Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I am visiting family up north, so I don’t have access to the programs I typically use to download ESPN play-by-play data and create the graphs I’ve included in most of the statistical previews this season. Please excuse the unusually text-heavy post!
The regular season for the 2022 Baylor Bears football teams ends this Friday against everyone’s favorite villain, the University of Texas Longhorns. Baylor has shown flashes of being able to play with the top teams in the country, but they’ve struggled to maintain that level long enough to win more games. They’ll need to be at their best to leave Austin with a win. Here’s what the stats say about this game.
When Texas is on offense
Texas has a consensus top-25 offense whether you look at the advanced stats or simple box scores. The Longhorn’s offense ranks 25th in SP+ and 16th in FEI, 22nd in points per game, and 27th in yards per play.
Quinn Ewers leads the offense as QB1. Other than when playing against two of the bottom teams in the conference, he’s been a serviceable game manager. In his last four games, Ewers has a 47% completion percentage, 5 TDs, 4 INTs, 199 yards per game, and a longest completion of 41 yards.
There’s a big difference in Ewers’ passing stats when he’s kept clean versus under pressure. Per Pro Football Focus, Ewers has 13 TDs, 7.2 yards per attempt, and a 59% completion percentage when kept clean. When under pressure, his stats drop to 0 TDs, 5.6 yards per attempt, and a 40% completion percentage.
This does not bode well for a Baylor defense that is 120th in the country with a 4% sack rate and 84th in the country with 236 passing yards allowed per game. At least Ewers is not much of a scrambler — he has 14 rushing attempts for -10 yards on the season — so Baylor doesn’t need to devote a player to spying him in the backfield.
Fortunately for the Longhorns, they don’t have to rely on the former #1 recruit to win them games. Bijan Robinson can carry a team as good as any running back in the country with his 3,231 career rushing yards and 805 career receiving yards. This season, Robinson has 16 touchdowns and is averaging 6.1 yards per carry. His back-up, Roschon Johnson, is also averaging 6 yards per carry.
As a team, the Longhorns have a 52% opportunity rate (percent of carries that gain 4+ yards) and 18% stuff rate (percent of carries for zero or fewer yards). Baylor typically allows a 46% opportunity rate and 17% stuff rate. I think Baylor will need to do better than that on Friday to come out on top.
When Texas is on defense
The advanced stats like Texas’ defense even better than their offense. SP+ ranks them 19th in the country, and FEI ranks them 12th. This is primarily driven by their run defense. They allow 245 passing yards per game (93rd in the country) but 125 rushing yards per game (31st in the country) and 3.4 yards per carry (20th in the country).
Will Baylor be able to run on the Texas defensive front? Baylor averages a 48% opportunity rate (70th in the country), and Texas averages a 40% opportunity rate allowed (8th in the country), so Baylor will likely be less efficient overall. That said, Baylor has a 14% stuff rate (21st in the country) and Texas causes a 16% stuff rate (96th in the country), so Baylor should do better than they usually do in avoiding negative runs.
In all likelihood, Baylor will find themselves in plenty of third and long situations where they will need to convert through the air. Shapen’s passing splits when kept clean or under pressure are even more dramatic than Ewers’. Shapen has an excellent 71% completion percentage and 8.3 yards per attempt when given a clean pocket, but a 49% completion percentage and 6.4 yards per attempt when hurried.
On standard downs (and overall), Texas does not do a good job generating pressure. Their 3% sack rate on standard downs is 122nd in the country, but that jumps up to 9% and 48th in the country on passing downs. Baylor has the edge here — they allow only a 3.6% sack rate, 14th in the country, on passing downs.
SP+ projects a 34-23 victory for Texas. FEI projects a 40-24 Texas win. I don’t think either are wildly off in expectation. Play this game ten times, and Texas is going to win most of them. But if Aranda can get this team up for the game, a game which really means nothing for the team other than pride, Baylor has more than an outside shot at winning.
All statistics courtesy of ESPN, Sports-Reference.com, Football Outsiders, and Pro Football Focus.