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Fun With Numbers: South Carolina

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Previewing the South Carolina game with advanced statistics

Howdy Ags and welcome to Fun With Numbers. This is a weekly post where we look at some advanced metrics like the SP+, FEI, and efficiency and explosiveness metrics to see what kind of Aggie Football weekend we are headed for. If that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, I recommend checking out this glossary to get your bearings.

I apologize in advance for this week’s edition being slightly abbreviated. The real life job has me working outside of normal conditions, but I’ll continue to do my best here, try not to blame current players, remain disciplined, try not to lose to a G5 school, and hopefully we’ll end up better than Chad Morris and Willie Taggart. Although I could stand to have a little bit of their buyout.

What Do We Know?

Let’s just jump right in here. The Aggies face a South Carolina team that has a win over likely SEC East Champion Georgia and losses to Tennessee and Appalachian State. In order to make a bowl this season, they need to go on a two-game win streak to close out 2019, which means beating the Ags as well as Clemson. That’s a tall order, but this is still a Top 50 team by most metrics and that means that just about anything can happen at Kyle Field Saturday night.

Aggie Offense vs Gamecock Defense

As usual, Will Muschamp has managed to cobble together a legitimate defense, even if they haven’t been totally consistent this season. They’re pretty good against the run, and are 33rd in the country in 3rd Down Conversions. They’re not too shabby against the pass this season either, even if they have given up 35 Explosive Pass plays this season. Bottom line, Spiller may not have the same success he did against the Roadrunners, but I think as long as the OL continues to play well, we should be able to move the ball through the air efficiently.

Aggie Defense vs Gamecock Offense

As usual, Will Muschamp has managed to cobble together a pretty terrible offense. Feaster and Dowdle are more than capable of generating a run game for the Gamecocks, but they’re not a very explosive team, so the Ags should be able to contain them on the ground. Hilinski has been fun to watch at times this season, but the passing attack for South Caro has been pretty inconsistent, and has really been missing the deep threat that a healthy Deebo Samuels provided them in 2018. The OL does a good job at protecting him, but you’d like to see the Ags find ways to get pressure on the young QB, especially after turning in 2 sacks against Mississippi State and 4 against UTSA.

Special Teams

This one is a little surprising, with the Gamecocks being considerably better in Special Teams play this season. Shi Smith is averaging 21 yards/return this season, Parker White is nearly hitting 80% on field goals, and Joseph Charlton is averaging 48.3 yards/punt (THE Braden Mann is averaging 49).

Anything the Numbers Don’t Tell Us?

Obviously this is a bad week for me to have to write an abbreviated Fun With Numbers, because it’s the most important week of the year… Rivalry Week. Never forget that ever since 2014, the James Bonham Trophy has resided in College Station. That has to drive South Carolina fans crazy, as obviously this game means more to them than their final match up each year against in-state opponent Clemson. I mean seriously, why would you want to play a game against an orange team from you own state to finish the season? Why are you doing them favors South Carolina? Why?!

What’s the Verdict?

The charts kind of point to a defensive slugfest don’t they? I think we’re likely to hear the cannon a little less this week than we did in our last two games, but I still like the Ags to win this game. The offense needs to take care of the ball, Fromm’s 4 interceptions were a key point in Georgia’s loss a few weeks ago, and find ways to make plays through the air (see their box score against Tennessee who turned in a 50% Success Rate in the Vol’s 20 point win). Defensively, Elko needs to take away the run game early and force Hilinski to make mistakes. App State has a similarly ranked defense to the Ags, and they were able to completely shut down the Gamecock offense.

My Prediction: Again, I like the Ags who seem to be trending up and the Gamecocks haven’t managed to prove that their big win against Georgia wasn’t mostly a fluke. Though most predictions have A&M winning by around 10 points, I think they cover and win by 14, something like 31-17.

Final Notes

As always, thanks for keeping up with my funny little stats post. Next week it should be back to normal, with a little more substance to it. Although honestly substance from me is just a little bit more word vomit between my colored charts. Looking forward to a strong finish from the Aggies, and I hope you’ll continue to follow along.

  • FootballOutsiders.com for a solid compilation of all things related to football analytics.
  • Bcftoys.com for Brian Fremeau’s FEI data and other fun projects from him.
  • ESPN.com is the new home for all of Bill Connelly’s SP+ info (as well as the FPI rankings).
  • CollegeFootballData.com is a great site for data and charts that you can download and play with on your own time, in case Fun With Numbers isn’t filling that statistical void in your life.
  • Also you can now follow me on Twitter @Aggie_Analytics.

Questions? Comments? Criticisms? You know where to leave ‘em. I’ll see you at the tailgate.