A Look Inside The Numbers Of The Champs Sports Bowl: WVU Versus NC State

Here we are with one game left in the 2010 season.  It doesn't seem that long ago that we were getting ready for Coastal Carolina, and now Christmas has passed, and the 2010 edition of the WVU Mountaineer football team has nearly completed its body of work.  I am a big fan of a few statistics that I find predictive, and at this point in a season, a team's strengths and weaknesses clearly present themselves. So let's go inside the numbers and see if the Mountaineers have any clear advantages against NC State.

A simple analysis of the numbers - just lining up WVU's stats against NC State's, shows a couple of advantages for the Mountaineers (an "advantage," to me, is whenever a team is in the top quarter of a statistical category and its opponent is in the bottom quarter of that same category).  The following numbers should be approached with the knowledge that NC State's Sagarin schedule strength rating is 45th, while WVU's is 73rd. 

WVU is second in rush defense, holding opponents to just 85 yards per game, while the Wolfpack manage just 125 per game, 93rd nationally, on the ground.  I don't know how much stock I would put into this usually reliable statistic in small-point-spread games, because another stat clearly points out that NC State isn't really about the run - the Wolfpack is 19th in pass offense, averaging 281 yards per game. 

They figure to test our secondary, which will be without Brandon Hogan, but it should be noted that even as NC State airs the ball out for a lot of yards, they aren't particularly efficient doing it.  The Wolfpack is only 68th in pass efficiency, while the Mountaineers are 11th in pass efficiency defense.  In fact, the Mountaineers might hold an advantage when they air the ball out:  WVU pass efficiency: 27th, NC St. pass efficiency defense: 88th.

We're not done with the basics yet.  WVU also holds a slight advantage in yard-per-pass attempt of 7.5 to 6.8, and figures to win some field position battles against an NC St. squad that ranks 104th in net punting (the Mountaineers are 40th.)  Punting may really matter, too, as WVU and NC State are 2nd and 7th, respectively in 3rd down defense.  In all other statistics, no sizable advantages present themselves.

Now...for a couple more obscure, and predictive, statistics I like to incorporate.

Team

Yards-Per-Point Offense

Yards-Per-Point Defense

YPP Differential (subtract offense from defense)

WVU

14.1

19.7

5.6

NC State

12.4

15.1

2.7


If you are wondering why a team's offensive number is subtracted from its defensive number to find the differential, it is because the lower a YPP a team has on offense, the better.  The higher the number for the defense, the more dominant that defense is.  The above information gives me a relatively confident feeling regarding the outcome of the game, as we have an advantage in differential of 2.9, which is significant.  Another way to look at this stat is to subtract opposing offenses from defenses to see if any advantage presents itself, and one does in this case, with WVU possessing an even larger edge in YPP differential of 6.3.  This results, no doubt, from the fact that WVU's defensive YPP number is so good.

But, as we all know, games aren't played on paper by stat geeks like me.  Turnovers always make an impact, and I think we might be right to worry about the mental state of the team with all that has transpired in the last couple of weeks.  We also fit the classic mold of a "team-that-thinks-it-should-be-playing-in-a-bigger-bowl-and-forgets-to-show-up-for-the-one-it-is-in."

But here's hoping for the best, since we've got some important numbers on our side...Let's Go!

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