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Baylor vs. Oklahoma: The Advanced Stats Preview

We're taking a look at the BlackOUt game through the lens of the Football Outsiders' Advanced Stats.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to what may prove to be the most interesting Advanced Stats Preview yet. It’s no secret that we’ve got two teams that are playing at a high level and the numbers back that up. The game is sure to be intense, with College GameDay and all the trappings that come with it, the anticipation of the BlackOUt game, plus the excitement of seeing Jarrett Stidham in his first start at home. There’s no doubt that the atmosphere will be electric.

But what do the numbers say? How do Football Outsiders’ Advanced Stats see this game shaping up? It’s pretty safe to say that this will be the closest matchup we’ve had in one of these previews yet, but let’s take a look at just HOW close in just a second. Before we do, though, I mentioned last week that I was playing with a new way of giving you a quick reference to the definitions behind each of these numbers. I couldn’t get it worked out in time for the post last week, but thanks to the help of brolewis, I was able to get the Glossary Buttons working. For each section, click the button to expand and see what each of the stats mean. Click the button again to make it disappear.

For any Sooners fans 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.

Overview Stats

Stat Baylor Oklahoma EDGE
F/+ 10 (41.90%) 6 (45.60%) EVEN
S&P+ 7 (18.1) 5 (19.5) EVEN
FEI 15 (0.182) 9 (0.199) EVEN

Yep, there we go. Even overall. Oklahoma has the slight edge in each category, but it’s so close and at such a high level that the difference is meaningless. They actually flip-flopped in position from last week, where Baylor was #7 in F/+ and OU was #8. The drive-based FEI stat is slightly harsher on both teams and also provides the largest gap between the two of any of the statistics. Other than that, though, we’ve got a legitimate clash of titans on our hands, folks. Let’s look closer.

When Baylor Has The Ball…

S&P+ Factors

  • 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 Oklahoma EDGE
S&P+ 1 (48.2) 20 (20.4) Baylor
EFFICIENCY Success Rate 1 (55.30%) 24 (35.90%) Baylor
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1 (1.59) 11 (1.11) Baylor
FIELD POSITION Avg. FP 52 (30.5) 41 (28.1) Oklahoma
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 1 (6.04) 16 (3.88) Baylor

Baylor’s offense remains atop the S&P+ offensive rankings in each category except Field Position (surprise). This despite not putting up points at the absurd pace that the offense had been on prior to the game against K-State, but it remained both efficient and explosive, and still is scoring over 6 points per trip inside the 40-yard line. By S&P+, Oklahoma’s defense is top 20 in every factor but Field Position. From an overall perspective, they excel at preventing the big play, and give up just under 4 points per trip inside their own 40. The Bears hold the edge here, be it ever so slightly.

It’s important to note that this is also largely based on the offense with Seth Russell at the helm. Stid has a full game under his belt, and while that game plan showcased what he could do with his arm to an extent, we’re still wading in somewhat uncharted waters. Some of the scheming was relatively vanilla for the first game, and I believe that was by design. More on that in the next section.

Rushing Statistics

  • 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 Oklahoma EDGE
Rushing S&P+ 13 (122.1) 20 (119.4) EVEN
Rushing Success Rate 1 (57.60%) 22 (35.80%) Baylor
Rushing IsoPPP 23 (1.17) 77 (1.1) BAYLOR
Adj. Line Yards 8 (124.5) 32 (112.3) Baylor
Opportunity Rate 1 (52.50%) 37 (35.80%) Baylor
Power Success Rate 13 (79.30%) 113 (77.40%) BAYLOR
Stuff Rate 3 (13.10%) 37 (22.00%) Baylor

If you read the Advanced Stats preview for this game last season or listened to the preview podcast, you may remember us talking about Oklahoma’s run defense being the best component of their defense on the field. That ended up the truth, as Baylor never really got its run game going in last year’s tilt. As you can see here, it would appear that the opposite is true this season. While still very good, Oklahoma’s run defense isn’t quite what it was last season. Baylor’s rushing attack holds the edge in every category except for the overall opponent-adjusted metric, where the teams are even. While the Sooners are good at preventing successful run plays, they do have a tendency to let those plays get explosive once the runner slips into the secondary. They also struggle in short yardage situations as shown by the Power Success Rate, giving up the first down (or a touchdown) over 77% of the time.

Last week against K-State, the Bears seemed either unable or unwilling to force the issue on the ground. Briles spoke about wanting to win the game “in 3 rounds” instead of going a full 15 with Snyder, and that makes sense. We also saw Stidham limited to only a few carries on the ground. How aggressive will the Bears’ rushing attack be this week? Will they try to protect Stid by limiting his carries on the ground, or will they let him loose a bit more in a big game? I still maintain that the key to unlocking the full power of the offense is the threat of the mobile quarterback. You don’t have to run Stidam 15 times, and he doesn’t have to take off for 60. If the Bears can force the Sooners defense to account for Stidham, that will open up lanes for Shock Linwood and company and help establish the ground game.

