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A conference split in two

One year ago I wrote a post comparing the MAC to the Big Ten. Using the Sagarin rankings we were able to tell the MAC had some teams that were able to slug it out if they were in the Big Ten. Time to breakdown the rankings to see if the MAC gained any more ground in 2012.

2012 Sagarin rankings MAC vs. Big Ten.

2012 Sagarin rankings MAC vs. Big Ten.

I found it disappointing to locate Northern Illinois at No. 39 being a BCS team. However the weak schedule the Huskies played watered down their ranking. The only top 30 team at the end of the year NIU played was Florida State. Kent State fared worse finishing the year No. 60. The Flashes were knocked again for not playing a single top 30 team.

Ball State comes in at No. 67, ahead of five Big Ten teams. Toledo, Bowling Green, and Ohio follow giving the MAC six teams in the top 75 of the nation. By MAC standards that is striking oil.

That means half the conference is capable of being decent in every conference in the country with two exceptions being the SEC and the Big 12. Seven out of the 10 Big 12 teams finished ahead of Northern Illinois in the Sagarin rankings. Still, having six teams in the top 75 is a big achievement for the MAC. The problem is the bottom half. In 2012 there were 124 schools in FBS so having teams outside the top 124 means they were passed by FCS schools like Indiana State.

Five MAC schools are guilty as charged in No. 125 Miami University, No. 131 Buffalo, No. 146 Eastern Michigan, No. 169 Akron and No. 178 Massachusetts. Their poor rankings are why the top of the MAC was dragged down. Northern Illinois played the bottom four MAC teams, FCS UT Martin, and Army. Those six cupcakes gave Northern Illinois a No. 121 strength of schedule ranking.

The most successful MAC team with a challenging schedule were your 9-4 Ball State Cardinals. Ball State had the second toughest strength of schedule at No. 73 and was deprived of the opportunity to play Akron and UMass. Eastern Michigan was the victim of the MAC’s toughest schedule at No. 71. Losing to FCS Illinois State made going 2-10 even more painful.

While the top teams in the MAC are cruising, other teams are sinking and holding the MAC back.

While the top teams in the MAC are cruising, other teams are sinking and holding the MAC back.

So what does all this mean? If another MAC team is going to make a run at the BCS or the future playoffs a few things will need to happen. One option will be the bottom half of the conference stepping up. Akron and UMass did damage to the BCS rankings of Northern Illinois and Kent State this past season. This could be fixed through those cupcake schools finding wins in non-conference play.

The other option would be the top of the conference gaining more quality wins. In 2012 the only win the MAC scored on a top 30 team in the Sagarin rankings was Ohio’s upset at No. 30 Penn State. The MAC had other wins against BCS conferences but most of those wins came against the basement dwellers of those conferences.

Northern’s run to the Orange Bowl was huge for the conference showing a MAC team can get on the big stage. Now the MAC needs to find a way to sustain it and improve the bottom half. While we are still far away from a MAC school competing for a national title, it is no longer idiotic to suggest it can be done. Never thought we could say that.


Statistic breakdown: rushing versus passing

With the offseason upon us it is time to break out the statistics and find something worthless, I mean of great importance. I believe numbers never lie except when used to support an argument.

However, a few stats involving Ball State’s offense appear to have some substance. Specifically when looking at Ball State’s passing and rushing yards gained in each MAC contest in 2012. Let’s give it a whirl. Offense stat sheet

Quarterback Keith Wenning and the passing game obviously ripped it up in 2012 as the Cardinals had at least 200 yards passing in every MAC game Wenning started. The Miami game featured Kelly Page as Wenning was injured.

Also noticeable are the two games where Wenning threw for over 400 yards. Those were the only two MAC losses on the season.

Looking at the running game led by Jahwan Edwards, Horactio Banks, Barrington Scott and an experienced offensive line, the best performances came against Ohio and Eastern Michigan. Those two wins were the most dominant victories the Cardinals had in conference play.

On the other side the two worst rushing performances came against Northern Illinois and Kent State, the two MAC defeats. Two close wins against Western Michigan and Toledo featured a modest rushing attack of 168 and 166 yards respectfully.

From these stats one could say if Ball State rushes for less than 150 yards it is going to be a rough day. Between 150 and 200 rushing yards and it will be a tight contest. Over 200 rushing yards and Ball State is sitting pretty. That might be a stretch to assume this but it was the case in 2012. There was a direct correlation between the rushing yards gained and the outcome of every MAC contest.

It is fine to admit it. How many of you wish you had legs like Jahwan Edwards?

