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Friday, September 21, 2012

StatView: Arizona vs. Oregon

In statview, I begin by ignoring everything I know, think I know, or just imagined I know about two teams. I then look at their statistical profiles and, from that, try to predict what the game might look like and some keys to watch for.

Looking at Arizona and Oregon, the first thing that jumps off the page is that this game will have a lot of statistics. Combined, they are averaging over 1,200 yards and 100 points per game. They do this in part by having the 4th and 5th highest tempo offenses in the country. Since they average about 15 possessions per game against lower tempo opposition, together they could have upwards of 20 possessions per team. If they are able to average 3 points per possession (currently at 3.3 for Arizona and 3.5 for Oregon), a Vegas total of 77.5 seems low. That being said, the model predicts 78 points with about 32 total possessions and 2.5 points per possession.

Oregon has clearly been the better of the two teams. Oregon has averaged over 50 points per game in their last 4 meetings (to Arizona's 36). But it is harder to get a read on this season because Oregon has not yet been seriously challenged. It is difficult to know how its 6.2 rush yards per attempt and 329 rush yards per game will hold up against stiffer competition, but its opponent-adjusted rush rating of 8.7 puts them 10th nationally right now.

Arizona, on the other hand, has been tested. They rebounded from a less than awe inspiring win against Toledo by thumping Oklahoma St. On the surface, Arizona and Oregon look very similar, which, in combination with the new head coach, has led many to see Arizona as a poor man's Oregon. Arizona has completed 70.1% of its passes for 11.4 yards per completion, while Oregon has completed 70.7% for 11.5 yards. The lead backs for the two teams are averaging 5.8 yards per carry; Carey and Barner are virtually identical across the board in the individual stats. (Arizona does not have anyone that can match De'Anthony Thomas' 17.5 yards per carry, though.) But Arizona throws the ball 48% of the time to Oregon's 32%, gets 60% of its yards on passing plays, to Oregon's 45%, and Arizona averages one full play more per possession. Instead of Oregon's approach, Arizona has accumulated statistics this season by playing fast, avoiding turnovers and penalties (especially compared to Oregon), and sustaining drives.

On defense, the keys for Arizona will be to contain De'Anthony Thomas when he gets the ball (he is projected to 100 yards on 7 touches) and turn Oregon over. There is no reason to believe, statistically, that Arizona can consistently stop Oregon from moving the ball, so they will need to force them to move the ball all the way down the field and hope for turnovers and penalties to kill drives.

On offense, Arizona will need to maintain its 11.4 yards per completion. Oregon is allowing only 8.6 yards, a key to its 4th ranked opponent-adjusted pass defense. Arizona needs to stay close on the scoreboard and on schedule in down and distance to keep the whole playbook available. 

The model likes Oregon by only 12, 45-33 and gives the Ducks an 82% chance of winning. It projects only 815 yards or so of offense between the two teams, so 78 yards will only be possible if turnovers or special teams create some short fields and the kickers stay off the field. I would normally say the stats favor Oregon if the game becomes a shootout, but Arizona more than held its own against another high noon veteran in Oklahoma State two weeks ago.

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