Cotton Bowl: Beyond the Box Score PREVIEW

I almost forgot to do this!  I’ll be en route to Dallas starting Saturday morning, and I’ll post the preview & prediction thread from there, but before I go...it’s time for one last trip down BTBS Lane...

...okay, one last trip down BTBS Lane during the season.  There will be a lot more to come once we hit postseason mode.  But enough talking...

Here’s the (soon to be updated) BTBS Glossary, and here are the stats:

Success Rates by Quarter

ALL PLAYS

Mizzou
Q1: MU 48.8%, Opp 40.9%
Q2: MU 47.7%, Opp 41.9%
Q3: MU 55.9%, Opp 44.9%
Q4: MU 51.9%, Opp 47.7%
TOTAL: MU 51.0%, Opp 44.1% (+6.9%)

Arkansas
Q1: Hogs 41.8%, Opp 32.9%
Q2: Hogs 49.5%, Opp 36.5%
Q3: Hogs 48.4%, Opp 37.5%
Q4: Hogs 44.6%, Opp 41.9%
TOTAL: Hogs 46.4%, Opp 37.6% (+8.8%)

Click 'Full Story' for more.

CLOSE GAMES ONLY

Mizzou
Q1: Mizzou 48.8%, Opp 40.9%
Q2: Mizzou 48.5%, Opp 39.6%
Q3: Mizzou 61.4%, Opp 44.6%
Q4: Opp 45.4%, Mizzou 44.6%
TOTAL: Mizzou 50.7%, Opp 42.0% (+8.7%)

Arkansas
Q1: Hogs 40.6%, Opp 33.5%
Q2: Hogs 48.1%, Opp 31.3%
Q3: Hogs 50.9%, Opp 42.5%
Q4: Opp 47.2%, Hogs 40.7%
TOTAL: Hogs 44.9%, Opp 38.3% (+5.6%)

Arkansas built a nice little statistical cushion with their non-conference slate of Troy, North Texas, UT-Chattanooga, and Florida International (that might be worse than Kansas’ schedule!).  How’d they do in conference games only?

CONFERENCE GAMES

Mizzou
Q1: Mizzou 48.9%, Opp 42.1%
Q2: Mizzou 46.9%, Opp 39.4%
Q3: Mizzou 57.5%, Opp 41.1%
Q4: Mizzou 53.5%, Opp 47.7%
TOTAL: Mizzou 51.5%, Opp 42.7% (+8.8%)

Arkansas
Q1: Opp 39.7%, Hogs 35.5%
Q2: Hogs 46.0%, Opp 32.2%
Q3: Hogs 45.2%, Opp 45.0%
Q4: Opp 45.9%, Hogs 43.1%
TOTAL: Hogs 43.1%, Opp 41.1% (+2.0%)

CLOSE AND CONFERENCE

This is probably the most telling of all the Success Rate stats, as this one is the most likely to show an even playing-field across conferences.

Mizzou
Q1: Mizzou 48.9%, Opp 42.1%
Q2: Mizzou 47.2%, Opp 40.1%
Q3: Mizzou 61.2%, Opp 43.1%
Q4: Opp 49.4%, Mizzou 47.7%
TOTAL: Mizzou 51.0%, Opp 42.9% (+8.1%)

Arkansas
Q1: Opp 40.1%, Hogs 35.5%
Q2: Hogs 46.4%, Opp 26.3%
Q3: Opp 50.5%, Hogs 44.0%
Q4: Opp 48.4%, Hogs 39.8%
TOTAL: Opp 42.1%, Hogs 41.6% (-0.5%)

Yes, the SEC was better than the Big 12, but not nearly as much better as you’ve been led to believe.  This statistic shows you exactly why Mizzou is 11-2 and Arkansas is 8-4 (and, for that matter, why Mizzou is favored).

Game Key #1: the Second Quarter.  Across the board, Arkansas is infinitely better in Q2 than the rest of the game.  That leads one to believe that if Mizzou is up at halftime, they’re in very good shape.  If they can weather the storm and get to Q3, their best quarter (for the first 2/3 of the season, anyway), they will be forcing Arkansas out of their comfort zone.  Even in the Hogs’ best game—at LSU—they only managed a 38.7% success rate in the second half (here are that game’s splits...Q1: 25.0%, Q2: 47.4%, Q3: 38.5%, Q4: 38.9%).