It is fine to admit it. How many of you wish you had legs like Jahwan Edwards?

The bowl game against Central Florida was another example in the ugliest form possible. The Cardinals managed only 71 yards on the ground leading to the worst outing of the year.
The stats simply prove that if Ball State struggles to run the team will struggle too. Keith Wenning could play like Nate Davis in the passing game but the running game is still a must for the Cards to grab a MAC title.

That is a disturbing thought with the bulk of the offensive line graduating this year. It is easy to assume the running game will take a step back in 2013 but that does not mean that will be the case. The three rushers mentioned above will all return and should be bigger, stronger, and faster with a great offseason.

The other assumption one could make is teams with physical defensive lines are the worst teams Ball State could face. Central Florida, Kent State, and Northern Illinois all had that in common. As a result they all shut the Ball State rushing attack down.

What we can assume is this will be the biggest question heading into the spring game and probably the season opener against Illinois State. Which, given the state of our men’s basketball team, cannot come soon enough.

UPDATED: Running Back Roulette, Cards Look for Stability

Jahwan Edwards up the middle in spring practice. How much do you want to bet he will get at least three yards?

We just passed the one year anniversary of running back Eric Williams transferring from Ball State which leads me to the issue of how it impacted the running game in 2011.

This is a topic many fans probably do not want to revisit but I have a bias with Williams. My sophomore year Williams moved into my dorm and lived two rooms down the hall. During the disastrous Stan Parrish era, the guys on our hall still went to Ball State games largely because we wanted to support Williams.

Coming from the football factory of Indianapolis in Warren Central High School, Williams expected to win at Ball State too. We all know that did not happen. The fact he left may hinder Ball State from recruiting future Warren players.

When Williams transferred before the 2011 season it did not appear many fans had much respect for him. Comments on articles I read were harsh and accused Williams of being a diva. In Lembo’s short tenure in Muncie it has to be the No. 1 head scratcher. OTP got a hold of Williams after he transferred and you can find his side of the story here.

Williams and I communicated over Facebook and I told him I wanted to write a post about the running backs.

“Lembo’s and Parrish’s offenses are completely different,” Williams said.  “Lembo is more of a pass now run later where Parrish was the complete opposite.”

The difference in play calling was not only problem Williams had with Lembo.

“I just didn’t feel he understood that some players have problems outside of school and football. Maybe it was the pressure of getting the team on the correct path but I felt disrespected daily from him and various coaches so I left before a serious issue became present.”

It is all history now as Williams has given up D-1 football to focus on other endeavors.

With his departure the Ball State running back corps went through a major overhaul in 2011. MiQuale Lewis had finally exhausted his eligibility after what feels like a decade at Ball State. Cory Sykes and David Brown also exited after an injury plague careers.

The top four rushing leaders in 2010 were gone in 2011. Adversity like that should cripple a team. Yet Ball State made it through with a two win improvement.

Below are the numbers for the top four rushers in 2010 and 2011.

2010 Player GP  Car net yards avg per car TDs Long Avg game
WILLIAMS, Eric 11 127 613 4.8 5 42 55.7
LEWIS, MiQuale 11 118 414 3.5 1 26 37.6
BROWN, David 12 62 348 5.6 1 80 29
SYKES, Cory 8 46 260 5.7 2 37 32.5
2011 Player GP  Car net yards avg per car TDs Long Avg game
EDWARDS, Jahwan 12 178 786 4.4 11 28 65.5
SCOTT, B. 9 89 370 4.2 1 22 41.1
DONIGAN, D. 11 58 191 3.3 2 20 17.4
WENNING, Keith 12 57 182 3.2 3 20 15.2

The first thing I noticed is quarterback Keith Wenning is the fourth best rusher on the 2011 team. If you think that is concerning wait until you hear punter Scott Kovanda is the fifth best rusher. Now that’s comedy.

The 2011 Cardinals did have a saving grace in Jahwan Edwards. The 2010 team had few rushing touchdowns as none of the four are exactly a power back for goal line situations. Edwards is guaranteed three yards every time he touched the ball and that type of consistency can go a long way. Barrington Scott was hurt for a portion of the season hindering his numbers.

The 2011 team did not have any big play potential in their backfield. The longest rush of the season came on a fake punt from Kovanda. No offense to Kovanda but that is offensive to the running backs.

Edwards was given 51 more carries than Williams and only yielded 165 more yards. Williams had the potential to break through the defense for a big play. Edwards did a great job in 2011, but Ball State was asking a lot out of the freshman to counter a lack a depth.

