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Advanced Stats Preview: Baylor vs. TCU

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Taking a look at what the advanced stats of Football Outsiders thinks about the matchup between the Horned Frogs and the Bears

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Welcome back to yet another Advanced Stats Preview! Maybe you’re stuck at work and bored on Wednesday reading this, or maybe you need just that little nudge to push you into blissful slumber after eating way too much turkey and everything that goes with it. ODB is here to help you with whatever your needs are, so long as you need Advanced Stats. Because that’s what this post is about.

For the third or fourth week in a row, we could easily do away with the Advanced Stats Preview in favor of our favorite shruggy-emojicon-guy for a myriad of reasons. We’ve only just found out that Jarrett Stidham is out for the season with a broken bone in his ankle. As Mark, Amy and I discussed on the podcast, we have no idea what happens to Chris Johnson when he has a week to prepare for being the starter vs. being thrust into the game for the second half.

And that’s just one reason Mr. Shruggy. You’ve also got the fact that WE WILL ONCE AGAIN BE PLAYING THROUGH RIDICULOUS WEATHER PATTERNS. It may benefit us this time around, but it may not. There’s not an advanced stat that tracks weather-related phenomena, so we’re not really discussing it much more here. I’m betting that Mark will in his Preview/Prediction thread. Lastly, it’s the REVIVALRY. The game that Gary Patterson asked Dana Hologram about immediately following their game, then admitted to asking many coaches the same thing. The game that Patterson has done all sorts of (not) real, actual(ly fake) things to prepare for except OH YEAH THAT LAST ONE IS TRUE. All jokes aside, though, this is never an easy game, and you can bet that both teams, banged up or not, weather or no, will be ready for. As usual, it’s going to be a war.

Let’s get to it. As always, the stats used come from Football Outsiders. There’s a wealth of information out there on them if you want to know more, or you could click the little buttons to see explanations of each section’s stats below.

For any Frogs reading this preview or if you’ve never looked at one of these in depth, we use a completely arbitrary "EDGE" ranking system in these posts. If the two teams overall ranks for a particular stat are < 10 ranks apart, the Edge column shows "EVEN." If the teams are between 10 and 40 ranks apart, you’ll see the team with the advantage in normal case. Any disparity over 40 ranks apart is in all caps.

The 10,000 Foot Overview

Stat Baylor TCU EDGE
F/+ 7 (44.90%) 17 (31.50%) Baylor
S&P+ 6 (18.7) 23 (11.8) Baylor
FEI 8 (0.195) 15 (0.159) EVEN

Despite injuries to both teams, both teams have maintained a fairly high level of play that reflects in these stats. TCU has taken a dip after losing Doctson and then Boykin, naturally; and while Baylor hasn’t been putting up 60+ points per game after losing Seth Russell, nobody really expected them to against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The Bears have the slight edge here, owing largely to the other weapons in place around whomever the starting quarterback will be.

When Baylor Has The Ball…

S&P+: The Factors Overview

  • S&P+: The offensive/defensive components of S&P+.
  • IsoPPP: IsoPPP is the Equivalent Points Per Play (PPP) average on only successful plays. This allows us to look at offense in two steps: How consistently successful were you, and when you were successful, how potent were you?.
  • Success Rate: A common Football Outsiders tool used to measure efficiency by determining whether every play of a given game was successful or not. The terms of success in college football: 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down.
  • Average Field Position: This is mostly self-explanatory, with one important note: An offense is measured by its defense’s starting field position, and vice versa. Special teams obviously play a large role in field position, but so do the effectiveness of your offense and defense. So in the team profiles, you’ll find Defensive Starting FP in the offensive section and Offensive Starting FP in the defensive section.
  • Points Per Trip Inside 40: Mostly self-explanatory. This measure looks not at how frequently you create scoring opportunities, but how you finish the ones you create. And yes, for the purposes of this stat, the "red zone" starts at the 40, not the 20.
Factor Stat Baylor TCU EDGE
S&P+ 1 (47.4) 69 (28.7) BAYLOR
EFFICIENCY Success Rate 2 (52.20%) 33 (37.50%) Baylor
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1 (1.53) 119 (1.43) BAYLOR
FIELD POSITION Avg. FP 49 (30.5) 9 (26.3) TCU
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 1 (5.91) 85 (4.87) BAYLOR