PRESSURE SITUATIONS (i.e. 4th quarter, score within two possessions or less)

Mizzou 52.1%, Opp 48.5% (+3.6%)
Hogs 39.1%, Opp 51.1% (-12.0%)

REDZONE

Mizzou 52.1%, Opp 42.6% (+9.5%)
Hogs 51.2%, Opp 37.9% (+13.3%)

Game Key #2: the Redzone.  Arkansas’ three biggest weapons are their tailback (McFadden), their other tailback (Felix Jones), and their fullback (Hillis).  In other words, they’re built for the redzone.  Meanwhile, Mizzou thrived in the redzone all year until the Big 12 Championship, when the combination of OU’s strong defense and Chase Coffman’s absence doomed them.  Both teams will get opportunities to score—what they do with the opportunities will completely and totally dictate the game.  FGs = victory for the Arkansas defense (and the Mizzou defense too, for that matter).

NON-PASSING DOWNS

All Games: Mizzou 55.0%, Opp 48.6% (+6.4%)
Conference: Mizzou 56.1%, Opp 45.9% (+10.2%)

All Games: Hogs 51.6%, Opp 43.1% (+8.5%)
Conference: Hogs 48.8%, Opp 46.1% (+2.7%)

PASSING DOWNS

All Games: Mizzou 41.4%, Opp 33.8% (+7.6%)
Conference: Mizzou 39.9%, Opp 35.5% (+4.4%)

All Games: Hogs 32.9%, Opp 27.2% (+5.7%)
Conference: Hogs 30.2%, Opp 31.1% (-0.9%)

The thing that really begins to stick out about these numbers is that the initial perception of Arkansas' strengths and weaknesses is pretty drastically incorrect.  Your first thought about the Hogs is that, with McFadden and Jones, their offense is amazing.  And since they only went 8-4, they must have some defensive deficiencies that held them back.  Not so.  Their defense is tough and physical (though, lucky for us, they haven't really faced a spread offense), and their offense is pretty inconsistent.  Yes, they're a strong rushing team, and yes, they have all sorts of big-play potential...but when they lose, it's because they didn't score enough...not because they gave up too many points (case in point: their 9-7 loss to Auburn).  Whether this is because of the QB, the O-line, the play-calling, style of offense (built for the big play isntead of grinding out 5 yards at a time?), whatever...they’re inconsistent, but their defense keeps them in games.

Game Key #3: Passing Downs.  Mizzou must force them, and Arkansas must stop them.  Mizzou is the only team I’ve come across so far with a Passing Down success rate of more than 40.0% for the season.  Nothing demoralizes a defense faster than giving up a first down on 3rd-and-9 (or so), and Mizzou was just about the most demoralizing offense in the country in this regard.  Meanwhile, Arkansas was extremely average in these situations.  When they get into a rhythm with McFadden and Jones running the ball, they’re frightening.  But force them into uncomfortable situations, and bad things start to happen.

RUSHING

All Games: Mizzou 49.0%, Opp 43.7% (+5.3%)
Conference: Mizzou 48.8%, Opp 41.8% (+7.0%)

All Games: Hogs 48.5%, Opp 42.8% (+5.7%)
Conference: Hogs 44.8%, Opp 44.4% (+0.4%)

Betcha didn’t think Mizzou would have a higher success rate than Arkansas here, did you?

PASSING

All Games: Mizzou 52.6%, Opp 44.3% (+8.3%)
Conference: Mizzou 54.7%, Opp 43.2% (+11.5%)

All Games: Hogs 42.2%, Opp 32.9% (+9.3%)
Conference: Hogs 39.8%, Opp 38.2% (+1.6%)

It’s strange to me how Mizzou’s offense (and defense) got better in conference play.  Once we got past the Western Michigan juggernaut, it was smooth sailing.  Meanwhile, you can begin to see that Arkansas' defensive strengths lie in their ability to jam opponents' passing games.  To say the least, that ability will be put to the test on Tuesday.

