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Fun with Numbers: Week 3

In which I realize how good Tony Jones was in week 2

Jonathan Daniel

Drive stats from Western Michigan:

  1. 13 drives for both teams, discarding an end-of-half drive for each.
  2. WMU gained 26.5 yards per drive, NU 36.5.
  3. Northwestern had an absurd field position advantage, averaging a starting field position at the Northwestern 40. Western Michigan started their average drive at their own 24.
  4. WMU went three-and-out three times. Northwestern only had one three-and-out, but both turnovers came on the third drive or sooner.
There is nothing terribly surprising here; NU controlled field position throughout the game, moving the ball significantly better as the game went on.

Team Stats

Passing stats in table form this week! For reference: PBUs are non-interception pass breakups, PDR is the % of passes intercepted or broken up, and INT% is the percent of defended passes intercepted. First row is the game, second is the season.

Attempts PBUs INTs Sacks PDR INT% Sack%
41 3 1 0 9.8% 25% 0%
150 17 8 5 16.7% 32% 3.2%


Attempts PBUs INTs Sacks PDR INT% Sack%
22 2 1 1 13.6% 33.3% 4.3%
89 8 3 5 12.4% 27.2% 5.3%

So far, Northwestern's defense has faced more passes than any other team; NU also leads the country in interceptions and is second in passes defended, so things aren't all bad on that front. The defense's sack rate is worrying, but since Van Tubbergen was extremely quick to flee the pocket and throw the ball away, I can live with it for now.

Turnover trivia: Northwestern is one of two Big Ten teams not to have recovered an opposing fumble; the other is Nebraska, which helps explain why their defense has been so shaky.

For the game, Northwestern had an adjusted turnover margin of -.78; an actual turnover margin of -1 is as close as possible. On the season, NU has a +3.1 ATM, again extremely close to NU's actual +3 margin. Northwestern's Pythagorean wins sit at 2.4; over a season, that would be 9.5 expected wins.


Tony Jones (16.3 YPC), Christian Jones (14.5), and Dan Vitale (14.7) all continue to have yards per catch averages over my mostly arbitrary target of 12. On the ground, Treyvon Green (50 carries for 353 yards) and Kain Colter (27 for 199) are both averaging over 7 yards per carry, which I hear is pretty good. Also, while speculating this early in the season is probably foolish, if Tony Jones keeps up his pace for the rest of the season he would finish the regular season with 1172 receiving yards. That would be the third most in a season at Northwestern, behind D'Wayne Bates's 1996 (1196) and 1998 (1245) seasons. Jones gained the bulk of his yards (185) against Syracuse; that was the seventh most receiving yards in a game at Northwestern, edging out Brian Musso's 183 yard effort against Duke in 1997.

Ibraheim Campbell is one of 9 players tied for the national lead in interceptions with 3. He has intercepted a pass in each of the last 5 games.

In the weird early season statistics category: Northwestern's tackle for loss leader is Nick VanHoose, with 2.5. Northwestern's pass breakup leaders are Collin Ellis, Chance Carter, and Dean Lowry, each with 3. That isn't how those positions are supposed to work.

Rankings and Advanced Stats

Northwestern's drop to 18 in the AP has already been discussed; the coaches kept NU at 16. Assuming NU beats Maine, it wouldn't be surprising for NU to rise a spot or two before the OSU game as teams start conference play and losses begin to mount.

Sagarin is the least favorable BCS computer ranking this week, as Northwestern sits at 34. The other three available have NU between 10 and 20: Colley at 19, Massey at 10, and Billingsley at 16. SBN's simulated BCS standings put Northwestern at 17, a two position drop. Beating Maine won't move the needle in any of these, so most movement over the next two weeks will come from what Syracuse, Cal, and Western Michigan do.

The score-based systems tended to drop NU a few places. Sagarin's predictor dropped NU to 38; it has NU as a 21-point favorite over Maine on a neutral field. In the Big Ten, only OSU and Wisconsin are significantly ahead. The simple rating system dropped NU to 26, which is probably more realistic than last week's ranking at 12. Hoegher's system sent NU shooting up 28 places, to 33; my guess is that this has to do with Syracuse beating down Wagner.

Finally, the Football Outsiders numbers. FEI dropped Northwestern and Cal by 13 and 15 places, to 39 and 89, respectively; these are probably related. This was the larger side of a convergence with S&P+, in which NU climbed 5 places to 43. These changes dropped NU 4 spots in F/+, to 42. FEI doesn't consider FCS games, so Northwestern's movement in that system will be entirely a product of opponent adjustments for the next two weeks; S&P+ does, so let's see some ridiculous stats this weekend.