Just over a week ago, I looked at what CU’s advanced stat profile said about the Buffs and their prospects this season. Well, after a strong but ultimately disappointing game against Michigan, the stats have shifted enough to warrant an update. Bill Connelly noted as much in his article:
Looks like the Buffs earned the respect of Jim Harbaugh and the hard numbers this past weekend. Let’s take a look at what changed in the stat profile.
The first and main thing to notice is the drastic improvement in the overall S+P ranking. After entering the year at number 86 in the country, CU has shot up to number 67. Now, if you’re not quite sure what S+P is or why it’s important, let’s just run through it quickly. Essentially, the S+P number is a system devised by Bill Connelly himself in order to get the most accurate portrait of a football team. It’s largely based on what he deems the "Five Factors" in football, or the five most important things in the game. These factors are explosiveness (how many big plays you can create), efficiency (how well you can move the ball on standard down and distances), field position (self-explanatory), finishing drives (when you get inside the 40, can you score? and how many points?), and turnover margin (self-explanatory). Anyways, these factors help make the S+P number. So Jack, you dummy, you may say, CU has played cupcakes plus Michigan, of course they look good. Well, the nice part about these advanced stats is that they are inherently opponent-adjusted, so what you see is what you get. The Buffs have improved this year, and the stats now back it up. This team is leaps and bounds better, and within spitting distance of other conference foes (WSU at 62, OSU at 82, ASU at 49, UA at 57, and Utah at 43). All of these games are winnable games, most are at home, and CU has an opportunity to possibly run the table in Folsom.
This advanced stat update also shows just how dominant our secondary is. According to the profile, CU is 3rd in the country at allowing successful plays on passing downs, fifth in the country at DB havoc rate (positive play rate, essentially), and 27th in overall havoc rate. Despite being on an island for most of the Michigan game, the boundary corners locked up a very capable receiving corps and made it very hard for Wilton Speight to throw the ball. This is a dominant unit, and no one is more dominant than Chidobe Awuzie. He’s garnered some national attention, too. Ahkello Witherspoon, rightfully facing most of the targets, has been fantastic in coverage as well. Witherspoon leads the team in pass breakups with 5, and his long frame is shutting down receivers at the line of scrimmage. And this is all without Isaiah Oliver playing consistent snaps. They are just too good.
Finally, let’s talk about Sefo Liufau. He has been absolutely sensational this season, and had he not gone down early in the third quarter against Michigan, I suspect we would be talking about a different season right now. His leadership has always been there, and this season is no exception. Sefo has directed the offense with mastery, picked himself up from hits that would topple a smaller man, and carried the emotional heartbeat of this team. Now his stats look just as pretty as his intangibles. Boasting a 71.1% completion percentage, you’d think he was the checkdown king, settling for quick outs and running back dump offs. Think again. Even sexier than that high completion percentage is the 9.5 yards per passing attempt. Every single time he drops back, he’s shooting for a first down. That shows a successful arm, a trust in the receivers, and a confidence that has not been there previously. Whenever Liufau returns to action this season, he should hit the ground running. Maybe the best stat in his line this year? The number of interceptions. Still sitting at a giant goose-egg.