C.O.W. Part 2 - The Moneyball Fun Stats

Posted Oct 4, 2011

The ten interesting statistical things from the first part of the season, in part two of the Cavalcade of Whimsy.

Cavalcade of Whimsy

Oct. 4, 2011, Part 2

Past Cavalcades
- 2008 Season | 2009 Season | 2010 Season   

- Part 1. Is Wisconsin the new Nebraska? 
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The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
In honor of the Moneyball craze, the most meaningful fun stats of the moment …

10. Stanford's Secondary
Outside of Wisconsin and maybe LSU, no one has been as flawless so far Stanford. The Cardinal hasn't played anyone with a pulse, with the best win coming over a floundering Arizona team on the road, but it's doing what great teams are supposed to do to bad ones.

The punting game is average, and the secondary is giving up 250 yards per game against teams bombing away to keep up the pace, but the 27-point win over Arizona qualifies as the closest call.

It's not all Andrew Luck. The offensive line is third in the nation in sacks allowed giving up just two, the run defense is fourth in the nation giving up just 62.25 yards per game, and the defensive front has been dominant at getting into the backfield ranking fourth in the nation in sacks and eight tackles for loss. But it's more than just the basics for a smart team that's doing everything right.

What's odd, though is that with all the sacks, all the pressure on the quarterback, and all the opponents' pass attempts in a desperate hope to keep up, the Cardinal hasn't picked off a pass. Akron and Utah State are the only other teams without an interception.

9. Mountain West Red Zone Defense
Michigan leads the nation in red zone defense, with teams coming up with points on a mere five of 11 trips inside the 20. Wyoming's defense is doing a decent job, tied for 15th in the nation allowing points on 12 of 17 trips, and Colorado State, UNLV, and Air Force all came up with two stops, but the rest of the Mountain West defenses can't come up with a stop at the end of long drives.

Six teams in America have yet to come away unscathed on opponent trips into the red zone, and three of them – TCU, San Diego State, and Boise State – are in the mix while New Mexico has given up scores 20-of-21 times. However, Boise State has only allowed four drives inside the 20, San Diego State has allowed nine, and Georgia is the only other team that's allowed fewer than ten.

8. Big 12 Penalties
The tons and tons of penalty yards Big 12 teams have been hit with so far can't be chalked up to conference officials; the league season just started.

Five of the eight most penalized teams in the nation yardage-wise are in the Big 12 with Missouri (113th, getting nailed for 76.75 yards per game), Oklahoma State (115th, 78.75), Baylor (118th, 81.75), Iowa State (119th, 86.5) and Colorado (120th, 88.6) just a part of the problem. Texas Tech (102nd) has been hit with 67.25 yards in penalties a game and Texas A&M (76th) has had a few problems going back 57.25 yards per outing.

Watch and see if this matters as the conference season goes on. Oklahoma is ninth in the nation only committing 17 penalties for 36 yards per game, Kansas (39th) isn't too bad, and Kansas State (51st) hasn't been hit hard. However, sins don't matter much with lots and lots and lots of …

4. Big 12 and SEC First Downs
With high-powered offenses come plenty of yards and plenty of long drives, and no one is doing more to keep the chains moving than the Big 12 teams. To put this in perspective, Kent State is last in the nation in first downs getting just 11.6 per game, and Florida Atlantic is coming up with 12 per outing. The Big 12 has four of the top six and five of the top ten, and six of the top 17 teams in first downs. Oklahoma State leads the nation with 30.25 per game, Oklahoma is third with 28.5, Texas A&M fifth with 27.75, Texas Tech sixth with 27.5, Baylor is tied for eighth with 26, and Kansas is 17th with 25. Missouri is 27th. Meanwhile, Tennessee is tied for 11th, averaging 25.75 first downs per game, and Arkansas is 15th averaging 25.2. Most of the rest of the SEC is having a hard time getting the offense moving.

Even with as much offensive talent as any team in the country, South Carolina is 97th, coming up with just 17.6 first downs per game; almost 13 fewer than Oklahoma State. Kentucky (15), Ole Miss (14.2) and Vanderbilt (12.5) are all in the bottom five.

6. Miami University
There's apparently a fine line between being a 10-4 MAC champion and being among the worst teams in America.

Last year's RedHawk team might have been a bit of a mirage, averaging just 21.57 points per game while getting nothing from a running game averaging 98 yards per game. They won on passing, dinking and dunking for 253 yards per game while almost never turning the ball over, ranking 17th in the nation in turnover margin.

With almost all the key parts returning, this year the 0-4 team is dead last in the nation averaging 49 rushing yards per game, more than 17 yards per game behind an anemic Florida Atlantic attack. The punting game was bad last year, and now it's at a whole other level ranking dead last averaging just 27.15 yards per kick, with only two other teams, Baylor and West Virginia, averaging under 30.

The RedHawks and are averaging just 3.5 yards per punt return, is only getting points 60% of the time in the red zone, 13 points per game, and are 99th in the nation in …

5. Third Down Conversion Percentage
It might be the most telling stat in football. If you convert on third downs, you control the ball, the clock, and the game. How important is it? Last year the top ten teams in third down conversion percentage were Stanford, Nevada, Auburn, TCU, Navy, UCF, Northern Illinois, Air Force, Wisconsin, and South Carolina combining to go 112-23. The 11th best team was Boise State. Only four of the bottom 27 teams went bowling.

This year, the top ten teams at converting – Tennessee, Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, Air Force, Illinois, Texas Tech, Navy, Houston, Northern Illinois, and Oklahoma State – are a combined 37-7. Of the bottom 25 teams, only Louisiana (114th) and Vanderbilt (119th) have a winning record.

