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Baylor vs. TCU Advanced Stats Preview

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What FEI and S&P+ say about this Saturday's game between the Baylor Bears and the TCU Horned Frogs.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to the third full-blown Stats Preview of the 2014 season. This time our adversary is the Horned Frogs, and our goal: to see what the advanced stats from FootballOutsiders.com think about the game. In case you're new here and need a primer on why I do things this way, I'll refer you to the preview for Iowa State from two weeks ago.

A Few Notes:

If you're a Horned Frogs fan or someone who hasn't seen my stats posts before, I already know the labels in the EDGE column are totally arbitrary. With that out of the way, here's what they mean:
EVEN = 10 or fewer ranking spots difference
Lowercase = 11-39 ranking spots difference
UPPERCASE = 40 or more ranking spots difference.

There are a few situations where I've deviated based on the actual values for each category.  For TCU, since they are already uppercase as an acronym, I will use Frogs and TCU in place of lower and uppercase, respectively.

2014 FootballOutsiders Metrics for the Baylor Bears vs. the TCU Horned Frogs. Hit this link to last week's post to see where we were a week ago vs. now.

Overall:

Category

Baylor (5-0)

TCU (4-0)

EDGE

Overall F/+ Rk 9 (18.2%)
7 (18.2%)
EVEN
Overall FEI Rk 19 (.167)
3 (.239)
Frogs
Overall S&P+ Rk 5 (237.8)
11 (228.8)
EVEN
Field Position Advantage 6 (.586) 10 (.576) EVEN

Wow.  That's just about as even as it gets, down to the point that Baylor and TCU have identical overall F/+ scores despite, somehow, different ranks.  FEI likes the Frogs over the Bears, mostly because it skews heavily toward more difficult schedules, while S&P+ prefers the Bears, if by a slightly smaller margin.  Both teams are excellent at the field position game, with TCU 3rd in starting field position and Baylor 4th.  TCU is slightly better at keeping opponents from getting short fields and has managed to have just 5.4% of their own offensive drives start inside their 20 yard-line.

That last part is something I haven't really looked at before but could play a big role in what we anticipate will be a pitched battle of two good defenses.

It's also worth noting that Baylor's raw Game Efficiency in the FEI formulation has us #2, so the difference is entirely in opponent adjustments.

When Baylor Has the Ball:

Category

Baylor Off

TCU Def

EDGE

Offensive/Defensive FEI Rk
--
--
--
Raw OE/DE
9 (.574)
4 (-.738)
EVEN
First Down Rate 13 (.783)
7 (-.738)
EVEN
Available Yards Rate 7 (.623)
4 (.296)
EVEN
Explosive Drives 34 (.174)
13 (.051)
Frogs
Methodical Drives 4 (.239)
37 (.103)
Baylor
Value Drives 9 (.538)
8 (.222)
EVEN
Offensive/Defensive S&P+
23 (112.4) 18 (113.4)
EVEN
Success Rate
10 (50.5%)
6 (31.5%) EVEN
IsoPPP 4 (1.11)
38 (.78) Baylor
S&P
4 (.625)
7 (.409) EVEN
Std. Downs S&P Rk 6 (.635)
6 (.434) EVEN
Pass. Downs S&P Rk 4 (.615) 8 (.366) EVEN
Rushing S&P Rk 14 (.574) 17 (.402) EVEN
Passing S&P Rk 2 (.681)
10 (.416) EVEN

This is as close to an even matchup as I've ever seen doing these posts, and that's saying something.  Baylor has one area, methodical drives, where we seem to have a bit of an edge.  TCU, likewise, has explosive drives.  Everywhere else, we're going strength-on-strength with the Baylor offense and the TCU defense, with both FEI and S&P+ actually giving a slight edge to the Frogs in this battle overall.

After having looked at last week's preview again, I will note that although TCU's defense outranks Texas' by both metrics, the Longhorns are now ranked #6 in passing S&P after being #9 a week ago.  That's only slightly better than TCU's #10, but it is better.  TCU is significantly better than Texas against the run and on both standard and passing downs.

Something else to note: because Baylor didn't have a single explosive drive against the Longhorns for somewhat obvious reasons (Bryce Petty was horrible in that game), our rank there has fallen considerably.  At the same time, our rank in methodical drives has gone up, since we gashed them to death on the ground.

