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Baylor Bears vs. Texas Longhorns: The Advanced Stats Preview

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Taking a look at how the advanced metrics generated by Football Outsiders view the game between the Longhorns and the Bears.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no other way to start off this last Advanced Stats Preview of the regular season than by saying I FREAKING TOLD YOU SO. And by that, I mean that I told you last week that the Advanced Stats Preview was probably going to be meaningless, and it absolutely was. I’d be lying, though, if I thought it would be as meaningless as it actually was. That game was some sports nihilism at its absolute darkest. I’m glad to be moving on.

But hey! This one may have more predictive value! Let’s hope so. Enough pregame banter, let’s get into it.

For any Longhorns 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

Stat Baylor Texas EDGE
F/+ 7 (44.90%) 82 (–8.70%) BAYLOR
S&P+ 6 (18.7) 84 (–3.2) BAYLOR
FEI 8 (0.195) 76 (–0.028) BAYLOR

Well that’s a pretty good start, but it’s accurate. On paper, the Bears have the solid advantage across the board. If you’re surprised by that, I’d suggest you start believing the people around you that are telling you that this is the year 2015, not 2005.

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 Texas EDGE
S&P+ 1 (45.7) 78 (30.2) BAYLOR
EFFICIENCY Success Rate 10 (49.30%) 108 (46.20%) BAYLOR
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 5 (1.47) 13 (1.14) EVEN
FIELD POSITION Avg. FP 41 (31) 96 (31) BAYLOR
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 2 (5.76) 73 (4.75) BAYLOR

This section presents something very interesting. For once, the "mismatch" isn’t geared towards the Field Position metric, where Baylor usually has a significant disadvantage. That number has been steadily rising, which is a testament to the defense’s performance over the past several weeks. No, what’s even here is how good the Texas defense is regarding explosive plays. Remember IsoPPP measures just how successful a successful play was. So, while Texas’ offense is pretty bad at preventing successful plays, it’s quite good at not giving up much more than that.

What’s interesting to me about that metric is the apparent tendency of the Baylor’s offense to favor the deep pass. Granted, that perception may be anecdotal and completely influenced by the repeated deep attempts in the abomination of a football game that occurred last Friday. It’s something we’ll take a look at more closely momentarily to see if these assumptions hold up.

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 Texas EDGE
Rushing S&P+ 52 (106.8) 69 (99.8) Baylor
Rushing Success Rate 11 (49.40%) 117 (48.00%) BAYLOR
Rushing IsoPPP 71 (1.06) 40 (1) Texas
Adj. Line Yards 34 (109.6) 61 (101.5) Baylor
Opportunity Rate 2 (46.60%) 95 (40.70%) BAYLOR
Power Success Rate 9 (78.40%) 93 (70.70%) BAYLOR
Stuff Rate 5 (14.60%) 112 (15.50%) BAYLOR

If you don’t remember, last week Baylor’s rushing attack was ranked 26th in S&P+. Amazing that one game in a monsoon can take the ranking double it, but that’s what happened. It was that ugly of a game. I’m afraid that the unfortunate side effect of that game is that it will unfairly hurt both aspects of the Baylor offense (while lending the same benefit to the defense, but we’ll see) in the advanced stats rankings without properly taking it into account. While it’s easy to decry the inability of the advanced stats to account for such insane weather, we should also bear in mind that this game is such an outlier in terms of severity of both the weather and the field conditions. The Bears have played multiple games in inclement weather this season, none of which had such an impact on the game as a whole.

But I digress. The Bears should be looking to take advantage of mismatches up front as well as injuries to the Longhorns’ front 7 in the rushing attack. The Bears remain excellent in Opportunity Rate, the stat that I’ve leaned on all season long. That suggests that the Bears should be able to impose their will on the Texas defensive front. I’m curious to see how much the Bears will look to employ Chris Johnson in the ground game on Saturday; that was an element of the ground game that was largely ineffective against TCU, but conditions on Saturday are guaranteed to be different. Texas Tech found success on the ground with Mahomes and Washington, so I expect the Bears to attempt to take advantage on the ground, too.

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 Texas EDGE
Passing S&P+ 6 (138) 37 (108.9) Baylor
Passing Success Rate 10 (49.30%) 100 (44.20%) BAYLOR
Passing IsoPPP 4 (2.04) 24 (1.33) Baylor
Adj. Sack Rate 18 (184.4) 16 (140.1) EVEN

Baylor down the line yet again. Someone mentioned yesterday that the Horns have a talented group of players in the secondary that hasn’t really gelled and is susceptible to being picked apart. The stats seem to back this up, since they’re in the bottom 28 teams at giving up successful passing plays, but seem to keep everything in front of them, since they’re relatively efficient in preventing explosive plays. The Bears remain both efficient and explosive in the passing game, so this should be one of the more interesting matchups to watch.

