Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Finally, Something Interesting

Bowl season is well underway, but there hasn’t been much so far to turn my attention away from something more interesting, like the cooking channel. 34 bowls means 68 teams in “post-season” play, or more than half the 120 FBS teams. I mean seriously, Notre Dame in a bowl at 6-6? Bowls with names like the Eaglebank Bowl and the Magicjack St. Petersburg Bowl? Why not just cut to the chase and schedule 60 bowl games so every team can play in a bowl. Participation ribbons for everyone!

Sure there have been some good games, but they could hardly be called consequential. It’s as if the NFL suddenly decided 20 of the 32 teams got to advance to the playoffs.

Finally, last night, a game caught my interest. One of the much lauded Big 12 teams played a team outside their conference.

One of the perplexing questions of the offensively prolific Big 12 this year has been whether Big 12 offenses are markedly superior, or Big 12 defenses are greatly inferior. Last night’s contest between Missouri and Northwestern gave us our first insight into a possible answer.

Excepting overtime, the game stats were –


Points – 23
Total Yards – 286
Rushing – 93
Passing 193


Points – 23
Total Yards – 376
Rushing – 72
Passing 304

Let’s see how these stack up to their seasonal averages, especially Missouri’s offense.

Missouri Season Averages

Points per game – 43.15 (6th in nation)
Yards per game – 497 (6th in nation)
Rushing ypg – 157 (52nd in nation)
Passing ypg – 340 (4th in nation)

Northwestern effectively shut down the Tigers offense compared to their season averages, surrendering 20 less points, 211 less yards total, 64 less rushing yards, and 147 less passing yards, than Missouri’s seasonal averages.

Northwestern has had a reasonably effective defense this year, ranking 23rd nationally in points per game at 19.3. Missouri was able to manage 4 more points against the Wildcats than their season average. However Northwestern has not been an effective passing defense at all, ranking 73rd in the nation and surrendering 215 yards per game.

This should have been a defense Missouri – throwing for 340 yards per game – should have passed all over. Yet the Tigers only managed 193 yards, which is actually worse than the average Northwestern surrendered to their mostly Big 10 foes.

Missouri was already one of the more dismal defenses in college football going into the game, ranking 117th in passing defense, 99th in total defense and 74th in scoring defense. Yet against a Northwestern team that ranks 62nd in total offense and 75th in scoring defense they managed to give up more yards in 376 than Northwestern’s tepid average of 357 ypg.

In other words, when it comes to the question “Are Big 12 offenses good, or Big 12 defenses lousy?” the first round goes to the latter. In the case of Missouri, neither their offense nor defense was impressive, especially their offense.

Friday will bring us some more answers when Mississippi faces Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. Tech’s scoring offense is 4th in the nation at 44.58 ppg while Ole Miss boasts the 14th ranked scoring defense surrendering 17.8 ppg. Something’s gotta give.


Jerry Hinnen said...

I don't disagree with your conclusions--though I don't think Tech-Ole Miss is going to offer a definitive answer, since the Rebels are incredible against the run and vulnerable to the pass, and obviously Tech doesn't care about the former--but Missouri is in the Big 12 North, rather than South.

Well worth reading, though, as always.

Anonymous said...

I watched the game yesterday and was thinking the same thing. Excellent article. I also am looking forward to the T.Tech vs. Ole miss game.

Anonymous said...

You've got to do the Oregon vs. Ok. St. game like this too. Ok. St. held Texas to a low point total and was supposed to have one of the better defenses in the conference.

Go Gators

RHOmea said...

OK State got held underwater by a mediocre (overall 78th) defense as well on pts, yds, and yds passed so one has to start assuming it is the fact that Big 12 d's aren't as skilled as they should be.
Ole Miss and the OSU v UT game should tell a lot. and the NC of course.