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Tech vs. Baylor Advanced Stats Preview: The Offensive Lines

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Time to start looking at the advanced stats used by Football Outsiders... This week we're looking exclusively at the offensive and defensive lines.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

If you followed last year’s Advanced Stats posts at all, you learned that I kind of fell in love with the Football Outsiders’ Offensive and Defensive Line stats. I’ve said it before, but I’m not the world’s greatest statistical mind. I like to get into the details of advanced stats and learn how they’re calculated, largely because my mind doesn’t quickly wrap itself around the larger concepts. Early on, I often found myself looking at the advanced stats post and mind had a reaction not unlike this:

As I got more into the stats and learned how to calculate them (at least pre-opponent adjustments), I really started to enjoy myself and understand what they were really trying to say. With each year comes revisions to those stats, basically forcing me to start over and relearn them. This year, S&P+ has undergone its most significant formula change yet, and I’m still trying to work through it to gain a better understanding of how it’s calculated. But, for whatever reason, I’ve taken to the Offensive/Defensive Line stats that Football Outsiders puts out much more quickly than the others. Maybe it’s that "football is a game that’s won in the trenches" or maybe it’s something else, but I’ve found that I more quickly grasp the picture painted by these statistics and how they interact with each other.

This week, I’m focusing on just the Line stats. S&P+ still has about 10% projections built into it, while FEI has something like 49% projections and hasn’t even published data for offenses and defenses (that comes after Week 7). Because of that, I’m looking at the offensive and defensive lines to see what I can glean from the matchups found there.

Let’s Take A Look at the Stats

It’s been quite awhile since we’ve talked about these, so perhaps a quackish explanation of the stats we’re looking at will be helpful. I’ll list out the stats and then their definitions from Football Outsiders. If I have anything to add about the stats, I’ll include that below.

Rushing Stats

Adjusted Line Yards (ALY)

Statistic that attempts to, even to a small extent, separate the ability of a running back from the ability of the offensive line. Adjusted Line Yards begin as a measure of average rushing yards per play by running backs only, adjusted in the following way:

  • 0–4 yards: 100% strength
  • 5–10 yards: 50% strength
  • 11+ yards: not included
  • runs for a loss: 120% strength

Each play is also adjusted based on game situation as well as quality of opponents faced. Adjusted Line Yards can be listed as total or broken down by direction to attempt to isolate ability of specific linemen. More information here.

The "More Information" link goes into some pretty great detail about what’s going on here, but the gist is this: the closer to the line of scrimmage the play is, the more responsible the offensive line is for its success for failure (the same is true for the defensive line).

Standard Downs Line Yardage Per Carry

The raw, unadjusted per-carry line yardage for a team on standard downs (first down, second-and–7 or fewer, third-and–4 or fewer, fourth-and–4 or fewer).

No opponent or situational adjustments here. For offense: what were your yards per carry on standard downs? For defense: what was your opponent’s yards per carry on standard downs?

Passing Downs Line Yardage Per Carry

The same unadjusted averages for rushing on passing downs.

Clear? Clear.

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.

This sort of goes hand-in-hand with the concept of Adjusted Line Yards. ALY says that it’s the offensive line’s job to get the ball carrier a 5 yard gain. It’s 50% responsible for the yardage from 5–10 yards. So, if your ball carrier gains at least 5 yards, your offensive line is doing a good job letting him be him. A high percentage is good on offense, but bad on defense. Baylor’s offensive Opp. Rate is 61.3%, good for the top spot in FBS. This means that 61.3% of its carries gain at least 5 yards. The defensive Opp. Rate is 32.3%, good for 28th in the nation. That’s not terrible.*

*I haven’t been able to figure out if this includes its win against Lamar or not. I suspect it does not.

Power Success Rate

This is the percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown.

No additional explanation necessary here. Offense wants a high percentage, defense wants a low one.

Stuff Rate

The percentage of carries by running backs that are stopped at or before the line of scrimmage.

For this one, you want a low percentage on offense, high percentage on Defense.

Passing Stats

Adjusted Sack Rate

An opponent-adjusted 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.

Some hand waving here. Just remember: > 100 = GOOD; < 100 = BAD.

Standard Downs Sack Rate

Unadjusted sack rate for standard downs pass attempts.

Passing Downs Sack Rate

Unadjusted sack rate for passing downs pass attempts.

Front–7 Havoc Rate

Total tackles for loss, passes defensed, and forced fumbles divided by total plays. The stats are for just the front–7 of the defense only.

There’s nothing that corresponds with this number, so it’s presented standalone for each defense as a reference point only.

Our Arbitrary Rankings System

If you don’t remember, we use a completely arbitrary ranking system when comparing these stats to one another to determine who has an "edge." This may shock you, but that column is labeled "EDGE." When the rankings are 1–10 ranks apart, we label those as "EVEN." Rankings that are 11–40 are put in standard case, while rankings that are more than 41 ranks apart are put in ALL CAPS. If someone has a better method of ranking, by all means share it with us! We’re always looking for ways to improve.

