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Missouri 49, Toledo 24: Beyond the box score

Missouri held a slight efficiency advantage over Toledo (particularly in the passing game) and finished drives as well as you can possibly finish drives. That was enough to create a 25-point winning margin.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

This offseason at Football Study Hall, I tinkered with an idea called the Five Factors, in which I talked about football games being basically decided by, yes, five interrelated factors: efficiency, explosiveness, field position, finishing drives, and turnovers. We're using that for the structure of this year's BTBS posts.


Every play is deemed either successful or not, and over the course of a game or season, you can use this as an efficiency measure, as you would on-base percentage in baseball. It helps to describe a team's ability to stay on schedule and avoid drive-crippling passing downs. (How crippling are passing downs? The national success rate on standard downs was 48 percent. On passing downs: 32 percent.) Efficiency might matter more to teams without a ton of explosiveness, but on some level it matters to everybody.

-- Five Factors

Success Rate (close): Missouri 42.5%, Toledo 37.3%
Rushing Success Rate (close): Toledo 39.3%, Missouri 35.6%
Passing Success Rate (close): Missouri 51.4%, Toledo 36.2%
Standard Downs Success Rate (all plays): Missouri 52.1%, Toledo 44.8%
Passing Downs Success Rate (all plays): Missouri 29.4%, Toledo 16.0%

So basically, neither team was incredibly efficient running the ball, but Mizzou had the passing edge on both sides of the ball. And while neither team was particularly efficient on passing downs, Missouri was about normal, and Toledo was non-existent. Call it the Golden Effect.

Missouri Targets & Catches
Jimmie Hunt: 10 targets, 6 catches, 71 yards (7.1), 2 TD
Bud Sasser: 6 targets, 5 catches, 121 yards (20.2), 1 TD
Darius White: 6 targets, 5 catches, 69 yards (11.5), 1 TD
Sean Culkin: 5 targets, 2 catches, 23 yards (4.6)
Lawrence Lee: 1 target, 0 catches
J'Mon Moore: 1 target, 0 catches
Ish Witter: 1 target, 0 catches

At this point, what we're seeing is Jimmie Hunt playing the role of T.J. Moe, busting zones and attracting as much attention as possible, while Bud Sasser and Darius White get open downfield. Hunt as slot receiver is basically like another running back; in terms of yardage, he might end up No. 3 on the team, but he might be the hub for the passing game as a whole. Without his intended efficiency, the explosiveness might dry up a bit.


My first stab at this (and the point of this post) is to build off of an idea in the comments of one of my Varsity Numbers pieces at Football Outsiders.

One way of measuring this that might be useful is PPP per successful play. That might more directly get at the key question - when you have successful plays, are the REALLY successful, or just a little successful.

-- Isolating explosiveness with IsoPPP

Yards Per Play: Missouri 6.3, Toledo 5.4
IsoPPP: Missouri 1.09, Toledo 0.90
Rushing IsoPPP: Toledo 1.37, Missouri 0.66
Passing IsoPPP: Missouri 1.47, Toledo 0.60
Standard Downs IsoPPP: Missouri 1.00, Toledo 0.98
Passing Downs IsoPPP: Missouri 1.58, Toledo 1.05

When Toledo's Kareem Hunt got to the second level of the defense -- not an incredibly frequent occurrence -- he got a long way. That's reflected here; Toledo's successful run plays were twice as big as Missouri's, but a) Missouri had more successful plays overall, and b) Missouri's big pass plays were about 2.5 times bigger than Toledo's.

Field Position

Field Position might have more influences than any of the Five Factors. To win the field position battle is to move, kick, punt, and return the ball better than your opponent. Or at least three of the four. And you probably want to win the turnover battle, too. Field Position is a mix of a ton of other factors. How much of each? [...]

* Field Position: Turnover Margin (21%), Success Rate (37%), Kick Margin (22%), Punt Margin (22%)

-- What derives field position?

Average Starting Field Position: Toledo 30.1 (3 in MU territory), Missouri 27.4 (2 in UT territory)
Success Rate (close): Missouri 42.5%, Toledo 37.3%
Net Kicking: Toledo 41.2 (in 5 kicks), Missouri 40.2 (in 8)
Net Punting: Missouri 41.2 (in 6 punts), Toledo 38.3 (in 9)

Field position was basically a wash. It flips pretty heavily in Toledo's favor if Bud Sasser doesn't strip Jordan Haden at the Mizzou 12 during Haden's interception return. But the kicking games were about as even as you'll ever see.

Finishing Drives

Using these four measures -- Success Rate, IsoPPP, Red Zone Success Rate, and FG Efficiency -- I started tinkering. I'm just knowledgable enough to be dangerous when it comes to polynomials in Excel, and using 2013 data only, I was able to craft pretty strong projections for Points Per Trip by crafting an individual projection for each measure (projecting Points Per Trip by using only Success Rate, only IsoPPP, etc.) and using these weights:

* Offense: 28% Red Zone Success Rate, 25% IsoPPP, 20% Success Rate, 27% FG Efficiency. This wasn't the weighting I expected, but it produced a correlation of 0.906 between projected and actual points per trip.

* Defense: 34% IsoPPP, 26% Red Zone Success Rate, 23% Opponents' FG Efficiency, 17% Success Rate. Correlation between projected and actual: 0.858.

-- What matters when it comes to finishing drives?

Points Per Scoring Opportunity*: Missouri 7.0 (in 7 trips), UT 4.8 (in 5)
Red Zone Success Rate: Missouri 63.6%, Toledo 50.0%
Success Rate (close): Missouri 42.5%, Toledo 37.3%
IsoPPP: Missouri 1.09, Toledo 0.90
Field Goals under 40: none
Field Goals over 40: UT 1-for-2

* Scoring Opportunities are defined as drives in which you either score from more than 40 yards out or have a first down inside the opponent's 40.

I didn't even realize this at the time, but Missouri had seven good opportunities to score and put seven points on the board in all seven chances. Toledo was pretty good in the red zone, but Missouri was perfect. That Mizzou created more scoring opportunities (despite slightly worse field position) tells you this game wasn't all about finishing drives, but it played a serious role in the final margin.


Interceptions: Toledo 2, Missouri 1
Pass Break-ups: Toledo 6, Missouri 4
Fumbles: Toledo 4, Missouri 0
Fumble Recoveries: Toledo 3, Missouri 1

Markus Golden scared Phillip Ely into fumbling on Toledo's second play, but Ely recovered. David Johnson forced a Zach Rodgers fumble on Toledo's final drive, but Johnson recovered. Then quarterback Logan Woodside recovered his own fumble later in the same drive. Toledo recovered three of its four fumbles, and if any of them bounce into Mizzou hands, the final scoring margin is three to seven points greater.


Efficiency: Slight advantage Mizzou
Explosiveness: Push
Field Position: Push
Finishing Drives: Major advantage Mizzou
Turnovers: Slight advantage Toledo

Finish drives like that more often, and Andrew Baggett's role will be focused a lot more on kickoffs and PATs than field goals.

On to UCF.