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Stats of the Week - End of Season Edition

The 2013 season has come to a close and thankfully the Wildcats went out on a winning note. Here are some stats!

Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this season, I profiled Northwestern's win rates under the three head coaches since 1995 in various scenarios, emphasizing how net turnover margin + net sacks often tells the story of the game (into the second bye week, that win rate under Fitz was 84.6% when sporting a positive turnover + sack margin). NU notched a +2 turnover + sack ratio against the Illini, moving the 'Cats to 34-7 under Fitz when sporting a positive margin in that statistic. When NU is 0 or better, the win rate is 82.4%.

Speaking of sacks, NU allowed only 1 on the day, improving Fitz's record to 45-15 (0.750) when the 'Cats allow 2 or fewer sacks.

NU lost a number of close games this year (4 of this year's 7 losses were decided by one score or less, and we all know how the Ohio State game ended as well). That's the most games lost by one score or less since 2001 (when NU also lost 7 games), when the 'Cats also had 4 such losses. Northwestern also had 4 in 1997, when coincidentally the 'Cats also went 5-7. The single-season NU record for such losses, though, is 5, set in 1942 (NU finished 1-9) and 1954 (2-7).

Speaking of close games, NU's 1-4 mark this season in games decided by one score or less was disheartening, but Fitz's overall record in such games is still good (27-17, 0.614), but he's fallen a bit behind his predecessor, with Randy Walker's record in such games standing at 21-12 (0.636). They are both well ahead of NU's all-time record in such games, which is exactly .500 (197-197-44).

Northwestern has now won 4 consecutive games in which the 'Cats threw for 4 TDs or more.

NU's opponents missed a total of 8 FGs this season (NU missed only 2, and both of those came in wins for the 'Cats). Under Fitz, NU has made 77.4% of FG tries while opponents have missed 15 more FGs than the Wildcats with a conversion rate of 66.4%.

NU had one of its best offensive outings of the season thanks to a very productive passing game which averaged 8.9 yards/attempt (I've included sack yardage against passing numbers, so the actual listed number is better than that). Under Fitz, NU is 16-2 when averaging 8 or more yards per passing attempt. The only losses came in the infamous 2006 MSU loss in which the 'Cats blew a 35 point lead and against Ohio State earlier this season.

The 'Cats had their fewest penalty yards (5) since Nov. 19, 2011 against Minnesota (0). Since 1995, the Wildcats are 3-2 when notching single digit penalty yards.

Northwestern ended the season facing just 3 postseason-ineligible teams (the 'Cats won those 3 games by a combined margin of 38 points; note that Maine qualified for the FCS playoffs as the No. 5 seed). The 'Cats went 2-7 against the postseason-eligible teams (with wins over Maine and Syracuse, who finished 6-6).

Many have noted how unusual it was for the Wildcats to have a 7 game winning streak directly followed by a 7 game losing streak (thankfully, now broken). There have only been 6 occasions when NU had 4 or more game winning and losing streaks back-to-back: a 5 game losing streak followed by a 4 game win streak in 2011, 9 wins followed by 4 losses in 1957-58, 7 wins followed by 4 losses in 1926-27, 6 wins followed by 4 losses in 1901-02, and 4 wins followed by 6 losses in 1894-95.

The 'Cats finished with a losing 5-7 record but had a point differential of only -11, coming very close to ending with a positive differential despite a losing record, which NU has done only three times in history (1932, 1961, and 2011). On each of those occasions, Northwestern has been within one win of .500 (3-4-1 in 1932, 4-5 in 1961, and 6-7 in 2011). Also, unfortunately, this was one of the largest drops in number of wins by season to the next (-5 from 2012), though not the largest with a 6 win drop from 1905 to 1908 (NU didn't play football in 1906-07 and played only 4 games in 1908, it's worth noting). In more typical seasons, NU had 5 win drop offs in 1944 and 1972.

Enough stats for now, look for more periodically during the offseason, especially since I'll have more time to analyze this season's data.