Success Rates by Down

ALL GAMES

Mizzou
1st: Mizzou 49.9%, Opp 43.9% (+6.0%)
2nd: Mizzou 51.0%, Opp 43.0% (+8.0%)
3rd: Mizzou 53.4%, Opp 44.7% (+8.7%)
4th: Mizzou 60.0%, Opp 56.5% (+3.5%)

Arkansas
1st: Hogs 47.2%, Opp 38.1% (+9.1%)
2nd: Hogs 46.3%, Opp 38.3% (+8.0%)
3rd: Hogs 46.1%, Opp 32.4% (+13.7%)
4th: Opp 66.7%, Hogs 28.6% (-34.1%)

CONFERENCE

Mizzou
1st: Mizzou 50.8%, Opp 40.0% (+10.8%)
2nd: Mizzou 52.4%, Opp 41.7% (+10.7%)
3rd: Mizzou 51.6%, Opp 47.6% (+4.0%)
4th: Opp 57.1%, Mizzou 55.6% (-1.5%)

Arkansas
1st: Hogs 43.0%, Opp 40.9% (+2.1%)
2nd: Hogs 43.2%, Opp 40.9% (+2.3%)
3rd: Hogs 44.5%, Opp 38.4% (+6.1%)
4th: Opp 76.9%, Hogs 25.0% (-51.9%)

Game Key #4: Third Downs.  Pretty sure I mention this one every time, but...well...it’s that important.  Mizzou has one of the best third-down offenses in the country, while Arkansas’ third-down D is pretty top-notch as well.  If, as I mentioned above, FG’s = Victory for the Arkansas D, punts = uhh...victory cubed?  Quick offensive possessions (that lead to punts) for Mizzou would not only serve to keep points off the board, but it would also get Mizzou’s D back on the field sooner than they would like and would put Arkansas’ physical offense in a position to wear Mizzou down.  We don’t want that.

QB Success Rates and PPP

ALL PLAYS

Mizzou

CHASE DANIEL
Run: 48.8% / 0.36 PPP / 0.85 S&P^
Pass: 53.0% / 0.48 PPP / 1.01 S&P
TOTAL: 51.2% / 0.43 PPP / 0.94 S&P

^ The S&P is the new measure I’m playing with, as mentioned here.

Arkansas

CASEY DICK
Run: 49.9% / 0.38 PPP / 0.88 S&P
Pass: 41.4% / 0.43 PPP / 0.84 S&P
TOTAL: 46.8% / 0.40 PPP / 0.87 S&P

DARREN McFADDEN
Run: 45.7% / 0.57 PPP / 1.03 S&P
Pass: 70.0% / 1.82 PPP / 2.52 S&P
TOTAL: 48.1% / 0.69 PPP / 1.17 S&P

CLOSE PLAYS ONLY

Mizzou

CHASE DANIEL
Run: 48.7% / 0.38 PPP / 0.87 S&P
Pass: 53.3% / 0.47 PPP / 1.00 S&P
TOTAL: 51.4% / 0.43 PPP / 0.94 S&P

Arkansas

CASEY DICK
Run: 47.8% / 0.38 PPP / 0.86 S&P
Pass: 39.2% / 0.41 PPP / 0.80 S&P
TOTAL: 44.5% / 0.39 PPP / 0.84 S&P

DARREN McFADDEN
Run: 45.8% / 0.61 PPP / 1.07 S&P
Pass: 70.0% / 1.82 PPP / 2.52 S&P
TOTAL: 48.4% / 0.74 PPP / 1.22 S&P

Play McFadden at QB 100% of the time!  Actually, the WildHog Formation works quite well as long as it remains a novelty.  While the WildHog’s per-quarter success rates fluctuate (Q1: 53.3%, Q2: 48.1%, Q3: 55.6%, Q4: 39.3%), it just makes sense that, the more you run what is basically a trick formation with one play (the zone read with pass option), the easier it is to stop.  But used conservatively, it is quite effective.

