 1 (179.7)
16 (122.7) Baylor
Drive Efficiency 2 (155.5)
21 (128.9) Baylor
Difference in Net Points
2 (1.88)
57 (-.59) BAYLOR

I'll kick this off by saying that if you were upset by our offensive performance last week against OSU, there is at least some cause of concern here against TCU.  The Horned Frogs have a defense that is ranked similarly in some respects to that of the Cowboys and actually better in others.  They are particularly good on standard downs because of a strong rush defense, but they are also quite good on passing downs.  If you believe that what we saw in Stillwater was the new norm for Baylor's depleted offense against a team with fast linebackers and a good secondary, you're probably pretty upset right now.  TCU has both of those things, too, and runs a 4-2-5 defense known to give us problems in the past.  Given the statistical profiles of the two teams and what we know of their tendencies, particularly on Baylor's side, it seems extremely reasonable to say that if Baylor has offensive success, it will likely have to come through big plays.  Should TCU stop those, we might have a serious, serious problem.

Other than the stats themselves showing that Baylor has several offensive advantages, there's not much I can give you by way of support on this side of the ball.  The numbers say ours is still the best passing offense in the country and quite capable of putting up both yards and points.  Our relative weakness -- the running game -- is better than all but 9 other teams in the country.  At this point, however, we have to answer one extremely important question: How much of these numbers were earned when Baylor was at full strength versus where we are now?  That's something I just don't know.  It's entirely reasonable to say, I think, that Baylor's offense isn't as good now as it once was.  It is similarly reasonable to say that it's probably not as bad as it looked last week.  Should Lache Seastrunk rejoin the team in Fort Worth this week, that will do a great deal to help a rushing attack that sputtered in Stillwater.  With another week of practice and his first start under his belt, Pat Colbert is probably better in pass protection than he was a week ago.  If we trust Art Briles for anything, it should be to make the necessary adjustments to get the offense going.

Still, even if Lache plays, the absence of dominant players like Tevin Reese, Spencer Drango, and Glasco Martin has to have some effect.  The first two, in particular, contributed positively to the areas -- explosive plays, passing downs, passing offense -- where we appear to have the edge over TCU.  Because of that, I'm willing to call this entire side of the ball basically EVEN at this point.  TCU's defense is really good and has had a week to prepare.  They'll be ready.

When TCU Has the Ball:

Category

Baylor Def

TCU Off

EDGE

Offensive/Defensive FEI Rk
22 (-.370)
105 (-.368)
BAYLOR
Raw OE/DE
23 (-.332)
84 (-.179)
BAYLOR
First Down Rate
9 (.569)
68 (.670)
BAYLOR
Available Yards Rate
21 (.375)
86 (.420)
BAYLOR
Explosive Drives
59 (.119)
62 (.123)
EVEN
Methodical Drives 20 (.110)
109 (.094)
BAYLOR
Value Drives
24 (.301)
80 (.348)
BAYLOR
Offensive/Defensive S&P+
12 (125.6) 100 (86.2)
BAYLOR
Play Efficiency
23 (115.4)
95 (90.7) BAYLOR
Std. Downs S&P+ Rk.
28 (113.6)
91 (94.0) BAYLOR
Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 20 (121.5) 96 (86.6) BAYLOR
Rushing S&P+ Rk 15 (121.8) 111 (84.5) BAYLOR
Passing S&P+ Rk 44 (107.5)
75 (95.4) Baylor
Drive Efficiency 9 (147.0)
97 (83.7) BAYLOR
Difference in Net Points
2 (-2.25)
83 (-.60) BAYLOR

There's so much BAYLOR on this chart, I'll have to check to see if it isn't the most one-sided chart for us this season.  TCU's offense is, to be charitable, not at all good.  They are especially bad at running the ball.  That they are slightly better at passing, an area in which our defense took a pretty significant hit at the hands of Oklahoma State, worries me somewhat.  The news that we are moving Ahmad Dixon back to safety makes me feel better.

