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Beyond the Box Score: Heisman-level Dynasty mode

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What an 8-year old video game can teach us about our modern Missouri Drinkwitz Dynasty

Dynasty Mode was the best mode of the old NCAA Football video game series. If you were anything like me, the first thing you’d do when you got the newest edition is fire up that mode and take either a.) Missouri, or b.) the worst team in the game to the National Championship 14-20 times before getting bored and finding a new team. I did - and still do - this a lot, importing newer teams that joined since 2013 like Coastal Carolina, Charlotte, and other SBC/CUSA start-ups and making them awesome.

If you remember those games, it was really easy to have an excellent offense, but no matter your defensive acumen - especially on the higher levels of difficulty - you always gave up a ton of yards and points with your lower-ranked G5 program. Yes, your 72-rated offense could give the 98-rated defenses hell, but the second you went on defense you, essentially, did the mental math to see if giving up the score in one play would be the best move for the time remaining and acted accordingly.

I’m sure you’ve figure it out by now: Missouri is playing like a player-controlled G5 team in Heisman-level Dynasty. The offense doesn’t have enough talent to chuck up 50+ per game and the defense is only good for 2, maybe 3 stops per game. Obviously, managing an actual college football team is light years different from managing one in a video game but the limitations are clear: win with a plodding, safe offense that plays ball control and keep your liability on the sideline for as long as possible.

Playing in favor of one side of the ball over the other is risky. Will Muschamp played in favor of his defense over his offense at Florida and South Carolina and lost a ton of close games because of it. Jimbo Fisher does this now at Texas A&M as he did at Florida State. Moving slow and playing it safe can work but it leaves you zero room for mistakes and can keep inferior teams close just as it does teams much better than you. We’ll see how this Tiger team develops over the next 8 games, but it’s pretty clear what this team is right now and it’s not getting better in 2021.

Here’s the advanced box score:

Advanced Box Score

Boston College had massive advantages in number of plays, turnovers, 1st/3rd down management, and running stats. However, Missouri was either close - or better - in the other metrics which helped them stick around to the end. Let’s revisit my keys to the game and see how they shook out.

When Missouri Has the Ball

Missouri Offense vs. Boston College Defense

Say hello to Deep-Ball Dom

On Wednesday I said I wanted to see Bazelak and Dominic Lovett - or whoever - connect on at least five passes that go for more than 25+ yards. Well, that didn’t happen. Dominic Lovett barely saw the field, and while Bazelak did attempt six throws that traveled more than 20 yards, one ended in a completion and two ended in interceptions. That’s not going to cut it.

Winner: Boston College

Passing Downs Success Rate

Boston College’s defense excelled at standard downs and was only vulnerable in obvious passing situations so I hoped that Missouri could maintain at least a 30% success rate in those situations. Mizzou finished with a 36.8% success rate in passing downs, surpassing my humble request. What’s even more impressive is that, of the 68 plays the Tiger offense ran, only 19 (or 27.9%) came on passing downs so Missouri actually did better than expected against an excellent BC defense.

Winner: Missouri

Finish your dang drives

I wanted 4 points per opportunity; we got 4.9. Thanks to a little more diversity in red zone play calling (and a kicker whose range is half the dang field) Missouri’s points per scoring opportunity has been quite healthy this year. Of course, if the defense doesn’t/won’t improve, this high level PPSO will have to stay strong all year.

Winner: Missouri

When Boston College Has the Ball

Missouri Defense vs. Boston College Offense

Make ‘em throw

At this point, everyone in the college football ether knows the book on beating Missouri’s defense, and the hope is they can mitigate that success to just merely “excellent” instead of “dominating”. To do that, I hoped the Tigers could hold the Eagle ground game to at least a 42% success rate.

Boston College’s success rate when running the ball was 54.2%. Lol.

Winner: Boston College

Blitz!

This Mizzou defense will not be beating any offense by conventional means so they’ll have to get aggressive to make big plays. My thought was If Missouri can manage a 25% havoc rate or better it would be enough to throw the Eagles offense off. Missouri’s havoc rate ended up at 12.3%, less than half of what I deemed necessary. Martez Manuel (3), Blaze Alldredge (2), and Shawn Robinson (1.5) were the only ones who contributed any havoc plays at all.

Winner: Boston College

The Little Things

After taking an FCS week off, let’s revisit the little things report card to see if the Tigers stuck to the usual checklist of being overmatched but keeping it close:

“The Little Things” Report Card

Missouri outgained Boston College by 0.3 yards on a per play basis and had the same amount of scoring opportunities with a 1 point per opportunity deficit (because BC scored in overtime and Mizzou didn’t). The Tigers also benefited from much better field position and punted the Eagles into bad field position twice. Everything here is good except for those pesky turnovers: one on the first possession of the second half and, of course, the lone play in overtime.

Even the penalties were almost dead even:

Penalty Tracker

If you haven’t figured it out by now, this was a game between two evenly-matched opponents. You can look at individual plays here and there, but essentially, Missouri was one interception away from winning/losing it on a 2-point conversion on the road. Much like the Kentucky game, moral victories are still an “L” in the win-loss column, but this team can do enough to be in a position to win. That’s great for this staff and their planning, but obviously not great for winning games now.

Extra Points

  • Missouri ran four plays in the 3rd quarter while Boston College ran 28 plays, 20 of which were runs. I know Mizzou did that to Kentucky last year but I’m not sure when the last time the Tigers were the victims of such circumstance. I’m not interested in finding out, either. Dark places, that road leads to.
  • Given BC’s starting field position, the maximum amount of yardage the Eagles could have gone on Saturday was 705 yards (i.e. you start on your 2-yard line you can go 98 yards, if you start on your 25-yard line you can go 75 yards, etc.). BC ended up going for 436 yards; even if you add the yardage of the two field goals - from the 32 and the 14 - that still means the Tiger defense prevented 229 yards from being gained. So...yeah...see? The defense CAN stop some stuff! Sometimes!
  • Since the Central Michigan game, Missouri’s offense is 27-41 on 3rd-downs, a healthy 66% conversion rate. Again, they need to be that good to keep the defense off the field, but it is nice to see them get in more manageable 3rd-down situations and convert.
  • Missouri’s receivers aren’t going to wow you with elite-level athleticism or game-breaking catch radii, but I am really digging the Tiger two-deep right now:
Missouri receiving data

It would be awesome if Cooper and Lovett contributed now, but frankly, they aren’t currently needed. So if Cooper wants to take this year to rehab? Cool. If Lovett’s usage is mostly just to get some experience targets and prepare for next year? I’m good with that. Chism, Banister, Dove, Luper, and Hester are a good enough corps to get you yardage and Badie is the perfect receiving threat out of the backfield. DPJ and Hea don’t even need to provide much so anything they can give is bonus. It’s not a flashy group but it’s good enough for now.

Lastly, I said it in our podcast and I’ll put it here, again: the rushing success rates of Missouri’s opponents so far are...

  • Central Michigan: 48.3%
  • Kentucky: 57.8%
  • SEMO: 57.6%
  • Boston College: 54.2%

The passing success rates, however, look like this...

  • Central Michigan: 37.5%
  • Kentucky: 45.0%
  • SEMO: 50.0%
  • Boston College: 48.3%

Why any opposing offensive coordinator is throwing the ball is beyond me, but if one does decide to take a bet and beat the Tigers through the air, they’ll be going up against a Top 25 passing defense. So, yeah, that’s not going to happen this year but it is encouraging that our secondary is as good as it is.