Passing Statistics

  • 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 Oklahoma EDGE
Passing S&P+ 7 (133.2) 8 (130.5) EVEN
Passing Success Rate 2 (52.90%) 33 (36.00%) Baylor
Passing IsoPPP 4 (2.08) 1 (1.13) EVEN
Adj. Sack Rate 3 (422.7) 55 (103.5) BAYLOR

Once again, evens or Baylors across the board. The Sooners defense remains excellent against the pass. They’re the best in the nation at keeping the ball in front of them on passing plays, not giving up those explosive plays downfield. Of course, everyone remembers the first drive of the game last year. Content to sit 7–8 yards off the line of scrimmage, Bryce Petty threw to his WRs over and over and over for 7–10 yards on each play. These numbers suggest the same sort of thing might be possible, as their success rate is the lowest of the S&P+ components for the pass defense. They also don’t get to the quarterback as frequently, with an adjusted sack rate ranked in the middle of FBS.

Early on last week we saw lots of WR screens, letting our wideouts create opportunities with their feet and athleticism. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same sort of thing here against the Sooners. Get the ball to Corey Coleman on the sideline and let him do Corey Coleman things. Though Oklahoma’s defense is elite-level at preventing the big play, they also haven’t faced a wide receiver corps like this one. They’ve certainly improved since Week 3, but the Sooners did give up 427 yards to Tulsa. It would not shock me in the slightest to see Briles & Son, Inc. employe a similar strategy to the start of the K-State game: short screens to soften up the defense, then sling it deep.

Situational Statistics

  • 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 Oklahoma EDGE
Standard Downs S&P+ 1 (133.8) 15 (120.3) Baylor
Standard Downs Success Rate 1 (61.70%) 27 (41.10%) Baylor
Standard Downs IsoPPP 1 (1.52) 10 (0.96) EVEN
SD Line Yards per Carry 1 (4.17) 21 (2.44) Baylor
SD Sack Rate 16 (2.10%) 10 (7.40%) EVEN
Passing Downs Baylor Oklahoma EDGE
Passing Downs S&P+ 65 (101.2) 12 (129.1) OKLAHOMA
Passing Downs Success Rate 30 (34.70%) 28 (26.10%) EVEN
Passing Downs IsoPPP 22 (1.98) 28 (1.57) EVEN
PD Line Yards per Carry 49 (3.47) 102 (3.64) BAYLOR
PD Sack Rate 13 (3.80%) 52 (8.40%) Baylor

The situational stats remain even or tilted towards Baylor for the most part. Standard downs, as has been the case in previous weeks, belongs largely to Baylor, albeit by a lesser margin. The Bears are both incredibly successful AND explosive on Standard Downs, but, as we’ve discussed already, Oklahoma is incredibly good at protecting against explosive plays. I’m really fascinated by the rushing attack matchups for this game, because it’s a statistically elite rushing attack versus a statistically excellent rush defense.

I still don’t understand the Passing Downs S&P+ number for Baylor. Excellent component ranks, but a massive dip when you get the combined number. I don’t know.

Fremeau Efficiency Index

  • 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.

Baylor EDGE FEI Stats Oklahoma
FEI 3 (1.37) 2 (1.06) EVEN
Efficiency 1 (2.54) 12 (0.73) Baylor
First Down Rate 3 (0.868) 5 (0.591) EVEN
Avail. Yds. % 1 (0.700) 9 (0.319) EVEN
Explosive Drives 1 (0.408) 3 (0.055) EVEN
Methodical Drives 103 (0.657) 39 (0.109) OKLAHOMA
Value Drives 1 (0.647) 11 (0.25) Baylor

FEI is drive-based, so it’s more concerned with how your drives end up than what happens on individual plays. This look shows an extremely even set on this side of the ball. FEI doesn’t show much that Baylor can exploit. FEI really likes us both of us. The only “advantage” of any significance is on Methodical Drives for Oklahoma, but anyone who watches Baylor knows that the reasoning behind this is simply that Baylor’s so explosive that methodical drives just don’t happen all that often.

When Oklahoma Has The Ball…

S&P+ Factors

Factor Stat Oklahoma Baylor EDGE
S&P+ 11 (39.9) 79 (30) OKLAHOMA
EFFICIENCY Success Rate 9 (49.00%) 35 (37.30%) Oklahoma
FINISHING DRIVES Avg. FP 23 (32.3) 59 (29.3) Oklahoma
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 16 (5.42) 78 (4.76) OKLAHOMA

This isn’t a great outlook overall for Baylor’s defense, but it’s also not surprising if you’ve spent any time watching Oklahoma since the Texas game. Their offense is rolling right now. They’re loaded with talent and Baker Mayfield has been a breath of fresh air for the Sooners in their revamped “air raid” offense. While it was billed as a return to the air raid, it seems like its success over the past few games has been predicated on the rushing attack. Their passing game remains lethal, to be sure, as you’ll see below. Much of their success seems to be dependent on a fast start to the offense, though, so that they can remain balanced between rushing and passing.