The explosiveness metric jumps off the page right away here. TCU is near rock bottom when it comes to giving up the big play. Against Oklahoma, TCU gave up 9 plays that went for over 20 yards. They were able to lock it down late, but the damage by that point had been done. The Bears, on the other hand, proved on Saturday against Oklahoma State that they haven’t taken a major step backwards, regardless of who the quarterback is. Their numbers haven’t taken a massive hit, which has been incredible considering the amount of uncertainty losing your QB starter (and your backup mid-game) creates.

One other thing to note: While Baylor still has the best points per trip inside the 40 number at 5.91 points per trip, it’s sad to see that number finally drop below 6. It was bound to happen, though. You can’t score a touchdown every time you get inside the 40.

Rushing

  • Rushing S&P+: The offensive/defensive components of S&P+ for rushing plays only.
  • Success Rate: Same thing for success rate: rushing plays only.
  • IsoPPP: The explosiveness metric for only rushing plays.
  • Adj. Line Yards: Measures the success of offensive/defensive lines. One of only two opponent-adjusted numbers for offensive/defensive lines, this is presented on a scale in which 100.0 is perfectly average, above 100 is good, below 100 is bad.
  • Opportunity Rate: The percentage of carries (when five yards are available) that gain at least five yards, i.e. the percentage of carries in which the line does its job, so to speak.
  • Power Success Rate: The percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown.
  • Stuff Rate: The percentage of carries by running backs that are stopped at or before the line of scrimmage.
  • season goes on (or teams that get devastated by early injuries after looking great).

Rushing Stats Baylor TCU EDGE
Rushing S&P+ 26 (114) 57 (103.1) Baylor
Rushing Success Rate 4 (52.40%) 69 (41.90%) BAYLOR
Rushing IsoPPP 53 (1.09) 80 (1.12) Baylor
Adj. Line Yards 15 (115) 42 (106.9) Baylor
Opportunity Rate 1 (48.50%) 62 (38.00%) BAYLOR
Power Success Rate 6 (82.20%) 65 (65.90%) BAYLOR
Stuff Rate 3 (13.40%) 117 (14.60%) BAYLOR

For my money, this is probably the most significant table to pay attention to for this game.* Baylor’s rushing attack remains one of the best in the country, while TCU’s rushing defense has lost ground this season against rushing attacks. If you watched the K-State/TCU game last month, you saw K-State dominate TCU on the ground in the first half, only to completely abandon what was a winning strategy in favor of an air attack in the second half. Oklahoma put up over 300 yards rushing on them last weekend. With the weather being cold, wet, and, most importantly, windy, I expect that this game will be won on the ground.

Most telling in that regard are the Line stats: Opportunity Rate, Power Success Rate, and Stuff Rate. Baylor remains the best team in the nation in terms of gaining at least 5 yards, when available, doing so nearly half of the time. TCU is average, giving Baylor a strong advantage. As long as the looks aren’t completely vanilla and the Bears are able to present some sort of edge threat, they should be able to move the ball on the Frogs.

*Because I think this, it’s an almost certainty that this table of stats will have nearly zero bearing on the game Friday.

Passing

  • Passing S&P+: The offensive/defensive components of S&P+ for pasing plays only.
  • Success Rate: Same thing for success rate: passing plays only.
  • IsoPPP: The explosiveness metric for only passing plays.
  • Adj. Sack Rate: The other opponent-adjusted on this page for offensive/defensive lines; a version of a team’s sack rate – sacks divided by (sacks plus passes), presented on a scale in which 100 is perfectly average, above 100 is good, below 100 is bad.
Passing Stats Baylor TCU EDGE
Passing S&P+ 2 (146.7) 52 (103.4) BAYLOR
Passing Success Rate 3 (52.00%) 12 (33.10%) EVEN
Passing IsoPPP 4 (2.09) 125 (1.83) BAYLOR
Adj. Sack Rate 13 (204.2) 73 (94.7) BAYLOR

