No, I am not on drugs right now, and no I am not related to John Butler. I am simply a man who is tired of the countless attacks on John Butler. Is the defense good? Absolutely not. I will even admit that this has been the most frustrating Penn State defense to watch in my entire life. “Bend but don’t break” is now “Bend but - crap too late they’re in the end zone already”. But really what did you all expect? Look at the players we lost from last year. Stephon Morris was a solid CB, Gerald Hodges was a first-team all B1G Linebacker, Jordan Hill a first team all B1G DT, and last but certainly not least, Michael Mauti, All-American LB and All-Universe Leader and motivator. If you thought that this defense was going to be anywhere close to as good as last year’s 8-4 squad you are what some people call, an idiot.
If you want to know why our secondary (with 3 of 4 returning starters) is astronomically worse than last year, or why Bill O’Brien would call 4 straight (incomplete) passes in the red zone when we were able to run on Minnesota at will, I am probably the least qualified person to answer that. I am however, qualified to use the Google machine and ESPN.com’s team offense and defense stat rankings.
I probably lost a lot of you at “ESPN”. Oh well. I’m very bored so I will go on. I looked at the stats and came to an interesting conclusion. Maybe Bill O’Brien knows what he’s talking about (*mind explodes*). Multiple times this season, O’Brien has commented on complimentary football. That in order for the defense to succeed, the offense must succeed as well. For example, it didn’t even matter if our defense gave up 409 points to Minnesota. We only scored 10. That doesn’t deserve a win. So without further ado…. Let me give you the statistical reason the defense may not be as bad as we all think.
Defense: I compared our opponents’ Points Scored Per Game (season average) to how many points we allowed head to head in that game (in regulation, so 34 for Michigan and 17 for Illinois). Now hold on to your seats…. Penn State has only given up more points than their opponents’ average in just 2 games. 2. Two. 1+1. Those games would be Indiana and Ohio State, both top 10 scoring offenses. On average, we hold our opponent to 5.333 FEWER points per game than they have typically scored this year. This includes the Syracuse game where they scored a touchdown from 1 yard out after a Hackenberg interception, the Eastern Michigan game where a Hack fumble was returned for a TD, and the Michigan defensive TD (I don’t know if I am missing any other defensive TDs). You can argue that if Geno Lewis doesn’t fumble at the 9, and if we didn’t turn the ball over on downs at the 33 yard line against Indiana, then we would have held them to 30 points (12 below their season average, but Indiana probably would have scored on one of those drives regardless). If I told you this information about a team without disclosing that it was Penn State, I doubt your first response would be “OMG FIRE THE DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR”.
Offense: For this I compared our opponents’ Average Points Allowed to how many points we scored against them (in regulation again). Our offense has only scored more than our opponents’ average defense in 3 games. Those 3 would be UCF, Kent State, and Michigan. On average we are scoring 3.1 fewer points than our opponent has allowed. To put that in perspective, let’s review the 3 opponents that Penn State has dominated in the past. Against Indiana, our 24 points was 13.8 below Indiana’s average. Against Illinois, our 17 points was 15.5 points below Illinois’ average. Against Minnesota, our 10 points was 14.9 below Minnesota’s average. “Yeah but our defense couldn’t get off the field against those teams”. Ok maybe that’s a fair point. But really, 10 points against Minnesota? Only 17 against Illinois after 2 quick touchdowns to start the game? Come on.
If your quality of life depends on the success of a 20 year olds, that is a completely different problem that maybe someone else can address for you. Last year’s team went 8-4 with a 5th year senior quarterback and the defensive players I mentioned earlier. How on earth is it fair to expect this year’s team, lead by a true freshman quarterback and a less experienced defense, to improve on that? I said this is a 7-5 team after the Syracuse game, and it looks as if even that will be tough to reach since I just assumed Minnesota would continue to forget they had a football team like they had in years past. I think that next season with a year under his belt and more experienced players, John Butler’s unit will be the strength of the team.
What do you guys think? Are you shocked that the stats say our offense has struggled just as much as the defense? Is defense a dying art in the college football game? Why is John Butler getting so much criticism but BOB seems to be getting a free pass because of the sanctions?
*For those curious, based on the 2 averages I found before, we will beat Purdue 34-7, lose to Nebraska 20-31, and lose to Wisconsin 13-32*