How bad is Florida Atlantic? It's only converting 19.61% of its chances, while Tennessee and Wisconsin are each converting 62.07% of the time.

4. Auburn 3rd Down Defense
New Mexico can't stop anyone, allowing teams to covert a whopping 56.9% of their third down chances. UCLA isn't having any more luck, allowing teams to move the chains 54.79% of the time, and Auburn is checking in a 118th in the nation allowing teams to convert 54.4% of their opportunities.

However, the Tigers are getting better.

South Carolina only converted 2-of-10 chances last week, and Florida Atlantic converted just six of its 14 shots. Clemson couldn't be stopped (14-of-18), Mississippi State moved the ball (11-of-20), and Utah State was terrific (10-of-17). Last year, Auburn finished the season 35th in the nation allowing teams to convert 37.16% of the time. Why is the D having so much of a problem this year? Sacks. The Tigers have just six in five games.

3. Nordly Capi
The Colorado State defensive end might have been blown off as an early season flash after opening up the year with a 3.5 sack day against New Mexico, also forcing four fumbles, but he's been ultra-consistent as the nation's best pass rushing specialist. He hasn't done much against the run lately, but he's getting to the quarterback with a sack in each of the first five games and coming off a terrific day against San Jose State, getting to the passer all game long in the loss. He has a nation-leading eight sacks on the year, while just seven other pass rushers have cracked the five barrier and no one else has more than six.

2. Luke Kuechly
The Boston College junior deserved the Butkus last year, he deserved All-America honors as a freshman, and now he's finally going to get his deserved credit as the only bright spot on a miserable team.

Not only does he lead the nation in tackles, but he'd rank 36th in the country on just his solo stops. Averaging 16.6 tackles per game, he's coming up with 3.6 more per game than the No. 2 man, East Carolina's terrific freshman Jeremy Grove, coming up with 18 tackles against Northwestern, 17 against UCF, 17 against Duke, 11 against UMass, and 14 against Wake Forest, putting his streak of double-digit tackle games to 27 going back to a nine tackle game in the fourth game of his freshman year against Wake Forest.

1. Non-Conference BCS Road Games
It's common wisdom that you never, ever, ever play a tough non-conference game on the road unless you're either a) really good, b) you need to make a statement or c) you're in the Pac-12 and you can't get top teams to come to your house. And then there's the Big Ten, which gets a heaping helping of Notre Dame, but doesn't do much travelling if it doesn't have to.

Even so, the belief is that a good non-conference road game probably spells doom to a team's season and is an unnecessary risk for anyone with national title hopes. However, so far this year, if you count BYU and Notre Dame as BCS-level programs, the record of BCS on BCS action is 18-16 in favor of the home team, and that doesn't factor in Boise State's win over Georgia, essentially a Bulldog home date.

Whether it was Oklahoma over Florida State, Alabama over Penn State or LSU over West Virginia, the top teams were able to survive and strengthen their reputations by coming up with tremendous wins on the road.

Texas was able to reestablish itself a bit after a big win at UCLA, Kansas State kicked off a great start with a goal line stop at Miami, and Iowa State made a little bit of a statement with a win at Connecticut.

However, the Pac-12 took it on the chin when it ventured away from home going 2-5 (counting Utah over BYU. Stanford dominated in its layup over Duke, but Oregon lost to LSU in what was essentially a Tiger home game (but wasn't counted as one of the 18 BCS vs. BCS home wins), Arizona lost at Oklahoma State, Arizona State lost at Illinois, Colorado lost at Ohio State, Oregon State lost at Wisconsin, and Washington lost at Nebraska.

Random Acts of Nutty … Provocative musings and tidbits to make every woman want you and every man want to be you (or vice versa) a.k.a. things I didn't feel like writing bigger blurbs for.

- Oct. 22. USC at Notre Dame. If the first part of the season is any indication, Matt Barkley vs. Tommy Rees should be great, and Robert Woods vs. Michael Floyd, at least stats-wise, will be one of the best positional matchups of the year.

- Could Colorado finish 1-11? It doesn't play Oregon State, and it plays five of the last eight games on the road with the three home games against Oregon, USC, and Arizona.

- Boston College is also in for a nightmare with five road games in the final seven. The two home games are against Florida State and NC State, and a 1-7 start could be a lock with road games at Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Maryland up next.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Case McCoy: 7-of-12, 110 yards … Underrated: David Ash, 7-of-12 145 yards, 2 scores
2) Overrated: The First Round … Underrated: Game 162
3) Overrated: Terrelle Pryor being suspended by the NFL ... Underrated: Boom Herron and DeVier Posey's summer "jobs"
4) Overrated: Jordan Jefferson ... Underrated: Jarrett Lee
5) Overrated: Mike Sherman blaming the players ... Underrated: Mike Sherman blaming the coaches

"Oh, bull. I'll bet you our next meal that I can get you gambling before the day's out." …
1) Mississippi State -16.5 over UAB
2) Iowa +4 over Penn State
3) Arizona -1 over Oregon State
- Record So Far: 10-4 SU, 9-5 ATS

If the college football season ended right now, this would be my Heisman ballot cast for the Most Outstanding College Football Player in the United States for 2011 … 1) QB Robert Griffin, Baylor, 2) QB Russell Wilson, Wisconsin, 3) QB Denard Robinson, Michigan

Sorry this column sucked, it wasn't my fault … I was only given 17 carries. If I got the 41 that Michael Dyer had, the results would've been far better.

- Part 1. Is Wisconsin the new Nebraska?