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Modeling Missouri and Texas in the Texas Bowl

What do the stats say about who has the upper hand in next week’s bowl matchup?

NCAA Football: Missouri at Arkansas
This man would much rather that neither Texas nor Missouri end next week 7-6.
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

This is the sort of thing that makes bowl games so fun.

You take two teams that didn’t play during the year and, in most cases, didn’t really have any common opponents and try to match them up to see who you think will win between the two, based on past performance, momentum and gut feeling.

So, if you think Missouri is going to wax Texas in the Texas Bowl, you probably think so because the Tigers are one of the hottest teams in the country, riding a six-game win streak.

If you think Texas is going to handle Missouri, it probably has something to do with the fact that the Longhorns’ schedule was notably tougher than the Tigers’ — Texas’ opponents had a 52-51 record against Power-5 teams not named Texas; Missouri’s had a 34-47 record against Power-5 teams not named Missouri — and still managed to navigate is 6-6 opposed to Missouri’s 7-5.

Plus, well, Texas’ three wins against bowl teams opposed to Missouri’

So who gets the upper hand Dec. 27? The team that played poorly early and looked great late? Or the one that, aside from that Maryland clunker (Editor’s Note: that has seen a good defense and a bad offense equal out to a consistently mediocre season?

We decided to fit the numbers into a couple of different projection models to hazard some guesses.

What we did was took Texas and Missouri’s offense and defense performances against its Power-5 opponents this year -- 11 for Texas, nine for Missouri — and compared them with how those Power-5 opponents did on the whole against their other Power-5 opponents besides Missouri and Texas.

So you establish a Power-5 norm for Missouri and Texas’ opponents, then see how far above or below Missouri and Texas performed against those norms.

And we laid out a couple of models to project some possible outcomes.

We’ll start with the most optimistic model for Missouri, then work down to the least optimistic.

The “Lighter Fluid” Model

Since the week of the Idaho game (Oct. 21), when Barry Odom took lighter fluid to a stack of clippings, Missouri is 6-0, including 4-0 against Power-5 teams. Texas was 3-3 over that stretch of time, beating Baylor, Kansas and West Virginia while losing to Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech.

Missouri 27, Texas 23

Run: 49 for 148, TD
Pass: 20-of-37, 304 yards, 2 TD, INT
Totals: 86 plays, 452 yards

Run: 31 for 83, TD
Pass: 25-of-44, 290 yards, TD, 2 INT
Totals: 75 plays, 373 yards

Missouri’s offense scored 47 points a game in that stretch, or 36 percent more than its opponents’ norm against other Power-5 teams. In that same stretch, Texas gave up 40 percent points fewer than its opponents’ averages.

Texas’ offense, though, also scored 28 percent points fewer than its opponents’ averages, while Missouri’s defense gave up about 16 percent more (23.8 points per game over the final four against teams that scored 20.5 points per game against their other Power-5 opponents).

You average those -- and their corresponding rush and pass numbers — together (MU offense and Texas defense projections making figures for Missouri; MU defense and Texas offense projections making figures for Texas), and you get a narrow Tigers win.

The “Turnaround” Model

Missouri had just fallen 51-14 to Auburn and moved to 1-3 on the year when Odom strode into the post-game press conference and let everyone know just what exactly was going on with his Tigers. After a bye, Missouri would lose its next two games against Kentucky and Georgia but play better in them both. Then go off on that six-game win streak we’ve talked about. In that timeframe, Texas went 4-4, all against Power-5 teams, adding a win over Kansas State and a loss to Oklahoma to those results we’ve discussed earlier.

Texas 30, Missouri 29

Run: 43 for 141, TD
Pass: 19-of-36, 333 yards, 3 TD, INT
Totals: 79 plays, 475 yards

Run: 36 for 126, 2 TD
Pass: 27-of-47, 343 yards, TD, 2 INT
Totals: 83 plays, 469 yards

Actually, Missouri’s 29 is a truncation rather than a rounding. The actual final score is 30.4-29.5. But, you know...that’s impossible.

The Tigers’ offense is still super impressive when you add the Georgia and Kentucky games in, flying at 40 percent more points and 31 percent more yards per game than its opponents’ Power-5 norms.

The defense, though, takes a hit, giving up 696 yards and 53 points to a good (but not herculean) Georgia offense as well as 40 points and 486 yards to an average Kentucky defense. All in all, the defense gives up 33 percent more points per game and 30 percent more yards per game than the opponents’ Power-5 norms.

