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An Advanced Stats look at Oklahoma

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The Frogs’ defense has hit its stride just in time.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Greetings all - what follows is a brief statistical breakdown of the Texas game and the forthcoming matchup between TCU and OU, utilizing Bill Connelly’s S&P numbers, which are the best football analytics we have at our disposal. It’s about time FOW got a little more nerd-friendly; my goal for the rest of the season is to take us boldly into that great statistical beyond.

Links to find each team’s advanced statistical profile can be found below, and a glossary of terms can be found here.

Looking Back:

Texas Longhorns (60th in S/P+, 97th offense, 29th defense) 7
TCU Horned Frogs (8th, 43rd, 3rd) 24

Five Factors Box Score: TCU - Texas

Offense Points Plays Yards Yards Per Play Drives Trips PtsPerTrip AvgFP Success Rate TO Margin Exp TO Margin Diff
Offense Points Plays Yards Yards Per Play Drives Trips PtsPerTrip AvgFP Success Rate TO Margin Exp TO Margin Diff
TCU 24 73 343 4.7 15 5 4.8 30 0.36 0 1.76 -1.76
Texas 7 70 263 3.76 14 5 1.4 24.1 0.26 0 -1.76 1.76

What went right?

Just about everything. TCU’s offense just about rebounded from Iowa State, offering up a 49th percentile performance, while the defense played at a 97% percentile, just this side of sheer dominance. TCU established themselves at the beginning of drives, starting at the 30 yard line on average, and moved the ball relatively well, 36% success rate, especially considering Texas’s elite run defense. They converted on 4 out of 5 scoring opportunities for an outstanding 4.8 points per opportunity (4th among all FBS teams last week) and they held onto the ball - no turnovers. I cannot overstate the fact that Texas is the best defensive team TCU has played all season, and they turned in a solid performance.

On the defensive side of the ball, they smothered Texas to the tune of a 26% success rate - meaning Texas gained sufficient yardage* on just a quarter of their plays. Texas had five trips inside the forty and only converted on one of them, held to a paltry 1.4 points per play. The defensive line had a lot of fun during this game, as they exploited Texas’s weak offensive line and capitalized on TCU’s coverage.

TCU got started early and then put the squeeze on Texas hard. (Texas’s only score was an extremely unsettling drive with a couple of back to back passes, but statistically the Longhorns were never a threat - UT had a 0% win expectancy with a performance like this.)

What went wrong?

Not much to mention here. First, the legend of Texas’s third quarter defense lives on. TCU’s drive chart in the third quarter: PUNT, PUNT, PUNT, only gaining 9, 24, and 6 yards on those three drives. Second, TCU couldn’t pull out a turnover, despite a couple passes in the hands of DBs, which felt like the limiting factor in this game not being a true blowout.

And this isn’t as much an advanced stats note as me taking advantage of my platform to mention Michael Dickson, the Texas punter, who has a hilariously strong leg and put TCU in a tight spot more than a few times (we also got to see his leg on display many times thanks to Texas’s anemic offense).

Basically, TCU started strong, and once they got a cushion, shifted their focus to smothering Texas in all facets of offense, and it worked.

*sufficient yardage: 50% of yards to go on first down, 70% on second down, or 100% on 3rd/4th down.

This Week:

TCU Horned Frogs (8th, 43rd, 3rd)
Oklahoma Sooners (14th, 1st, 115th)

As TCU gears up for a de facto playoff game this weekend with Oklahoma, I thought it prudent to compare both teams’ performance in Big 12 play to better understand where each team sits, along with the usual opponent profile. So, thanks to these spectacular compilations by a person I don’t know on Twitter, we can contextualize each team.

Big 12 Play Comparison

Offense Yards Per Play Rank Points Per Play Rank Points Per Opp Rank Field Position Rank Success Rate Rank Turnover Margin Rank
Offense Yards Per Play Rank Points Per Play Rank Points Per Opp Rank Field Position Rank Success Rate Rank Turnover Margin Rank
OU Offense 8.53 1 0.61 1 5.12 1 25.9 9 52.8 1 -0.2 6
TCU Defense 4.37 1 0.2 1 3.07 2 24.7 1 26.2 1 0.5 3
TCU Offense 5.63 6 0.41 6 4.17 5 31.9 2 39.5 5 0.5 3
OU - Defense 6.61 9 0.49 7 5.16 10 28.7 6 38.8 6 -0.2 6

When OU’s on offense:

This is best on best of the Big 12, quite literally. Success Rate, Yards Per Play, Points Per Play, Points Per Scoring Opportunity all feature TCU’s defense and OU’s offense at the top. There’s no clear advantage here, other than the fact that TCU’s will be the best defense OU has played all season, and TCU has at least the experience against Oklahoma State’s high-powered, comparable offense, although admittedly, OU is on a different level.

