How do we know Baylor's offense is good? Rethinking total offense and defense rankings

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

or is Michigan State the #1 defense in the country because it's the best, or because it hasn't played an offense worth a darn yet?

discussion on this thread this week got me thinking about whether there might be a better way to rank teams when we talk about offense and defense.  Here's the posts that did it.

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So, a hat tip to SJD183 for inspiring this post.

Here's the problem.  Just as the posters pointed out above, Michigan State's #1 total defense ranking hasn't exactly come against Baylor.  And Baylor's #1 total offense ranking wasn't achieved by playing Michigan State.  It's reasonable to think that Michigan State's and Baylor's #1 rankings are just as much a result of the caliber of offense and defenses they've faced as the actual caliber of their teams.

If only there were a way to go beyond just an yards per game average in a way that might account for the quality of offense or defense a team faced.

Advanced Stats to the Rescue

Dividing a team's total yards of offense and defense by the opponent's season average yards of defense or offense gives a percentage that shows how many more or fewer yards a team was able to generate (or keep and opponent from generating) in a way that indexes for an opponent's offense or defense quality.

For instance, if Team A generates 500 yards of offense vs Team B, and Team B's season average defense is 300 yards per game, 500/300 = 1.67.  In this case, Team A generated 167% of the expected offense.  If Team C generates 400 yards of offense vs Team D, and Team's D's season average defense is 200 yards per game, Team C generated 200% of the expected offense.

Team A's YPG is 500 and Team C's is 400.  Is Team A's offense better?

Team C generated 200% of expected offense.  Team A generated 167% of expected offense.  Is Team A still better?

By averaging out these percentages for a team's offense and defense, we get a clearer picture of which team's are making the most of the opportunities presented to them regardless of quality of opponent.  Generating the same amount of offense vs a good defensive team will result in a higher percentage than vs a bad defensive team.

The next table ranks the offenses and defenses, thru Week 8, in this way.  Obviously, a higher number is better on offense, and a lower number is better on defense.

Team Offense Team Defense
Baylor 168% Michigan State 60%
Texas A&M 152% Louisville 66%
Oregon 148% Alabama 66%
Indiana 146% Florida 71%
Arizona State 142% Oklahoma 72%
Florida State 141% Cincinnati 72%
Miami (Florida) 132% Florida State 74%
Fresno State 131% Virginia Tech 77%
Clemson 130% UCLA 80%
BYU 126% Memphis 80%
Georgia 126% Oregon State 80%
Missouri 125% Baylor 81%
Illinois 125% Wisconsin 81%
Wisconsin 124% Penn State 81%
Texas Tech 124% Bowling Green 84%
Ohio State 123% East Carolina 86%
UCF 123% South Carolina 86%
North Carolina 121% Western Kentucky 87%
Louisville 121% Texas Tech 87%
Boise State 119% Oregon 88%
Northern Illinois 119% USC 88%
South Carolina 119% Michigan 89%
SMU 118% San Diego State 91%
Marshall 118% North Carolina State 92%
LSU 118% Utah State 93%
Duke 118% Rice 93%
Oklahoma State 116% Stanford 93%
Washington 116% Marshall 93%
Utah 115% BYU 93%
South Alabama 114% Florida Atlantic 94%
San Jose State 114% North Texas 95%
California 114% TCU 95%
Oregon State 114% Georgia Tech 96%
Ball State 114% LSU 96%
Wyoming 113% Boise State 97%
Houston 113% Nebraska 97%
Arizona 112% Iowa 97%
East Carolina 112% Fresno State 97%
Texas 112% Missouri 98%
Troy 112% Oklahoma State 98%
Georgia Tech 112% Minnesota 98%
Nebraska 111% Ohio State 98%
Western Kentucky 111% Army 98%
Mississippi State 111% Navy 99%
West Virginia 111% Tulane 100%
Kansas State 110% UTSA 101%
Alabama 110% Northern Illinois 101%
Auburn 110% Kansas State 102%
Michigan 110% Arizona 102%
Mississippi 109% Maryland 102%
Maryland 109% Wyoming 102%
Northwestern 108% Buffalo 102%
UCLA 107% Ball State 102%
Notre Dame 107% Texas State 102%
Utah State 106% UTEP 103%
North Carolina State 106% Southern Mississippi 103%
Iowa 105% Vanderbilt 103%
Louisiana-Lafayette 105% Georgia 104%
Oklahoma 105% South Alabama 104%
Penn State 104% Akron 105%
Kentucky 104% Wake Forest 105%
Cincinnati 103% Mississippi State 106%
Stanford 103% Miami (Florida) 107%
Ohio 103% Tulsa 107%
USC 103% Texas 108%
Arkansas State 102% Louisiana Tech 108%
Washington State 102% Notre Dame 109%
Bowling Green 101% Central Michigan 109%
Pittsburgh 101% Arizona State 109%
UTSA 101% Louisiana-Lafayette 110%
Vanderbilt 100% Mississippi 110%
Nevada 100% Toledo 110%
Toledo 99% Duke 110%
Rutgers 99% Washington 110%
UNLV 99% Pittsburgh 111%
Tennessee 99% Connecticut 111%
Colorado State 98% South Florida 111%
Army 98% UNLV 112%
Boston College 97% UCF 112%
Syracuse 96% Clemson 112%
Florida Atlantic 96% SMU 113%
Louisiana Tech 95% Auburn 113%
New Mexico 95% Virginia 113%
Arkansas 94% New Mexico 114%
Temple 94% Hawai'i 114%
Eastern Michigan 93% San Jose State 115%
Buffalo 93% Colorado State 115%
Tulsa 92% Northwestern 115%
North Texas 92% Ohio 115%
UAB 92% Washington State 115%
Colorado 92% Rutgers 118%
Rice 91% Arkansas 118%
Iowa State 91% Western Michigan 119%
UTEP 91% Arkansas State 119%
Connecticut 90% Miami (Ohio) 119%
Virginia 90% Houston 119%
San Diego State 89% Kansas 119%
Virginia Tech 87% Massachusetts 121%
Hawai'i 86% Utah 122%
TCU 86% Florida International 123%
Florida 86% Syracuse 123%
Navy 86% Middle Tennessee 124%
Memphis 86% Idaho 125%
Kent State 86% Troy 125%
Akron 85% Air Force 126%
New Mexico State 85% Tennessee 126%
Michigan State 85% UAB 126%
Middle Tennessee 84% Boston College 127%
Air Force 84% Eastern Michigan 128%
Louisiana-Monroe 84% Kent State 128%
Idaho 82% Purdue 129%
Purdue 82% Georgia State 133%
Tulane 80% Illinois 134%
Wake Forest 80% Temple 134%
Central Michigan 79% Louisiana-Monroe 135%
Western Michigan 76% North Carolina 135%
South Florida 76% California 136%
Minnesota 76% Texas A&M 137%
Southern Mississippi 75% New Mexico State 138%
Georgia State 75% Colorado 139%
Massachusetts 74% Nevada 140%
Kansas 73% West Virginia 140%
Texas State 72% Iowa State 141%
Miami (Ohio) 56% Kentucky 146%
Florida International 55% Indiana 158%

I think we can effectively dismiss the criticism that Michigan's State defense doesn't deserve its ranking because it hasn't played anyone.  The teams that it has played it has held to an average of 60% of their average season yardage.  Likewise, Baylor has made the most of the opportunities presented to it, averaging 168% of it's opponents' defensive yards per game.

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