These fans at the bottom were all cheers when Eric Williams scored a touchdown against Eastern Michigan in 2010.

There is no way to tell if Ball State would have won more games if Williams played for the Cards in 2011. But we do know Ball State would have had a big play threat it badly lacked if Williams suited up.

Williams also average 18 yards per catch in 2010 and would have been one heck of a safety valve for Wenning in 2011.

Ball State won more games in 2011 but that had more to do with the development of Wenning.

When Williams touched the ball I had the feeling he could score. Edwards has become the star of the 2011 recruiting class in one short year but does not have that same ability.

Williams could have made an impact at the Northern Illinois loss. Maybe Ball State could have killed the clock better when it had the lead at Northern with Williams. This is all speculation but it is something to think about.

Going forward Ball State needs a guy who can rip a 40-yard run every so often. Maybe Edwards, Scott or transfer Toney Williams can become that type of back but it is hard to tell right now.  It does not matter who, just as long someone breaks through. If the Cardinals want to take the next step from a 6-6 team to an 8-4 team improving the rushing numbers is a must. Most MAC teams can pass the ball so having a ground game will separate the men from the boys.

“I think the backs there have great potential,” Williams said. “If the scheme of the offense fits them I’m sure they will have success.”

All I know for sure is Ball State was better with Williams than it is without him. Hopefully the critics who berated him after he transferred will realize that. There were plenty of casualties of the Stan Parrish era and Ball State fans would be smart not to add to that list.

After this column was posted Monday Williams contacted me again. Here is what he wants to say as a “farewell address.” He told me he wanted this as a way of closure.


Dear BSU fans and whomever else this may concern,

I would like to apologize for the way I left the program last year and in your eyes it may not have been professional but I was a 20-year-old kid lost in distractions off the field that interfered with me on the field. To me football was an outlet away to get away from real life and the confrontation I dealt with made me not love the sport they way I once had.

I have the upmost respect for Coach Lembo and his staff for the record they posted last year and I feel that if I would stayed I would not have done anything but argue and be a distraction to the development of my teammates/ brothers. Do I regret leaving Ball State? Yes, some days I do but taking a year off helped me get my distractions under raps. I have the best g.p.a. I’ve ever had this past year and I’ve been training my behind off with my new teammates at the University of Saint Francis.

I’m helping raise my beautiful 2-year-old son and I still talk to my BSU brothers and support them no matter what. Thank you all for previous support and if you still hate me and feel I was undeserving I understand not many people know my life’s story and I don’t try to lean on my past as a crutch so I say my final goodbyes to you and wish everyone the best.

Farewell, Eric Williams

Is the MAC Gaining Ground on the Big Ten?

Writer’s note: This is the third installment of the statistical breakdown series. Here are links to the first Keith Wenning vs. Nate Davis and second, BSU Defense Tackles Misleading Stats, installments.

Fans of MAC teams have known for a while that the Big Ten has been backpedaling and Big Ten fans are finally coming around to admitting it. But many Big Ten fans still see their conference as vastly superior to the MAC.

Time to see how the conferences truly stack up.

If the MAC played Monopoly with the Big Ten. Your move Penn State. Post $50 bail or roll for doubles.

Head to Head Games

The Big Ten crushed the MAC going 11-1 in head to head games. Ball State’s win over Indiana was the only exception. The MAC can claim several moral victories.

Western Michigan lost to Illinois on the road by three and Purdue in a bowl game by five. Temple lost to Penn State 14-10 at home. Toledo failed to score a last minute touchdown from the red zone in their 27-22 loss at Ohio State. Miami University dropped a 29-23 decision at Minnesota. That means five of the 11 Big Ten wins, almost half, were decided by a six points or less.

There were lopsided affairs too. Akron, Eastern Michigan, and Central Michigan all played at least one Big Ten school each in 2011 and the results were worse than the acting talent in a “Twilight” movie.

The most disappointing loss came from the MAC Champion Northern Illinois.  Northern was pounded 49-7 at Big Ten Champion Wisconsin. The gap between the best team in the Big Ten and the best in the MAC is still as large as it ever has been. The Huskies were not going to win that game but they needed to make it more respectable than that.

The MAC did find success against BCS schools outside the Big Ten. Temple knocked out Maryland 38-7 on the road. Western Michigan went into Connecticut and won 38-31. Toledo was robbed at Syracuse with a blown call on an extra point and went on to lose 33-30 in overtime (cut to Toledo fans shaking their heads).

