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Friday, July 5, 2013

Statistical Review: Rutgers #43

Watching the Rutgers offense try to the run the ball during 1s vs. 1s in practice must have been a thing to behold. Rutgers had the nation's most dominant run defense and the offense averaged less than 4 yards per carry. It was the greatest disparity in college football between offensive and defensive performance on the same team.

Now, as I noted with Fresno State, Rutgers had the most dominant run defense, not the best. After adjusting for competition Michigan State was slightly better, but only by the tiniest margins. And there was a significant gap between these two and the rest of the field. Rutgers allowed 3.34 yards per rush (2nd nationally), 25+ yards on .7% of run plays (6th), and caught runners in the backfield ten times as often  - 6.82% of runs (3rd).

That run defense with a more-than-adequate pass defense made scoring on the Rutger's defense a formidable challenge. Opponent's averaged 1.06 points (4th) and  24.4 yards per possession (13th), and 3.7 points in the red zone (4th best nationally).

But for everything the defense did right, the offense did two things wrong. They were 110th in points, 115th in plays and 113th in yards per possession. By EPA/rush+ Rutgers had the nation's 7th least effective running game. They were very good at keeping the quarterback upright, allowing sacks on 2.7% of pass plays and 1.3% on passing downs (best in the country), but they were only completing 55% of passes for 12.2 yards per completion, so good protection wasn't adding much overall.

The standard narrative on Rutgers in 2012 is that the team collapsed with QB Gary Nova and blew a clear shot at the Big East title. While Nova could have played better, the "collapse" may have had more to do with trading Tulane and Howard for Louisville and Virginia Tech on the schedule. If you adjust for competition and remove two games, Arkansas and Virginia Tech, there is no overall trend in Nova's play. With those games included he was clearly above average as a quarterback. Nova wasn't the problem.

The defense will see significant turnover, including some big losses, but should be good at the outset and get better as the season goes on (barring injury). The real question will be the Rutgers running game, specifically the Rutgers running backs, more specifically Savon Huggins. Rutgers will be a contender in the Big East in 2013; if Huggins runs like a man possessed (which I am not at all expecting), Rutgers will be the team to beat. I'm just stoked for the game against Fresno State.
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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