When TCU Has the Ball:

Category

Baylor Def

TCU Off

EDGE

Offensive/Defensive FEI Rk
--
--
--
Raw OE/DE
3 (-.849)
45 (.167)
BAYLOR
First Down Rate 1 (.404)
20 (.757)
Baylor
Available Yards Rate 2 (.240)
30 (.530)
Baylor
Explosive Drives 7 (.043)
80 (.108)
BAYLOR
Methodical Drives 23 (.085)
40 (.162)
Baylor
Value Drives 2 (.156)
35 (.448)
Baylor
Offensive/Defensive S&P+
3 (125.5) 12 (115.4)
EVEN
Success Rate
3 (28.4%)
6 (52.5%) EVEN
IsoPPP 2 (.54)
65 (.85) BAYLOR
S&P
1 (.335)
14 (.591) Baylor
Std. Downs S&P Rk 3 (.385)
31 (.538) Baylor
Pass. Downs S&P Rk 1 (.273) 12 (.619) Baylor
Rushing S&P Rk 5 (.273) 6 (.605) EVEN
Passing S&P Rk 1 (.320)
32 (.582) Baylor

Let's get this out of the way: TCU's offense will clearly be the best Baylor has faced this season and much better than that of the Longhorns a week ago.  At the same time, so will our defense be the best the Frogs have faced by almost every metric.  How much value you ascribe to that relies almost entirely on how much you like the advanced metrics themselves.

The interesting matchup here will be when TCU tries to run the ball against Baylor's defense.  Baylor is #1 in passing S&P, a rank that will surprise some, and seems to have a clear edge in the passing game against Boykin and his receivers.  In addition, TCU's offense simply hasn't been all that explosive this season by IsoPPP or as a percentage of their overall drives.  They have, however, run the ball quite well, as evidenced by their #6 rank in rushing S&P and higher percentage of methodical drives. Overall, there's more than a bit of disagreement about how good their offense really is, since FEI ranks it 45th and S&P+, 12th.

Each of the last two weeks, we've seen Baylor play its safeties and linebackers close to dare the opposing QB to throw over the top, just as we did numerous times last year.  The problem with doing that again is that we're not playing Tyrone Swoopes or Sam Richardson this time around.  Instead, we're facing the clearly improved Trevone Boykin, a dynamic talent in both the run and pass that is significantly more capable of making us pay for that kind of strategy.  Still, the strategy makes sense, and I don't see Baylor changing for this game.  If Boykin is capable of beating us over the top, fine.  What we can't allow is for him and B.J. Catalon to wear us down, keep our defense on the field, and shorten the game as UT did a week ago.  That gets our offense out of rhythm, takes the crowd out of the game, and emphasizes the impact of their better unit, the defense.

Special Teams:

Category

Baylor

TCU

EDGE

F/+ Special Teams
-- (---)
-- (---) ----
Special Teams Efficiency
46 (.931)
36 (1.230)
Frogs
Field Goal Efficiency
124 (-1.575)
3 (.020)
----
Punt Return Efficiency
34 (.019)
9 (-.216)
----
Kickoff Return Efficiency
5 (.178)
70 (-.161)
----
Punt Efficiency
8 (-.387)
77 (-.169)
----
Kickoff Efficiency
76 (-.128)
61 (-.169)
----
Opponent Field Goal Efficiency
13 (-.879)

111 (.636)

----

Know what happens when you block a field goal and return it for a touchdown?  Your opponent field goal efficiency looks really, really good, that's what.  That's the opposite, kind of, of what happens when you miss all but one of your field goals and your own field goal efficiency tanks hard.  Looking just as our FGE and their OFGE, it appears that if we try to kick a FG against them, the field might just burst into flames.

As always, I leave out putting anything in the EDGE category for all but one of these categories because it wouldn't really make sense.  Our kickoff team doesn't kick off to their kickoff team, for example.

TCU needs to watch out for Spencer "The Leg" Roth.  He earned that nickname again vs. the Horns with that sweet, game-changing scamper.  Now we just need to teach him to get the heck out of bounds, Spencer.

The Bottom Line:

As of this writing, Baylor is an 8-point favorite over TCU, down from 10.5 at the open.  That means a lot of money has come in on the Frogs in the last day or so, which is pretty much what I expected to see.  Beyond that, I'm not sure what else to say about this game.  The stats appear to say that the Baylor offense and TCU defense are roughly equal, but the Baylor defense better than the TCU offense.  If that's true, expect a relatively low-scoring game where the Bears emerge victorious, since we also have home field advantage and TCU has yet to play outside the Metroplex this.  If it's not true, and either one of our units isn't as good as we think or TCU is better, the Frogs may actually be the favorites.  But it doesn't appear that way at this point, and I do believe that Baylor playing at home for the first time in a month will be a big factor.

Statistical Postmortem -- Texas

Both defenses acquitted themselves quite well on Saturday.  The Longhorns held the #1 scoring offense in the country to 21 offensive points before getting finally overwhelmed, and the Bears nearly shut out UT for what would have been the first time at home since 1976.  I was correct in predicting that Baylor ran the ball successfully against Texas' defense, though I was not at all correct in saying Bryce would eventually throw down the field.  We never saw it, and I'm not entirely sure why.  We ran the expected defense challenging Swoopes to throw down the field consistently, and he was predictably unable to do so.