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Baylor vs. Iowa State—Notes, Thoughts, Stats

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We’re a little under 24 hours out from Baylor’s first big test of the season. Let’s talk about it.

Baylor v Kansas Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

I haven’t done one like this in a while, but we’re going to give it a shot. Thankfully, Baylor produced an excellent hype video to lead things off!

In case you are viewing on Apple News and the video above was stripped out, click here.

OPPONENT: Iowa State Cyclones
ODB GAME HUB: Baylor Bears vs. Iowa State Cyclones 2021
OPPONENT’S SB NATION BLOG: Wide Right Natty Lite (WRNL)
OURDAILYPODCAST: Big Games Ahead (feat. Travis Roeder)
OTHER PODCASTS: The TD Show (feat. Travis and (Jeff) Davis) — I made that name up
SPECIAL OPPONENT FEATURE: WRNL Interrogates ODB (via WRNL)
BAYLORBEARS.COM PREVIEW: Here
GAME NOTES (INCLUDING DEPTH CHART): Here
SPREAD: ISU -7, O/U 47.5
TV COVERAGE: FOX, 2:30 p.m. CST Saturday
UNIFORM:

FAN ATTIRE: GOLD! Gold. Whatever you have that is gold or whatever you want to call the gold-ish color we use, championship yellow? But wear that. I don’t care if it’s not on your color wheel or is different than your lucky shirt/dress/kilt. It doesn’t matter. If you’re coming to the game, wear gold.

Before we go any further, let’s hear from Coach Aranda himself in his weekly presser from Monday.

Weather Report:

Since I know everyone involved in this proto-rivalry is extremely concerned about the weather situation in Waco this weekend, I wanted to devote specific attention to it.

As of right now, the weather forecast for tomorrow in Waco calls for a high of 91 degrees freedom units, with light winds mostly from the south or southwest. For the game itself Wunderground.com forecasts the following:

Chorus (our publishing platform) gave me the option of marking this photo as “Sensitive” when I uploaded it, and I nearly did because wow, that could be a little triggering for some folks. Don’t let appearances—87 to 89 degrees, a little wind, absolutely no rain or anything close—deceive you. It could be a scorcher out there for September in Waco, and everybody needs to be prepared.

Advanced Stats:

I’m going to level with you—ever since we migrated to Chorus a few years ago, charts and graphs and what-not became a lot harder to put together. All of those amazing charts you saw Peter and I (primarily Peter, whose work I would then steal or change) post in years past were made in a platform that no longer exists. And I, for one, am just not that great at manipulating the “new” one (that has been in use for several years now) to replicate the same thing. What it boils down to is that they took away our access to the raw HTML except for weird HTML blocks that don’t give you the same ability to view/change things on the fly.

Also, Bill C. took his stuff from FootballOutsiders.com to ESPN when he went corporate, but we still love him and don’t fault him for that even a little bit. It just means his SP+ portion of F+, which we used as the top-level advanced stat, is no longer available in the same way, though we have access to some.

That being said Peter has put me onto a new resource, collegefootballdata.com, that has a lot of the same sort of stuff FO used to have (and still has with FEI), and I’m going to play around with it through the season. At first blush it has a mountain of information that I have yet to even start breaking out—things like havoc rates, line yards, success rates, predicted points, all broken down by types of down. I highly suggest you take a look if you have a few hours to kill and are the inquisitive type. It also has a neat chart feature that lets you generate charts on a conference-by-conference or even national level, and I may drop a few of those below.

But even with our limitations, we can do a few things to put this game into perspective.

Advanced Stats Overviews:

Rk Team F+ OF+ Rk DF+ Rk FEI Rk SP+ Rk
Rk Team F+ OF+ Rk DF+ Rk FEI Rk SP+ Rk
14 Iowa State 1.23 1.01 18 1.21 11 0.63 13 17.1 14
32 Baylor 0.64 -0.02 66 1.12 15 0.32 32 9.9 34

So that didn’t look nearly as bad as I anticipated, and I think we may be on to something here. I downloaded this data straight from FO’s F+ page, stripped out everybody but Iowa State and Baylor in Excel, and then uploaded the Excel back into Chorus. This may be workable going forward.

It’s worth noting that there are still heavy preseason numbers figured in here, and those numbers skew toward ISU, as you might expect (or, more accurately, they skew toward Baylor being #notgood and ISU being #good). We won two games last season and “lost” doesn’t even begin to describe our offense. It was more like “lost on an island that moves around and may or may not even exist as some kind of allegorical purgatory.” You can see why SP+’s prediction for this game was 27-22 which, it should be noted, has Baylor covering.

