Advanced Stats Wins Its Clunkers: Central Michigan

Early in the second quarter, Penn State was driving. They had a 14-7 lead, and were inside the Central Michigan 40 facing 3rd and 4, looking to extend the lead to 21-7.

Instead of that happening, Penn State receivers dropped 2 consecutive would-be first down catches that hit the receiver in both palms and gave Central Michigan good field position, with which they would get a TD. Instead of 21-7, it was 14-14. It was like a pick 6, except worse, as it took precious time off the clock that would stunt a promising Penn State drive late in the quarter that ended in a missed FG.

The way the game was going at that point, it really probably was those two drops away from being 35-7 at the half. Instead, it was 21-14. So I was expecting these numbers to really be lopsided in Penn State's favor reflecting as much. But as I said last week, I am not immune from being surprised.

The numbers:

maypp: Penn State--2.81; CMU--2.89
spr: Penn State--47.9%; CMU--42.7%
npp: Penn State--35.2%; CMU--41.3%

For this offense, against a CMU defense that had been downright bad against FBS competition this year, that's just sloppy. Against a top 5 defense, those would be wholly acceptable numbers. But CMU is not that.

It's still a maypp >2.7 and an spr-npp > 10%, so it's not like Penn State's offense was incompetent, but that almost makes it worse. Because they clearly knew what they were doing and were adequate far more often than not, just really inefficient in highly manageable opportunities. Dropped passes, impatient running, and QBs looking for home run throws when they could jog for first downs. Just a very, very sloppy day for the offense.

For the defense, maybe not its best performance to date, but certainly not a bad one. CMU is a decent offensive football team. Holding them under 2.9 maypp and barely more successful plays than non-positive ones in spite of a few highly difficult catches by CMU is a very solid day. It could have been better; it was quite good and far more than enough.

The positive takeaway from this game is that in spite of offensive mistakes costing this team 21 points of margin in the first half, plus a missed FG inside of 40 yards, a blocked extra point, and a failed 2 point coversion in the second half, they still won by 19. It's not like the game was in doubt. They left 27 points of margin on the field and still won easily. That's nice. But that's not going to cut it against the better teams on the schedule.

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