Bowl Games

The MAC went 4-1 in bowl games this season which is a testament to how deep the conference was in 2011. The Big Ten went 4-6. To be fair, this stat is not a good measuring stick as the Big Ten played SEC schools while the MAC faced Mountain West and Sun Belt teams.  Even though this stat favors the MAC we have to throw it out when comparing the MAC to the Big Ten.

Vs. FCS Schools

The MAC went 12-0 against FCS schools while Minnesota was upset at home for a 9-1 record for the Big Ten. The MAC appears to fumble a game or two to a FCS school every year and your Ball State Cardinals were one of the repeat offenders in previous seasons.

Even 1-11 Akron won their only game against FCS Virginia Military Institute. Say that again. Even Akron won a game against a FCS school. Anything is possible.

Still, this measurement is flawed too as not every FCS school is created equally. This stat only proves that the MAC did their homework in scheduling the right cupcake.

Sagarin Ratings

Now we are talking. The Sagarin ratings are ultimate rating system for college football nerds everywhere. Namely me.

Unlike most polls, the Sagarin ratings compare every FBS and FCS team into one giant list. The Sagarin ratings are somewhat similar to RPI in college basketball.

Here are the rankings for all the Big Ten and MAC schools. The MAC schools are bolded.

First, discard Indiana and Akron. Those two schools are outliers as they were so bad they were virtually disowned by their conferences in 2011.

The theory behind the Sagarin ratings is the closer two schools are in terms of points the closer the game would be if they played on the field. For example, Western Michigan is five points away from Illinois and only three points away from Purdue. The Broncos did lose to those teams but came very close to winning. Western is 19 points away from Michigan and was trashed accordingly 34-10.

From the data we can infer the five MAC bowl teams could do damage in the Big Ten if they played their conference schedule in 2011. Toledo, Temple, and Northern Illinois would have a realistic shot at beating eight of the 12 Big Ten schools (please change the name of the conference). Penn State is only three points away from Toledo and four away from Temple and Northern Illinois. Thus, the top three MAC schools can compete with two-thirds of the BCS conference.

In theory, Ohio and Western Michigan are capable of defeating Illinois on down and maybe Ohio State and Iowa.

That makes five MAC schools the Big Ten does not want to tangle with. Especially when they are paying the MAC schools a truck load of cash to come to their house.

The Big Ten still has an advantage with their four top teams being bulletproof against a MAC school.

The Big Ten had a down year with Ohio State and Penn State ending up on CNN more than ESPN for scandals. Nebraska was making the transition to the conference and will settle in soon. Ohio State with Urban Meyer will be back at the top of the conference in no time. Penn State is a volatile situation and therefore tough to predict.

For the MAC, 2011 was a break out year. If the top teams in the MAC can stay in the top 50 in the Sagarin ratings then more upsets against BCS conference foes will come in 2012. That said the back half of the conference has to improve in order for the national perception to progress.

If the rear of the conference can make some strides in the next few years then maybe a 6-6 MAC team, your Ball State Cardinals, can earn a bowl invite (cue angry Ball State fans writing e-mails to the Akron athletic director).

Big Ten schools beware in 2012. Buying an easy win against a MAC school is getting harder and harder.

Ball State Defense Tackles Misleading Statistics

Is this good offense or bad defense? The stats want you to think the latter.

The Ball State defense has been ripped in the media (what little media that covers the Cardinals) through backhanded compliments. Phrases like “The offense carried the team” are about as mean as you can get in terms of criticizing a defense full of college students.

The statistics of Ball State gave up the most yards in the Mid-American Conference and the 11th most points out of the 13 teams have been well publicized. While these stats are true there are some holes.

Take a look at the rankings for points allowed and points forced for MAC schools. These numbers only take into account the eight conference games as some schools loaded up on FCS tomato cans in their non-conference schedule while others were being paid to take a beating from BCS juggernauts.

Please enjoy this cheap color coded table while the MAC schedules the toughest offenses in the league for Ball State again. Poor Akron having zip to show for.

First thing I noticed is Ball State gave up a 60 more points than it scored and still finished with a 4-4 record in conference. The Temple loss itself almost made the disparity. The Cardinals were like that one guy in fantasy football we all hate who made the playoffs with a negative point differential.

The next thing I noticed is the top five offenses all played Ball State. Ball State was sixth and also played Central Michigan and Buffalo too. That means Ball State played the seven strongest offenses they could have possibly have played.

