Insight Bowl: Beyond the Box Score Preview - Iowa Offense

IOWA CITY IA - OCTOBER 23: Quarterback Ricky Stanzi #12 of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes throws under pressure from defensive lineman J.J. Watt #99 of the Wisconsin Badgers during the second half of play at Kinnick Stadium on October 23 2010 in Iowa City Iowa. Wisconsin won 31-30 over Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images).

Confused?  Catch up with the BTBS Primer.  And if you just don't like or care about numbers, skip them -- I always attempt to explain what they might be telling us afterward.

Due to big basketball games, a busy non-RMN writing schedule, and a couple of days where *gasp* I didn't actually do any writing at all, I'm only now throwing myself into the upcoming Insight Bowl matchup.  This is good, as I won't be tired of talking about it by the time the game actually rolls around, eh?

We begin today by looking at the Iowa offense ... what's left of it anyway.

The Iowa Offense

The 2010 season was a bit disappointing for Iowa, and offense is the primary reason why.  With Real American Ricky Stanzi returning, along with Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos at receiver and a semi-deep stable of running backs, the Hawkeyes were expected to easily produce enough yards and points to allow the dominant defense to do its thing.  And at times, that's exactly how things went down.  Iowa scored 38 points against Michigan (not the most amazing feat, I guess), 30 against Wisconsin and 37 against Michigan State.  But after the Michigan State destruction, the offense disappeared.  The Hawkeyes needed a late touchdown to beat woeful Indiana, 18-13, scored just 17 points against a dreadful Northwestern defense, gained 276 yards in a 20-17 loss to Ohio State, then, in their lowest moment, somehow gained just 218 yards in a 27-24 loss to Minnesota.

And then they lost their No. 1 and No. 3 running backs, No. 2 fullback, and No. 2 wide receiver to injury, suspension or dismissal.

It doesn't matter whether you are looking at plain stats or advanced stats; Iowa was all over the map in 2010.  One of my favorite new toys is a projected score figure based on a team's single-game S&P+.  Using a simple regression formula, I convert an offense's single-game S&P+ into a projected score.  The idea is ... okay, great, you scored 37 points against Eastern Illinois.  How far would that level of performance have taken you if you had played an average team at an average pace, with an average number of turnovers?  Here is a table with Iowa's score and projected score for each game this season:

Date Opponent Points
Scored
Proj. Score
Sept. 4 Eastern Illinois 37 29.8
Sept. 11 Iowa State 38 40.1
Sept. 18 Arizona 27 26.1
Sept. 25 Ball State 45 43.4
Oct. 2 Penn State 24 28.9
Oct. 16 Michigan 38 30.0
Oct. 23 Wisconsin 30 37.5
Oct. 30 Michigan State 37 58.3
Nov. 6 Indiana 18 24.9
Nov. 13 Northwestern 17 22.0
Nov. 20 Ohio State 17 32.9
Nov. 27 Minnesota 24 16.0
AVERAGE
First Four Games
Middle Four Games
Last Four Games
29.3
36.8
32.3
19.0
32.5
34.9
38.6
24.0

In general, this is a fun way to convert something like S&P+ into a more recognizable number.  It shows us that scoring 38 points against Michigan was basically the same as scoring 17 against Ohio State.  It also shows us that, though the fade wasn't as defined when taking opponent into account, Iowa still faded rather dramatically over the last month of the season.  And again, that was before they lost three primary contributors.

As means of comparison, here is how Mizzou's defense shaped up using the same tool.

Date Opponent Points
Allowed
Proj. Score
Sept. 4 Illinois 13 18.5
Sept. 11 McNeese State 6 29.0
Sept. 18 San Diego State 24 20.0
Sept. 25 Miami (Ohio) 13 24.5
Oct.9 Colorado 0 16.8
Oct. 16 Texas A&M 9 11.4
Oct. 23 Oklahoma 27 30.1
Oct. 30 Nebraska 31 34.0
Nov. 6 Texas Tech 24 26.2
Nov. 13 Kansas State 28 25.7
Nov. 20 Iowa State 0 20.0
Nov. 27 Kansas 7 23.8
AVERAGE
First Four Games
Middle Four Games
Last Four Games

15.2
14.0
16.8
14.8
23.3
23.0
23.1
23.9

Consistent as hell.  (As means of comparison, the average score in a given game was 27.2, so Mizzou was consistently above average all season.  Meanwhile, Iowa's offense fell well below average in November.)