One more note: I asked Bill C. if the offensive and defensive line stats filter out garbage time. His response: "I’m about 95% sure garbage time is filtered out!" So, take that for what you will.

Okay! Clear as mud? You guys ready to do this? Let’s do this.

When Baylor Has The Ball…

Baylor Tech EDGE
ALY 42 (112.4) 98 (91.5) BAYLOR
Std Downs LY 1 (4.76) 92 (3.08) BAYLOR
Pass Downs LY 13 (4.54) 122 (4.61) BAYLOR
Opp. Rate 1 (61.3%) 103 (42.1%) BAYLOR
Power Succ. Rate 38 (75%) 123 (90.5%) BAYLOR
Stuff Rate 3 (9.9%) 110 (1.4%) BAYLOR
Adj. Sack Rate 20 (235.5) 118 (52.9) BAYLOR
SD Sack Rate 27 (1.7%) 120 (0.0%) BAYLOR
PD Sack Rate 1 (0.0%) 83 (5.3%) BAYLOR
Front 7 Havoc Rate 107 (5.4%)

Oh. Oh my. There had been talk of Tech’s defense improving, but… man. Maybe their Defensive Back Havoc Rate is better? …Nope. Ranked 96th with a 3.9% havoc rate. This matchup will be a nightmare for the Red Raiders. You’ve got one of the best offensive fronts going up against one of the worst defensive fronts. Baylor has the best unit in the nation in terms of Opportunity Rate: they’re gaining at least 5 yards on over 63% of their rushes. Tech, meanwhile, is giving up at least 5 yards on over 42%. While the Bears haven’t been exactly great on third- and fourth-and-short opportunities, Tech is just horrific, giving up the first down or a touchdown on 90% of those plays.

The story doesn’t get better for Tech in the passing game, either. Their defensive line has zero sacks on Standard Downs. It gets marginally better for them on passing downs, but… Oops, they’re running into an offensive line that’s not given up a single sack on a passing down. Whether their secondary can defend Baylor is a story we’re not looking at in detail here, but should the Bears decide to air it out, Seth Russell should have all day behind his line to find his receiver of choice.

But if you were thinking that this game would be decided on this side of the ball, you’re not living in the same world as me. This is all about the next section, isn’t it?

When Texas Tech Has The Ball…

Tech Baylor EDGE
ALY 29 (116.8) 42 (110.1) Tech
Std Downs LY 3 (3.77) 19 (2.21) Tech
Pass Downs LY 110 (2.28) 110 (4.19) EVEN
Opp. Rate 46 (42.6%) 28 (32.3%) Baylor
Power Succ. Rate 9 (88.2%) 118 (87.5%) TECH
Stuff Rate 9 (11.9%) 28 (25.6%) Tech
Adj. Sack Rate 7 (645.8) 38 (118.1) Tech
SD Sack Rate 16 (1%) 26 (7.7%) EVEN
PD Sack Rate 1 (0%) 8 (14.3%) EVEN
Front 7 Havoc Rate 50 (7.6%)

None of this is especially surprising to me. Tech’s offensive line has powered their resurgence and brought them juuuuuuust shy of a massive upset at home against TCU last weekend. As Mark said on last night’s podcast, they have possibly the second best offensive tackle in the Big 12. I will say that I think that the numbers don’t reflect the talent of this defensive line or it’s performance, necessarily 100%. I think the Bears D-line is one that is on the rise, and had its best performance of the season last weekend. But, the numbers are what they are, and I will make no excuses for them.

While the numbers mildly favor the Red Raiders, there are no significant advantages other than Power Success. Baylor's defense in short yardage situations hasn't been exactly stellar. In fact, according to the stat, they're darn near the bottom of the barrel in this regard. That said, they're much better at stuffing the run behind the line of scrimmage. The key here is probably keeping the Red Raiders out of short yardage situations. That will be an interesting aspect of the game to watch closely on Saturday.

The Bears are good against the run on Standard Downs, but the Red Raiders are great. Stopping the rushing attack on early downs in the drive and forcing the Red Raiders into clear passing situations will allow the Bears to focus more on the strength of their defense. The Bears aren't great on Pass Down rushing defense, but that's okay. The Red Raiders aren't great at it, but I suspect that's because if they're forced into passing situations, Texas Tech is going to do just that. They have the athletes to succeed through the air.

Perhaps most important for the Bears is their treatment of Pat Mahomes, something that can't quite be quantified be these stats. If Baylor is to stop Texas Tech's offense, they're going to have to create pressure while maintaining containment, limiting Mahomes' ability to punish the Bears with his legs. The Bears will have to play a tight, disciplined game up front, shutting down Mahomes' escape avenues and not pushing too deep into the backfield.

This will be a fun game.