Part One: Blaine Gabbert and the Four-Year Precedent
Confused? Catch up with the BTBS Primer.
That's right, it's time to turn the spotlight around and take a look at the Mizzou offense and what can be expected in 2009. As background information regarding where I'm probably coming from with some of my preferences or projections, check out the two series located in the box at the bottom of this post. Today's post will take a quick look at Mizzou's 2008 BTBS stats, with some analysis below about which of these numbers might improve or regress in 2009.
S&P+: 124.4 (#11)
Standard Downs S&P+: 123.8 (#8)
Redzone S&P+: 121.9 (#17)
Q1 S&P+: 130.8 (#14)
1st Down S&P+: 121.9 (#12)
Rushing S&P+: 116.8 (#27)
Standard Downs: 119.7 (#14)
Redzone: 104.5 (#57)
Line Yards+: 112.3 (#25)
Passing S&P+: 127.4 (#12)
Standard Downs: 126.0 (#13)
Redzone: 148.0 (#9)
Sack Rate+: 167.9 (#16)
As discussed yesterday, the running game dropped from 17th to 27th in 2008, primarily due to the drop in the strength of rushing defenses Mizzou faced. That suggests that Derrick Washington almost should have accomplished more in 2008 than he did; and he probably would have had he not been playing the entire season with a torn meniscus. A healthy D-Wash is absolutely vital for 2009. But we'll get into that in a later post.
The Extreme Need for Efficiency
Despite fading success on Passing Downs, Mizzou was still sixth in the country at converting on third downs, primarily because of their strong success rate and offensive efficiency. While the passing game did not end up producing as much explosiveness (PPP+) as we might have thought it would, between play-calling, good decision-making from Chase Daniel, and good hands from the receivers, Mizzou remained extremely efficient through the air (and not chopped liver on the ground either). While we have to assume Blaine Gabbert's decision making will be at least a step or two behind Daniel's robotic tendencies from most of last year, if the play-calling and hands stay the same, Mizzou can probably stay in at least the Top 20 in passing efficiency (SR+). That would be huge. Staying out of inopportune situations will make Gabbert's job infinitely easier.
Clearly explosiveness is still important as always--big plays result in shorter drives, and shorter drives give less opportunity for mistakes--and overall, PPP+ is more correlated to win percentage than Success Rate+, but I'm going to wager that SR+ will be more important to this particular Missouri team. Andrew Jones, Michael Egnew, Wes Kemp, and the RBs-as-receiving-targets will be key to the efficiency angle here.
We have seen some crazy spreads in the quarter-to-quarter numbers with the teams I've previewed so far. Mizzou, however, was crazy consistent. They ranked between 10th and 14th from Q1 to Q3 before falling a bit in Q4 (and as we've seen with other teams like Texas, the fourth-quarter drop is to be expected considering how many times their second-stringers were in). In close games, their Q4 performance was mixed. They blew it against Oklahoma State with ineffectiveness and turnovers, but they got the job done against Baylor and Northwestern, and they actually did quite well against Kansas (of course, after carrying the offense for the entire first half, the defense wore out in the fourth quarter, therefore negating the offense's performance).
One really bad number that sticks out is Mizzou's Passing Downs Rushing S&P+ (115th). Of course, Mizzou never DID rush the ball on Passing Downs because they trusted Chase Daniel to deliver. A large portion of the rushing attempts were eaten up by short scrambles from Daniel and not an actual, concerted effort to incorporate draw plays and planned rushes into the play-calling. I expect that to change this year in the name of protecting Gabbert.
In the Redzone
The 57th place finish in Redzone Rushing will give the "WE NEED A FULLBACK!!!!!1!!!!" crowd a little bit of ammo, I would say. Of course, thanks to the lack of a fullback and the spread-out presence of tight ends in a lot of Mizzou's goalline formations, Mizzou was 9th in Redzone Passing and Top 20 overall in Redzone performance. Add a fullback, and maybe the overall Redzone numbers actually slip a bit...who knows.
Tomorrow, we take a look at the Defensive BTBS numbers, then we dive into the unit previews. Check out the aforementioned previous 2009 series after the jump.
Previous 2009 Mizzou Football series:
A 2009 Walkthrough (from January)
Spring Football Update (from April)