Wednesday, December 16, 2009

TCU v. Boise, in the stats

Statistically, Boise State is one very impressive football team. A few particulars:

This team is very young. Only one senior is listed as starting on the team's official depth chart: all-American punt returner and CB Kyle Wilson. (Boise listed 13 in its '08 Poinsettia guide.) Only two freshmen are starters: WR Kirby Moore, and LB J.C. Percy. Compare TCU: six starting seniors: LT Marshall Newhouse, TB Joe Turner, DE Jerry Hughes, LB Daryl Washington, and CBs Nick Sanders and Raphael Priest; one starting freshman: TB Matthew Tucker.

Young, however, does not mean inexperienced. Fully 18 starters played TCU in last year's bowlgame. Four were starting o-linemen last season, as were three starting d-linemen. That continuity up front has really paid off for Boise's offense, which ranks first nationally in sacks allowed (improving four spots) and has the nation's 20th best rushing attack (a 19-place improvement). The Bronocs accomplished this facing an average 88th best rush defense. (All stats available here.) Compare TCU: fifth in sacks allowed and rushing offense, facing an average 74th best rush defense.

Boise broke in three new starting wideouts, and fell from the 12th best passing offense to the 30th best, nationally. The sum total of these changes in the way the team produces yards and points has been a net gain for the broncos, however: Boise has added over four points to its per-game average, while facing an average 75th best pass defenses. Compare TCU: 67th best passing offense, fourth best scoring offense, facing an average 57th best pass defense.

Last year's defensive front was probably better, registering tenth best in sacks made and 15th best rushing defense. In '09, the returner-heavy front fell to 40th best rushing defense, and 72nd in sacks made, while facing an average 58th best rushing attacks. Behind the four-man defensive front on the blue turf are two linebackers and five defensive backs, like TCU uses. Both corners and two safeties are returning starters, as is one of the linebackers. The bottom line: Boise fell from third to 16th best in scoring defense. Compare TCU: third in rushing D, sixth in scoring D, 21st in sacks made, facing an average 75th best rushing offense.

All of these returners take a back seat in accolades, however, to their second-year starting sophomore quarterback, Kellen Moore, who leads the nation in efficiency, while facing an average 75th best pass defense. His efforts, behind a very good line has been is the key to the Bronco's nation-leading average of over 44 points per game. Moore has garnered several spots on all-American team this season. That line is surprisingly small-- averaging just over 285 lbs. Compare TCU: starting beefeaters average 32 pounds heavier, Andy Dalton is fourth in efficiency, facing an average 57th best pass defense; TCU is fourth in scoring offense at almost 41 points per game.

So what's the takeaway? TCU's offensive production is just a whisker behind Boise's, but in the face of significantly stiffer defenses, while the Bronco's defense lags slightly behind TCU's, in the face of significantly better offenses. Or, in order words, one must concede the Fiesta Bowl's point: these teams are pretty well matched.

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