Advanced Stats Will Take Our Decreed Win: Purdue

Somewhere deep in the Secret Big Ten Archives, sometime after the era of the Chicago Tribune, but before Fox Sports took over as the dictator of Official and Infallible Big Ten Dogma, it was decreed that Penn State will never beat Purdue in Men's Basketball and Purdue will never beat Penn State in football.

They played a football game last night. Penn State won.

The numbers:
MAYPP: Penn State: 2.94; Purdue: 3.23
SPR: Penn State: 56.9%; Purdue 43.9%
%NPP: Penn State: 30.6%; Purdue: 42.0%

Immediate takeaway, offense: wow those are some MANBALL numbers for Penn State's offense. The median average yards per play isn't horrible, but isn't very good, but the successful play rate is excellent and the percent non-positive plays is respectable.

I think the offense was better than those numbers show. The numbers indicate an offense that was very competent ((spr - npp) > 20%). But in terms of moving the ball efficiently, while not horrible (maypp > 2.8), struggled most of the time (maypp < 3.3).

That's...not really what I saw.

Here's why I find that misleading: penalties are just removed from these numbers. There's a logic to that, and I'm not changing it, but I do think in this instance it really underrates the offensive performance. Purdue got called for a lot of defensive holding and PI, all of which I found legitimate and honestly got away with quite a bit more. If those penalties are counted as plays that gained the penalty yardage, Penn State would have had a maypp north of 4.1, an spr north of 65%, and a %npp south of 25%. That's not a bad offensive day for anyone against anyone. Were Penn State the best offensive team in the country and Purdue the worst defensive team, that might not be a great performance, but it wouldn't be a bad one. On the road, against a probable P5 bowl team, week 1? That's outstanding.

Yes, there were issues. The RBs still never broke a big one, in spite of an excellent day for the OL. Threw a pick 6 when the WR was wide open. Allar and Clifford both missed great opportunities to pick up first downs running that were set up by good routes and pass blocking. 5 passes that hit the receiver in both palms were not caught, and that cost Penn State about 70 yards.

It was not a flawless performance by any stretch. But when you account for the defensive holding and PI, it was a very good one, and there was a lot to like there.

Immediate takeaway, defense: that isn't bad against anyone. Assuming Purdue has an at-least average offense, that's an unquestionably above-average defensive performance. The %npp is actually excellent.

But that doesn't mean it's good.

But watching the game, I mostly just tip my cap to Purdue here. Brohm and AOC did a nothing short of outstanding job coming up with and executing a gameplan of taking what the defense was giving them. Which frequently was little to nothing. They did as well as anyone could expect pass blocking a very athletic defensive line. They played to their RB's strengths.

If Purdue can stay healthy and do that on at least almost that level for the duration of the year, I think there's a very good chance we look at the defense's numbers in this game and think "wow, that's pretty friggin good."

But right now, it's tough to see those numbers and not have some hesitation about Diaz's approach. Aggression is great when it works, but when you don't actually come up with multiple TOs and the opponent is doing a good job at taking what you're giving them, not great.

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