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Iowa State at Missouri: Beyond The Box Score Preview

NOTE: Confused? See the quick glossary at the bottom.

Iowa State at Missouri

Record AP
F/+ Rk
S&P+ Rk
2011 Off.
S&P+ Rk
2011 Def.
S&P+ Rk
Iowa State 3-2 NR 89 74 82 55 13
Missouri 2-3 NR 43 36 24 63 33

When Iowa State Has The Ball…

As a whole, Iowa State's offense is by no means good. But it has its moments. New quarterback Steele Jantz has figured out a way to make the timely play while posting a rather mediocre overall stat line: 55% completion rate, 6.0 yards per pass, 10-8 TD-to-INT ratio, about 40 pre-sack rushing yards per game. He looks quite average from down to down, but if you let him scramble, he can pick up some yards and extend drives. Other than maybe Miami's Zac Dysert, Mizzou hasn't yet faced a scrambler this year -- Brock Osweiler and Landry Jones are staying in the pocket most of the time, and Collin Klein is more of a run-first guy. Jantz is more of the improviser/gunslinger type, for better or (often) worse.

Standard Downs
Iowa State
SD % Run 57.2% 62.4%
S&P+ Rk 90 78
Success Rt+ Rk 84 89
PPP+ Rk 98 67
Rushing S&P+ Rk 53 46
Passing S&P+ Rk 107 99

On standard downs, Iowa State attempts extreme balance. They run and pass the ball right around the national average amount of time, and they very much do not focus on one individual. Sophomore running backs James White and Shontrelle Johnson split the carries; thus far, White (5.5 yards per carry, 5 TDs) has been a bit more effective, and likely to hit the home run ball, than Johnson (4.8). ISU had had some success on the ground and will happily keep doing it if you can't prove you can stop it.

Meanwhile, through the air, Jantz will distribute the ball semi-frequently (and equally ineffectively) to about six different players. Darius Reynolds (on standard downs: 20 targets, 13 catches, 233 yards) is by far the best of the bunch, while random interchangeable parts with names like Josh Lenz, Aaron Horne and Darius Darks run patterns, try really hard, and occasionally see the ball.

Passing Downs
Iowa State
SD % Run 26.2% 38.8%
S&P+ Rk 58 26
Success Rt+ Rk 33 13
PPP+ Rk 68 29
Rushing S&P+ Rk 57 48
Passing S&P+ Rk 57 28

Lenz and Horne average 5.8 and 5.1 yards per target, respectively, while Darks, West and Reid Branderhorst are all below 3.3, which is about like batting .150 in baseball. Allowing a big play to any of these targets outside of Reynolds is, basically, equitable to a turnover: it shouldn't happen, and it benefits the Cyclones considerably.

On passing downs, Iowa State simplifies. Jantz is either throwing to Reynolds (25 targets, 13 catches, a lovely 255 yards) or Horne (16 targets, 11 catches, 158 yards) or scrambling. But this is where the Favrian gunslinger comes out in Jantz and, as you see by ISU's passing downs success rates, this is where the best Jantz resides.

In all, a team that relies on passing downs conversions is fatally flawed. (At least, unless their team has Colt McCoy and a boatload of four- and five-star recruits on it. Iowa State's does not.) Jantz is precisely the type of quarterback who will make you yell at your own defense. He's going to scramble for first downs on third-and-6, and he's going to evade sure-death pass rushes, and he's going to convince you that your defense is playing terribly and undisciplined at times.

And then, he's going to throw an interception, or drop the ball, and Iowa State is probably going to finish the game with far fewer points than it feels your "undisciplined" defense is allowing. Jantz and the ISU offense are persistent and resourceful (Jantz threw three interceptions very early on against UConn, then rebounded to play well and lead ISU to a win), but as you see in the categories above, they are not necessarily equipped to take advantage of Missouri's bigger weaknesses (which come mostly on standard downs). Neither was Kansas State, but Mizzou's problem versus Kansas State wasn't matchups, and it wasn't KSU making big plays.

When Missouri Has The Ball…

This is one of our first looks at Missouri's advanced stats here, and one thing should stand out to you: when taking opponent into account, Mizzou has done pretty damn well. They rank 10th overall on standard downs and 13th on passing downs, though the rankings also tell us what we already knew: they have come up with quite a few big plays, but down-to-down efficiency is not Mizzou's strong suit. They face a defense that is downright strong against the pass but vulnerable to big plays, particularly on the ground.

