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Friday, September 27, 2013

Week 5 Saturday Preview: The Early Games (12-3)

An EPA-centric preview of every game this weekend.  To find out more about Expected Points Added, click here.

#15 Miami (3-0) at South Florida (0-3), 12:00, ESPNU

Miami rush O (.25 EPA per play) vs. USF rush D (-.026)
Miami pass O (.27) vs. USF pass D (.045)
USF rush O (-.24) vs. Miami rush D (-.008)
USF pass O (-.49) vs. Miami pass D (-.473)
There's a good argument that South Florida is the nation's most disappointing team so far.  Willie Taggart seemed like a perfect fit.  He had legitimate success at Western Kentucky, and he hails from the greater Tampa area.  The thing is, he might be the perfect fit, but if the perfect fit inherits no talent in the passing or rushing attacks, the perfect fit won't look like the perfect fit.  USF ranks 123rd in EPA per pass, costing the team a point every 2 times they throw the ball.  The defense wasn't great in the 53-21 loss to McNeese State, but even that final score doesn't tell the full story.  9 points were scored when the D was off the field, one TD came on a drive that only required 7 yards, one FG was allowed on a 3-and-out that started in Bulls territory, and another TD capped a 16 yard drive.  That's 26 points either directly from or helped greatly by the problems of the offense or special teams.  Since that game, the defense has managed to keep things manageable, which is a very tall order with complete offensive ineptness, which is what the Bulls have seen this year.  Saturday at noon, you can catch that ineptness on display.  It's unlikely to change against a decent Miami defense.
Player to watch: Miami RB Duke Johnson (8.6 EPA) is 19th in opponent-adjusted rushing EPA.

#11 Oklahoma State (3-0) at West Virginia (2-2), 12:00, ESPN

OSU rush O (.16) vs. WVU rush D (-.095)
OSU pass O (.39) vs. WVU pass D (-.103)
WVU rush O (.06) vs. OSU rush D (-.101)
WVU pass O (-.13) vs. OSU pass D (-.067)
The Cowboys have been somewhat quiet for a top 15 team.  They slowly squeezed the life out of Mississippi State on opening weekend but were overshadowed by bigger matchups.  This game will also likely be overshadowed, but that has more to do with their opponent - West Virginia has been not at all as expected in pretty much all facets.  They've been better than average on defense.  They've been bad passing the ball.  It's a weird time to observe Mountaineer football.  If last week's game against Maryland is any indication, it's also going to be a long year for fans of Mountaineer football. 
Player to watch: Oklahoma State QB JW Walsh (42.6 EPA) is 18th in opponent-adjusted passing EPA.

Miami (OH) (0-3) vs. Illinois (2-1) - The Illini should eclipse last year's win total with this game.  After this, the schedule starts to toughen up: Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Penn State are the next 4 opponents.  After this win, for Illinois to go bowling, it's going to take wins at Indiana and at Purdue, plus an upset of a considerably better team along the way.  Still, 3-5 wins is an improvement.  Miami continues to regress in Don Treadwell's 3rd and likely final year.

#12 South Carolina (2-1) at UCF (3-0), 12:00, ABC

SC rush O (.14) vs. UCF rush D (-.097)
SC pass O (.33) vs. UCF pass D (.052)
UCF rush O (.12) vs. SC rush D (.044)
UCF pass O (.56) vs. SC pass D (.150)
The teams have performed similarly on offense - good rushing attacks complemented by great passing attacks.  On defense, neither has been great against the pass, but SC has struggled against the run as well, while the Knights have done very well at stopping the run.  UCF is no longer technically a mid-major, and this game could very well be their coming-out party.  They beat Penn State earlier in the year and shouldn't be taken lightly - they're one of the better teams in the AAC.  We will see if South Carolina can out-talent the Knights, because if the talent difference isn't the deciding factor, SC could be in trouble.
Player to watch: UCF QB Blake Bortles (52.7 EPA) is currently 4th in opponent-adjusted EPA.

Northern Illinois (3-0) at Purdue (1-3), 12:00, ESPN2

NIU rush O (.18) vs. Purdue rush D (.127)
NIU pass O (.12) vs. Purdue pass D (.090)
Purdue rush O (-.11) vs. NIU rush D (.087)
Purdue pass O (-.19) vs. NIU pass D (.057)
Purdue hasn't been very good on either side of the ball this year.  The offense could have a little more success against a Huskie D that isn't exactly dominant, but I don't expect it to be enough to carry them to the upset victory.
Player to watch: NIU QB Jordan Lynch (29.6 EPA)

SMU (1-2) at TCU (1-2), 12:00, FS1

SMU rush O (.21) vs. TCU rush D (.019)
SMU pass O (-.09) vs. TCU pass D (-.043)
TCU rush O (.11) vs. SMU rush D (.130)
TCU pass O (-.08) vs. SMU pass D (.236)
Neither team is very good at passing, but only TCU seems to apply that to the gameplan.  We know June Jones will just keep throwing no matter what, so it's pointless to even point out that SMU's run game is, on a per play basis, one of the 20 most efficient in the country.  On defense, only the TCU pass D registers as above average, and this creates a strategic advantage for the Horned Frogs in this game.  TCU can play a little pass defense, and it's much better than their run D.  SMU, regardless, will attack through the air.  Gary Patterson should get back to .500 and win the Iron Skillet yet again.
Player to watch: SMU WR Darius Joseph (17.0 EPA) is 5th in the country in receptions.

South Alabama (2-1) at Tennessee (2-2) - The Vols should have an easy win on their hands.

East Carolina (2-1) at North Carolina (1-2) - Our metrics indicate that ECU has played some decent pass D this year, but when you adjust for having played Logan Thomas, they're much less impressive.  UNC should roll.

Virginia (2-1) at Pittsburgh (2-1) - Matchup to watch is Pitt's O vs. the Virginia D, two units that have been better than expected this year.  I tentatively say that Pitt will win.

Navy (2-0) at Western Kentucky (2-2) - Neither team brings anything particularly interesting to the table, but I like the Navy offense against the Hilltopper defense.

Akron (1-3) at Bowling Green (3-1) - Bowling Green should win, but Akron has flashed some ability this year, and the Falcons haven't been quite as good as expected.  Never rule out anything in the MAC.

Troy (2-2) at Duke (2-2) - It could be somewhat high scoring, but I expect Duke to score a lot more.

Colorado (2-0) at Oregon State (3-1) - Over the first 4 weeks, no player has been more productive than Oregon State's Sean Mannion.  Also, it's almost October and Colorado is undefeated.  I needed to write that once while it was still true.

Toledo (2-2) at Ball State (3-1) - Two expected conference contenders face off in Muncie.  I like the Cardinals at home thanks to their passing attack.

Brent Blackwell compiles the EPA rankings for  Follow Brent on Twitter by mashing the pretty button below.

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