Summer Vacation: Broha, Blogger Royalty and the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

NOTE: Confused? Don't miss the definitions and footnotes at the bottom.

Hal Mumme is a popular guy among the blogger class.  Chris Brown loves him.  So does Spencer Hall.  Doc Saturday?  But of course.  Senator Blutarsky?  Named his poll after the man (his Twitter account too).  So when a Mumme disciple gets a chance, blogger royalty (briefly) pays attention.  And apparently, so do citizens of Ruston, Louisiana.  The good folks of Ruston (likes: Terry Bradshaw, peaches, and mudbugs -- in either etouffe or mascot form) went through the turnstiles a record number of times in 2010 to watch what new Louisiana Tech head coach, and former Mumme and Mike Leach underling, Sonny Dykes could do.

And how was Dykes' first year at Tech?  Fine, I guess.  The Bulldogs went 5-7 and actually won a one-possession game for the first time since 2008, but they also scored fewer and allowed more points than they had in 2009.  Tight home losses to Southern Miss (not conference mates) and Fresno State (conference mates, because geography makes total sense) prevented the Bulldogs from becoming bowl eligible for the second time in three years, but hope is not lost in Ruston.  With talent in the backfield and another year in Dykes' (and offensive coordinator/Tuberville scapegoat Tony Franklin's) version of Mumme's Airraid system, Tech could be decent, or at least bad-but-entertaining, again in 2011.

2010 Schedule & Results*

Record: 5-7 | Adj. Record: 3-9 | Final F/+ Rk**: 86
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
4-Sep Grambling State
20-6 W 15.9 - 31.5 L
11-Sep at Texas A&M 16-48 L 19.4 - 35.4 L
18-Sep Navy 23-37 L 23.7 - 31.3 L
25-Sep Southern Miss 12-13 L 15.5 - 21.3 L
2-Oct at Hawaii 21-41 L 29.9 - 33.3 L
9-Oct Utah State 24-6 W 25.0 - 20.8 W
16-Oct Idaho 48-35 W 36.2 - 33.0 W
26-Oct at Boise State 20-49 L 38.4 - 31.3 W
6-Nov Fresno State 34-40 L 29.6 - 31.1 L
13-Nov at New Mexico State 41-20 W 26.8 - 32.4 L
27-Nov at San Jose State 45-38 W 21.3 - 34.6 L
4-Dec Nevada 17-35 L 25.6 - 30.4 L
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 26.8 59 30.7 90
Adj. Points Per Game 25.6 75 30.5 86

For the most part, Louisiana Tech's defense was consistently poor in 2010 (aside from a random, solid performance against Utah State).  The most interesting goings-on were on the offensive side of the ball.  Ross Jenkins took over the starting quarterback position before the Hawaii game, running back Lennon Creer got rolling (no idea if those two things are related) and Tech's offense improved significantly when September turned into October.  Tech fielded a downright solid offense in October before a bit of a November fade.  Jenkins is gone, however, so the training wheels are coming off this fall for junior-to-be Colby Cameron.  The training wheels may need to go back on for a Tech defense that was solid in denying big plays but seemingly ran backwards for seven yards before even trying to tackle opposing running backs.

(Why the major difference between La. Tech's 86th-place ranking Adj. Points Per Game and 69th-place ranking in Def. S&P+ below?  Two things: pace and garbage time.  Tech's pace was high, and it looks like they gave up quite a few garbage-time points, which would make a difference in Adj. Points but not Def. S&P+.  So there you go.)

Offense***

Category S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 77 68 80
RUSHING 71 43 87 Adj. Line Yards:
PASSING 83 92 77 57
Standard Downs 96 78 100 Adj. Sack Rate:
Passing Downs 32 42 27 33
Redzone 45 51 48
Q1 Rk 51 1st Down Rk 92
Q2 Rk 63 2nd Down Rk 71
Q3 Rk 96 3rd Down Rk 58
Q4 Rk 86

Fast pace?  Check.  Low variability?  Check.  Tech's offense showed signs of Airraid goodness in 2010, but Sonny Dykes was smart enough to still feature heavy doses of Lennon Creer.  The 6'1, 215-pounder from Tatum, TX, blazed through most of October and November after a low-volume start.  His 35-carry, 149-yard performance against Boise State allowed Tech to play it safe and keep things close for most of the first half, and his combined 47 carries for 359 yards and four touchdowns helped to win the New Mexico State and San Jose State road games.