Run Success Rates & PPP

Mizzou
Tony Temple: 162 carries, 40.7% success rate, 47.31 EqPts, 0.29 PPP, 0.70 S&P
Jimmy Jackson: 62 carries, 56.5%,  33.49 EqPts, 0.54 PPP, 1.10 S&P
Chase Daniel: 84 carries, 51.2%, 31.85 EqPts, 0.38 PPP, 0.89 S&P
Jeremy Maclin: 46 carries, 58.7%, 25.91 EqPts, 0.56 PPP, 1.15 S&P
Derrick Washington: 34 carries, 58.8%, 12.68 EqPts, 0.37 PPP, 0.96 S&P
TOTAL: 449 carries, 48.6%, 171.79 EqPts, 0.38 PPP, 0.87 S&P

Arkansas
Darren McFadden: 304 carries, 48.4%, 112.15 EqPts, 0.37 PPP, 0.85 S&P
Felix Jones: 123 carries, 52.0%, 76.99 EqPts, 0.63 PPP, 1.15 S&P
Michael Smith: 39 carries, 46.2%, 19.46 EqPts, 0.50 PPP, 0.96 S&P
Peyton Hillis: 57 carries, 49.1%, 19.24 EqPts, 0.34 PPP, 0.83 S&P
Brandon Barnett: 24 carries, 50.0%, 10.17 EqPts, 0.42 PPP, 0.92 S&P
TOTAL: 559 carries, 49.0%, 241.99 EqPts, 0.43 PPP, 0.92 S&P

Not quite the impressive line you'd expect from the nation's best RB, but obviously defenses key on him, leaving the door open for Jones and Hillis.

Receiver Success Rates & PPP

Mizzou
Jeremy Maclin: 78 catches, 82.1%, 79.86 EqPts, 1.02 PPP, 1.84 S&P
Martin Rucker: 81 catches, 82.7%, 75.95 EqPts, 0.94 PPP, 1.76 S&P
Chase Coffman: 51 catches, 88.2%, 47.90 EqPts, 0.94 PPP, 1.82 S&P
Will Franklin: 44 catches, 81.8%, 47.69 EqPts, 1.08 PPP, 1.90 S&P
Tommy Saunders: 41 catches, 80.5%, 31.62 EqPts, 0.77 PPP, 1.58 S&P
Danario Alexander (inj.): 37 catches, 64.9%, 30.19 EqPts, 0.82 PPP, 1.46 S&P
Jared Perry: 13 catches, 84.6%, 12.46 EqPts, 0.96 PPP, 1.80 S&P
TOTAL: 383 catches, 78.9%, 344.02 EqPts, 0.90 PPP, 1.69 S&P

Arkansas
Peyton Hillis: 45 catches, 75.6%, 34.65 EqPts, 0.77 PPP, 1.53 S&P
Robert Johnson: 12 catches, 91.7%, 18.63 EqPts, 1.55 PPP, 2.47 S&P
Marcus Monk: 12 catches, 91.7%, 12.00 EqPts, 1.00 PPP, 1.92 S&P
Darren McFadden: 21 catches, 47.6%, 10.42 EqPts, 0.50 PPP, 0.97 S&P
Andrew Davie: 11 catches, 90.9%, 9.08 EqPts, 0.83 PPP, 1.73 S&P
Felix Jones: 13 catches, 53.8%, 5.50 EqPts, 0.42 PPP, 0.96 S&P
TOTAL: 160 catches, 76.3%, 143.05 EqPts, 0.89 PPP, 1.66 S&P

Game Key #5: Peyton Hillis.  Arkansas’ fullback is not only a dangerous runner, but he’s got almost twice as many catches as the Hogs’ top two WRs.  That’s crazy.  When Arkansas needs to convert a third down, they go to Hillis more often than not.  In passing situations, I would prefer Mizzou shadow Hillis to the tailbacks...he’s that dangerous.  Just ask LSU.

And while we’re at it...

Game Key #6: Felix Jones.  McFadden gets the press, but Hillis and Felix Jones are as or more important to the Hog offense.  Stop them, and McFadden’s job gets much tougher.  While Hillis is the chain-mover, Jones is the homerun hitter.  He has a better success rate than McFadden, and his PPP average is much higher as well.  I’m not saying he’s better by any means—if McFadden weren’t so scary, teams would be able to key on Jones and slow him down—but if you take away McFadden’s options in the WildHog, you shut Arkansas down.