Where the Longhorns excel is getting to the QB, sporting the 16th best Adjusted Sack Rate. You know that the Bears’ front has been solid all season in this regard, so this should be fun to watch. It’ll also be interesting to see how they move CJ around and outside of the pocket in pass plays to account for the Longhorn blitz.

Situationals

  • 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 Texas EDGE
Standard Downs S&P+ 8 (122) 52 (103.7) BAYLOR
Standard Downs Success Rate 4 (55.70%) 99 (50.00%) BAYLOR
Standard Downs IsoPPP 6 (1.33) 39 (1.04) Baylor
SD Line Yards per Carry 1 (3.66) 120 (3.31) BAYLOR
SD Sack Rate 15 (2.10%) 5 (8.00%) Texas
Passing Downs Baylor Texas EDGE
Passing Downs S&P+ 45 (108.6) 32 (112.1) Texas
Passing Downs Success Rate 61 (31.20%) 114 (36.40%) BAYLOR
Passing Downs IsoPPP 4 (2.19) 14 (1.52) Baylor
PD Line Yards per Carry 104 (2.74) 54 (3.13) TEXAS
PD Sack Rate 61 (7.00%) 8 (12.30%) TEXAS

Lots of Baylor, but still some decent areas of attack for the Texas defense. Like we just talked about, Texas is excellent at getting to the quarterback, regardless of standard or passing downs. They will want to get to Chris Johnson early and often, rattle him and force him to make bad decisions. We’ve seen a few of those in the two games that he’s played thus far, so the Bears will have to keep the pressure off of him, both in protection and by moving him out of the pocket and giving him some options. The Longhorns will also have to contend with the Baylor rushing attack, which may be hampered a bit if Shock Linwood is either out or less than 100%, but the Bears have depth at RB and I expect that they will use them to relieve the pressure on Johnson.

FEI Fun

  • 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 Texas EDGE
FEI 9 (0.87) 42 (0.3) Baylor
Efficiency 4 (1.57) 77 (–0.31) BAYLOR
First Down Rate 16 (0.798) 69 (0.723) BAYLOR
Avail. Yds. % 6 (0.602) 79 (0.484) BAYLOR
Explosive Drives 2 (0.298) 78 (0.146) BAYLOR
Methodical Drives 95 (0.113) 44 (0.123) TEXAS
Value Drives 9 (0.528) 68 (0.383) BAYLOR

Interesting. Remember, FEI is drive-based, so it’s less concerned with individual plays and more concerned with how drives end. Because of that, it’s far less forgiving to the Horns’ defense on explosive drives (drives giving up 10+ yards per play). Even after Friday’s debacle, the Bears are the second most explosive team in the country by FEI. This suggests that the Bears will, in fact, be able to put their explosiveness on display against Texas.

When Texas Has the Ball…

S&P+ Factors

Factor Stat Texas Baylor EDGE
S&P+ 83 (27) 53 (26.2) Baylor
EFFICIENCY Success Rate 85 (40.10%) 35 (38.10%) BAYLOR
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 30 (1.33) 42 (1.21) Texas
FIELD POSITION Avg. FP 103 (28.3) 77 (30.2) Baylor
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 33 (5.16) 88 (4.87) TEXAS

Oh hey look some Baylor advantages. Wheeeeee! Texas is actually pretty good in the red zone (inside the 40 for our purposes here), but the problem they have is actually getting to the red zone. They can be explosive, which might be a challenge for the Bears, but it’s strength-on-strength on this side of the ball, as we’ll see below.

Rushing

Rushing Stats Texas Baylor EDGE
Rushing S&P+ 46 (107.6) 12 (120.7) Baylor
Rushing Success Rate 38 (45.20%) 50 (40.00%) Texas
Rushing IsoPPP 15 (1.22) 9 (0.9) EVEN
Adj. Line Yards 57 (103.1) 13 (116.3) BAYLOR
Opportunity Rate 12 (44.50%) 25 (34.30%) Texas
Power Success Rate 26 (74.20%) 32 (60.00%) EVEN
Stuff Rate 36 (17.60%) 20 (23.90%) Baylor

Texas was able to run all over Texas Tech on Thanksgiving Day. If you watched that game, you heard the announces heap praise upon praise upon the Horns’ backfield. Of course, they were playing Texas Tech, whose rushing defense is objectively terrible. The Bears’ rush defense has steadily improved over the course of the season and has emerged as one of the best rush defenses in the nation (remember, though, these numbers are benefitting from the Great Monsoon of 2015). This is where Texas is able to move the ball, though, so you can expect lots of focus on the rushing attack for the Longhorns. It’s unfortunate that the Horns will be without injured RB D’Onta Foreman. Chris Warren will likely take his place again, though it also looks like Johnathan Gray will be back in the lineup on Saturday also. Both Swoopes and Heard (should he play) are good on their feet as well. BOLD PREDICTION time: you shut down the Texas rushing attack, you win the game. While I’m out on this limb, I might as well predict that the Allies will win WWII and Baylor MBB will defeat Prairie View A&M tonight.

