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Monday, August 26, 2013

Statistical Review: Texas A&M #3

Texas A&M had the best offense in college football. Oregon and Louisiana Tech scored more points per possession, but they did that against lesser competition (Oregon played one elite defense and flopped) and with significantly better average starting field position. A&M led the country with 44 yards/possession (6 more than Oregon). When we account for competition, field position, and points scored, and drop non-competitive drives (when the game is decided and backups are playing), Texas A&M was .33 points/possession better than any other team and a full half point better than Oregon.

Texas A&M led the country in yards per rush, .11 yards more than Oregon. Adjusting for competition, that gap grows to .78 yards per rush. Utah State had more explosive plays per rush than A&M, but adjusted for competition, there is a significant gap between the Aggies and everyone else (Florida, LSU and Alabama were among the best in the business at preventing big plays). The passing offense was also top 10 overall, by explosive plays, and by completion percentage after adjusting for competition. Manziel and crew were one of two teams to convert more than 50% of third downs.

And the scary part is that the Aggie offense didn't peak until the end of the season. A&M had 5 of the 8 best offensive performances by opponent-adjusted EP3 (the best available metric for a team's overall offensive performance) for the season in their last 5 games against FBS opponents. Let me put that another way. There were 732 games between FBS teams in the 2012 season. Five of the 8 best offensive performances in those 732 games came from Texas A&M, and all of those five came after October 26. The one weak link was the kicking game, which was really bad.

The defense was solid and half of what you'd really like to see paired with an uptempo offense. The Aggies were solid on 3rd downs and didn't allow a ton of explosive plays, but only against Alabama could they force a turnover. The A&M offense was deadly off turnovers and quick three-and-outs.

Film on A&M will make opponents more confident?
If a few pieces fall in place, Texas A&M could have the best offense in the history of college football. The offensive line is littered with NFL talent. Mike Evans and Ricky Seals-Jones will give more defensive coordinators nightmares than any receiving duo in college football, and Manziel will have a half dozen other suitable options when he wants to mix things up. Christine Michael left a bigger hole than most realize because of his off-field issues in 2012, but Malena and Trey Williams were both top 30 runners in 2012 and Brandon Williams has the talent to break the top 10. And then there's Manziel. He was the best player in college football as a redshirt freshman in a new system. That, of course, is the biggest piece, but if he plays Texas A&M will be tough to stop.

The bigger questions are on defense. There is a load of young talent on campus, but little experience and not enough game-ready depth. If DC Mark Snyder can pull another rabbit out of his hat, A&M will be a coin toss against Alabama from a national championship. And if the offense is in the 3.6-3.7 points/possession range, Snyder will just need a small rodent, not the full-sized rabbit.
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.


  1. Wow, tremendous analysis. It was pretty clear A&M was on a roll the second half of 2012, but it's incredible they put up 5 of the top 8 performances of the year.

    1. Thanks. Here's one more stat: Twice in 2012 did a team score an EP3 (not adjusted for competition) over 4. One was Texas A&M against Auburn (4.26). The other was Oregon State against Nicholls State (4.68), and Nicholls State was really, really bad.