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A Penn State Statistical Review

One thing I am growing to get more involved with tracking is sabremetrics in baseball. I am far from having a full grasp of everything but I like to think I know more today than I did at this point last season. I like numbers but I am not one to rely entirely on what they may show on paper. That said, I am always interested in seeing how some folks take a deeper look at numbers in football. Two sites I think do a tremendous job with bringing a sabremetric approach to the football field are Football Study Hall and College Football by the Numbers. I highly recommend adding both sites to your regular reading if you have not already.

Today College Football by the Numbers takes  a deeper look at Penn State's 2012 season with their latest in a series of statistical reviews. The opening comments may turn you off initially.

"Penn State averaged 6.6 plays per possession," CFBN notes. "But like the other teams in that range and higher, the offense wasn't particularly good."

Penn State's offense set a few records last season and made Matt McGloin an NFL quarterback, but it is fair to point out the flaws in the offense. The big sticking point here for CFBN is Penn State had possession of the football without getting as much as they probably should have out of it. Personally I think Penn State's offense was pretty effective for the most part, although Ohio State managed to shut them down in State College. Penn State had the fourth best total offense in the Big Ten but was just the seventh best in scoring. Another look at the Big Ten stats shows Penn State was fourth on third-down conversion percentage, fifth in fourth-down conversion percentage (although they converted more fourth downs than any Big Ten team with 19) and they were tied for ninth in the conference in red zone scoring percentage. While we may have warm and fuzzy memories about the overall impact of the new offensive style, it does have some work to do at a time when filling any holes may be a bit more difficult than usual.

CFBN suggests Penn State won many of their games on the foundation provided by the defense. That would be difficult to argue with guys like Mike Mauti, Gerald Hodges and Jordan Hill — all NFL draft picks — leading the way. As noted by CFBN;

They weren't elite, but borderline top 20. The defense was particularly good against the run, but the real success came in the red zone. Opponents averaged more than 6 plays/possession and reached the red zone on 27% of possessions, but once there they averaged less than 4 points per possession. That should sound familiar. It should sound like the Penn State offense.

So, what does this all mean for the 2013 season? Fortunately, CFBN seems to have a positive outlook thanks in large part to the versatility at the tight end position. This is no secret of course, as Penn State got more out of the tight end position than any season they have seen since Kyle Brady was on the roster. Having multiple options to count on heading in to the 2013 season appears to be the strong suit of the Penn State offense and will be relied on heavily by whoever happens to be under center.

For you stat and graph geeks out there…
Graph via College Football by the Numbers.

What are your expectations for Penn State's offense and defense in 2013?