Line Yards and Sack Rates (OFFENSE)

Mizzou
Line Yards: 465 carries, 1360.8 line yards, 2.93 LY/carry
Sack Rate (non-passing downs): 349 pass attempts, 11 sacks, 3.2% sack rate
Sack Rate (passing downs): 225 attempts, 10 sacks, 4.4% sack rate

Arkansas
Line Yards: 565 carries, 1848.3 line yards, 3.27 LY/carry
Sack Rate (non-passing downs): 157 attempts, 3 sacks, 1.9% sack rate
Sack Rate (passing downs): 132 attempts, 6 sacks, 4.5% sack rate

Arkansas' O-line numbers are fantastic, which suggests that the majority of the Hogs' offensive inconsistency rests with the guy who lines up behind center.  If McFadden could actually play QB all game long, he would.

Line Yards and Sack Rates (DEFENSE)

Mizzou
Line Yards: 398 carries, 1148.8 line yards, 2.89 LY/carry
Sack Rate (non-passing downs): 329 attempts, 13 sacks, 4.0% sack rate
Sack Rate (passing downs): 224 attempts, 14 sacks, 6.3% sack rate

Arkansas
Line Yards: 437 carries, 1199.4 line yards, 2.74 LY/carry
Sack Rate (non-passing downs): 254 attempts, 14 sacks, 5.5% sack rate
Sack Rate (passing downs): 223 attempts, 8 sacks, 3.6% sack rate

Defensive Success Rates (Mizzou)

Defensive Line
Stryker Sulak: 38.5 tackles, 26.0 successful (67.5%)
Tommy Chavis: 32.0 tackles, 23.0 successful (71.9%)
Lorenzo Williams: 23.0 tackles, 21.5 successful (93.5%)
Ziggy Hood: 31.0 tackles, 21.0 successful (67.7%)
TOTAL: 153.0 tackles, 110.5 successful (72.2%)

Linebackers
Sean Weatherspoon: 88.5 tackles, 47.0 successful (53.1%)
Brock Christopher: 70.0 tackles, 37.5 successful (53.6%)
Van Alexander: 36.0 tackles, 19.5 successful (54.2%)
TOTAL: 205.0 tackles, 108.5 successful (52.9%)

Defensive Backs
William Moore: 76.0 tackles, 30.0 successful (39.5%)
Pig Brown (inj.): 56.0 tackles, 19.5 successful (34.8%)
Castine Bridges: 38.5 tackles, 11.5 successful (29.9%)
Carl Gettis: 31.0 tackles, 9.5 successful (30.6%)
Justin Garrett: 25.5 tackles, 7.5 successful (29.4%)
Del Howard: 25.0 tackles, 6.5 successful (26.0%)
Darnell Terrell: 34.0 tackles, 6.5 successful (19.1%)
Hardy Ricks; 16.0 tackles, 4.5 successful (28.1%)
TOTAL: 310.0 tackles, 97.0 successful (31.3%)

% of plays made by...
Defensive Line: 22.9%
Linebackers: 30.7%
Defensive Backs: 46.4%

Defensive Success Rates (Arkansas)

Defensive Line
Ernest Mitchell: 29.5 tackles, 26.0 successful (88.1%)
Marcus Harrison: 30.0 tackles, 20.5 successful (68.3%)
Malcolm Sheppard: 19.5 tackles, 18.5 successful (94.9%)
Adrian Davis: 23.5 tackles, 18.0 successful (76.6%)
Antwain Robinson: 14.0 tackles, 13.0 successful (92.9%)
Fred Bledsoe: 13.0 tackles, 11.0 successful (84.6%)
Chris Wade (remember him?): 12.0 tackles, 8.5 successful (70.8%)
TOTAL: 154.5 tackles, 125.0 successful (80.9%)

Linebackers
Freddie Fairchild: 47.5 tackles, 29.5 successful (62.1%)
Weston Dacus: 45.5 tackles, 29.0 successful (63.7%)
Elston Forte: 22.5 tackles, 13.5 successful (60.0%)
Ryan Powers: 11.5 tackles, 5.0 successful (43.5%)
TOTAL: 136.5 tackles, 83.5 successful (61.2%)

Defensive Backs
Matt Hewitt: 75.0 tackles, 28.5 successful (38.0%)
Matterial Richardson: 45.0 tackles, 17.5 successful (38.9%)
Michael Grant: 48.5 tackles, 15.0 successful (30.9%)
Rashaad Johnson: 27.5 tackles, 9.0 successful (32.7%)
Kevin Woods: 42.5 tackles, 8.0 successful (18.8%)
Jamar Love: 15.5 tackles, 7.5 successful (48.4%)
Jerell Norton: 25.5 tackles, 5.5 successful (21.6%)
TOTAL: 305.0 tackles, 98.5 successful (32.3%)

