It's that time, ladies and gents. Time for everyone to go on record with their predictions for tonight's titanic contest in San Antonio. Since I don't think at the moment that therm is planning on giving us another fantastic statistical preview, I'm going to shamelessly borrow from Bill Connelly's work from this morning, make a few charts of my own, and talk about some things before making my own prediction.
Before I do that, though, the GDT for tonight's game will go up 1 hour prior to the start of the game, which means 7:00 PM CST. I hope that those Baylor fans who aren't actually at the game, and I've heard it could be a sellout there tonight, so there may not be many of us left, join us in that thread to watch the game together. As always, any other fans that want to come are certainly welcome to partake.
The overall statistics show this game to be somewhat of a mismatch. Baylor is ranked in the top 40 in all three metrics (which come from our friends at FootballOutsiders) and top 20 in S&P+. Washington, on the other hand, is ranked in the 60s in all three. Let's go just a little deeper now and see how the teams stack up in each of the three phases before putting them against each other O vs. D and vice versa.
Team Unit Rankings
The unit rankings help make the larger point that I don't think has been discussed enough nationally. So far, the narrative heard around the country about this game is that both teams have explosive offenses that can score a lot of points and defenses that can't stop opposing teams. The latter half of that statement is true, neither defense is particularly good by any metric (though Baylor's is just a bit better in all three rankings I listed). The former, though, equates the two offenses incorrectly; Washington's offense, while above-average to good, is not even close to Baylor's, which is absolutely incredible this season. Those people expecting a tight shootout seem to believe that the two offenses are fairly evenly-matched, almost like the defenses actually seem to be, but that is not the case. Baylor's offense will be the best Washington has faced all season by a fair margin and it isn't really close between the two units. Baylor's defense will have a much easier task stopping Washington than Washington will stopping Baylor. Now let's see why.*
*I'm not really going to touch on special teams much because I think they are extremely hard to predict. I will note, though, that Baylor's are still awful while Washington's are quite good. Could definitely be a gamechanger for Washington. Baylor hardly ever punts, so I wouldn't expect a big play there but it does kick off quite a bit. That might be Washington's best chance to get a momentum-changing play.
Baylor Offense vs. Washington Defense:
|Baylor Offense||Washington Defense|
|FEI (per unit, respectively)||1||94|
|Efficiency (O & D, respectively)||3||100|
|First Down Rate||2||106|
|Available Yards %||3||103|
|Explosive Drives %||3||111|
|Methodical Drives %||11||86|
|Value Drives %||2||106|
|Standard Downs S&P+||5||52|
|Passing Downs S&P+||4||106|
Just a few observations:
- Baylor's offense is ridiculously good. Just incredible. That deserved a bullet point. Led by RG3, it does everything well and hasn't really skipped a beat all season.
- Washington's defense is best at stopping methodical drives, though I'm not sure how much of that is actually due to being bad at giving up explosive drives.
- Washington's defensive rankings by FEI put them firmly in the low 100s, which is pretty bad. (So people don't get mad at me, Baylor's individual rankings are just as bad as we'll see in a moment).
- The fact that Washington gives up so many explosive drives is not at all a good sign for its defense considering Baylor's ability to score quickly and from any point on the field.
Washington's Offense vs. Baylor's Defense
|FEI (per unit, respectively)||87
|Efficiency (D & O, respectively)||108||22|
|First Down Rate||109||41|
|Available Yards %||112||40|
|Explosive Drives %||118||14|
|Methodical Drives %||90||103|
|Value Drives %||109||31|
|Standard Downs S&P+||93||38|
|Passing Downs S&P+||60||27|
- This is a closer match than Baylor's O vs. Washington's D, but still not all that close. As I said above, Washington's offense is good. It is particularly good at explosive plays, an area where Baylor is one of the worst in the country (it's long pass plays where our safeties get beat, just believe me on that). My point above was not to say that Washington's offense is not good or that Baylor's defense is not bad (it absolutely has been really, really bad this season), but to say that I think people are underrating Baylor's offense by equating it with Washington's. Washington's is good but not THAT good, and I think these numbers bear that out.
- Still, for this game, Baylor's defense is going to have quite a job ahead of it to stop Washington's offense. This is the same defense that got torched in the first half against Texas by a team that barely fields an offense. I'm not hopeful of their ability to shut Washington down by any means. S&P+ likes them more than FEI (probably due to a pace component and the competition we've faced this season), but it's not a good defense and not likely to be one tonight.
- I think Baylor is going to win this game on the strength of its offense (earthshattering, I know!). I don't expect that Baylor's defense will play particularly well, despite the fact that the long practice time before a bowl typically favors the defense in this situation (that's anecdotal, by the way) and we are still dealing with a defensive coordinator in his first year on the job. I do expect that Baylor will get a few stops and/or turnovers where Washington won't and will be able to put more points on the board against Washington's defense than Washington will against ours.
- Washington's best chance, as Bill Connelly said this morning, will be to slow the game down and try to keep Baylor's offense off the field. The only problem is that they are ill-suited for a Kansas State-like attack. Washington wants to get up and down the field almost as much as Baylor does, which should mean that both offenses have plenty of opportunities to put up points. That kind of approach, while putting quite a bit of pressure on Baylor's defense, will also put pressure on Washington's defense. The statistics don't make it seem at all likely that Washington's D will meet that challenge.
- The latest betting line I've seen has Baylor as a 9.5 point favorite and the O/U at 78.5. I'm going to take Baylor and the points but take the under in the game as a whole but just barely. The long layoff will let both defenses tighten up and scheme for their opponents somewhat, keeping the score just beneath that point.
- Prediction: Baylor 45, Washington 31. Feel free to flame away in the comments if you think I'm wrong and give me your predictions for tonight's game.
One Final Chart
|Heisman Trophy Winners|