On that note, if Briles hadn't announced that we were going to make that switch back, I'd use this chart to argue strenuously that we should.  We made that series of moves (Dixon to NB, Sam Holl to OLB, Eddie Lackey to MLB) out of the concern for stopping the run and the apparent belief that Eddie Lackey > Aiavion Edwards in that regard.  Because TCU has been absolutely terrible running the ball to date, I don't think that same concern should be there.  Couple that with the fact that we just got burned through the air by Clint Chelf and I'd say that our secondary needs all the help it can possibly get.  So give Edwards the chance at MLB, Coach Bennett, and your beleaguered secondary the playmaker it so sorely needs.  Before Saturday, there wasn't really any reason to believe Chelf could do what he did and beat you himself.  Despite his recent struggles, there is with Casey Pachall.  You've seen it.

Given what we can see here and the success Texas Tech and Oklahoma State have throwing the ball in consecutive weeks against our defense, I fully expect that TCU will do their best to repeat that effort.  Sure, there are enormous schematic differences between the Air Raid and whatever you call what TCU does, but it just makes too much sense not to happen.  Even with their defense playing well, TCU has to score points.  Their best opportunity to do so, it seems, will come through the air.  Baylor has proven ourselves susceptible to the big play in recent weeks, and TCU has several players capable of hitting us there.

Special Teams:

Category

Baylor

TCU

EDGE

F/+ Special Teams
56
73
Baylor???
Special Teams Efficiency
56 (.317)
73 (-.091)
Baylor.
Field Goal Efficiency
80 (-.023)
17 (.497)
----
Punt Return Efficiency
88 (-.143)
86 (-.133)
----
Kickoff Return Efficiency
31 (-.051)
53 (-.119)
----
Punt Efficiency
45 (-.113)
89 (.005)
----
Kickoff Efficiency
61 (-.151)
92 (-.075)
----
Opponent Field Goal Efficiency
14 (-.398)
91 (.323)
----

So TCU is great at kicking field goals, as expected when you have a guy named Jaden Oberkrom doing it, and fairly terrible at almost everything to do with punts and kickoffs.  That they are so bad, apparently, in their coverage on those plays could open up big opportunities for Levi Norwood and the combination of Corey Coleman/Clay Fuller.  That's something to watch.

Speaking of Mr. Coleman, his ascension in the ranks of our kick returners coincides very neatly with a vast improvement in that area.  We've also gotten better at covering punts, though we're not very good at covering kicks.  I have no idea why that is.

Our ability to somehow stop opponents from kicking field goals versus THE OBERKROM = immovable object versus the unstoppable force? We'll see.

The Bottom Line:

Baylor is a low double-digit favorite in this game because nobody knows where Baylor's offense is after all of the injuries or what to expect from it against a good TCU defense.  We should be able to keep TCU's moribund offense from scoring, for the most part, but they could have success against us the same way.  That leads to a relatively low spread for a game involving a 9-1 team against one that won't be bowling, before you even add in the fact that we're playing at TCU, it should be a decent crowd, and we just lost an awful game in Stillwater.

Overall, Baylor has significant advantages here that can't be discounted, particularly when TCU has the ball.  TCU will need to work the Oklahoma State formula to perfection -- that means getting, and taking advantage of, lots of turnovers-- as well as another slow start from the Baylor offense to win this game.  Unlike the Cowboys, TCU doesn't appear to be trending in the right direction for me to be worried significantly about that, but I've been wrong quite recently, and prominently, in these posts.

Additional Notes:

Because I don't have enough to do, I guess, I think I might add a "Stats Postmortem" to my slate for the last three games of this season, as a bit of an experiment.  The purpose of that will be to show where and how the preview from that week went wrong (or right, hopefully).  Taking last week as an example, one number that I totally discounted and shouldn't have was the effect that OSU's field position advantage would have on the game.As Ian Boyd noted this morning, Baylor got the ball on six of our first seven drives inside our own 26 yard line.  That should have been predictable going into the game (OSU was 8th last week in FPA, 7th this week in opponent starting field position), and I just missed it.  When the offense then sputtered, we gave the ball back to Oklahoma State in good field position and they took advantage.

Another benefit to looking at things in hindsight will be to see how the rankings change after a given game.  For example, OSU's defense is now ranked 4th by FEI and 8th by S&P+.  That sounds about right, doesn't it?  They took a big jump on passing downs, where they just killed us in this game.

Just a thought.  I may or may not do it.

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