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Study Hall: LSU 47, West Virginia 21

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Four weeks into the season, we've reached the point where it's impossible to generate standard criteria for poll voting. Do you go with who has accomplished the most? Do you still go with who you think is the best? My No. 1 vote before the season was Alabama, and they have done nothing to dissuade me from that pick so far; but there's no doubting that LSU has accomplished more than Alabama to date. Granted, we don't need to think too hard about this simply because the two teams will play each other in Tuscaloosa on November 5, but still.

LSU 47, West Virginia 21

Close % 86.5% STANDARD DOWNS
Field Position % 46.4% 21.8% Success Rate 49.0% 48.3%
Leverage % 73.9% 66.7% PPP 0.44 0.27
S&P 0.933 0.754
EqPts 30.3 21.5 PASSING DOWNS
Close Success Rate 46.7% 41.3% Success Rate 27.8% 27.6%
Close PPP 0.44 0.28 PPP 0.43 0.20
Close S&P 0.905 0.694 S&P 0.709 0.474
EqPts 15.5 2.6 Number 0 4
Close Success Rate 48.5% 33.3% Turnover Pts 0.0 18.5
Close PPP 0.35 0.20 Turnover Pts Margin +18.5 -18.5
Close S&P 0.833 0.533
Line Yards/carry 2.88 2.73 Q1 S&P 1.201 0.218
Q2 S&P 0.787 0.682
PASSING Q3 S&P 0.637 1.237
EqPts 14.8 18.9 Q4 S&P 0.841 0.405
Close Success Rate 44.4% 43.9%
Close PPP 0.55 0.31 1st Down S&P 0.633 0.792
Close S&P 0.994 0.745 2nd Down S&P 0.906 0.535
SD/PD Sack Rate 0.0% / 0.0% 0.0% / 0.0% 3rd Down S&P 1.247 0.553
Projected Pt. Margin: LSU +27.4 | Actual Pt. Margin: LSU +26

Five Thoughts

  1. Today's Morning Tailgate deals with Jarrett Lee and his surprising success as LSU quarterback. He has given the Tigers exactly what they need so far this year, though he has been dealt a friendly hand. LSU's defense is strong, they force boatloads of turnovers, and they have one of the best special teams units in the country. Still, Lee rode Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham, Jr., to a 0.994 S&P against a solid WVU defense.

  2. To keep the self-sharing going, I wrote on Saturday that the first quarter was going to matter more in the LSU-WVU game than it usually does, and it usually matters quite a bit.

    [I]t isn't hard to picture the doomsday scenario. LSU grinds out a couple of long drives against West Virginia's bend-to-the-max-but-rarely-break defense (whether they score on these drives is almost irrelevant), while WVU quickly goes three-and-out a few times. By the time WVU finds a rhythm, they are down six to 10 points, and their defense is completely exhausted. Suddenly, the holes for Spencer Ware and Michael Ford are a little bigger; WVU gets hot, but as with last year's game, they surge just to make it close and never take the lead.

    That's pretty much what happened. With relatively short fields, LSU went up 13-0 on drives of 50 and 58 yards, and WVU spent the next two quarters trying to grind their way back into the game. They cut LSU's lead to 27-21 late in the third quarter ... and LSU laid the hammer down. They returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, scored on their next two drives, and won going away.

  3. Field position matters so, so, so much. As mentioned in yesterday's Numerical (I'm on a roll with the self-shares!), LSU's average starting field position was 29.4 yards better than WVU's -- their mean start came at their 45-yard line; WVU's came at their 15. That's an absurd difference, and it is very much reflected in the Field Position % above.

  4. So WVU started slowly, got crushed in terms of field position, and handed LSU 18 points in turnovers. That they ever got within six points in the second half says something about their fortitude, even if all of their glitches say something about their downside.

  5. If LSU can generate such high-quality overall defense, put perhaps the best special teams unit in the country on the field and make some big plays on passing downs (their 0.709 Passing Downs S&P is quite a bit higher than the national average) ... then they might -- might -- have the right recipe for winning in Tuscaloosa. We'll see.

Quick glossary after the jump.

A Quick Glossary

F/+ Rankings: 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.

Passing Downs: Second-and-7 or more, third-and-5 or more.

PPP: An explosiveness measure derived from determining the point value of every yard line (based on the expected number of points an offense could expect to score from that yard line) and, therefore, every play of a given game.

S&P+: Think of this 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.

Standard Downs: First downs, second-and-6 or less, third-and-4 or less.

Success Rate: A common Football Outsiders tool used to measure efficiency by determining whether every play of a given game was successful or not. The terms of success in college football: 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down.