Game Key #7: Arkansas’ DB success rate.  Arkansas hasn’t really faced a spread offense all year—really, the only SEC offense that remotely resembles Mizzou’s is Florida, and the Hogs didn’t play UF...Troy’s offense is the closest thing they’ve faced—and they’ve made it clear that they don’t plan on straying from the scheme that took them to the Cotton Bowl.  They’re covering the TEs with DBs, and they’re not going out of their way to show any respect to Mizzou’s weapons.  That’s fine.  Nobody’s asking them to.  But if their DBs don’t make quite a few successful plays—pass breakups, INTs, or most importantly, immediate tackles after short passes—their aggression will backfire on them.  If Mizzou has a high Yards After Catch (YAC) total, Arkansas is going to need 600 yards rushing to keep up with the Tigers.  Plus, successful short routes will open up the deep routes.

UA's defense is better than Colorado's, but if their aggression backfires, they're going to get torched.

% of plays made by...
Defensive Line: 25.9%
Linebackers: 22.9%
Defensive Backs: 51.2%

Turnover Costliness

Mizzou Offense
INT’s: 12 for 43.70 ‘costliness points’ (3.64 avg)
Fumbles: 4 for 15.10 points (3.78 avg)
TOTAL: 16 turnovers, 58.80 points (3.68 avg)

Mizzou Defense
INT’s: 15 for 51.09 points (3.41 avg)
Fumbles: 12 for 40.74 (3.40 avg)
TOTAL: 27 takeaways, 91.83 points (3.40 avg)

Mizzou is +11 in turnovers (+0.85/game) and +33.03 in costliness points (+2.54/game).

Arkansas Offense
INT’s: 10 for 36.45 points (3.65 avg)
Fumbles: 11 for 36.63 points (3.33 avg)
TOTAL: 21 for 73.08 points (3.48 avg)

Arkansas Defense
INT’s: 19 for 62.62 points (3.30 avg)
Fumbles: 8 for 26.69 points (3.34 avg)
TOTAL: 27 for 89.31 points (3.31 avg)

Arkansas is +6 in turnovers (+0.50/game) and +16.23 in costliness points (+1.35/game).

Statistical MIPs (Most Important Players)

Mizzou Offense: You know Jeremy Maclin will be a step away from breaking a big play all game—he was like that all season, even in Mizzou’s two losses.  You know Martin Rucker will drag tacklers to the first down marker a couple of times.  The X-factor, as proven against Oklahoma, is far and away Chase Coffman.  Not only is he Mizzou’s #1 option in the Redzone, but if he’s having a big game, Mizzou is impossible to stop.  They’re explosive without him, they’re deadly with him.

Mizzou Defense: When your opponents’ top three offensive weapons are all RBs, you instinctively put the onus on your LB corps to stop them.  If they don’t miss tackles and limit Arkansas’ big-play potential (like they did in most games this season), Mizzou has a great chance to succeed.  Who’s the leader of the LB corps?  Sean Weatherspoon, that’s who.  ‘Spoon needs to come up huge on Tuesday.

Arkansas Offense: Gotta go with Peyton Hillis.  Runner-up: Felix Jones.  You know what you’re dealing with when it comes to Darren McFadden—it’s Hillis and Jones who will kill you.  Stop them, and you stop the Hogs.  

(I should also point out that Marcus Monk quietly scares me.  He was barely heard from this season as he recovered from multiple knee surgeries, but if he’s full-speed, he gives Arkansas a jumpball/deepball threat they’ve lacked all season.  He only needs to make one or two big plays to completely change the complexion of the game.)

Arkansas Defense: Safety Matt Hewitt.  Arkansas’ strong defense leans heavily on their secondary, and Hewitt is the secondary’s quarterback.  If the secondary stays aggressive and makes some plays, Arkansas will be in good shape.  However, if they’re over-aggressive and get burned a couple times, and they end up where a lot of defenses ended up against Mizzou this year—consistently a step behind—it will get ugly.  Hewitt led the secondary in successful plays, therefore he gets the most responsibility for making some on January 1.

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