Buffalo Football: Beyond the Box Score 2007

This week's BTBS post catches me in transition.  All the data's in a sweet, pretty database, and I'm starting to get to where I wanted to be all along.  But in the meantime, we'll now take a BTBS look at the Buffalo Bulls...and I'll show off a few new toys along the way.

ALL PLAYS

Last year Buffalo was, by most statistical accounts, below average.  They weren't as bad as previous UB teams had been, and they found themselves smack dab in the middle of the MAC championship race for a while, but from a national perspective...yeah.

Buffalo (Success Rate / PPP / S&P)

Rushing: 40.0% / 0.28 / 0.681
Passing: 42.0% / 0.27 / 0.691
TOTAL: 41.0% / 0.28 / 0.686

As a whole, Buffalo hit the national average for success rate, but their play-calling appears to have been extremely conservative.

Opponents

Rushing: 46.5% / 0.36 / 0.823
Passing: 43.3% / 0.33 / 0.767
TOTAL: 45.0% / 0.35 / 0.797

Okay, so here is one of those new toys I mentioned.  So they had a 0.686 S&P while giving up a 0.797 S&P...how does that compare to what was expected considering who they played?

Let's take their October 4 matchup against Ohio, a game they won 31-10.  For that game (without taking turnovers into account) they put up a 0.780 S&P and scored 30.3 EqPts, while Ohio garnered a .576 S&P and 12.0 EqPts.  How did that compare to what an average opponent did against Ohio?  Ohio gave up 22.0 EqPts per game and a 0.704 S&P while gaining 18.3 EqPts and a 0.665 S&P.  So Buffalo gained 1.66 times more than the average Ohio opponent gained, 166% of normal.  Ever heard of the OPS+ measure?  Basically it compares people to averages, with a score of 100 more-or-less meaning that the person gained exactly 100% of what was expected.  So if we use this concept, we can say that Buffalo's offense put up an EqPts+ measure of 166 against Ohio, meaning they gained 166% of what Ohio normally gave up.  Get it?  They also put up a 110.9 S&P+. 

Meanwhile, if you flip the equation, you can come up with a defensive score as well.  (You have to flip the equation so a good defensive performance also results in a score above 100.)  Buffalo's defensive scores against Ohio were a 109.6 EqPts+ and a 115.6 S&P+.

(And if you're saying to yourself right now, this should be its own post...I agree.  It will be.  But I couldn't write another BTBS post and not share this.)

So.  In theory we could average these scores together and come up with a pretty damn strong way to rate offenses and defenses, no?  And we could do the same thing for rushing and passing offenses, no?  In due time.  For now, you just get Buffalo.

Buffalo Offense

Avg EqPts+: 82.0
Avg SP+: 91.5
Avg Run EqPts+: 73.2
Avg Run SP+: 86.8
Avg Pass EqPts+: 87.8
Avg Pass SP+: 102.6
Avg Close Game SP+: 86.7

Buffalo Defense

Avg EqPts+: 78.9
Avg SP+: 95.7
Avg Run EqPts+: 59.0
Avg Run SP+: 106.4
Avg Pass EqPts+: 78.4
Avg Pass SP+: 92.7
Avg Close Game SP+: 102.9

I'm still trying to figure out how best to actually rank offenses and defenses, but basically UB's offense ranked somewhere around #82 in the country--#99 rush offense, #61 pass offense.  UB's defense ranked around #91 in the country--#90 rush defense, #99 pass defense.  In all this puts them around #7 or so in the MAC.  Their SDPI rankings put them around the same area.  But anyhoo, that's enough of that for now.  Much more to come later.  But let's get back to the measures you know and love.

CLOSE GAMES

Buffalo

Rushing: 39.7% / 0.26 / 0.657
Passing: 39.6% / 0.23 / 0.622
TOTAL: 39.7% / 0.24 / 0.639

Well, you can say this--they were remarkably balanced.  And worse when games were close.

Opponents

Rushing: 47.3% / 0.35 / 0.820
Passing: 41.8% / 0.30 / 0.715
TOTAL: 44.7% / 0.32 / 0.770

You start to realize that UB was at least a bit lucky to have threatened .500 last year (5-7).

PASSING DOWNS

Buffalo

Rushing: 22.1% / 0.12 / 0.345
Passing: 29.2% / 0.04 / 0.333
TOTAL: 27.0% / 0.07 / 0.337

Yeah, they take NO chances on passing downs.  Suddenly Drew Willy's stellar TD-INT ratio (15-6) takes on a clearer light.

Opponents

Rushing: 35.6% / 0.38 / 0.739
Passing: 36.3% / 0.28 / 0.647
TOTAL: 36.1% / 0.32 / 0.677

NONPASSING DOWNS

Buffalo

Rushing: 44.3% / 0.32 / 0.762
Passing: 51.1% /  0.44 / 0.957
TOTAL: 47.2% / 0.37 / 0.840

Opponents

Rushing: 49.1% / 0.35 / 0.843
Passing: 48.7% / 0.37 / 0.859
TOTAL: 48.9% / 0.36 / 0.849

So Buffalo was a confident, competitive team as long as they stayed out of awkward situations.

REDZONE

Buffalo

Rushing: 41.8% / 0.34 / 0.755
Passing: 52.0% / 0.60 / 1.124
TOTAL: 46.4% / 0.46 / 0.924

Opponents

Rushing: 41.9% / 0.31 / 0.732
Passing: 49.4% / 0.54 / 1.038
TOTAL: 44.9% / 0.41 / 0.856

Buffalo also took better advantage of their opportunities.

BY QUARTER

Buffalo

Q1: 0.775 S&P
Q2: 0.623
Q3: 0.585
Q4: 0.741

Opponents

Q1: 0.760 S&P
Q2: 0.948
Q3: 0.797
Q4: 0.685

The Bulls started and ended well but collapsed in the middle.  If Mizzou doesn't dilly dally--if they jump ahead early--it could get pretty bad.

BY DOWN

Buffalo

1st: 0.764 S&P
2nd: 0.744
3rd: 0.619
4th: 1.677

Opponents

1st: 0.783 S&P
2nd: 0.887
3rd: 0.812
4th: 1.437

PRESSURE (i.e. 4th Quarter, score within 16 points)

Buffalo: 48.4% / 0.42 / 0.904
Opponents: 38.6% / 0.32 / 0.704

So, looking at these numbers you quickly get a vision of a conservative team that took few chances, played well in close games, and took advantage of opportunities.  When it went wrong, it really went wrong--they lost by 35 to both Rutgers and Ball State--but they were still pretty competitive more often than not.

And honestly, I'm going to stop there.  I'm preoccupied with the whole EqPts+ issue, and...to be honest...the line yards/sack rates and the other numbers pretty much tell you what you would gather from the numbers above.  In all, they're a decent team as long as they keep things close and stay out of awkward situations.  If something goes wrong, they're not talented or athletic enough to recover quickly.  Expect much more about the EqPts+, etc., idea soon.

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