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Baylor vs. Iowa State: The Advanced Stats Preview

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Taking a look at how the advanced stats think this game will play out... Despite what the weather may have to say.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to another week of fun times with Advanced Stats. Of course, we’re looking at this week’s Homecoming matchup between the Bears and Cyclones . They’ve canceled basically all of Homecoming for this weekend, but hey! Pigskin is indoors, so that’s still happening, I’m sure. Anyway, it’s entirely possible that 17" of rainfall will turn everything on its ear with this game, but since we can’t say for certain, we’re just going to keep rolling with our advanced stats previews and see what they have to say. Let’s get to it, shall we?

This week marks the first week that FEI has detailed individual stats, but due to time constraints I haven’t had the chance to spend much time with them. As such, I’m going to hold off on including them this week. Brian Fremeau wrote about the changes he’s made to his methodology, and it’s worth taking a look at if you’re interested. Look for another Primer next week on what all of these stats mean, but as always, you can find them on Football Outsiders as well as the Advanced Stats Profiles I’ll link right now.

Baylor Bears Advanced Stats Profile
Iowa State Cyclones Advanced Stats Profile

High-Level Look

Stat Baylor Iowa State EDGE
F/+ 3 (50.7%)/td> 77 (–6.3%) BAYLOR
S&P+ 4 (23.1) 63 (1.6) BAYLOR
FEI 5 (0.233) 83 (–0.068) BAYLOR

The 50,000-foot view looks much like you would expect, given the two teams’ performance to date. Interesting to me that F/+ is a combination of FEI and S&P+, but combine the two and Baylor’s ranking is higher than the two individual numbers. Huh. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take it, but… Huh. Let’s look closer.

When Baylor Has The Ball…

Factor Stat Baylor Iowa State EDGE
S&P+ 1 (50.3) 73 (29.4) BAYLOR
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1 (1.63) 58 (1.23) BAYLOR
EFFICIENCY Success Rate 1 (58.2%) 114 (47.4%) BAYLOR
FIELD POSITION Avg. FP 74 (29.6) 40 (27.8) Iowa State
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 1 (6.18) 78 (4.8) BAYLOR

None of this should especially surprise you. Baylor has the best offense in the nation, and the numbers back that up. This is in spite of our Field Position Rating, which is still below average. This offense doesn’t care, though. They’ve proven that they can score from any yard line. This is going to likely be a mismatch all the way down the line.

Rushing

Rushing Stats Baylor Iowa State EDGE
Rushing S&P+ 14 (127.8) 44 (109.2) Baylor
Rushing Success Rate 1 (60.8%) 77 (43.1%) BAYLOR
Rushing IsoPPP 17 (1.22) 80 (1.12) BAYLOR
Adj. Line Yards 41 (109.7) 45 (107.5) EVEN
Opportunity Rate 1 (53.8%) 69 (38.1%) BAYLOR
Power Success Rate 19 (77.3%) 23 (52.4%) EVEN
Stuff Rate 5 (0.125) 84 (0.185) BAYLOR

Anyone surprised here? Anyone? Hmmmm.

Looking at the Line stats, the matchup is kind of, sort of a little more even. If you look at the Power Success Rate and the Adjusted Line Yards and forget about Stuff Rate and Opportunity Rate. Of course, if you’ve read any of these, you know that I adore opportunity rate, which is the percentage of plays that a rushing attack gains at least five yards, when 5 yards are available. Baylor is excellent at that. Power Success Rate is another stat that’s fascinated me on both sides of the ball. It, of course, is the percentage of 3rd-and short and 4th-and-short situations that result in either first downs or touchdowns. Baylor is excellent in this situation, but so is Iowa State’s defensive line. That will be a fun scenario to watch play out on the field on Saturday.

Passing

Passing Stats Baylor Iowa State EDGE
Passing S&P+ 7 (133.1) 80 (95.8) BAYLOR
Passing Success Rate 2 (55.2%) 125 (52%) BAYLOR
Passing IsoPPP 3 (2.16) 32 (1.32) Baylor
Adj. Sack Rate 3 (453.4) 2 (216.5) EVEN

Yeah… Baylor’s really good through the air, too. But, Iowa State isn’t terrible about giving up really massive plays through the air, so maybe that’ll be interesting this weekend. Iowa State’s gets the sacks, apparently. But Baylor’s offensive line is incredibly good at not giving them up.

Look, I’m going to stop here on the offensive side of the ball. If you want more, I can post it, but none of it will surprise you. I’ll put the table in here for your perusal, but there are only so many ways that I can say "Baylor is really, really good, and Iowa State just isn’t that wonderful." I’m tired of flogging the equine carcass.

Standard Downs Baylor Iowa State EDGE
Standard Downs S&P+ 5 (134.5) 47 (104) BAYLOR
Standard Downs Success Rate 1 (64%) 116 (52.7%) BAYLOR
Standard Downs IsoPPP 1 (1.55) 29 (0.99) Baylor
SD Line Yards per Carry 1 (4.42) 69 (2.85) BAYLOR
SD Sack Rate 21 (1.9%) 93 (3.7%) Baylor
Passing Downs Baylor Iowa State EDGE
Passing Downs S&P+ 48 (112.1) 80 (95.6) Baylor
Passing Downs Success Rate 21 (35.6%) 103 (34.3%) BAYLOR
Passing Downs IsoPPP 10 (2.23) 115 (2.11) BAYLOR
PD Line Yards per Carry 14 (4.09) 62 (3.14) BAYLOR
PD Sack Rate 1 (0%) 20 (10.6%) Baylor

When Iowa State Has The Ball…

Factor Stat Iowa State Baylor EDGE
S&P+ 42 (32.8) 92 (32.1) IOWA STATE
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 52 (1.29) 109 (1.4) IOWA STATE
EFFICIENCY Success Rate 52 (43.5%) 26 (35.3%) Baylor
FIELD POSITION Avg. FP 64 (30.2) 84 (30.1) Iowa State
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 116 (3.93) 67 (4.66) BAYLOR

Okay, now we’re cooking. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. S&P+ hasn’t exactly loved our defense all season long. That being said, we did jump significantly in the rankings after beating West Virginia last week. So, there’s that. I really like this high level view of the defense. They’re really good at Success Rate, but not so good at IsoPPP. So what does that mean?