Because these stats are so preseason-heavy, it is hard for me to draw too many conclusions from them for our purposes here. If you believe F+ (as a combination of FEI and SP+), ISU is the rightful favorite and should probably be even more of one. But, again, so much of this at this point is reliant on projections for what might happen, not what has happened.

The response to that, of course, is that we can’t go just off what has happened because the season is three-games old, Baylor has played its three easiest games against three pretty bad teams (sorry Kansas), and there’s a real question about how much of that will translate against a significantly better team in Iowa State. And make no mistake, Iowa State is significantly better than Texas State, Texas Southern, or Kansas. They might be better than an all-star team made from those three rosters. But as I’ve said repeatedly over the last ten years, I don’t think you can disregard what happens in a given game simply because the other team wasn’t any good. How you play against even a bad team matters.

So let’s turn now to the information obtainable from CFD, which is ... a lot. As an example of what we might be able to do going forward (and because I wanted to see what it would look like), I pulled all of their information about Baylor and Iowa State for this season (excluding garbage time), cut each profile in half (offense and defense), and flipped them so it would be Baylor’s O vs. ISU’s D and vice-versa. Here’s what I came up with:

Baylor O vs. ISU D

Team Plays Drives PPA Total PPA Success Rate Explosiveness Power Success Stuff Rate Line Yards Total Line Yards Second-Level Yards Total Second-Level Yards Open Field Yards Total Open Field Yards Points/Opportunity Field Position Start Predicted Points / Field Position Havoc Rate Front Seven Havoc Rate DB Havoc Rate Standard Downs Rate Standard Downs PPA Standard Downs Success Rate Standard Downs Explosiveness Passing Downs Rate Passing Downs PPA Passing Downs Success Rate Passing Downs Explosiveness Rushing Plays PPA Rushing Plays Total PPA Rushing Plays Success Rate Rushing Plays Explosiveness Passing Plays Rate Playing Plays PPA Passing Plays Success Rate Passing Plays Explosiveness
Team Plays Drives PPA Total PPA Success Rate Explosiveness Power Success Stuff Rate Line Yards Total Line Yards Second-Level Yards Total Second-Level Yards Open Field Yards Total Open Field Yards Points/Opportunity Field Position Start Predicted Points / Field Position Havoc Rate Front Seven Havoc Rate DB Havoc Rate Standard Downs Rate Standard Downs PPA Standard Downs Success Rate Standard Downs Explosiveness Passing Downs Rate Passing Downs PPA Passing Downs Success Rate Passing Downs Explosiveness Rushing Plays PPA Rushing Plays Total PPA Rushing Plays Success Rate Rushing Plays Explosiveness Passing Plays Rate Playing Plays PPA Passing Plays Success Rate Passing Plays Explosiveness
Baylor 164.00 26.00 0.55 90.10 0.56 1.33 1.00 0.08 4.26 430.00 3.29 181.00 7.54 196.00 4.48 69.80 1.44 0.11 0.09 0.02 0.76 0.56 0.60 1.29 0.24 0.52 0.43 1.51 0.59 59.58 0.56 1.34 0.38 0.48 0.56 1.32
Iowa State 120.00 24.00 0.00 -0.14 0.32 1.15 0.88 0.22 2.27 134.00 1.85 24.00 2.00 4.00 3.29 66.30 -1.66 0.23 0.18 0.05 0.63 -0.18 0.33 0.71 0.37 0.30 0.30 1.98 -0.11 -6.30 0.32 0.69 0.51 0.10 0.31 1.60

And the converse:

Baylor D vs. ISU O

Team Plays Drives PPA Total PPA Success Rate Explosiveness Power Success Stuff Rate Line Yards Total Line Yards Second-Level Yards Total Second-Level Yards Open Field Yards Total Open Field Yards Points/Opportunity Field Position Start Predicted Points / Field Position Havoc Rate Front Seven Havoc Rate DB Havoc Rate Standard Downs Rate Standard Downs PPA Standard Downs Success Rate Standard Downs Explosiveness Passing Downs Rate Passing Downs PPA Passing Downs Success Rate Passing Downs Explosiveness Rushing Plays PPA Rushing Plays Total PPA Rushing Plays Success Rate Rushing Plays Explosiveness Passing Plays Rate Playing Plays PPA Passing Plays Success Rate Passing Plays Explosiveness
Team Plays Drives PPA Total PPA Success Rate Explosiveness Power Success Stuff Rate Line Yards Total Line Yards Second-Level Yards Total Second-Level Yards Open Field Yards Total Open Field Yards Points/Opportunity Field Position Start Predicted Points / Field Position Havoc Rate Front Seven Havoc Rate DB Havoc Rate Standard Downs Rate Standard Downs PPA Standard Downs Success Rate Standard Downs Explosiveness Passing Downs Rate Passing Downs PPA Passing Downs Success Rate Passing Downs Explosiveness Rushing Plays PPA Rushing Plays Total PPA Rushing Plays Success Rate Rushing Plays Explosiveness Passing Plays Rate Playing Plays PPA Passing Plays Success Rate Passing Plays Explosiveness
Baylor 132.00 26.00 0.06 7.90 0.33 1.18 1.00 0.13 3.08 194.00 2.38 50.00 8.67 52.00 3.78 74.20 -1.03 0.22 0.15 0.07 0.62 -0.03 0.40 0.89 0.38 0.21 0.22 2.07 0.02 1.56 0.35 0.93 0.48 0.11 0.31 1.64
Iowa State 128.00 24.00 0.14 17.49 0.41 1.01 0.83 0.19 2.82 164.00 2.10 42.00 5.80 29.00 3.33 74.60 1.12 0.20 0.12 0.09 0.68 0.10 0.46 0.89 0.32 0.22 0.29 1.42 -0.01 -0.29 0.40 0.70 0.55 0.25 0.41 1.26

Note: In trying to line this up, I realized there are some stats on one side that don’t correlate exactly with a stat on the other side. I took them out for these purposes.

Before I go any further, I want to emphasize that there are some of these numbers that I cannot even pretend to understand in context just yet. Open Field Yards, for example, “measures average yards per carry that comes from over 10 yards past the LOS.” I think this means that when you run for/give up a run of ten yards or longer, how long is that run? Also, without ranks, a lot of these numbers have little meaning to us lay people, and nothing here appears to be opponent-adjusted as far as I can tell. With those things in mind, I’m not going to try to draw a ton of meaningful conclusions, but there are a few takeaways from this mountain of data:

  • Baylor’s offense has a Success Rate of 56%, which is good for third in the country (not reflected here—I pulled that from the site). Success Rate is one of the easiest of these stats to understand and essentially asks whether you accomplished a reasonable goal for a down and distance to set yourself up for the next play. ISU’s offensive Success Rate is 40% by comparison.
  • The strength vs. strength here on Baylor’s O vs. ISU D is on the lines. In Power Success Rate, Baylor has a sterling 100% rate on offense according to these metrics, while ISU has a 88% rate on defense. You can’t get better than 100%, so Baylor ties with several others at #1. In Line Yards Baylor is also #1 on offense, while ISU is #13 on defense. In Stuff Rate, Baylor’s offense ranks 10th in the country at just 8%, meaning Baylor gets “stuffed” on just 8% of offensive plays. ISU’s defensive stuff rate is 22%, which is in the first quartile . You get where I am going with this—Baylor’s offense relies on moving the defensive line and has been enormously successful so far in that. ISU’s defensive line is traditionally good at preventing being moved and has been so far again. I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know here.
  • On the other side (Baylor D vs ISU O), I find it really interesting that ISU’s offense is giving up a havoc rate of 20%. That means on 20% of their offensive plays, the opposing defense generates a havoc play of its own, which means TFLs, sacks, turnovers, or passes broken up. That’s in the bottom quartile in the country. I’d need to dive more into the “played Iowa” factor, but from a look at their stats for that game specifically, it seems like their general offensive performance was better than their average but for Purdy throwing 3 INTs.
  • One thing that does trouble me so far on Baylor’s defensive side of things is that our own stuff rate is just 13%, which is about 101st in the country. That’s a problem, particularly in the context of our schedule to date. Our havoc rate is 22%, which is relatively good and, when combined with their havoc rate allowed, bodes well. But put that stuff rate, a relatively high line yards rate, and a poor power success rate against Breece Hall, and you could have problems.

Having just seen how much information is here, I may have more thoughts on it later. My intent was to try to synthesize my thoughts into an overall prediction for the game, but I haven’t gotten there yet. Generally, if you believe in Baylor’s 2021 offense to date as being “real” rather than discount it completely because of quality of opponent, then I think you feel fairly good. If you think it’s a mirage, but our defense has shown a few issues, then you don’t.