Howdy and welcome back to Fun With Numbers. If you’ve never been here before, it’s a weekly(ish) post where I take all the beauty and pageantry of college football, all the scheming and play calling, all the plain dumb luck, and condense it down to some charts and numbers. We try not to focus on the obvious stuff, things like total passing yards allowed or points scored, and attempt to dive into Aggie Football (and their opponents) in a slightly more advanced way. If you’re familiar with terms like success rate, havoc, explosiveness, etc. you’ll do just fine here. If you’re not, you might want to check out a glossary like this before we proceed.
Most teams only have one game under their belt, most of those being between teams at very different skill levels, so we have to be cautious about what data we look at and how much weight we put into it. Those concerns decrease as the number of games played increases, but for now we work with what we have, be mindful of how limited it is, and throw it all out if it doesn’t fit our narrative. With all that in mind, Fun With Numbers will look a little different this week than it usually does. Let’s dive in.
What Do We Know?
A&M travels to Hard Rock Stadium for a matchup with the Miami Hurricanes. Both teams are 1-0 and coming off incredibly disappointing 2022 seasons relative to preseason expectations. The Aggies have an edge in the three overall metrics, with FEI being the lowest on the Hurricanes by a good amount. Vegas has the Aggies as a 4 point favorite, the SP+ likes the Aggies by about a field goal, and the FEI predicts an Aggie win by 6.5 points.
Both teams played Group of 5, low ranked squads last week. Let’s take a quick look at the box scores.
Before the season started, I saw Vegas lines and SP+ projections showing the Aggies beating New Mexico by 40ish points. I didn’t doubt their ability to do it necessarily, the talent is there and New Mexico is not even a Top 100 team by most ratings. Still, just putting up 40 points on the scoreboard is not something that has been super common in the Jimbo era. Those concerns were alleviated pretty quickly when Connor Weigman threw 4 TD passes in the first half alone, Le’Veon Moss hit paydirt as well, and the Aggies went into halftime up 35-7. Almost half of this game was considered garbage time, Weigman and the receiving corps had a great day against a 3-3-5 defense that brought a lot of pressure, and took care of the ball. There’s not much to complain about, you’d like to see the Ags run the ball a little better, but you can’t be mad at Petrino calling what works and taking what was given.
Defensively, the Aggies did a pretty good job of limiting the Lobo run game, minus one long 27 yard TD run. Senior QB Dylan Hopkins actually moved the ball through the air pretty well, even though the Aggie secondary did a good job of limiting yards after catch. A couple of bad penalties kept drives alive, and the Aggie DL didn’t start getting home on Hopkins until the second half of the game. Overall, a good showing from Durkin’s squad even if there is plenty to work on.
Next up, let’s look at what went down in the wonderfully dubbed “Confusion Bowl”. The Canes looked pretty sharp despite both sides of the ball being under new coaching in 2023. Tyler Van Dyke had a 78% completion percentage and averaged .626 PPA/pass, with one throw really getting away from him (an interception in the 2nd quarter). They rushed the ball for 250 yards, with 148 of those coming on 5 plays. Miami did a good job of staying ahead of the chains, but did struggle a bit when they found themselves in passing down situations. The defense played well in Lance Guidry’s first game as defensive coordinator, smothering any sort of run game from Miami-Ohio and of the 5 explosive plays allowed, 3 of those came pretty late in garbage time.
Both of those teams did what they were supposed to, and now the real test comes.
So What’s the Verdict?
From a birds eye view, these teams aren’t that different. Both teams are believed by their fanbases to be very different from last year’s squad. Metrics like the SP+ and FEI are distrustful of their offenses and put a little more stock in their defensive capabilities. Both units returning a lot of experience and are coming off good performances in Week 1. I don’t think it will be as low scoring as last year’s affair, but I do think defenses will be the story of this game.
The Aggies will be facing Lance Guidry’s 4-2-5 scheme, one that has given a lot of teams fits (most recently Notre Dame in 2022 while Guidry was the Marshall DC). New Mexico brought a ton of pressure against the Aggie OL, and Conner Weigman faced the pass rush and hit his receivers who were in one-on-one situations. I don’t think Miami is going to be bringing a blitz every other down like the Lobos did, more likely they’re going to mix a lot of coverages and avoid leaving their corners on islands, specifically looking to eliminate some of these big plays through the air. Guidry’s defenses are famous for their 3rd down capabilities (Last year’s Marshall squad was 1st in the country in 3rd Down Defense at 25.47%), so hopefully the Aggies can perform a little better in Standard Downs to keep from finding themselves in 3rd and Long situations.
Defensively, Durkin will be matched up against OC Shannon Dawson who spent the last 3 seasons calling plays at Houston. He’s from the Hal Mumme/Dana Holgorson tree, so I definitely expect the Hurricane offense to look a lot different than last year. I expect they’ll move the ball well, a lot of quick passes spreading the field and then a heavy dose of inside runs. What will be important is limiting explosive plays, particularly on the ground. Last week Miami (OH) allowed the Canes to churn out nearly 100 Highlight Yards, 56% of the Hurricanes 34 rushes went for 4 yards or more. If the Aggies can limit those big 20+ yard runs and tackle as well as they did against the Lobos, I think they can slow Miami down and put TVD into some tough passing down situations.
My Prediction: Again, it’s hard because so much of both of these teams have changed in the last year. The Aggies two leading receivers in 2022’s matchup? Ainias Smith and Devon Achane. Evan Stewart didn’t even play. On the flip side, Miami was without top receiver Xavier Restrepo, Colbie Young wasn’t targeted in the game… we can do this all day.
I don’t think either team finishes this season 5-7, I believe they’ve both improved quite a bit from last year. But I believe in Conner Weigman more than any other player on the field right now, I am fully in on that hype and feel no shame about it.
Aggies win 30-27, no cover, but the over hits at least.
Thanks for reading a long, I should be around most of the season with these. As the number of games increases, so will our meaningful data. Check out these sites below where all of my info comes from.
- Bcftoys.com for Brian Fremeau’s FEI data and other fun projects from him.
- ESPN.com is the home for all of Bill Connelly’s SP+ info (as well as the FPI rankings). You’ll need to subscribe to ESPN+ for most of his stuff these days.
- 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. Most of my data comes from here.
- SEC Stat Cat is another great site. Solid blend of statistics and football concepts.