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The Minutemen Have a Top 6 MAC Defense and Other Stats That Lie

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Looking at the stats through week 5, and some items just go against logic.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes stats are weird. Sometimes your stats show that the Massachusetts Minutemen has the fourth or fifth best defense in the MAC. It's at that point where you have to stop, take a deep breath, and wonder what the hell you did wrong when compiling these stats. More on that in a minute(man) though. Every team in the MAC has now played at least four games. That will give us a good sample to see how each team is doing so far on offense and defense.

The Quarterbacks

RK PLAYER TEAM COMP ATT YDS TD INT AY/A
1 Drew Hare NIU 50 80 673 8 0 10.41
2 Joe Licata BUFF 115 174 1375 14 4 8.48
3 Logan Woodside TOL 69 106 865 6 2 8.44
4 Blake Frohnapfel UMASS 99 188 1471 11 3 8.28
5 Zach Terrell WMU 71 117 924 6 3 7.77
6 Cooper Rush CMU 86 133 997 6 3 7.38
7 Andrew Hendrix M-OH 86 191 1342 10 6 6.66
8 Ozzie Mann BALL 74 135 774 5 1 6.14
9 James Knapke BGSU 119 191 1238 7 6 5.80
10 JD Sprague OHIO 40 74 487 1 2 5.64
11 Kyle Pohl AKR 79 148 860 5 3 5.57
12 Colin Reardon KENT 76 140 792 5 7 4.12
13 Rob Bolden EMU 15 41 135 2 2 2.07

I took a stab at who would be starting, taking into account injuries (sorry Matt Johnson). EMU was a wild guess based on the last game. Most others I think I got right, but the comments may tell me otherwise. For those of you who are new to my writing, I use adjusted yards per attempt, or AY/A, which takes yards per attempt and adjusts for touchdowns and interceptions. Drew Hare, in his small sample of 80 passes, has been the perfect replacement for Jordan Lynch. Kyle Pohl, who I hated on in the preseason, has been terrible (despite the upset of Pitt). Now on the UMass side of things, Blake Frohnapfel, coming hot off a school record-setting 589 yard performance, is the fourth best quarterback in the MAC. It's getting to the point where the Minutemen shouldn't bother to run...

Running Offense

RK TEAM ATT YDS YPA TD
1 Toledo 201 1222 6.1 14
2 Western Michigan 154 852 5.5 13
3 Bowling Green 188 908 4.8 14
4 Northern Illinois 233 1099 4.7 9
5 Ohio 192 891 4.6 7
6 Buffalo 210 908 4.3 7
8 Akron 112 443 4 4
7 Ball State 168 671 4 2
9 Eastern Michigan 157 535 3.4 3
10 Central Michigan 173 539 3.1 6
11 Miami 164 428 2.6 2
12 Massachusetts 150 299 2 5
13 Kent State 106 176 1.7  

Because they are awful at it. At a mere 2.0 yards per carry, the only team worse at toting the rock is Kent State. Keep in mind that their best running back, Jamal Wilson, is injured indefinitely. Elsewhere, Bowling Green finds itself near the top of the list despite a rough game against Wisconsin, Kareem Hunt was everything everyone expected and powered Toledo to the top, and Western Michigan's surprise performance by freshman Jarvion Franklin has helped them take the next step. UMass next three opponents are ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth at running the ball, which should let the front seven gain some confidence.

Defense

Rank Team YPC Allowed
1 Northern Illinois 3.4
2 Ohio 3.9
3 Toledo 4.1
4 Massachusetts 4.6
5 Kent State 4.7
6 Akron 4.8
6 Central Michigan 4.8
8 Western Michigan 4.9
9 Miami 5.1
10 Ball State 5.7
10 Buffalo 5.7
10 Eastern Michigan 5.7
13 Bowling Green 6.4

4.2  yards per carry. That's the mode of all 128 teams in the FBS. Six MAC teams average at least 4.2 yards per carry. 10 MAC teams surrender over 4.2 yards per carry. Bowling Green, despite holding UMass to 1.6 yards per carry, still averages 6.4 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Northern Illinois is the class of the MAC at run defense, holding teams to 3.4 yards per carry.

Rank Team YPA Allowed
1 Ball State 6.4
2 Central Michigan 6.5
2 Western Michigan 6.5
4 Akron 7.2
5 Massachusetts 7.3
6 Eastern Michigan 7.7
6 Miami 7.7
6 Ohio 7.7
9 Northern Illinois 8.6
10 Kent State 9
11 Bowling Green 9.2
11 Toledo 9.2
13 Buffalo 10.3

The mode of pass offense in FBS is 7.0 yards per attempt. Once again, only three MAC teams hold teams to less than this amount. If you wonder why they call it MACtion,  there's your answer. If you sort these two tables by rank (I even made a rank column that you can sort by), you'll notice that UMass has the 4th and 5th best defense for rush and pass, respectively. Considering the high ranks on the defensive side, and the strong passing offense, you get final ranks that look like this:

Final Results

Team Pass O Rush O Rush D Pass Def Final Rank
Northern Illinois 1 4 1 9 1
Western Michigan 5 2 8 2 2
Toledo 3 1 3 11 3
Ohio 10 5 2 6 4
Central Michigan 6 10 6 2 5
Massachusetts 4 12 4 5 6
Ball State 8 7 10 1 7
Akron 11 7 6 4 8
Buffalo 2 6 10 13 9
Miami 7 11 9 6 10
Bowling Green 9 3 13 11 11
Eastern Michigan 13 9 10 6 12
Kent State 12 13 5 10 13

Umass is the sixth best school in the MAC, and Bowling Green is the 11th. Yet, Bowling Green defeated UMass on Saturday, and looked like the better team in doing so, despite the foiled late heroics giving UMass a chance to win. Of course, the question should be asked, how the hell does UMass get high ranks on defense? They've given up 40 points a game. Obviously there's a fault in non-scoring statistics, though. Taking into account scoring defense, we get the following new ranks:

Team Pass O Rush O Rush D Pass Def Scoring D Final Rank
Northern Illinois 1 4 1 9 4 1
Western Michigan 5 2 8 2 6 2
Ohio 10 5 2 6 3 3
Toledo 3 1 3 11 9 4
Ball State 8 7 10 1 2 5
Akron 11 7 6 4 1 6
Central Michigan 6 10 6 2 5 6
Massachusetts 4 12 4 5 11 8
Buffalo 2 6 10 13 8 9
Miami 7 11 9 6 7 10
Bowling Green 9 3 13 11 12 11
Kent State 12 13 5 10 10 12
Eastern Michigan 13 9 10 6 13 13

Well, UMass drops to 8th, Bowling Green is still 11th. Obviously taking into account each type of offense and defense equally is faulty, and doing one thing well on offense is very valuable if you focus on doing that one thing (rushing, in Bowling Green's case, or passing, in UMass's case). I also completely avoided talking about special teams, because it's tougher to quantify, though it should be noted UMass's special teams is awful. When all is said and done, though, UMass is no longer the whipping boy of the MAC, and with matchups against the 10th, 12th, and 13th teams coming up, UMass might need to get used to winning.