Passing

Passing Stats Texas Baylor EDGE
Passing S&P+ 116 (78.7) 27 (112.7) BAYLOR
Passing Success Rate 121 (30.40%) 27 (35.70%) BAYLOR
Passing IsoPPP 24 (1.63) 112 (1.63) TEXAS
Adj. Sack Rate 128 (50.3) 53 (107.4) BAYLOR

Woof. We all knew that Texas was bad at passing. Did you know that they were this bad? Now you do. They have the nation’s worst adjusted sack rate. Interesting though is that while they are highly unsuccessful on passing plays, when they are able to succeed, they’re fairly explosive. Of course, the Bears defense is very nearly the mirror image of this. They are good against the pass but… can give up the explosive play. The Bears, however, have been trending positively in this regard, and last week’s game helped them move from 114th all the way up to 112th! In all honesty, though, while Texas could find some success against the Bears in the passing game, they’re not going to be able to suddenly conjure a potent passing attack that shocks and awes the Bears’ defense.

Situationals

Standard Downs Texas Baylor EDGE
Standard Downs S&P+ 53 (103.7) 6 (123) BAYLOR
Standard Downs Success Rate 48 (48.10%) 25 (42.00%) Baylor
Standard Downs IsoPPP 26 (1.2) 11 (0.98) Baylor
SD Line Yards per Carry 30 (3.11) 21 (2.51) EVEN
SD Sack Rate 117 (8.60%) 18 (6.80%) BAYLOR
Passing Downs Texas Baylor EDGE
Passing Downs S&P+ 115 (80.5) 58 (104.3) BAYLOR
Passing Downs Success Rate 109 (25.00%) 70 (31.00%) Baylor
Passing Downs IsoPPP 54 (1.8) 67 (1.77) Texas
PD Line Yards per Carry 52 (3.35) 97 (3.54) TEXAS
PD Sack Rate 128 (19.20%) 36 (8.80%) BAYLOR

Lots of Baylor here, too. Texas’ only significant edge here comes on Passing Down Line Yards per carry, where they run for 3.35 yards per carry. That’s fantastic, except when you consider that there’s no such thing as a Passing Down that falls beneath that number.

The FEIs


FEI Stats Texas Baylor EDGE
FEI 107 (–0.52) 27 (0.47) BAYLOR
Efficiency 76 (–0.02) 48 (0.02) Baylor
First Down Rate 108 (0.648) 42 (0.688) BAYLOR
Avail. Yds. % 109 (0.383) 35 (0.402) BAYLOR
Explosive Drives 64 (0.141) 24 (0.094) BAYLOR
Methodical Drives 120 (0.094) 12 (0.094) BAYLOR
Value Drives 109 (0.296) 14 (0.282) BAYLOR

Look, folks, I’m not going to sugar coat it. The Texas offense is bad. They’re going to need help to win this game, in the form of turnovers, excellent field position, and they need to hope that the Baylor defense is so let down after TCU that they decide to take naps on the field. They need to be able to do against Baylor what they did against Texas Tech, and even that won’t be enough. Unless their defense plays the game of the century, the Longhorns simply don’t have the firepower to keep up with the Bears.

Conclusions

There’s no question that the Bears can’t sleep on this game. With a berth in the Sugar Bowl on the line, I’m betting they won’t. If Baylor can jump out to an early lead, they’ll force Texas into the uncomfortable position of having to throw the ball, something they’re just not very good at. Heard may play in this game, and while his numbers are better than Swoopes through the air, neither one is the kind of explosive passer that Texas would need to keep pace with the Bears. The Longhorns will need to force turnovers and create short fields for their offense to be able to beat Baylor. Limit Corey Coleman in the passing game and rattle Chris Johnson. Force Johnson to make bad decisions and get some opportunistic turnovers. If Texas can do that, they may have a chance.

The Bears need to play their game. Run the ball, then take the shots that open up through the air. Spread the defense out like Texas Tech did, and take advantage of the openings. I fully expect Bennett’s defense to load up against the run. If they shut down the running game, it could be a very long late morning/early afternoon for the Longhorns.