Did the Fiesta Bowl Tell Us Anything About Thursday?

Once again, a Big 12 offense has underperformed its expected value based on its and its opposing defenses’ play all year. Texas projected to score 36.5 points, but ended up with only 24.

Kansas is still the only Big 12 offense to exceed its expected point value, and again, it was against a cratering Minnesota team. Oklahoma projects to get about 38 points, and I wouldn’t call it a stretch to think that Florida could hold the Sooners under that if they show up ready to play as a D.

Run defense was an early talking point in the game, as someone on Fox’s research staff pulled out the gem that the Longhorns had seen the fewest rushes of any defense. This tidbit was to point out how pass-heavy the Big 12 was this season.

I looked it up, and the NCAA stats that are currently available include all games through the Sugar Bowl. Even with everyone getting their bowls counted and Texas not, UT did indeed face the fewest rushes. They saw 317 runs against them, with second place being TCU who saw 355 rushes.

What about percentage though? Maybe Texas just didn’t see that many plays run against it thanks to its great offense being on the field a lot.

Well, Texas saw the lowest rush percentage too with opponents running just 40.5% of the time against them. The strong Texas D-line combined with a really young secondary was probably the reason behind this. The pass-happy Big 12 did help some, but it’s not the whole story.

Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Missouri all ended up in the bottom ten of opponents rush percentage along with Texas, and five teams in the bottom ten is a trend, not an outlier. Even so, Alabama and Iowa from the quarterback-challenged SEC and Big Ten were also in the bottom ten. Florida clocked in at 21st-lowest opposing run percentage.

The conference doesn’t explain it all. The fact these teams (Iowa excepted) got up big early and often meant that opponents were forced to pass more often. That’s a main reason why who finishes a game with the most passing yards is generally a poor predictor of who won the game, while the team that rushes for more yards is a much better one.

The fact that Texas’ players didn’t see a power rushing attack all season had more to do with Beanie Wells’ early success than a flat lack of running plays in general. Will Muschamp has seen plenty in his day, and he knows what to do against them, but it’s different when you experience it in a live game. Besides, the fact that Wells is simply a gifted back had something to do with it too.

So what about Thursday? The fact that Oklahoma saw a relatively low number of rushing plays probably means nothing either. Florida has actually seen fewer, at 411 to the Sooners’ 425. OU also saw a power-oriented rush attack against TCU and did fine, holding the Frogs to 2.9 yards per rush. TCU doesn’t use option the way Florida does and certainly doesn’t have a power-running quarterback like Tim Tebow, but the Oklahoma defense does get to go up against the monstrous Oklahoma offensive line in practice.

It’s basically a non-issue, even if it is a nice bit of trivia.

As has been reported, Florida’s defense is much higher in the national rankings than Oklahoma’s is. It is also considerably higher than Texas’ defense too, and the ‘Horns tied for holding OU to its lowest point output of the year.

Florida’s defense is practically even with where Ohio State was going into this game, and we saw that the Buckeyes held Texas to 17 points for more than 59 minutes.

Florida’s offense is considerably better in just about every quantifiable way than Ohio State’s is. Yes, that even includes rushing as the Gators rush for more yards a game and at 5.96 to 4.59, they get almost a yard and a half more per rush.

Throw all those together and mix them around and it points to a Florida win. In reality though, will it blend? We’ll find out.

In the game of Will it Blend, Tom always wins.


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