Ball State did not have the luxury of playing the worse offenses in the MAC. Teams that played Kent State and Akron had a chance to pad their numbers. The Golden Flashes at least had a good defense but the Zips were a bonfire near a gas leak in 2011. It is not a coincidence that the top four defenses in the conference reside in MAC East. Eastern Michigan was the weakest MAC offense Ball State faced and Eastern was not the cupcake in 2011 MAC followers know and laugh at.

To make matters worse, Ball State’s two best defensive players (Sean Baker and Joshua Howard) were injured going into the Temple game resulting in a 42-0 loss Ball State fans erased from their memory banks.

The weakest offense Ball State faced all season was probably Indiana. Instead of playing an FCS school for a cupcake the Cardinals should keep playing the Hoosiers every year. Army, with their unique option offense, is a tough team to gauge. South Florida and Oklahoma would have lit up any MAC team.

It is easy for Cardinal fans to point the finger at the defense when they gave up a lot of points. But teams like Toledo, Northern Illinois, and Western Michigan can score on anyone. It is not a court marshal offense to give up 40 points to those teams.

The MAC hurt Ball State more than anyone with Akron or Kent State avoiding the schedule. Switch Akron for Temple and Ball State’s defense would have had respectable statistics.

There is also the eyeball test for the defense as well. The Cardinals did not give up many big plays as much as they gave up a buffet of medium ones. Running backs and wide receivers would break through the line of scrimmage until Howard and Baker came up to make the tackle.

The real concern going into next season will be how will the defense hold up without Howard and Baker making plays? I think Baker is probably the best defensive back in Ball State history. (Granted I’m only in my twenties so sorry if there is someone in the 1970s I am leaving out.) No matter what any player or coach says Baker and Howard cannot be replaced in a year.

The MAC West will still have a lot of offenses next year that can create havoc. Graduation will take a toll on those teams but how much?

For now, the next time you hear someone say “Ball State’s defense stinks,” you have my support to tell them off. You are on your own if it turns into a fist fight.


How Keith Wenning Actually Compares to Nate Davis

Warning! You may be looking at the best quarteback in Ball State history. You may also just be looking at a quarterback simply holding his mouthpiece before a snap but who are we to judge.

A year and a half ago, I was stuck in the same music history class (many hours I will never get back in my life) with Ball State defensive end Robert Eddins. Eddins would later sign with the Buffalo Bills. I was the only one in class who recognized him, which is shocking as he stood out like a sore thumb in the room full of tiny underclassmen.

Ball State had just lost to FCS Liberty at home and had a quarterback controversy between Keith Wenning and Kelly Page. I asked Eddins during a break who he thought would start the next game at Purdue.

He said Wenning, but what he said next made my jaw drop.

“I think he’ll be just as good as Nate Davis,” Eddins said.

Those were some strong words coming off the loss to Liberty, possibly the low point of the Stan Parrish era (also known as the 7th ring of football heck).

After the 2011 season we finally have enough statistics on Wenning to make a comparison.

I only examined the sophomore seasons of the two quarterbacks as it would be unfair to compare Davis’s junior season when Wenning only has two years under his belt. Davis threw more touchdown passes and more yards his sophomore year than his junior season but did have a higher completion percentage in 2008.

In 2007, Davis led the Cardinals to a 7-5 record and an appearance at the International Bowl against Rutgers. Most Cardinals fans erased that game from their memory as Ray Rice took a bazooka to the Ball State defense for 280 yards and four touchdowns. The 2007 season is also the year Ball State narrowly loss to Nebraska 41-40 in part to wide receiver Dante Love dropping a game-winning touchdown pass.

With the history lesson out of the way time to look at the numbers.

We can assume that Nate Davis is better but you know what happens when you assume.

  • Wenning in 2011: 2,786 yards, 287 completions, 449 attempts, 63.9 percent completion rate, 19 Touchdown, 11 interceptions
  • Davis in 2007: 3,667 yards, 270 completions, 479 attempts, 56.4 percent completion rate, 30 Touchdowns, 6 interceptions

First observation has to be the yards Davis threw. Almost 900 more yards on 17 less completions. Davis was throwing downfield significantly more than Wenning. That is the difference between Dante Love and Briggs Orsbon as the No. 1 wide receiver.

It is not a dig at Orsbon as Love is arguably the most explosive player in Ball State history. He was healthy for the entire season. Once Love was lost for the year in 2008, Davis was more conservative in his throws. That is why Davis threw for less yards his junior year.

The 30-19 edge in touchdowns also can be attributed to a more aggressive passing offense with Love on the field.

