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Applying Gus Malzahn's Benchmarks to the Penn State Defense

Black Shoe Diaries takes a page from Auburn's playbook to learn more about the Nittany Lions defense.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Head Coach of the Auburn Tigers is an offensive mastermind. One of the top coaches in college football, Gus Malzahn is a coach that I admire more than almost anyone in the industry. My fascination with Malzahn led me to SBNation's Auburn Blog,  WarRoomEagle breaks down the film of Gus Malzahn's offense and writes fantastic breakdown pieces about the team each week. Upon my reading of his work I found the Malzahn Benchmark Chart. The chart is one that the Auburn coaches hold privately, but #AuburnTwitter was able to obtain a picture of the Benchmarks, which has allowed WarRoomEagle to keep track of the statistics himself. Below you can see the Benchmark chart for the 2014 Tigers.

For an up-close view you that you can read easier, click HERE

Hey...couldn't we apply this to Penn State as well?

Of course. Here's how the Penn State defense matches up using the same benchmark criteria system used by Malzahn.

For an up-close view that you can read easier, click HERE

In the case anyone is having difficulties understanding the chart, here's an example to better explain the system:

Central Florida did not accumulate a total of 300 yards vs Penn State, so a Nittany Lions logo is given for that category. That's a good thing since you obviously want to allow less than 300 yards per contest. Each category has a different numerical criteria, and if the opposing team did not meet the number then a Penn State logo is the more logos the better.

As far as the bottom portion of the chart goes, here's another example using interceptions:

Penn State intercepted Big Ten Powerhouse Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova five times. The number five goes on the top line for interceptions to correspond with the amount of interceptions for that game. The bottom number is the amount of times we have intercepted opposing quarterbacks following this game. We entered the game with one, intercepted Nova five times, so now we have six.

I hope this makes sense to all of you. I understand it may be complicated.

(Please note that these are Gus Malzahn and the Auburn coaching staffs standards).

Advanced Statistics

Before I begin, I would like to say that these numbers are very stiff- they're a bit unrealistic for a "benchmark". To show this, here are the amount of college football teams that meet the final four areas. Keep in mind that Penn State met none, as is shown in red.

Only 5 teams have at least 30 total turnovers.

Only 8 Teams have at least 18 interceptions.

Only 11 teams have at least 12 fumble recoveries.

Only 24 teams have at least 34 sacks.

Pretty stiff, yeah? Keep in mind there are 128 FBS college football teams. However, something that should be taking into consideration is that a lot of teams, Penn State included, have a bowl game left which could push them over the hump in some of these categories. With that being brought to light, some Penn State info can also be taken from this visual. Some stats that can be drawn from this are...

-In the logo categories Penn State achieved the benchmark 42 times out of 72, which comes out to 58 percent.

-Penn State has 6 victories. In all 6 they allowed UNDER 300 total yards.

-During the three game stretch of Maryland, Indiana, and Temple where the team went 2-1, Penn State earned 16 logos out of a possible 18. Note: Maryland scored 20, 1 over the benchmark. Note 2: Tevin Coleman was held to just over 70 yards in the Indiana game...the quarterback pushed them above 90 yards.

-In Penn State wins the team achieved 25 out of a possible 36 logos. That's 69 percent.

-In Penn State losses the team achieved 17 out of a possible 36 logos. That's 47 Percent, a 22 percent difference from the winning percent.

-Penn State obtained at least four logos on six occasions. They won four of those games, losing to only Maryland and Illinois by a combined 3 points.

-Bob Shoop's defense allowed at least 190 yards passing in each of the first 6 games. However in the final six, the Nittany Lions only allowed 190 yards one time. The game this started (Ohio State) was the first start that freshman safety Marcus Allen started. Coincidence? I think NOT.

For Comparisons Sake...

We'll start with Auburn since after all, these are Malzahn's benchmarks. Not surprisingly, Penn State blows Auburn's defense out of the water. That can be seen in some of the following statistics...

-The best that Auburn's defense did in any category was scoring defense, which they achieved five logos. Penn State's worst was pass defense which they earned five logos. So Auburn's best is Penn State's worst. Note: Penn State's best was 10 which doubles Auburn's best.

-Penn State total logos = 42. Auburn's total logos = 21. Penn State doubled Auburn's total.

-Auburn had six games where they had one or less logos achieved, four of which they had none. Penn State had 1 game where they only got one logo (Northwestern).

So it's obvious the Nittany Lions defense greatly outperformed the Tiger's defense this season, but how did they stack up against some of the nation's other elite defenses? To see I did the same test as I did with Penn State, but with the Pat Narduzzi ran Michigan State defense.

For an up-close view that you can read easier, click HERE.

-Penn State's total logos out of 72 = 42. Michigan State's total logos out of 72 = 44.

-PSU and MSU had five mutual opponents this year, not counting the head-to-head game between the two teams. The teams were Rutgers, Michigan, Ohio State, Maryland and Illinois. In these games Penn State accumulated 18 logos out of a possible 30. Against the same teams Michigan State accumulated 21 out of 30.

-Penn State wasn't able to achieve any of the full-year goals . Michigan State was successful in three of four, only failing the benchmark on fumble recoveries. However, with the bowl games to look forward to, Michigan State has a chance to recover two more balls and Penn State can strive a get a few more sacks to get themselves over the hump.

The two are very comparable, but Michigan State comes out on top according to this criteria. Both teams have extremely impressive charts, and rank among the nation's elite D's. To compare even farther, take a look at the chart with another top Big Ten defense, the Wisconsin Badgers.

For an up-close view that you can read easier, click HERE.

-Penn State's total logos = 42. Wisconsin's total logos = 45.

-The two teams had four mutual teams with the four being Northwestern, Illinois, Maryland and Rutgers. In these four games the Nittany Lions accumulated 13 logos, while the Badgers acquired 16.

-Penn State didn't achieve any full-year goals, while Wisconsin succeed with the sacks goal. Wisconsin is also only one fumble recovery from meeting that season goal.

Of all the defenses that this benchmark tested Wisconsin came out the best. Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State were all close but the order stands as they are listed above. All three defenses had terrific seasons in performance as well as on paper in the stats.