In addition to all of the stats I pull from RMN, another one of my favorite stats nerd sites is Barking Carnival, a Texas fansite. Huckleberry, their stats guru, recently posted adjusted stats for 2010. You can find the analysis for the whole FBS at http://barkingcarnival.fantake.com/ratings-stats/College%20Football%20Adjusted%20Stats%20Year%20in%20Review%20-%202010.pdf
The Tiger team report is on pp. 177-178.
In many ways, his results conform to my subjective impression of what kind of a team the Tigers were. On offense, their one great strength was that they didn't turn the ball over, especially through the air. Despite our memories of costly Gabbert interceptions in the SDSU and Iowa games, he was actually very careful with the ball, giving us a schedule-adjusted rank of 19 for interceptions thrown. Basically, despite his NFL measurables, Gabbert was a game manager for us, whose job was not to lose the game.
Also noteworthy on offense was our improvement in the running game. It went from miserable in 2009 to respectable in 2010. I would attribute this to new OL coaching and the maturation of our OL and our RB's. There's no reason why this improvement shouldn't continue.
On defense, the adjusted stats tell us that we had an outstanding scoring defense (duh), much better than our total defense numbers would suggest. Our per-play pass defense stats were excellent, as was our sack rate. Our run defense, not so much. Here's the story this tells: we allowed teams to move the ball up and down the field bit by bit, but we kept everything in front of us in pass defense. Teams had to put together 14-play drives to score on us, and most likely, they would fail to execute or let one of our pass rushers through before that happened. Of course, teams that were committed to running the ball could stuff it down our throats, especially toward the end of the year, when injuries forced us into the Jarrell Harrison Experiment at linebacker and Brendan Donaldson at DT. Not to fault the effort or heart of either one of those guys, but they didn't have the physical tools necessary to succeed.
Overall, we were a team that won by limiting mistakes on offense and forcing mistakes on defense--extremely Pinkelesque. Any MU fan that wasn't happy with the results probably needs to cheer for Alabama instead. The question for this year is whether we can continue that 10-win level. Based on how we succeeded last year, here are the most significant questions:
- Can we continue to limit turnovers on offense? Gabbert won games for us by trusting the defense and not screwing up. Is Franklin capable of that same careful play?
- Will any playmakers emerge in the passing game? Other teams didn't throw 80-yard TD passes against us, but we didn't throw many either. This is not because we stopped taking deep shots down the field; in previous years, we never took many to begin with. It's because we didn't have a Maclin or an Alexander who could take a 5-yard out route for another 60. Our receiving corps is reliable but pedestrian, and we need at least one player who isn't.
- Will the running game continue to develop? Amazingly, our OL and RB corps look like the strength of the offense. They're the known quantity. If we are to rise above average on offense, the most likely reason is that these guys start punishing people on the ground.
- If everybody's healthy, can we stop the run? Our depth at DT should be better this year, though I'm not counting on Richardson to do more than provide a few minutes as as a backup. Our depth at LB should be way, way better. However, is that going to be enough to stop A&M, OSU, and the other run-heavy teams on the schedule?
- Can our secondary limit mistakes? Gettis and Rutland were steady rather than spectacular, but that was what we needed. If we can force our opponents to work for every yard through the air, I think we can rely on our DL once again to get to the quarterback and kill drives.