Wenning did not have a deep threat at wide receiver like Davis had in 2007. The Cardinals could not stretch the field playing into the hands of opposing defenses.

Ball State also had some running back by the name of MiQuale Lewis in 2007 bringing balance to the offense. You may have heard of his name a time or two.

Davis had a superior supporting cast and his numbers demonstrate that. Yet Wenning did an amazing job in achieving a higher completion percentage.

Just imagine what it would have looked like if Dante Love was catching passes from Wenning. With a deep threat Wenning’s numbers will increase.

The concern for Wenning is the interception numbers. He averaged almost a pick a game. Yikes! Playing Oklahoma inflated that stat a bit, but the turnovers have to come down next year for Ball State to improve.

Looking back it is truly amazing how Davis was able to throw 30 touchdown passes and only six interceptions in a season. How did he not succeed in the NFL again?

Bottom line, if a deep threat emerges at wide receiver to help out Wenning the next two seasons he can only progress (Willie Snead? Jack Tomlinson? Jamill Smith? Reggie Wayne? Wait… what?).

I honestly thought Eddins was a bit crazy for thinking Wenning would be better than Davis after a loss to an FCS school at home. He played with both of them so he knows more than the rest of us.

After the 2011 season though his prediction is still plausible. Wenning needs help from his teammates if he is going to do it, but two years from now we could view Wenning as the best quarterback in Ball State history.

2009 – The Offensive Awards Show

Edge is back.  But don’t call it a comeback.  I’ve just been tallying up some numbers and making sure the stats are tightened.  Of course, work and life sometimes get in the way, especially when you’re submitting content for free (hint: check out the DONATE button on this page.  I have a daughter to send to college – and a trip to Vegas in 5 weeks).  Oh, and poor Corey Haim… god damn you, prince of my movie-watching youth.  Ok, that’s off my chest.

Today I thought I’d sift through my numbers, cover some offensive stats, and hand out the Edge equivalent of the Oscar and Razzie: the Stratocaster and the Esteban.  Let’s get this party started!

First, let’s look at some team rushing stats.  There were a lot of effective rushing teams this year, mostly helped by some superstar performers (some Heisman candidates come to mind).  But I’d have to say that the winner of the 2009 Rushing Stratocaster has to go to Nevada.  Being ranked #1 in net  rushing yards, rushing yards average, rushing touchdowns, and rushing yards per game, Nevada has to accept this award easily.  Our 2009 Rushing Esteban goes to our favorite stripper-related lawsuit whipping boys – Duke.  Six rushing touchdowns, 2.25 average yards per rush, and only 762 rushing yards on the season?  I… just… don’t have the words.

Let’s move on to passing.  No, Jimmy Clausen will not be carrying home a batch of Strats this year.  This may surprise some of you, so get your flames ready.  Congratulations… Jimmy Clausen?!?  Son of a bitch… ok, well, Notre Dame did not statistically come in at #1 in any passing category (at least not one that matters), but on the
average, they were the best.  We have to mostly attribute this to
Clausen’s lack of interceptions and completion percentage.  So, Notre
Dame, take your Strat and go home.  Our Esteban goes to the Aggies at
New Mexico State.  Just an all-around terrible performance in the
passing game, their best stat was 114th in the nation (passing
attempts and least interceptions thrown).  Congrats?  Although, I have
to warn Ball State – we were the next worst team in passing stats.
Dodged a bullet there.

Next up: scoring offense.  No surprise here, the Strat goes to Boise
State.  They scored the most points, most points per game, extra
points, two-point conversions, and were second in offensive
touchdowns.  Pretty not shabby dudes. So who was the worst scoring
team?  Washington State, come up and get your Esteban.  They had the
least amount of points and the second worst amount of points per game
and offensive touchdowns.  Apparently the end zone is harder to find
than a virgin in a whorehouse.  Get to work, Washington State, don’t
pick up this award next year.

Finally, let’s look at the red zone winners.  Like Notre Dame’s
passing award, Central Michigan didn’t win any categories outright,
but being in the top ten in six of eight red zone catergories gives
the Chippewas a Strat.  Odds are there will not be a repeat for this
Chips in this category next year.  Anyone want to put money on it?
Didn’t think so.  Who was the worst?  Get your asses back up here
Washington State, you are taking home two Estabans tonight!  Worst in
red zone drives, red zone points, and red zone scores, the Cougars
might as well go for the record of least-scoring team ever.  Insert
second virgin joke here.

