Bill Connelly, SBNation’s resident stat warlock, has done it again. The advanced stat profiles introduced in 2015 are back and better than ever. These breakdowns of every team help immensely in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each team, as well as how they match up with their opponent. Naturally, CU’s is the most important. I combed through the stat profile to try to come up with the three most interesting aspects and how that looks in layman’s terms on the field. One thing to keep in mind- given how little football has been played in 2016, the model relies heavily on 2015 performance this early.
@SnowBuffCU Preseason projections still account for about 75% of S&P+, if that’s what you’re asking— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) September 12, 2016
This has a somewhat deflating effect on the numbers in the model, but hey, maybe that’s just what we need as fans.
The Offense Goes Fast and Stops for No Man
As if we didn’t know this already, this offense moves at a blistering pace. We clock in at 3rd overall in adjusted pace (which takes into account that passing takes less time than running) and despite a low number in explosiveness, move the ball effectively. A large part of this is the efficiency and success that the Buffs enjoy on standard downs and distances. The success rate (how often a play does what it is supposed to do) sits at 61.3%, which is tops in the country. Now, part of that is the already-melted butter that the Buffs had to face on defense so far (sorry, CSU and ISU), but the fact remains that the new hurry-up offense is working exactly as advertising. The main goal is the next first down, not the next touchdown, as our explosiveness numbers show.
Moving to standard downs, the success increases to a whopping 65.6%, even with last year’s offense, showing that Brian Lindgren knows what he’s doing on the bread-and-butter downs. The explosiveness measure, points per play, is also much more palatable here, at 1.15, good for 59th in the country.
Finally, CU actually runs the ball fairly often on standard downs at 62.5% of all play calls, and those runs lead to 3.72 average yards per carry. Add all of this together and you get a good picture of what the Buffs want to be on offense. Lindgren and MacIntyre have said often that their preference is to run more than they pass, but with the way the games play out, it never seems to be an option. The last two games, as well as these stats, have shown us their vision for the offense. Effective runs on 1st and 2nd down should set up a 3rd-and-manageable, and from there your whole playbook opens up. Given the fact that the coaches have not had to show much of their bag of tricks thus far, I bet the explosiveness goes up as the Buffs are forced to get fancy. Play-action, jet sweep, and the tight end position should all be next in line.
The Secondary is so, so Good
The defense as whole comes in surprisingly low by these numbers. A lot of that is due to the influence of last year’s numbers, but the run defense is particularly low-ranked and worrisome going forward. They allow rushing success 35.3% of the time and almost a point per play (.97) on the ground, both ranked in the high 40’s in the country. If you asked me two years ago if I would be happy with a defense in the 40’s, I would have thought you were selling me a scam, but those numbers pale in comparison to the secondary. Seriously, this secondary might be one of the best in the country.
The success rate thus far of passing against this defense is 9.7%, good for 2nd in the country and much lower than the national average of 40.2%. Once again, you go back to the quality of the competition, but the Buffs have fared much worse against equally incompetent opponents. The points per play allowed is a measly 0.85, which is well below the national average of 1.48 and 8th in the country. One more thing to point out is the defensive back havoc rate. One of my favorite stats, havoc rate is defined in the advanced stats glossary as follows:
Essentially, every positive play on defense adds to the havoc rate. The defensive line havoc rate is a paltry 1.7% (119th in the country), but that may be due to their role on this defense. The line isn’t necessarily supposed to penetrate, but rather take up blockers. The linebacker havoc rate gets much better at 8.4% (13th in the country) and then we reach the defensive back havoc rate, which sits at 10.9% (10th in the country). One out of every 9 snaps or so, a defensive back for the University of Colorado will disrupt the offense. And half of those plays will probably be caused by Chidobe Awuzie.
CU is Only Favored in One More Game
That’s right, despite the wonderful performances we’ve seen thus far from the Buffs, the computer isn’t convinced that we can win any game other than Oregon State (65% odds). The next closest is Washington State at an even 50/50, but other than that, the stats see another long season for the Buffs. This is the main problem with going off of last season’s statistics. I have no doubt that the 2015 Buffs would only be favored in one more game, but given what we have seen thus far, this team is very different than the previous iteration. The computer spits out almost exactly 5 wins this year, a popular conservative estimate among the fans, and a 21% chance to finish 6-6. The next most likely wins, according to the stat-bot, are Arizona State and Arizona, followed by Utah. That all makes sense, as that’s what most pundits and Buff fans would project. The sticking point here is the likelihood of those wins. Arizona has not impressed thus far, and Utah looks more beatable than it has in a while. Meanwhile, Arizona State better hope it gets 8 touchdowns from Kalen Ballage every week. In short, the Rise isn’t real quite yet to the emotionless automatons that hammer our statistics and rankings. That’s fine, it’s hard to believe. But the further we get into the season, the higher those win probability percentages will go.