Once again, Baylor holds a significant advantage on the offensive side of the ball according to these statistics. You can be sure that Patterson will do everything he can to confuse CJ. While it’s looked to me like the TCU’s secondary this season has been incredibly human, they’ve done a surprisingly solid job in pass defense in the most recent games this season. While OU’s passing attack was hampered because Mayfield went out with a concussion after that nasty hit, TCU’s secondary held Knight to just five completions on 16 attempts, and Mayfield was 9 of 20 before that. The problem for them, as evidenced by the Oklahoma State game, is that while they may hold you on successful plays (note the 40th rank for that), they are susceptible to the big play. Oklahoma State was able to pull off several big plays against TCU’s defense, which accounted for a significant chunk of the yardage given up.

Even with the rain and potential impact it will have on a turf field, I think the Bears will need to find a way to exploit this advantage. If they can get the ball into the hands of their playmaking WRs in space, they will make the big plays happen. The weather/field conditions could be the great equalizer here, though, and it’s a point of concern.

Situational

  • Standard Downs: First down, Second-and–7 or fewer, Third-and–4 or fewer, Fourth-and–4 or fewer. SD stats are looking at components for Standard Downs only.
  • SD Line Yards Per Carry: The raw, unadjusted per-carry line yardage for a team on standard downs.
  • SD Sack Rate: Unadjusted sack rate for standard downs pass attempts.
  • Passing Downs: Those downs that are not standard. Second-and–8 or more, Third-and–5 or more, Fourth-and–5 or more. PD stats are looking at components for Passing Downs only.
  • PD Line Yards Per Carry: The same unadjusted averages for rushing on passing downs.
  • PD Sack Rate: Unadjusted sack rate for passing downs pass attempts.
Standard Downs Baylor TCU EDGE
Standard Downs S&P+ 1 (129.2) 48 (104.3) BAYLOR
Standard Downs Success Rate 2 (57.70%) 40 (42.90%) Baylor
Standard Downs IsoPPP 1 (1.4) 106 (1.22) BAYLOR
SD Line Yards per Carry 1 (3.81) 86 (3.01) BAYLOR
SD Sack Rate 20 (2.30%) 98 (4.00%) BAYLOR
Passing Downs Baylor TCU EDGE
Passing Downs S&P+ 22 (123.3) 73 (100.5) BAYLOR
Passing Downs Success Rate 22 (35.90%) 31 (26.50%) EVEN
Passing Downs IsoPPP 5 (2.15) 125 (2.14) BAYLOR
PD Line Yards per Carry 56 (3.3) 29 (2.79) tcu
PD Sack Rate 30 (5.40%) 23 (10.30%) EVEN

Standard downs remain Baylor’s wheelhouse. Whether it’s throwing or running, they do their best work when they keep the down/distance situation manageable. I really like the line matchup on this side of the ball. The Bears don’t give up a ton of sacks, and while the Frogs do better on passing downs, the Bears are still very good to near-excellent in that regard. Additionally, IF this game becomes the slog-it-out mud bowl matchup we’re wondering about, I like the advantage that our offensive line gives us in the trenches. If Shock doesn’t play that will be a loss, but I have confidence in Devin Chafin, Johnny Jefferson and Terence Williams to pick up where Shock left off.