Alright, enough with the new toys -- let's look at the matchups.  In the below table, the matchups that favor Mizzou are in black and gold, the ones that favor Iowa in red font.  Obviously it's hard to use Iowa's school colors to designate their advantages ... since their colors are basically the same as Missouri's.


OVERALL Rushing Passing
Category Iowa Mizzou
iowa
Off
Mizzou
Def
Iowa
Off
Mizzou
Def
Overall S&P+ Rk 38 22 57 51 31 10
Overall Success Rate+ Rk 42 31 51 71 42 16
Overall PPP+ Rk 38 14 63 47 28 7
Standard Downs Rk 26 14 58 17 16 10
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)

59.9% Run
(58th)
Passing Downs Rk 100 50 85 110 95 23
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)

34.7% Run
(50th)
Adj. Line Yards Rk 65 72
Adj. Sack Rate Rk 96 16
Q1 S&P+ Rk 30 51
Q2 S&P+ Rk 35 18
Q3 S&P+ Rk 46 16
Q4 S&P+ Rk 93 25
Redzone Rk
39 6 71 16 20 5

As we would expect at this point, the Missouri defense holds most advantages in this matchup.  Tomorrow we'll look at Iowa's defense versus Missouri's offense, and things are much closer.

Where is Iowa's offense the strongest? They come up with big plays in the passing game when they need to (if they didn't, they'd have lost to Indiana), and they are rock solid in the first half. They have good possession threats in the passing game when they need to; they pass and execute very well in the red zone.

The Hawkeyes also seem to take advantage of their reputation; they don't run nearly as much as you would expect on early downs (looking at run-pass ratios, they are almost dead-average in how they use the run and pass), and they rank very highly in standard downs passing.

Fortunately for Missouri, a couple of Iowa's biggest strengths are also Mizzou's.  The Tigers have one of the best standard downs passing defenses in the country, and they are among the best at limiting big pass plays.  Without Adam Robinson and fullback Brad Rogers in the backfield, Iowa might have to lean even more heavily on the pass; this would play into Mizzou's hands.

Where is Iowa's offense the weakest?  They do not protect Ricky Stanzi very well, which is good news for Mizzou, one of the better pass rushing teams in the country.  As a result, they stink on passing downs.  They also appear possibly unable to make Mizzou pay for some of their bigger weaknesses.  Even with Robinson, Iowa was very mediocre running the ball this season (the blocking was average, as was the running itself); plus, Mizzou was only average on passing downs, and big plays on passing downs are not Iowa's thing.

It is also hard to ignore the fact that Iowa's offense gets worse as the game progresses, while for the most part, Missouri's defense gets better.  If Mizzou is ahead at halftime, or even at the end of the first quarter, they have to feel really good about their chances.

Quarterback

Ricky Stanzi (Sr.): 210-for-324 passing (64.8%), 2,804 yards (8.7/pass), 25 TD, 4 INT

Ricky Stanzi's reputation leads one to believe that he is the dreaded "game manager," a guy whose primary goal is to make sure the offense simply goes three-and-out instead of turning the ball over.  A Craig Krenzel type, in other words.  Make a couple of plays, stay out of the defense's way, win the game.  With Iowa's defense, the "game manager" type wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to have, but Stanzi is more than that.  I mean ... 65% completion rate, almost nine yards per pass, and an over 6-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio?  That's phenomenal.  We see from the stats above that Stanzi does most of his damage on standard downs, but at 6'4, 230 pounds, and with stats like that, I give Stanzi at least a bit of a chance to make it at the pro level.

Running Backs

RB Marcus Coker (Fr.): 81 rushes, 403 yards (5.0/carry), 1 TD
RB Paki O'Meara (Sr.): 10 carries, 56 yards (5.6/carry)
FB Brett Morse (Sr.): 4 carries, 10 yards (2.5/carry)

I had just begun to look into Iowa's advanced stats when word came down that Adam Robinson (941 yards, 10 touchdowns; 290 receiving yards, one touchdown) was suspended and Jewel Hampton (114 yards, one touchdown) dismissed, and I can't say the news really improved my optimism much.  Why?  Because Iowa's running game simply wasn't great to begin with, and while we never know how a freshman will do in his first sustained playing time, it probably will be a decent facsimile of what Robinson did.  The running game simply wasn't a major strength for Iowa this season, and it probably still won't be with Coker.