Creer was, for the most part, a "great totals against terrible defenses" back, but he's got enough size to complement Dykes' Airraid tendencies nicely (a lot like Zach Line at SMU).  Due to Creer and a rock solid offensive line -- plus the fact that Sonny's dad Spike "What's it gonna take to get you into this Ford?" Dykes was not exactly an air-it-out kind of guy at Texas Tech, and Sonny probably still wants to be invited home for Thanksgiving -- Tech's offense was more conservative than your basic Mumme offense.  The personnel did not quite fit the scheme, but it resulted in an interesting dichotomy of efficient-not-explosive running and semi-explosive-and-inefficient passing, for whatever that's worth to you.

Other tidbits:

  • Aforementioned training wheels off, Colby Cameron (461 yards, 59.3% completion rate, 5.1 yards/pass, 1-5 TD-INT) tore it up this spring.  Spring game stats are completely and totally worthless, but ... well, throwing for 275 yards and five touchdowns is still better than not throwing for 275 yards and five touchdowns.
  • One of the better mid-major lines took a hit with the loss of three starters, including All-WAC performer Rob McGill.
  • Receivers Taulib Ikharo (530 yards, four touchdowns) and Richie Casey (432 yards, three touchdowns) return, but the Bulldogs lose Phillip Livas, who was okay as a receiver (266 yards, two touchdowns) and incredible as a return man -- his eight career kick return touchdowns tied an NCAA record.

Defense

Category S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 69 88 61
RUSHING 80 102 54 Adj. Line Yards:
PASSING 62 58 68 110
Standard Downs 73 92 66 Adj. Sack Rate:
Passing Downs 80 91 79 93
Redzone 65 54 75
Q1 Rk 67 1st Down Rk 73
Q2 Rk 72 2nd Down Rk 82
Q3 Rk 87 3rd Down Rk 72
Q4 Rk 65

Here's where numbers and tendencies clash.  On a per-play basis, Tech was better against the pass than the run, but opposing coaches threw an inordinate amount against them.  So who are you going to believe, the always-trustworthy numbers, or "coaches" who are "paid a lot of money" to "exploit defensive weaknesses"?

Don't answer that.

Odd tendencies did bleed into the stat line, where Louisiana Tech's 4-2-5 defense looked nothing like your typical, iffy mid-major defense.  They had the speed to put a stop to most big plays (a major feature of the 4-2-5), but they were a sieve near the line of scrimmage.  You know how we talked about UTEP trying to get bigger this offseason?  It probably wouldn't hurt Louisiana Tech to try the same thing.  Their starting defensive line against Nevada averaged just 246.3 pounds (235 and 230 at end, 270 and a staggering 250 at tackle).  Granted, 270-pound Mason Hitt was a solid playmaker (10.5 TFL/sacks), but still ... here's where I point out that Cam Newton weighs 250 pounds.  When you're basically playing a nickel back as part of your base defensive package, you probably need at least a little more girth up front.

Sheer size helps at times, and if I'm a Louisiana Tech fan, I'm wondering what sophomore-to-be Justin Ellis (6'2, 340) can do at tackle.  In just four games, he managed just 3.0 tackles (0.5 TFL/sacks, 1 FR), but ... 340!  He was listed as a starter on the pre-spring depth chart, and he could combine with now-255-pound Shakeil Lucas to make for a Bol-and-Bogues type of combination at tackle.

Beyond the size issue, there is some quality returning, namely in Barney Stinson's favorite college football player, defensive end Matt Broha (14.0 TFL/sacks, 2 FF, 1 FR).  He was strangely consistent, managing at least 0.5 tackles for loss in all but one game last year, and again ... Broha.  Legendary.