When TCU’s on offense:

This is pretty good on pretty bad. As dominant as OU’s offense has been all season, their defense has been that inept. They do not limit touchdowns on scoring opportunities, they give teams a head start, and they allow far too many successful plays. Couple that with a negative (expected) turnover margin, and how TCU’s offense exploits this OU defense will be the deciding factor of the game.

What does OU do well?

Five Factors:

  • Offensive Success Rate: 1st in the nation
  • Offensive IsoPP: 8th in the nation
  • Offensive Finishing Drives: 9th in the nation

Under the Hood:

The offense does, well, whatever they damn well please; OU has the most efficient offense in essentially every category. The Sooners are number one in offensive S/P+ in the following categories: Offense, Success Rate, Rushing Offense, Passing Offense, Passing Success Rate, Standard Downs, Passing Downs, First Quarter, Third Quarter, Fourth Quarter, First Down, Second Down, and Third Down.

They randomize their play-calling extremely well, which should alarm the casual viewer; OU sits at or just around the national average on run/pass splits on both standard and passing downs, which means they are far from a one-trick offense. The Sooners rush about 50% of the time on Standard Downs, and about 35% of the time on Passing Downs. They are effective in both the rush and the pass, and those feed off each other to keep defenses unable to predict trends or anticipate to any real success. Instead, OU’s offense focuses on reads and keeping the defense on their heels.

On defense, it’s harder to find bright spots, but, their defensive line ranks 32nd in havoc rate and 47th in Line Yards, indicating they get a decent push at the line on rushing plays. Their Adjusted Sack Rate reflects the defensive line’s ability; they are 44th in the nation there, which contributes substantially to their 39.4% defensive Passing Success Rate, 56th best.

What does OU do Poorly?

Five Factors:

  • Offensive Field Position: 121st in the nation.
  • Defensive Explosiveness: 117th in the nation.
  • Defensive Finishing Drives: 105th in the nation.

Under the Hood:

The Sooner offense is little vulnerable on third down (14th in S/P+ as opposed to 1st in First, Second, and Third downs). That is probably more related to the fact that third down is higher leverage and generally a tougher situation on average than other downs, not to mention that everyone is a little deflated on third down, just by the nature of the finite first down goal.

The defense starts slow, and finishes slow. (84th in 1st Quarter S/P+, 75th 4th Quarter). Similar to last week against Texas, capitalizing early is key, because TCU will need every bit of cushion they can find against 4th Quarter Baker. The defense is particularly unspectacular on third down, 104th in the nation. Game planning with this in mind will be of particular import for TCU; ensuring third and short often will result in first downs often.

Their secondary is porous - DB Havoc Rate (124th), LB Havoc Rate(121st), and Passes Defended to Incompletion Ratio (119th) are numbers more akin to the MAC than the Big 12, yet here they are. This was on display in the Iowa State game, as the second and third levels of OU’s defense had trouble picking up the slack in the run defense, and showed itself to be little threat when it comes to a rigorous passing attack.

Overall, the Sooners have trouble limiting damage: 121st in the nation in Passing IsoPoints Per Play (1.74), and 80th in Rushing IsoPPP (0.94). OU allows big plays in a variety of ways: 1.19 Isolated PPP on Standard Downs and 1.70 on Passing Downs are both good enough for 111th in the country.

In Summary:

Do not overlook the fact that TCU is ranked as a better overall team, in terms of opponent adjusted efficiency, than OU. TCU’s offense is better than OU’s defense by orders of magnitude greater than OU’s offense is better than TCU’s defense. For every OU offensive accolade, TCU has one on defense. TCU’s defense is first in the nation in S/P+, Rushing, Rushing Success Rate, Second Quarter, First Quarter, First Down. The game rests on TCU’s defense; the offense will score against a weaker OU defense.

S/P+ projects this as a 31-30 OU win, a coin flip slightly in favor of the home team. Iowa State, Kansas State, and OSU all put up more points against OU and allowed more points from OU than TCU did on either side of the ball. If TCU’s defense can limit Baker and the Boys to anything less than an otherworldly performance, TCU should have an opportunity to control the ball and get that last stop that has eluded them for a few years now.

TCU can limit OU on offense by shutting down first down, taking advantage of OU’s poor field position, and making tackles on the defensive line. TCU can capitalize on OU’s weak defense by targeting the second level in the run game and setting up for (and converting on) big play opportunities.