FanPost

Inside the Numbers: Viva Las Vegas

Stephen Dunn

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via x.pac-12.com

A look at the upcoming game using S&P+ and FEI.

S&P+ is created by Bill Connelly. S&P+ is an advanced statistical measure, which combines success rate, explosiveness per play and opponent adjustments. For an explanation of the terms used, see here, here, and here.

How S&P+ sees the game:

Overall When USC Has the Ball… When Fresno State has the Ball…
Category USC Fresno State USC Off Fresno State Def USC Def Fresno State Off
F/+ Rk 12 44
S&P+ 19 (238.9) 35 (222.4) 64 (97.9) 49 (109.3) 6 (141.0) 30 (113.1)
Play Efficiency 50 (105.5) 48 (103.9) 8 (125.8) 26 (113.3)
Std. Downs S&P+ 38 (110.2) 42 (106.9) 6 (129.7) 30 (112.8)
Pass Downs S&P+ 57 (102.2) 82 (96.1) 14 (122.5) 45 (110.0)
Rushing S&P+ 38 (110.7) 54 (105.6) 27 (114.3) 35 (111.8)
Passing S&P+ 50 (106.2) 67 (100.2) 5 (137.8) 46 (107.0)
Drive Efficiency 77 (90.2) 44 (114.7) 6 (156.2) 33 (112.9)
Difference in Net Points 52 (-.05) 11 (-1.46) 47 (-.73) 10 (.84)

When USC has the ball…

The matchup between the USC offense and the Fresno State defense is somewhat even. The Bulldogs are okay on standard downs and against the run. The Trojans are slightly better running the ball, coming in at #38 on standard downs and in rushing S&P+. Fresno State’s weakness is defending against the pass. Fresno State is #82 on passing downs and #67 against the pass. One surprising aspect of this matchup is the difference in net points. Fresno State’s defense is currently #11 in this category. I’ll come back to this later.

When Fresno State has the ball…

Despite the disappointing performance in the final game, the USC defense continues to be ranked at a high level and holds an advantage over the Bulldogs’ offense in every category, which isn’t a surprise. What is surprising is that according to S&P+, Fresno State’s passing game is only average. They are ranked #45 and #46 on standard downs and in passing S&P+, respectively. What the Bulldogs do well is take advantage of the opportunities that they are given, as they are ranked #10 in DNP.

FEI is the Fremeau Efficiency Index, created by Brian Fremeau. FEI is an advanced statistical measure for college football that tracks drive efficiency instead of per play success. For an explanation of the terms used, see here, here, and here.

How FEI sees the game:

Overall When USC Has the Ball… When Fresno State has the Ball…
Category USC Fresno State USC Off Fresno State Def USC Def Fresno State Off
F/+ Rk 12 44
FEI Rk 18 (.175) 48 (.045) 28 (.315) 66 (-.006) 6 (-.609) 17 (.410)
Field Position 15 (.540) 34 (.522)
Raw OE/DE 69 (-.056) 40 (-.149) 13 (-.397) 3 (.659)
First Down rate 82 (.649) 64 (.671) 11 (.579) 27 (.732)
Available Yards Rate 78 (.432) 44 (.433) 9 (.354) 9 (.599)
Explosive Drives 43 (.149) 82 (.151) 32 (.099) 17 (.196)
Methodical Drives 115 (.084) 47 (.130) 41 (.125) 6 (.225)
Value Drives 69 (.366) 49 (.364) 10 (.267) 13 (.528)
Special Team rank 39 (.896) 117 (-2.311)
Field Goal efficiency 86 (-.136) 89 (-.153)
Punt Return efficiency 2 (.274) 93 (-.149)
Kickoff return efficiency 83 (-.209) 124 (-.429)
punt efficiency 104 (.049) 15 (-.224)
kickoff efficiency 32 (-.223) 118 (.072)

When USC has the ball…

FEI thinks that this is going to be an interesting matchup. The raw numbers say that these two units are evenly matched. The rankings give the slight advantage to the Bulldogs. If its USC’s weakness, its Fresno State’s relative strength. Neither unit is particular good at anything one thing. The Bulldog’s are okay at not letting the opponent get first downs or grinding out long drives. The Trojans are a somewhat explosive offense, which is a Fresno State vulnerability.

When Fresno State has the ball…

According to FEI, Fresno State is a ridiculously balanced team on a per drive basis. They’re good at consistently picking up first downs, great at getting the explosive play, and downright elite at grinding out long drives. Over the season, the Trojan defense has played at a very high level, but the two relative weaknesses they have shown is in allowing the big play and allowing the opposing offense to grind out some long drives.

Special Teams…

The Trojans’ special teams are still bi-polar. The punt return team is second in the nation, the kickoff coverage is good, and everything else is bad to ugly. The good news is that the last time USC played a team with this bad of special team’s numbers the Trojans returned three punts for touchdowns. Fresno State has problems with the field goal unit, punt returns, returning kickoffs and covering kickoffs.

What it all means…

USC should be able to move the ball against the Fresno defense. It may take awhile for the ground game to get going but Cody Kessler and the receivers will make some plays. Consistently making the big play will be key, because grinding out drives just won’t happen with this offense. The Bulldog defense can get after the quarterback and create havoc behind the line but also allow the big play. If the battered offensive line can protect Kessler, especially on passing downs, look for the Trojans offense to get yards and points in bunches. One final thought about difference in net points category, which I mentioned earlier. Fresno State is ranked #11 in this category, and mediocre in every other defensive S&P+ measure. The Bulldogs are great at keeping opposing offenses from scoring even when they have good field position. My theory is that teams that are really aggressive on 4th down in order to keep the ball out of Derek Carr’s hands.

Speaking of Derek Carr, he is, without a doubt, the best quarterback that the SC defense has faced this year. While not a highly mobile quarterback, a la Bret Hundley, Carr can make a rusher miss. Davante Adams is also going to provide a stiff test for the secondary. The Bulldogs are very good at taking what you give them. Play a soft zone to take away the big play and they’ll dink and dunk it down the field. Get aggressive on them and they’ll go deep. The two weaknesses that USC has had this season on defense is allowing the big play and also allowing opposing offenses to get in rhythm and hold the ball. Fresno State is going to get their yards. Pressuring Derek Carr with the front four and preventing the big play will be crucial. For all the fuss about this offense, when they have been contained, its been by good pass defenses. USC isn’t just good, they’re elite.

Despite the turmoil surrounding this program and the injuries, this team has circled the wagons over the last half of the season. This is a definitely a different team than the one that sleepwalked through last year’s bowl game. I think that this game is going to be a shootout in the first half. With the extra time to prepare, both offenses should find success against the respective defenses, especially early. It’s going to come down to which team has the better defense, and that’s definitely USC. Look for the Trojans to start pulling away in the second half for a relatively easy win.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Conquest Chronicles' writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Conquest Chronicles' writers or editors.

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