FEI

  • FEI: The offensive/defensive components of the Fremeau Efficiency Index.
  • Efficiency: The scoring value generated by a team’s offense per possession.
  • First Down Rate: The percentage of offensive drives that result in at least one first down or touchdown..
  • Available Yards Percentage: The total number of yards earned on offensive drives as a percentage of the total number of yards available based on starting field position.
  • Explosive Drive Rate: The percentage of offensive drives that earn at least 10 yards per play.
  • Methodical Drive Rate: The percentage of offensive drives that last at least 10 plays.
  • Value Drive Rate: The percentage of offensive drives that begin at least 50 yards from the end zone and reach the opponent’s 30-yard line.
FEI Stats Baylor TCU EDGE
FEI 2 (1.3) 54 (0.2) BAYLOR
Efficiency 1 (2.08) 69 (–0.18) BAYLOR
First Down Rate 5 (0.838) 24 (0.654) Baylor
Avail. Yds. % 1 (0.656) 50 (0.422) BAYLOR
Explosive Drives 1 (0.343) 75 (0.143) BAYLOR
Methodical Drives 79 (0.124) 46 (0.12) tcu
Value Drives 2 (0.591) 58 (0.358) BAYLOR

FEI shouldn’t be surprising to you at this point, if you’ve been following along. Efficient, eat up chunks of yardage, explosive, not very methodical, but it doesn’t really matter to them. If you were looking at the Methodical Drives stat in a vacuum it might be concerning for this offense in the conditions on Friday, but we know that Baylor is VERY good on the ground. And while the X-Factor in this game is the weather, I think the edge still goes to Baylor’s offensive line and ground game in those conditions.

Let’s flip to the other side of the ball.

When TCU Has the Ball…

S&P+: The Factors Overview

Factor Stat TCU Baylor EDGE
S&P+ 7 (40.6) 70 (28.7) TCU
EFFICIENCY Success Rate 9 (49.40%) 40 (38.30%) tcu
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 16 (1.38) 72 (1.26) TCU
FIELD POSITION Avg. FP 50 (30.5) 69 (29.7) tcu
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 47 (5.02) 76 (4.81) tcu

Remind you of anything? This matchup reminds me a LOT of the way that the Oklahoma State stats looked last week. This isn’t Oklahoma State, though. TCU’s rushing attack is much better than Oklahoma State’s, and if Trevone Boykin is playing, you have to account for the dreaded mobile quarterback. That’s not something that Baylor had to contend with in a major way last week, for the most part, and when they did, they were pretty dang successful at shutting him down.

Rushing

Rushing Stats TCU Baylor EDGE
Rushing S&P+ 61 (104.6) 18 (118.1) BAYLOR
Rushing Success Rate 14 (48.60%) 47 (39.50%) tcu
Rushing IsoPPP 55 (1.09) 20 (0.95) Baylor
Adj. Line Yards 69 (100.9) 17 (116.4) BAYLOR
Opportunity Rate 11 (44.70%) 19 (33.60%) EVEN
Power Success Rate 57 (66.70%) 34 (59.00%) Baylor
Stuff Rate 8 (14.90%) 22 (23.80%) tcu

And here’s the other side of the "slog-fest" coin, should it come down to that. I like what I’m seeing here, even if Boykin is back. If he does play, which I think most everyone expects him to, he’s almost certainly not 100%. A high ankle sprain, if that is in fact his injury, would most likely impact his mobility and limit the absurd circus escape act for which Boykin is so well known. If he’s limited, then the Bears can turn their attention to Aaron Greene.

The question becomes whether the Bears can limit Greene’s success in the same ways that Oklahoma State did? The Cowboys used a 3–3 stack defense that kept Greene in check, limiting to under 100 rushing yards on the day with only one long run. The Frogs don’t have the most explosive ground game out there, so if the Bears can employ a defense similar to what Oklahoma State did (and what the Bears deployed against the Cowboys last weekend, for that matter), then I like their chances in trench warfare.

Passing

Passing Stats TCU Baylor EDGE
Passing S&P+ 8 (129.5) 49 (104) TCU
Passing Success Rate 6 (50.00%) 35 (36.80%) tcu
Passing IsoPPP 23 (1.63) 114 (1.67) TCU
Adj. Sack Rate 11 (211.8) 56 (102.3) TCU

There shouldn’t be any surprise to this one, either. With Boykin and Doctson, TCU had one of the best offenses in the nation. For my money, Doctson was the real key unlocking Boykin’s success, because he would simply go get the ball wherever Boykin would put it. It’s a testament to his amazing ability that he’s still a Biletnikoff finalist, despite the fact that he’s been out for two weeks already and won’t return this season. But I digress. Even without Doctson, the Frogs’ passing attack remains dangerous. Kolby LIstenbee and KaVontae Turpin are both excellent receivers that have acquitted themselves well since Doctson went down.