Standard Downs
Iowa State
SD % Run 62.0% 67.3%
S&P+ Rk 10 49
Success Rt+ Rk 23 57
PPP+ Rk 6 46
Rushing S&P+ Rk 13 77
Passing S&P+ Rk 19 20

Looking at run-pass ratios, it is clearly no secret that ISU is better against the pass. At the national level, teams generally run 60% of the time on standard downs and 33% of the time on passing downs. ISU has not faced the most pass-heavy set of opponents, but opponents are running as much as humanly possible. The secondary of corners Leonard Johnson (25.0 tackles, 2 PBU) and Jeremy Reeves (24.5 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 2 PBU, 1 FF) and safeties Jacques Washington (34.5 tackles, 1.0 TFL/sacks, 5 PBU, 1 FR), Ter'Ran Benton (21.5 tackles, 2.0 TFL/sacks, 2 PBU) and Durrell Givens (13.0 tackles, 1 FR) has gotten the job done thus far, especially considering ISU's pass rush (98th in Adj. Sack Rate) has been mostly nonexistent. They have just eight in five games. (Missouri's offense, in comparison, ranks 53rd in Adj. Sack Rate.)

Passing Downs
Iowa State
SD % Run 33.6% 38.8%
S&P+ Rk 13 53
Success Rt+ Rk 41 49
PPP+ Rk 10 51
Rushing S&P+ Rk 31 109
Passing S&P+ Rk 20 21

The most likely gameplan for a team with Missouri's personnel versus Iowa State is a steady diet of Henry Josey and Michael Egnew. Mizzou's biggest advantages lie in matchups with ISU's front seven. Unlike versus Kansas State, when The Script got a little too cute and flirted with play-action without first establishing the run, I would be surprised if Mizzou didn't come out and immediately establish Josey's presence. Beyond that, however, there is probably an opportunity for running even on passing downs, where ISU has been extremely vulnerable. It seems as if ISU has to account for its lack of natural pass rush by blitzing, and it is leaving them vulnerable to the run. Their pass rush improves on passing downs, but they have just gotten gashed by the run. James Franklin's third-and-6 sneaks might find more daylight than they did against Oklahoma and Kansas State.

For a while now, my favorite two players on this defense have been Johnson, who was precocious enough as a freshman to try to hang with Jeremy Maclin toe-to-toe, and tackle Stephen Ruempolhamer. Ruempolhamer had a great game in Ames versus Missouri last year, and both he and end Jacob Lattimer had their moments all season. This year, not so much. They have combined for just three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. If these two do not have nice games, Henry Josey probably goes for another 125+ yard game.

Special Teams

Ladies and gentlemen, we have found a special teams unit with a more messed up current kicking situation than Missouri. Iowa State uses two senior kickers, and they have each made one of three field goals. Grant Mahoney is the long-distance guy, with all of his attempts coming from 42 yards or longer (he's made a 54-yarder); Zach Guyer, however, has taken the under-40 field goals and not done well with them just yet. Beyond this, ISU's special teams unit is perfectly average. Their kickoffs occasionally reach the end zone, their punt returns get about seven yards, and their kick returns get about 22 yards.


The spread has oscillated between Mizzou -14.5 and -15.5 through the last couple of days, and the numbers basically agree. The official projection is Mizzou by 17.2, but don't necessarily expect that margin to come together quickly. The combined halftime score of the last two MU-ISU games has been 17-17; ISU's gameplans are typically solid, and they are built to hang around a while. But Mizzou should win.




A Quick Glossary

F/+ Rankings: The official rankings for the college portion of Football Outsiders. They combine my own S&P+ rankings (based on play-by-play data) with Brian Fremeau's drives-based FEI rankings.

Passing Downs: Second-and-7 or more, third-and-5 or more.

PPP: An explosiveness measure derived from determining the point value of every yard line (based on the expected number of points an offense could expect to score from that yard line) and, therefore, every play of a given game.

S&P+: Think of this as an OPS (the "On-Base Plus Slugging" baseball measure) for football. The 'S' stands for success rates, a common Football Outsiders efficiency measure that basically serves as on-base percentage. The 'P' stands for PPP+, an explosiveness measure that stands for EqPts Per Play. The "+" means it has been adjusted for the level of opponent, obviously a key to any good measure in college football. S&P+ is measured for all non-garbage time plays in a given college football game. Plays are counted within the following criteria: when the score is within 28 points in the first quarter, within 24 points in the second quarter, within 21 points in the third quarter, and within 16 points (i.e. two possession) in the fourth quarter. For more about this measure, visit the main S&P+ page at Football Outsiders.

Standard Downs: First downs, second-and-6 or less, third-and-4 or less.

Success Rate: A common Football Outsiders tool used to measure efficiency by determining whether every play of a given game was successful or not. The terms of success in college football: 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down.