Advanced Stats Stops Everyone, Including Itself: Northwestern

Penn State played Northwestern Saturday. Penn State won 17-7. The most eye-popping part of that, given these numbers, is that Northwestern scored. The numbers:

maypp: Penn State: 3.47; Northwesternj: 0.82
spr: Penn State: 46.1%; Northwestern: 27.0%
npp: Penn State: 27.6%; Northwestern: 58.7%

A typical Northwestern play went for less than 1 yard. Well over half of Northwestern's plays got 0 or fewer yards. Barely 1/4 of Northwestern's offensive plays got at least 1/2 of the yardage required for a first down on first or second down or converted a first down on 3rd or 4th.

Credit to Northwestern's coaches that they almost scored twice, and really probably could have if they'd kicked the FG. Because when the defense is that suffocating that much of all the time, manufacturing 2 should-have-been scoring drives doesn't seem likely.

There's a reason why Northwestern went to the "lets hard count and do weird motions and try to lure Penn State offsides, then jump or initiate contact as soon as they do" tactic. That's 5 yards. That's more than 6 typical actual offensive plays. What a bargain!

Northwestern is not a great football team, but coming into Saturday, they'd gotten >2.8 maypp, at least 40.% spr, and had an spr-npp >10% against everyone they've played so far. That's an offense that lacks talent, but is a very far cry from incompetent. Penn State made them look like a mid-level D3 offense who got lost and ended up in Beaver Stadium.

And then there's the offense.

You turned over the ball 5 times.

Your numbers are actually pretty outstanding otherwise. Ignoring the turnover plays entirely, you had npp of 21.0%, an spr of >50%, and a maypp > 3.8. Those aren't bad numbers against anyone, anytime. For a game played in constant rain against a P5 opponent, even a not great one, that's pretty friggin good.

But you turned the ball over 5 times.

Even with the turnovers, a maypp north of 3.3, an spr >45%, and an npp < 30, given the weather, is acceptable. And actually pretty good considering how determined Penn State was to run the football.

But you can't turn the ball over 5 times.

Well, I mean, obviously you can. I've been proven wrong there. But I'd really rather you didn't.

Penn State shut down Northwestern's offense. Northwestern didn't do anywhere near enough to meaningfully slow down Penn State's offense, but Penn State was determined to help them out there, and what should have been a blowout was a 17-7 win in the rain.

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