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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Statistical Review: Penn State #29

Penn State averaged 6.6 plays per possession. But like the other teams in that range and higher, the offense wasn't particularly good. Penn State finished the season with the 48th best schedule adjusted EP3 in the country. Only Nevada had more plays per possession and finished in the top 20 in EP3+, and they were 19th. So how is it that a team can keep the ball for so long yet doesn't get more value out of the possessions?

First, the high play/possession teams tend to start with bad field position, so they need a couple plays to catch up to everyone else's starting point. At 30th, Penn State's starting field position was far from terrible. Second, a lot of plays can increase the risk of turnover, which can hurt a team's EP3. Penn State turned the ball over on only 8.2% of possessions (11th nationally); Louisiana Tech and Arkansas State also ran a lot of plays/possession without a lot of turnovers. Third, the yards per play are low but the third down conversion rate is high, so the offense moves the ball at 10 yard/3 play increments. Penn State was 63rd in yards per pass and 107th in yards per pass. They weren't particularly dynamic on third downs, but good - 43.2% for 32nd nationally. Finally, high play/possession teams are very good at getting into the red zone, but not necessarily very good when they get there. Penn State was in the bottom third in points per possession in the red zone. So, to sum that all up, Penn State didn't rack up a ton of yards per play, but they didn't go backwards very often, especially on running plays, and they were surprisingly good on third downs. They didn't give up the ball very often on turnovers, but were terrible in the red zone, so they were able to run a lot of plays, move the ball downfield, and they didn't rack up a ton of points.

Penn State won games with defense. They weren't elite, but borderline top 20. The defense was particularly good against the run, but the real success came in the red zone. Opponents averaged more than 6 plays/possession and reached the red zone on 27% of possessions, but once there they averaged less than 4 points per possession. That should sound familiar. It should sound like the Penn State offense.

For a team that was bad on third downs and in the red zone, having four good options at tight end should improve things. If their new blue chip quarterback can get them the ball, Penn State could push for 9 wins.
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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