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Friday, June 28, 2013

Statistical Preview: Mississippi State #48

If Mississippi State taught us nothing else in 2012, we learned that schedule matters. The Bulldogs started 7-0. Two wins in the next three games against Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU would have thrust them into national title talks. Instead, they scored 37 in the three games combined while allowing at least 37 in each. They won one of their final six games. The amazing thing is that, knowing what we know now, every outcome was completely predictable - they beat the bad teams and lost to the good ones.

The Mississippi State offense was outstandingly reliable. The Bulldogs were 47th and 57th in EPA (expected points added) per pass and rush, respectively, and about 10 spots better when we adjust for competition. Tyler Russell lived between 3 and 8 defense-independent EPA (that is to say, he was 3 to 8 points better than the average quarterback), scoring in that range in 9 of 12 games against FBS opponents. Only against Northwestern did he have a truly bad performance (-6.6 EPA). The offense was surprisingly bad on third downs - 35.8% conversion, 86th nationally.

On the other side of the ball they were 39th and 66th in EPA per pass and rush allowed, respectively. Adjusting for competition, the run defense was fairly good: 25th in EPA per rush and 13th in both yards per rush and explosive plays per rush. The pass defense was not good. They allowed completions on 61.3% of passes and allowed 25+ yards on 6.3% of passes. But the fault lies with the front seven, not the secondary. They sacked the quarterback on only 4.2% of passes and only 4.0% of passes on passing downs (112th nationally); they picked off 4.4% of passes, so they were more likely to intercept a pass than sack the quarterback.

Thanks mostly to those interceptions, Mississippi State turned over opponents twice as often (19.5% of possessions) as they were turned over themselves (9.7% of possessions).

If they can find someone to fill Chad Bumphis' shoes, the offense should tick on in 2013 just as it did in 2012 - good, well-rounded, not spectacular, hopefully improved on 3rd downs. Defensively, the talk is that the line will be a strength and the DC will be more aggressive with the linebackers. If they get to the quarterback more often, Mississippi State has room to make a step forward. I'm not holding my breath. At least this year they don't play Bama, A&M and LSU in succession. That's something.
The Statistical Review breaks down teams along a number of performance categories, everything from red zone scoring to field goal percentage, and compares that performance against the rest of the FBS. All 124 teams will be reviewed from 124 to 1 by the hybrid rankings. You can find short descriptions of the stats used in the table below.


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