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Friday, August 2, 2013

Statistical Review: Northern Illinois #22

Jordan Lynch led the country for most of the season in EPA, and he finished at 180, 4th behind Tajh Boyd, Nick Florence and Johnny Manziel. But Lynch's production was "inflated" by opportunity and weaker competition. For example, Lynch had 50% more carries and Manziel, and Manziel's EPA on running plays was 20 points higher, and almost double Lynch's when we adjust for schedule. Overall, he was 53rd in EPA/rush and 62nd in EPA/pass.

But Lynch deserves a lot of credit for leading a very productive offense even if he, himself, was not overly efficient. Northern Illinois was one of eight teams to top 3 points per possession. They did this by compounding good starting field position (66.4 yards from end zone) with 38.4 yards per possession (15th best nationally) and 70% TDs in the red zone. The formula for success was an efficient running game (6th in EPA/rush, 12th in negative run rate) joined by some explosive pass plays (11th nationally). Akeem Daniels turned in an EPA of 31.2 on only 68 carries. He was 2nd among running backs in schedule adjusted EPA per carry. And he didn't have more than four carries until game 11.

The defense was adequate, 25th in points per possession, but could have been better. It excelled in the red zone, prevented explosive plays, and was generally solid across the board (more so against the pass than the run), but they didn't get stops on 3rd down and allowed a whopping 6.5 plays per possession. Among other things, this allowed opponents to run off 2:40 per possession, keeping Lynch and Co. on the bench.

There's no reason to believe Northern Illinois can't replicate their 2012 success. And Jordan Lynch has room to improve and will get 600 opportunities to make that improvement pay off. On the other hand, 12-1 and a BCS bowl berth demands some lucky bounces and close 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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