As mentioned, fullback Brad Rogers is also out for this game.  That shouldn't make a difference either; Rogers carried the ball more than starter Brett Morse, but he averaged basically one touch per game.  That loss will not break them.

Wide Receivers / Tight Ends

WR Marvin McNutt (Jr.): 51 catches, 798 yards (15.6/catch), 8 TD
TE Allen Resiner (Sr.): 39 catches, 410 yards (10.5), 2 TD
WR Colin Sandeman (Sr.): 17 catches, 183 yards (10.8), 2 TD
WR Keenan Davis (So.): 10 catches, 126 yards (12.6), 1 TD
TE Brad Herman (Jr.): 9 catches, 154 yards (17.1)

You know how the ESPN scroll sometimes gives you injury updates as games approach?  "Out: Wes Welker (knee)."  I was holding out hope that we would see one for the Insight Bowl: "Out: Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (drug house)." Alas.  The loss of DJK (46 catches, 745 yards, 10 touchdowns; 5 carries, 40 yards) is damaging but not devastating, as Iowa has a few receivers who have shown glimpses that they might be ready for a step up in responsibility.  You probably already know about Marvin McNutt.  The St. Louis product was recruited by Mizzou as a quarterback but headed to Iowa in the 2007 recruiting class, one year after Adrian Clayborn did the same.  He is one of the few Missouri products to spurn Mizzou and actually succeed away from home.  He is dangerous as both a possession guy and big-play threat.

Beyond McNutt (6'4, 215), Colin Sandeman (6'1, 200) and Keenan Davis (6'3, 215) have both had their moments.  Sandeman takes over for DJK in the starting lineup, but both of them (along with perhaps little-used Don Nordmann and St. Louis product Paul Chaney, Jr.) will likely get opportunities.

Be on the lookout for Prototypical Iowa Tight End No. 1 (Allen Resiner, 6'3, 248) and Prototypical Iowa Tight End No. 2 (Brad Herman, 6'5, 247).  Neither have had the level of success of previous Iowa tight ends (yet, anyway), but they have combined for 48 catches and over 11 yards per catch.

Offensive Line

LT Riley Reiff (6'6, 300, So., 1L)
LG Julian Vandervelde (6'3, 300, Sr., 3L)
C James Ferentz (6'2, 275, So.)
RG Josh Koeppel (6'2, 273, Sr., 2L)
RT Markus Zusevics (6'5, 295, Jr., 1L)

When I close my eyes and imagine the typical Iowa offensive line, I envision them as big and mean as that of Wisconsin, averaging 6'6, 315 pounds or something.  I do not think of a line that averages 6'4 and just 289 pounds.  Lighter, quicker lines can succeed just fine ... but this one really hasn't.  Their Adj. Line Yards figures suggest that they have only been decent in opening up running lanes in 2010, and their sack rates suggest that, even if Stanzi holds onto the ball too long, he is not typically given enough protection.  The most impressive unit on the Missouri defense has been the line, and Aldon Smith, Brad Madison, Jacquies Smith, Michael Sam, Terrell Resonno, and company, should have opportunities to dominate if they're ready.

Offensive Line

The best-case scenario for Iowa: Coker is able to run efficiently, keeping pressure off of Stanzi and allowing Iowa to completely dictate the proceedings on standard downs.  We know that Missouri's offense can begin to press if the opposing offense is able to milk the clock and make them impatient (see: Texas Tech 2010, Navy 2009), and Iowa's offense is capable of doing exactly that.  Sustained drives lead to more sustained drives, and Iowa has methodically pulled away from the Tigers midway through the second half.

The worst-case scenario for Iowa: Missouri tackles well in the quick passing game, and Coker cannot generate more than about three yards per carry.  Missouri's special teams is able to win the field position battle, and Iowa cannot score on long drives.  Mizzou doesn't dominate offensively, but they easily score enough to put Iowa behind, and when the Hawkeyes start to press, Aldon Smith, Brad Madison and company light Ricky Stanzi up like a Christmas tree.  A tight game is blown open late, and Iowa's offensive inconsistencies lead them to a limp finish in 2010.

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