The biggest question mark here, even more than the weather, I think, is Boykin’s status. Does he play? We think probably. But the real question is at what level. Boykin relies so much on escapability for his game, but if he’s less than 100%, how much does that impact things? Boykin has a bit of a reputation for throwing up the jump ball; if he’s not 100%, how accurate will he be with the ball? Then you throw in field conditions and the Baylor defense that certainly seeming to improve despite the injury adversity, and I’m not sure we can glean a tremendous amount from these stats. Bottom line for me: If Boykin is healthy, watch out. But regardless of that, TCU will remain dangerous, and you can expect that Gary Patterson will throw the kitchen sink at us.

Situationals

Standard Downs TCU Baylor EDGE
Standard Downs S&P+ 21 (115.3) 11 (119.9) Baylor
Standard Downs Success Rate 12 (53.10%) 19 (40.70%) EVEN
Standard Downs IsoPPP 12 (1.26) 30 (1.02) tcu
SD Line Yards per Carry 14 (3.28) 15 (2.42) EVEN
SD Sack Rate 13 (1.80%) 15 (6.90%) EVEN
Passing Downs TCU Baylor EDGE
Passing Downs S&P+ 16 (125.4) 85 (94.8) TCU
Passing Downs Success Rate 11 (39.30%) 98 (33.90%) TCU
Passing Downs IsoPPP 58 (1.79) 66 (1.77) EVEN
PD Line Yards per Carry 25 (3.69) 121 (3.8) TCU
PD Sack Rate 23 (5.10%) 35 (9.20%) tcu

Nothing surprising here, either. Limit TCU’s effectiveness on Standard Downs and try to prevent the big play on Passing Downs. It worked well for the Bears for the most part against Oklahoma State. Can they replicate that success against TCU in a rivalry game?

FEI

FEI Stats tcu Baylor EDGE
FEI 22 (0.56) 50 (0.22) tcu
Efficiency 12 (1) 66 (–0.15) TCU
First Down Rate 23 (0.775) 55 (0.706) tcu
Avail. Yds. % 12 (0.573) 55 (0.429) TCU
Explosive Drives 4 (0.264) 30 (0.101) tcu
Methodical Drives 39 (0.155) 31 (0.11) EVEN
Value Drives 9 (0.517) 34 (0.317) tcu

I really think Baylor’s game plan in this game will look very similar to the plan against Oklahoma State, despite the two teams’ differences: do everything they can to shut down the run. Limit big plays through the air. Because Aaron Greene is a better running back than anyone Oklahoma State ran, it’s an open question whether or not they’ll be able to use the three-man front to the same effectiveness that they did against OSU. But, that formation did seem to open up options in both run and pass blitzing that we haven’t seen before. And, like I said earlier, OSU was able to hamper TCU’s offense with that three-man front. If Andrew Billings can take advantage of Frog Center Joey Hunt being out, the 3-man front may be effective. TCU’s offensive line is very good, otherwise. It will be a fun matchup to watch.

Conclusions

Yet another week where the Mr. Shruggies render much of the analysis for this game unknown or moot. I can’t say for certain what the field conditions will be, how the rain that is falling during the game will impact things, whether Boykin will at what percentage of health will he be, or what impact the shift from Stidham to Chris Johnson will have. Add onto that the fact that it’s such a massive rivalry game for both teams and the question of what tricks Gary Patterson has up his sleeve, and it’s hard to say with any kind of confidence where this game is going.<http://>

What I do know is that I like the matchups that I see for both the offensive and defensive lines in this game, and when there’s a chance that weather will play such a role, it’s good to fall back on the play of your lines. If the Bears can dominate the lines of scrimmage much like they did for significant portions of the game against Oklahoma State last weekend, you have to like their chances in this game.

Oh, and one final thing: Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!