Advanced Stats Learns to Love The Manny Diaz Experience: Auburn

The final score was 41-12 and it really wasn't in doubt midway through the third quarter. That was nice. But when I watched the game, I didn't feel like it was really a blowout. I felt like it was a couple big plays by Penn State and a couple dumb turnovers by Auburn away from being really close game that Penn State could not only lose, but lose because they got outplayed. It just kinda felt like these numbers would be close.

I am not immune from being surprised. The numbers:

maypp: Penn State: 3.09; Auburn: 2.32
spr: Penn State: 43.1%; Auburn: 38.2%
npp: Penn State 29.2%; Auburn: 44.7%

So, yeah. Penn State had 0.77 better median average yards per play, 4.9% better successful play rate, and was 15.5% better at avoiding non-positive plays. While one could perhaps envision scenarious where 4ish plays go differently and it's a very different final score, it was not actually 4ish plays away from being a closely played game. The better team was clearly better and won convincingly because they were clearly better.

The defense's numbers are outstanding, and so it was. Auburn finished with a not-horrible successful play rate, but we're talking about the team that entered the week #1 in the country in spr on first and second downs. When they have their entire playbook at their disposal, this Auburn offense is pretty darned good at staying ahead of the sticks. They had over 70% spr on first and second downs against both Mercer and San Jose State, and I don't care that it was Mercer and San Jose State that's friggin impressive. Lots of teams, including some decent ones, have played pretty crappy schedules thus far and not come close to that. Holding them to barely 38%, and honestly substantially less until the last drive against Penn State's depth when Auburn could commit no penalties in the eyes of the officials and they took advantage of that fact, is an outstanding job by the defense.

I can admit it. For as much hesitation as I had about The Manny Diaz Experience after a Purdue game where the defense seemed good, but underwhelming, it has come on in a big way the last two weeks. Manny will probably leave for a decent head coaching gig sometime, but I'm glad he's here now.

The offense's numbers....well....yeah. They definitely aren't bad. Considering the opponent and that it was on the road, the spr and npp are actually very good. But 3.09 doesn't usually result in 41 points. Especially not with Penn State, since, like, before the Dark Years.

It's the profile of a power running, MANBALL team. Very good spr and npp, but underwhelming maypp. Except unlike the Purdue game, which produced a similar profile (mainly because Purdue penalties got excluded), it fit what I saw. This is a team that knows it can run the ball, does run the ball, and gets big plays running the ball. They deal with the plays that aren't because they know at any moment it can be. And a team that can be efficient passing on the back of that running. The Collins-Carter-esque 10.1 ypa on almost 75% completions (and no sacks!) and 6.3 ypc with a few big TD runs showed as much.

And when you've got a suffocating defense forcing 4 TOs, I have to imagine Joe's looking down with a smile.

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