That’s enough for today.  Join me next time… who knows, maybe next
week or next month… for some defensive awards.  Here’s a preview:
Ball State won’t win any Strats.  Rock on!

It’s Stat-tastic

2008, By The Numbers, Part 5

As we head into the last few weeks of the regular season, it’s interesting to see where certain teams fall in some important statistical categories in the BCS.  There is a lot of information to dissect thanks to all the blood and sweat I put into this… mostly blood.  For our rabid readers, hopefully you will find most of this interesting.  After the final regular season game has been played, I’ll come back with some final numbers before we head into the conference championships and bowl season.  Because, you know, it is right around the corner.

Below you’ll see the top three teams in each category along with Ball State and Kentucky’s respective numbers and ranking.  Without any further ado:

Rushing Yards Per Game

Team Actual Rank
Nevada 319.30 1
Georgia Tech 314.90 2
Navy 286.60 3
Kentucky 191.89 22
Ball State 164.78 49

Passing Yards Per Game

Team Actual Rank
Houston 433.67 1
Texas Tech 400.44 2
Hawaii 350.33 3
Kentucky 154.00 108
Ball State 144.78 112

Continue reading

Bye Week Stat Roundup: Turnovers

BSU LogoNormally throughout game weeks we regale you with fun little items like stat comparisons and the like for the coming Cardinal opponent. As this week is the challenging opponent Open Date State, there is no substantive data to pour over. Except our own.Yesterday saw us ponder the offensive and defensive numbers, but today we focus on turnovers. Not the yummy kind… the soul crushing ones that make a victory damn hard to come by. Additionally, by special reader request we take a look at the 09 numbers compared to the 08 numbers. Hint: It isn’t good. Ballin’.

Part 3: Turnovers
The turnover story for a football team is essentially a two chapter book. The best teams in terms of turnover margin (and usually victories) not only don’t turn the ball over, they create turnovers as well for their opponent. As we chatted about yesterday, none of those things are going exceptionally well for the Cardinals this season.

At a paltry turnover margin of -11 (that’s 11 more giveaways than takeaways) the Cardinals are tied for 114th in FBS for total turnover margin. To break that down on a per game basis means that each and every game, on average, is going to feature at least one more turnover than takeaway, and in many cases, several. The bad news is only 3 teams in the entire division are worse than BSU in this particular category. The good news is two of them are BCS conference schools. That’s encouraging, right? Wait… it’s Georgia and Maryland? Nevermind. Let’s focus on the negative first… the turnovers lost.

The 09 Cardinals’ turnovers lost chart:
09 to lost

If the trend continues, then NIU should get at least two fumbles, since the Cardinals have followed up every zero fumble game this season with at least two coughed up the next week. Perhaps the bye week will throw off that logic. The two most surprising things here? More INTs at Army than at Auburn and a the combined 5 turnovers at Temple which was essentially wrapping paper and a nice bow on a victory for the Owls.

The 09 offensive stats and the 08 offensive stats weren’t compared, largely because I had no desire to become even more pissed off than I currently am, and there is no reason to throw salt on a freshly ripped off scab for a unit that nearly everyone thought would take a step back. The turnovers lost for 08 fall into that category somewhat, but are worth comparing… simply for comparison’s sake.
08 to lost

Now class… what do we notice here? For starters, there were 8 turnovers through 9 games in 2008. In 2009 we hit the 9 mark after game #3. The bigger picture question that is begged is whether or not a successful offense is predicated on not turning the ball over or whether not turning the ball over is predicated on a decent offense. I think it does speak volumes to the amount of regression though, considering the offensive playbook, risks, and downfield shots have been significantly reduced, and yet, the propensity to hold onto the football has been significantly reduced as well. To take it to the next level, if these drives that ended in turnovers at best resulted in scoring chances like TDs or field goals, or at worst diminished field position for the opponent through a punt, the Cardinals may have several more wins. Yes… turnovers lost are that important, and in this case, just as bad as everyone thought.

The second prong of the turnover plug is the turnovers gained. Teams throughout FBS rely on this to change momentum, create scoring opportunities, and give the offense better field position and the subsequently increased scoring opportunities. For BSU in 2009, it’s not a pretty sight.
09 to gained

The games that BSU was closes to pulling off a considerable “upset” like Toledo and Ohio are also the games where the turnovers gained were considerably higher than other weeks. Unfortunately in the MAC, with its ridiculous parity, those turnovers are the great equalizer in games where the outcome is in doubt.