Rushing Statistics

Rushing Stats Oklahoma Baylor EDGE
Rushing S&P+ 44 (109.3) 28 (116.3) Baylor
Rushing Success Rate 35 (45.90%) 50 (40.20%) Oklahoma
Rushing IsoPPP 35 (1.14) 6 (0.89) Baylor
Adj. Line Yards 22 (114.1) 17 (120) EVEN
Opportunity Rate 13 (43.80%) 18 (33.10%) EVEN
Power Success Rate 61 (67.60%) 21 (54.80%) Baylor
Stuff Rate 52 (18.30%) 26 (23.50%) Baylor

These stats don’t seem to back up my assertion earlier that OU’s recent success is predicated on successful rushing, but I stand by it. Samaje Perine is a special rusher, and Joe Mixon is excellent as well, but the numbers aren’t as explosive as you might suggest. Baylor is extremely good at preventing the big play on the ground, while Oklahoma holds a slight edge in Success Rate. From a raw numbers perspective, though, they’re pretty close in that regard. If the Bears can take away the running game, they stand a good chance of victory. But they still have to contend with the Sooners’ explosive passing attack.

Passing Statistics

Passing Stats Oklahoma Baylor EDGE
Passing S&P+ 10 (131) 65 (99.7) OKLAHOMA
Passing Success Rate 4 (51.80%) 15 (33.10%) Oklahoma
Passing IsoPPP 48 (1.58) 124 (1.83) OKLAHOMA
Adj. Sack Rate 108 (71.2) 77 (90.5) Baylor

Massive advantages here for Oklahoma. Their passing attack is pretty lethal. While it’s not overwhelmingly explosive, they absolutely can be if they want to, and also when they decide to run plays from Tecmo Super Bowl (seriously, I can’t get over that). The Bears are solid at preventing successful pass plays, but their weakness is the big play. So, perhaps the matchup isn’t terrible here? It pretty much is.

The path for Baylor against the Oklahoma passing attack is pressure. While Mayfield has only thrown four interceptions on the year, he does put the ball on the floor from time to time, and his accuracy under pressure is not spectacular. The one thing the Bears have to guard against, though, is letting him escape. If they blitz, they HAVE to get to him; otherwise, he’ll burn you with his legs… and we all know how Baylor’s fared against running QBs thus far.

Situational Statistics

Standard Downs Oklahoma Baylor EDGE
Standard Downs S&P+ 8 (126.7) 26 (115) Oklahoma
Standard Downs Success Rate 5 (54.60%) 19 (40.40%) Oklahoma
Standard Downs IsoPPP 5 (1.35) 20 (0.99) Oklahoma
SD Line Yards per Carry 7 (3.41) 17 (2.4) EVEN
SD Sack Rate 114 (8.20%) 106 (3.10%) EVEN
Passing Downs Oklahoma Baylor EDGE
Passing Downs S&P+ 66 (100.3) 83 (94.7) Oklahoma
Passing Downs Success Rate 40 (33.60%) 78 (31.50%) Oklahoma
Passing Downs IsoPPP 120 (1.51) 81 (1.82) Baylor
PD Line Yards per Carry 79 (3.07) 123 (4.15) OKLAHOMA
PD Sack Rate 108 (10.60%) 32 (9.60%) BAYLOR

The situational stats tell the same story as those above. Oklahoma holds the advantage on Standard Downs, and their passing stats are very good, if not all that explosive on a play-by-play basis. I think the key for Baylor is to force them into clear passing situations and get sustained but contained pressure on Baker Mayfield. If the Bears can do that, they can get the stops that they need to win this football game.

FEI Stats Oklahoma Baylor EDGE
FEI 17 (0.7) 59 (0.12) OKLAHOMA
Efficiency 8 (1.33) 49 (0.06) OKLAHOMA
First Down Rate 10 (0.814) 50 (0.704) Oklahoma
Avail. Yds. % 12 (0.579) 48 (0.423) Oklahoma
Explosive Drives 11 (0.235) 30 (0.099) Oklahoma
Methodical Drives 123 (0.078) 20 (0.099) BAYLOR
Value Drives 8 (0.545) 31 (0.303) Oklahoma
FEI here for Oklahoma is virtually identical to Baylor’s offense: excellent across the board, except for Methodical Drives. Baylor’s defense isn’t as good as Oklahoma’s, but we knew this. It also isn’t as bad as many people want to say that it is. If they can pressure Mayfield and force a few mistakes (something they’ve been VERY good at doing), then I like their chances.


In all likelihood, this game is going to be a shootout. The best two units in the game face off against each other in Baylor’s offense and Oklahoma’s defense, but I think the question will come down to whether Baylor can shut down Oklahoma’s offense. MAYBE Oklahoma’s defense can shut down the Baylor offense, but they haven’t faced anyone with nearly the talent that these Bears have at every position. That’s why I say that if the Bears can get a few stops, that may be enough in a hostile McLane Stadium on a Saturday night in prime time to secure a victory. If they can’t, it very well may come down to a last-possession type of game. Either way, it’s going to be very fun. I can’t wait for Saturday.