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Ohio-Bowling Green: How Good Is That Falcons Defense?

The BGSU defense has not been challenged by many great offenses in the conference, but crunching some numbers shows just how well they've performed against them compared to their averages.


I can't stop talking about Bowling Green's defense, which is a personal problem. Usually the defense was the problem, and that's what makes it so refreshing. In this century their offense was putting up 30, 40 points a game and the defense had to be good enough. For once, it's the other way around.

Now, the Falcons have a really tough game in Athens, Ohio tonight. The Bobcats have just one loss but rebounded in a big way over EMU. The mind-boggling stat on BGSU's side is they've given up 33 points in their last five games. (Ohio gave up 34 points to UMass.) And when ranked on a level playing field, the Falcons points allowed per game is ninth in the country. NINTH. That's so un-MAC-like it's stupid.

Yes, the Falcons haven't really beaten anyone particularly outstanding other than Miami, who did beat Ohio, but that's a transitive argument. Akron, EMU, UMass ... they're supposed to shut those teams down and they did. But they shut them down much below their average scoring.

Let's do something fun here: numbers! I'll strip this down to conference-only games. Here is each MAC team's scoring against MAC opponents:

Points Per Game (MAC only)
NIU: 47.17
Kent State: 37
Toledo: 36.33
Ohio: 34.8
Ball State: 34.67
WMU: 32.17
CMU: 31
Miami: 28.4
BGSU: 24.8
Akron: 22
EMU: 20.8
Buffalo: 17
UMass: 12.8

Now there's probably a better way of doing this, but I took each team's defensive effort against each MAC team. Negative points means they held teams to that many points less than their average; positive points means they gave up more than the team usually scores:

Defensive Points Allowed Per Game (Relative To Opponent PPG, MAC only)
BGSU: -13.67/game
NIU: -9.87/game
Buffalo: -5.74/game
Kent State: -3.05/game
Ball State: -1.24/game
WMU: +0.34/game
Toledo: +1.16/game
Akron: +2.97/game
Ohio: +5.68/game
CMU: +5.93/game
EMU: +6.28/game
UMass: +7.13/game
Miami: +7.40/game

So yes, BGSU hasn't played a bunch of strong teams, but they did keep them WAY below their offensive norm. Zero to UMass. Three to EMU. 10 to Akron. 12 to Miami. 27 to Toledo. In every one of those games, to date, they have kept their opponent at least 10 points below their average, save for Toledo, who was kept nine points below.

So yes, their total defense of 15 points allowed per contest is skewed by the fact that they've played only one of the top seven teams, and four of the five worst offensive teams (not including themselves), but they've taken care of business well beyond the mean of expectation.

Likewise, Ohio's competition has been offensively unimpressive and they can boast the fourth best scoring defense in the MAC (26 points per game) but they've given up more points against them and therefore rank ninth in this metric.

I've spent all those time proselytizing the defense ... mostly because as a BGSU fan, I don't want to talk about the offense. So let's do some crude math here and gloss over that inconvenient fact.

BGSU scores 24.8 points a game. Ohio gives up 5.68 points per game above the team's average. So BGSU might score about 30.48 points.

Ohio scores 34.8 points per game. BGSU allows 13.67 points below the average. So Ohio might score 21.13 points.

Of course, the game is also in Peden Stadium, skewing the advantage to Ohio. And yes, games are not played on a spreadsheet, so the Falcons defense could give up a couple early touchdowns and if that happens, they'll need to play a flawless game to get back into it, which may not happen.