Compare the above chart to the 08 Cardinals…
08 to gaines

Most noticeable? The INT’s of course, but not only the 4 picked off against Akron. Past the season-opener against Northeastern, the Cards picked off at least one pass by each and every opponent. For a defensive secondary that took a considerable amount of heat compared to its highly touted Cardinal offensive counterpart, this defense was not only respectable, it was a game changer. It’s taken the Cards 9 games in 2009 to get 5 picks. They did it in 3 last season. They do have 1 more fumble recovered in 2009 than the same span in 2008, so that’s a plus.

Looking at the above charts, clearly the margin isn’t going to be favorable in comparison from last year to now. The aforementioned margin of -11 in 2009 is considerably different from the +9 through 9 games last season. That’s a difference of 20 for those not so good with negative numbers. Where the Cards finish this season is anyone’s guess, but the odds of putting up a margin that is even remotely respectable is going to be hard. Putting up a number that is even comparable to last season is damn near impossible. The 08 Cardinals finished +5 for the year. Knock out the Buffalo and Tulsa games and the Cards were +11 for the season overall. Yes… those two games sucked.

Turnovers… they are an  absolute killer. In fact, when really pressed for a reason behind the frustrations and struggles of this particular season, turnovers would be at, or at least near, the top of everyone’s list. To top off this craptacular turd turnover cupcake, the Cardinals’ next opponent is Northern Illinois… the leader of the MAC in turnover margin at +10. Something tells me that margin is going to go up a bit if history is any sort of indicator.

Bye Week Stat Round Up: Defense

BSU LogoNormally on Tuesdays we regale you with fun little items like stat comparisons and the like for the coming Cardinal opponent. As this week is the challenging opponent Open Date State, there is no substantive data to pour over. Except our own. Hence, the offensive and defensive production… presented in fancy graph format. Ballin’.

Part 2: Defense
The old adage goes something along the lines of “Defense Wins Championships” but there is no adage that explains what wins you a 1-8 start to your season. Plenty of blame to go around, a considerable margin of which goes to the offense (which we get to in our previous post), but there is still some level of responsibility for this start that falls squarely on the defense.

At face value, the defense hasn’t been dreadful. Being ranked 82nd in the nation in total defense is certainly not awful, and in reality, not all that different from last season’s 69th. However, and this is quite a sizeable however, is that this is the area of the team that most people pointed to before the season as the sole reason why these Cards wouldn’t have an epic sort of drop off. Experience, returning starters, and players capable of big plays all were sort of the life preserver that nearly every fan clung to in the spring and late summer.

Questions? Of course. Corner play for one, but really, that was about it. The safety corps was arguably tops in the MAC, the linebacking unit and front line was experienced and stout, and the recruits that garnered much of the attention were on the defensive side of the football. Suffice to say that this was the saving grace in terms of 2009. That was before the formation shifted from the 3-4 front of years past to the 4-3 of this season. Resulting in…

def prod

What good is there to take away from this graph? Well… after North Texas the rush never was as bad. PROGRESS! To be truthful, the graph above tells nothing of the defensive story this season. Frankly, Ball State in 2008 was one of those teams whose statistics and graphs was nowhere close to indicative of the success of the unit. The 08 Cards bent but rarely broke, and usually always found a way to come up with some sort of stop, turnover, or momentum shifter. This season? Not so much.

We’ve certainly mastered the bend part, unfortunately, that “don’t break” memo apparently didn’t get transmitted correctly. Big plays, a lack of turnovers, and an overall inability to get any sort of important stop is what colored the early season losses and the defensive failures. In what I like to call the Buffalo Principle, you could point to maybe 5 plays that if they go the other way, we’re at worst 4-5 right now. That’s a much different tone, attitude, and feel around this program and in the fanbase.

So where does the defense go from here? With remaining games against the 4th, 5th, and 6th ranked total offense statistical leaders in conference, it doesn’t bode well for 2009. Against NIU, the Cardinals are looking at an opponent with a run-first mentality. Against Western, a pass happy approach. In Central, a hybrid of sorts that usually gives defensive units fits and required a nail biter last season.

As if the opponents themselves and the talent lining up against the defense wasn’t enough to worry the Cardinals fans, the creation of gameplans so vastly different is compounded by the short mid-week schedules the Cards now have to battle. For a coaching staff raising questions about the ability to adapt, this may prove to either be a chance to prove folks wrong or the chance to many to say, “I told you so” in quick fashion about the entire Parrish regime.

Ironic that the coach known best for his offensive attack and schemes may very well find the ease of the offseason dictated by the performance of the unit he is virtually hands off with.