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Northwestern 16, Stanford 6: NU offense was less wobbly, and that made the difference

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Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern 16, Stanford 6

Confused? Visit the Advanced Stats glossary here.

Basics Northwestern Stanford Nat'l Avg
Total Plays 79 62
Close Rate (non-garbage time) 100.0%
Avg Starting FP 25.3 28.4 29.6
Possessions 12 11
Scoring Opportunities*
5 3
Points Per Opportunity 3.20 2.00 4.96
Leverage Rate** 67.1% 62.9% 68.3%
Close S&P*** 0.488 0.484 0.586
* A scoring opportunity occurs when an offense gets a first down inside the opponent's 40 (or scores from outside the 40).
** Leverage Rate = Standard Downs / (Standard Downs + Passing Downs)
*** When using IsoPPP, the S&P formula is (0.8*Success Rate) + (0.2*IsoPPP)
EqPts (what's this?) Northwestern Stanford
Total 29.2 20.9
Rushing 20.8 8.2
Passing 8.4 12.7
Success Rate (what's this?) Northwestern Stanford Nat'l Avg
All (close) 27.9% 38.7% 41.3%
Rushing (close) 24.1% 41.7% 42.9%
Passing (close) 36.0% 36.8% 39.6%
Standard Downs 26.4% 48.7% 46.8%
Passing Downs 30.8% 21.7% 29.5%
IsoPPP (what's this?) Northwestern Stanford Nat'l Avg
All (close) 1.33 0.87 1.28
Rushing (close) 1.60 0.82 1.06
Passing (close) 0.93 0.91 1.53
Standard Downs 1.11 0.80 1.11
Passing Downs 1.71 1.13 1.84
Line Stats Northwestern Stanford Nat'l Avg
Line Yards/Carry (what's this?) 2.47 2.62 2.82
Std. Downs Sack Rt. 0.0% 5.3% 5.8%
Pass. Downs Sack Rt. 0.0% 10.5% 6.5%
Turnovers Northwestern Stanford
Turnovers 0 2
Turnover Points (what's this?) 0.0 10.6
Turnover Margin Northwestern +2
Exp. TO Margin Northwestern +0.22
TO Luck (Margin vs. Exp. Margin) Northwestern +1.78
TO Points Margin Northwestern +10.6 points
Situational Northwestern Stanford
Q1 S&P 0.538 0.508
Q2 S&P 0.484 0.327
Q3 S&P 0.418 0.542
Q4 S&P 0.542 0.520
1st Down S&P 0.493 0.491
2nd Down S&P 0.472 0.570
3rd Down S&P 0.407 0.389
Projected Scoring Margin: Northwestern by 18.9
Actual Scoring Margin: Northwestern by 10

First things first: well done, Northwestern. Any time I've referenced this game over the last week, it's been in reference to what it means for Stanford. Before the game, I was looking for the Cardinal to begin proving me correct in my offseason optimism; after the game, I was angry at them for doing the opposite. But they had an opponent! And that opponent looked good! At least on defense!

This game basically came down to the following:

1. Finishing drives. Northwestern was bad at it. Stanford was hilariously bad at it. Northwestern's own failures -- five scoring opportunities should easily net you 20+ points -- left the door open for the Cardinal, who simply said "No, thank you." That this was Stanford's biggest issue last year, too, is alarming, to state a very obvious point.

2. Big plays. Northwestern had a few more. The Wildcats had three plays of 20-plus yards, including a 42-yard run by quarterback Clayton Thorson. Stanford had a single 20-yard play (a 27-yard run by Christian McCaffrey, who otherwise gained 64 yards in 16 touches). Again, we're talking about degrees of offensive struggle here, but NU struggled less.

3. Turnovers. Stanford lost about 11 points to turnovers in a 10-point loss. In fact, with that turnover margin, Northwestern probably should have won far more handily.