Other tidbits:

  • The secondary may have been better in spreadsheets than on the field, but it will be tough for Tech's defensive backs to match even their spreadsheet quality in 2011.  Ballhawking safety Chad Boyd (59.0 tackles, 4 INT) returns, but defensive coordinator Tommy Spangler will be looking for two new starting cornerbacks; Josh Victorian (30.5 tackles, 2 INT, 14 PBU) and Olajuwon Paige (47.0 tackles, 1 INT, 7 PBU, awesome name) have both exhausted their eligibility.
  • Broha!

Louisiana Tech's 2010 Season Set to Music

Why, Zuul's "Air Raid," of course.

Fun Stat Nerd Tidbit

In the last five years, Tony Franklin has served as offensive coordinator at four schools.  Here's how they graded out according to FO's overall Off. F/+ measure:

  1. 2010 Louisiana Tech (-2.6%, 79th in the country)
  2. 2007 Troy (-3.6%, 78th)
  3. 2006 Troy (-6.8%, 101st)
  4. 2008 Auburn (-9.2%, 105th)
  5. 2009 Middle Tennessee (-11.7%, 111th)

Franklin's offensive prowess might be a little overstated, come to think of it ... though I assume quite a few Auburn fans are impressed that he managed to field an even worse offense the year after he left AU...

Summary and Projection Factors

Below is a small handful of projection and change factors most pertinent to the Football Outsiders' preseason projections you will find in this summer's Football Outsiders Almanac 2011.

Four-Year F/+ Rk 88
Five-Year Recruiting Rk 77
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin**** -5 / -6
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 13 (6, 7)
Yds/Pt Margin***** -0.5

Tech has been hovering around league average for a WAC team in recent years, at least since Jack Bicknell left following the disastrous (3-10) 2006 season.  Derek Dooley and now Sonny Dykes have brought Tech back to a respectable level, and it would appear the upside with Dykes is solid.  The 2011 campaign, not a particularly easy one (enjoy that Fresno-Oxford-Reno three-game road trip in November, guys), will likely preclude any major success, but improvement from both Colby Cameron through the air and Tech's defensive front on the ground could bring about somewhat realistic bowl hopes.  The home games against Houston and Hawaii will be key, however.  This schedule is not built for a late charge to bowl eligibility.

 

 

---

* For more on the 'Adj. Score' and 'Adj. Record' measures below, feel free to read this Football Outsiders column. Adj. Score is a look at how a team would have performed in a given week if playing a perfectly average team, with a somewhat average number of breaks and turnovers. The idea for the measure is simple: what if everybody in the country played exactly the same opponent every single week? Who would have done the best? It is an attempt to look at offensive and defensive consistency without getting sidetracked by easy or difficult schedules. And yes, with adjusted score you can allow a negative number of points, which is strangely satisfying.

** F/+ rankings are the official rankings for the college portion of Football Outsiders. They combine my own S&P+ rankings (based on play-by-play data) with Brian Fremeau's drives-based FEI rankings.

*** What is S&P+? Think of it as an OPS (the "On-Base Plus Slugging" baseball measure) for football. The 'S' stands for success rates, a common Football Outsiders efficiency measure that basically serves as on-base percentage. The 'P' stands for PPP+, an explosiveness measure that stands for EqPts Per Play. The "+" means it has been adjusted for the level of opponent, obviously a key to any good measure in college football. S&P+ is measured for all non-garbage time plays in a given college football game. Plays are counted within the following criteria: when the score is within 28 points in the first quarter, within 24 points in the second quarter, within 21 points in the third quarter, and within 16 points (i.e. two possession) in the fourth quarter.  For more about this measure, visit the main S&P+ page at Football Outsiders.

**** Adj. TO Margin is what a team's turnover margin would have been if they had recovered exactly 50 percent of all the fumbles that occurred in their games. If there is a huge difference between TO Margin and Adj. TO Margin (in other words, if fumbles and unlucky bounces were the main source of a good/bad TO margin), that suggests that a team's luck was particularly good or bad and might even out the next season.

***** Phil Steele has long tracked Yards Per Point as a means of looking at teams that were a little too efficient or inefficient the previous season. A positive Yds/Pt Margin means a team's offense was less efficient than opponents' offenses, and to the extent that luck was involved, their luck might even out the next year.

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