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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Defensive Statistics Versus FBS Opponents

We've heard a good bit this week about State's defense being ranked #1 in total defense. That's an impressive statistic, for sure, but given State's played two FCS opponents in its four games, that stat's a bit misleading. So let's look at how the numbers shake out with those two opponents taken out:
  • 556 total yards in two games, for a per-game average of 278. That would slot State 22nd just behind Central Mich.
  • Those 556 yards were surrendered over 110 plays for a per-play average of 5.05. That slots State 53rd, just behind Army.
  • 202 total rushing yards over two games, good for a per-game average of 101. That's 28th best. Those 202 yards came over 65 carries, a 3.11 per-carry average, 30th best.
  • 354 total passing yards, 177 per game, 38th best. Those 354 yards came on 45 attempts for a per-attempt average of 7.87, 98th best.
So you can see, state's defensive numbers are a tad inflated by their cupcake games. Against the FBS competition, the numbers tend to fall more in line with what your eyes would tell you, not the stat sheet.

Note the discrepancy between the per-game and per-attempt rankings in the passing stats--60 slots. That could be the result of a couple of things.

For one, South Carolina was incredibly imbalanced in their play calling (42 rushing attempts versus only 22 passing attempts). Pitt, conversely, was perfectly balanced at 23 apiece. Had SC evenly spread their play selection out to 32/32 and gained the same number of yards through the air (a weak assumption, but stay with me), the per-attempt figure would drop to 6.43, good enough for a much more respectable 53rd place in the standings.

The other could be excessive yards-after-catch boosting the yielded yardage as a result of poor tackling. The prime example was the 79 pass play in the Pitt game where Bill Stull hit Jonathan Baldwin in the open field. Due to a poor angle on the attempted tackle, Baldwin was able to shoot past all of State's secondary for the score. Negate out the majority of Baldwin's yardage on that play (let's say 65 of the 79 yards), the yardage figures drop to 289 total, 144.5 per-game (11th) and 6.42 per-attempt (52nd).

Given the per-attempt passing figures are as high as they are, it will be key to limit the amount of time Riley Skinner sees the field this weekend. If State can dominate the time of possession like they did against Pitt (~37 mins to Pitt's ~22), that will bode well for the Pack limiting the damage done by Skinner.


  1. You're correct but to be fair don't you have to remove FCS teams from everyone elses records too?

  2. For a completely fair assessment, yes. In fact, with that in mind I took a look at the top five's opponents to see what impact their FCS competition had on their numbers. But for the most part their numbers remained as strong against their FBS competition or suffered minimal impact because they typically played only one FCS opponent (if any), and put up numbers just as good against their FBS foes as they did their FCS competition.

    State's two games against FCS opponents (with a particularly bad FCS opponent in Murray State) versus just one made for a bigger boost in State's defensive numbers.

    You're correct, though...a true apples-to-apples comparison would involve tossing out all FCS competition.