And before you say it’s a different defense than the one that gave up explosions to Georgia and Kentucky, I’d remind you of the last time it hit the field: 45 points and 446 yards vs. an Arkansas offense that averaged 21.3 and 325.4 against other Power-5 teams.

Texas’ offense, meanwhile, scored 18.5 percent fewer points than its opponents’ averages during that stretch and had 10.7 percent fewer yards. But the defense was also solid, giving up 32 percent fewer points and 16 percent fewer yards.

That comes out to a very narrow Texas win.

The Whole Season Model

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Texas is 5-6 against Power-5 teams this year, Missouri is 4-5. These projections are based on their numbers in all of those games.

Texas 33, Missouri 26

Run: 38 for 127, TD
Pass: 19-of-36, 300 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT
Totals: 74 plays, 427 yards

Run: 41 for 133, 2 TD
Pass: 26-of-42, 317 yards, TD, INT
Totals: 83 plays, 450 yards

For the season, against Power-5 teams, Missouri is averaging 31.3 points and 453.6 yards a game while letting up 33.9 points and 442.1 yards.

Texas is averaging 26.7 points and 388.8 yards a game while letting up 23.6 points and 381.1 yards.

The Tigers’ offense is 16-17 percent above the norm, while its defense is 26 percent worse in yards per game, 40 percent in points.

Texas’ offense is 15 percent worse than the norm in points per game, 9.25 in yards. Its defense is 24 percent better in points per game, 12 percent better in yards.

Basically, taking the whole season into account, while the two teams’ strengths (Texas defense, Missouri’s offense) have been comparable, Texas’ weakness (offense) hasn’t been as egregious as Missouri’s (defense).

On the whole. So there’s a touchdown win for the Longhorns.

The “Matching Up the Competition” Model

How has Texas played against teams with above average offenses and below average defenses, like Missouri? How has Missouri played against below average offenses and above average defenses, like Texas?

Texas 50, Missouri 17

Run: 33 for 83
Pass: 18-of-34, 271 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
Totals: 67 plays, 354 yards

Run: 45 for 204, 4 TD
Pass: 30-of-42, 354 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
Totals: 87 plays, 558 yards

So........this one ain’t happening.

Basically, what this constitutes is taking both teams’ opponents’ ranks among Power-5 teams in offensive and defensive points per game, yards per game and yards per play against other Power-5 teams, breaking the opponents into a top half and bottom half, then seeing which half Missouri and Texas each fit in to.

Texas, for example, fits into both a top-half offense and top-half defense bracket when it comes to Missouri’s opponents. The Longhorns join South Carolina, Purdue, Auburn, Georgia and Florida on defense, and Purdue, Auburn, Kentucky and Georgia on offense.

Missouri’s other Power-5 opponents averaged a rank of 41st among Power-5 teams in points per game, 44th in yards per game and 35th in yards per play. Texas’ offense ranks 36th, 31st and 49th. The opposing defenses averaged 34th, 35th and 37th. Texas’ defense ranks 23rd, 31st and 21st.

The closest offense to Texas, rank-wise, Missouri has faced this season was Kentucky. The closest defense was South Carolina. Missouri lost those games 40-34 and 31-13.

Now let’s look at Texas. The Longhorns’ other opponents averaged ranks of 27th, 27th and 26th on offense and 41st, 43rd and 41st on defense. Missouri’s offense ranks 19th, 9th and 9th, and its defense ranks 49th, 46th and 47th.

So, on offense, the Tigers fall into the ranks of USC, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Texas Tech. On defense, they fall into the ranks of Maryland, Kansas State, Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia and Texas Tech.

Here’s the thing, though. While Texas has not exactly bludgeoned below average defenses — in fact, the Longhorns have performed about 3-4 percent below average against them — they have been pretty decent against good offenses.

Those five I mentioned above averaged 22 points and 421 yards a game against Texas. They averaged 39 and 519 against everyone else.

Rank-wise, Missouri is closest to West Virginia on offense and Texas Tech on defense. Texas beat West Virginia, 28-14, and lost to Texas Tech, 27-23.

Missouri has seen three defenses better than Texas this year: Georgia, Auburn and Purdue. Record: 0-3. Average outcome: 15-46

Texas has seen four offenses better than Missouri this year: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, USC and West Virginia. Record: 1-3. Average outcome: 22-21

That’s about all I got for you. Hope it wasn’t too boring and made a little bit of sense.

If you want to see my work, check out below. The first spreadsheet holds the overall, lighter fluid and turnaround models. The second one holds the overall and matched-opponent models.