Watch closely and you’ll see it. The Bears are tremendous at keeping offenses in check… most of the time. 1st and 10 becomes 2nd and 8 or 12, becomes 3rd and 6 or 10 or 14. Then… the opposing offense completes a 15-yard pass to convert. That’s success rate and explosive plays in a nutshell. The offense is unsuccessful on 2 of 3 plays, but when they hit on 3rd down, it’s for a big chunk of yardage, which counts as an explosive play.

But, one place the Bears are improving is Red Zone Efficiency. You saw it in the second quarter against WVU. They’d give up a big play that would put the Mountaineers within striking distance, only to have a goal-line stand or force a field goal. That sort of thing. They’re still not spectacular in that regard, but they’re improving, which is something indeed. Let’s continue.

Rushing

Rushing Stats Iowa State Baylor EDGE
Rushing S&P+ 35 (116.4) 14 (128.2) Baylor
Rushing Success Rate 24 (48%) 30 (36.3%) EVEN
Rushing IsoPPP 91 (1.01) 38 (0.97) BAYLOR
Adj. Line Yards 37 (111.5) 22 (115.7) Baylor
Opportunity Rate 71 (38.9%) 11 (29.7%) BAYLOR
Power Success Rate 61 (66.7%) 54 (63.2%) EVEN
Stuff Rate 9 (0.143) 19 (0.257) EVEN

Well, I wasn’t expecting that. I knew that Baylor had been pretty solid against the run this season after a roughish start, but for whatever reason I didn’t realize they’d improved that much. Silly me. The spot where they struggle, though, is in Power Success situations: 3rd or 4th and short. Their numbers there actually went down after last week (were ranked 40th, now ranked 54th). I don’t fully understand this, since our defensive line can be such monsters, and by and large our linebackers are doing well, with a few exceptions. It just seems that when they get into those short yardage situations, they give up the line to gain. But hey, maybe this week they’ll start to turn it around? Maybe?

One interesting matchup is on Stuff Rate (remember, getting stopped behind the line of scrimmage). Baylor is great at doing it. Iowa State doesn’t let it happen very much.

Passing

Passing Stats Iowa State Baylor EDGE
Passing S&P+ 58 (105.8) 61 (100.6) EVEN
Passing Success Rate 80 (39.1%) 26 (33.9%) BAYLOR
Passing IsoPPP 34 (1.61) 127 (2) IOWA STATE
Adj. Sack Rate 114 (63.5) 58 (105.8) BAYLOR

Ahhh, Explosiveness. You rear your ugly head once again. This is the same thing as before. They don’t give up much, but when they do, it’s explosive. The Iowa State D-Line is pretty bad at giving up sacks, though, so perhaps if the D-Line can wreak some havoc in the backfield, they can prevent those explosive plays from developing. Until I see it happening though, I remain skeptical.

Situational Stats

Standard Downs Iowa State

Baylor

EDGE
Standard Downs S&P+ 36 (111.9) 16 (124.5) Baylor
Standard Downs Success Rate 43 (49.8%) 13 (37.7%) Baylor
Standard Downs IsoPPP 90 (1.05) 78 (1.1) Baylor
SD Line Yards per Carry 32 (3.17) 13 (2.23) Baylor
SD Sack Rate 115 (8.2%) 82 (4.3%) Baylor
Passing Downs Iowa State Baylor EDGE
Passing Downs S&P+ 56 (109.4) 78 (96) Iowa State
Passing Downs Success Rate 83 (28.6%) 80 (31.3%) EVEN
Passing Downs IsoPPP 8 (2.27) 98 (1.98) IOWA STATE
PD Line Yards per Carry 78 (3.08) 116 (4.11) Iowa State
PD Sack Rate 100 (9.9%) 34 (9.2%) BAYLOR

The story here is a reflection of what we’re seeing above with rushing & passing S&P+. The Bears are favored when you’re in standard down situations, but once it’s time to take to the air… The Bears’ struggle more. All of that being said, I still maintain that the secondary is much improved over where they were a year ago, and that they’re not as bad as these stats suggest. Sure, they can be better, and they’re getting better. We’re seeing them turn their head to the ball more often, and they’re making smarter plays. Reasonable minds may disagree on whether the PI call against Ryan Reid on the WR pass last week was legit, but either way, he did the right thing. If he doesn’t do what he did, that’s a touchdown. That’s just one play, but we’re seeing more life from them than we have in the past year. I for one am hopeful we will continue to make strides in that area. Until then, this is Iowa State’s hope for victory: get the ball to Allen Lazard early, and often. Make the defensive backs for Baylor beat him.

Conclusions

I think that the biggest factor in this game may be something that cannot be factored into the advanced stats: the weather. The forecast calls for near-100% chance of rain the entire day, plus the threat of lightning persists. It will be very interesting to see how any lightning delays may impact the Bears' rhythm as well. But, if they overcome those potential obstacles, the stats sure do look favorably on the Bears' chances on Saturday.