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The College Football Five Factors Review: Louisville vs. Boston College

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AJ Dillon is going to haunt this Louisville defense.

NCAA Football: Boston College at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

We’re back after a brief hiatus of the Five Factors Review series. This week, we’ll try and figure out exactly what happened last Saturday afternoon, and how the Boston College Eagles were able to score 45 points on the road at Louisville.

A quick rundown of what the College Football Five Factors are:

If you win the explosiveness battle (using PPP), you win 86 percent of the time.

If you win the efficency battle (using Success Rate), you win 83 percent of the time.

If you win the drive-finishing battle (using points per trip inside the 40), you win 75 percent of the time.

If you win the field position battle (using average starting field position), you win 72 percent of the time.

If you win the turnover battle (using turnover margin), you win 73 percent of the time.

Explosiveness

While looking at explosiveness (yards per play) doesn’t fully tell the whole story, it is a good place to start. If a team averages 5.8 yards per play, is that from one 99-yard play and a bunch of two-yard plays, or is it from more consistent 5- and 7-yard gains? Again, it doesn’t completely tell the entire story, but it does start to paint a good picture.

(Note: we’ll also throw in the number of explosive plays. For the sake of argument, we’ll go with rushes of 10 or more yards and passes of 15 or more yards.)

Yards Per Play

Louisville: 8.3

Boston College: 6.4

Louisville clearly has the advantage on this particular factor. The Eagle’s offense only mustered 191 yards through the air on 28 attempts by two quarterbacks and a receiver, but torched the Cardinals on the ground to the tune of 364 yards on 59 attempts, most of which came from running back AJ Dillon. Dillon put together a heck of a game, finishing the day with a seven yards-per-carry average.

Taking a look at the number of explosive plays, Lamar Jackson continues to impress us on how talented he is, despite everyone around him not helping carry the load. He was able to get seven big-play rushes and account for eight explosive passes. Reggie Bonnafon had a couple big runs, most notably his 64-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

Boston College was able to keep up with the Cardinals in terms of explosive plays. In total, they had 16 explosive plays (9 runs, 7 passes). Louisville should not be giving up this many big plays to a team that ranks 102nd nationally in total offense.

Efficiency

Efficiency helps explains things that looking purely at explosiveness can’t. Efficiency is defined by the “Success Rate”. Essentially, was any given play deemed a success or not. Success Rate is defined as below:

Our Varsity Numbers column calculates Success Rate for teams, not just running backs, using a set of baselines that differ slightly from our NFL Success Rates: 50% of needed yards on first down, 70% of needed yards on second down, or 100% of needed yards on third or fourth down.

Pass Success Rate

Louisville: 33%

Boston College: 43%

Run Success Rate

Louisville: 47%

Boston College: 56%

Overall

Louisville: 40%

Boston College: 52%

Louisville’s overall success rate at 40% isn’t all too bad (I believe the average is roughly around 45%). This is obviously being brought down a bit from the 33% Pass Success Rate. However, Louisville should not be allowing an offense such as BC’s to have a 52% success rate. What stings even more is that the Eagles ran the ball 59 times, and still had a very high success rate on the ground. Something that Boston College was able to do was set themselves up well on third down, making it easier for them to convert on the ground.

Another thing that I noticed when counting the “successful plays” was the amount BC had in the first half compared to what they had in the second half. Whatever halftime adjustments the Eagles’ coaching staff made, the Louisville defensive staff did nothing to adjust to. Boston College was able to double their successful pass plays of the first half from four to eight, and dramatically increase the successful run plays from nine to twenty-four in the second half.

Field Position

Louisville’s average starting field position: 22-yard line.

Boston College’s average starting field position: 36-yard line.

The 14-yard average starting line difference is eye-popping. Boston College was able to set its offense up nicely thanks to the special teams/defense. When you’re working with a much shorter field position, you’re obviously going to have much more successful/explosive plays. Had this factor not been so disparate, then maybe BC doesn’t score 45 points and pull off the upset.

Finishing Drives

(Defined as points per trip inside the opponent’s 40-yard line).

Louisville: 5.6

Boston College: 3.4

The Cardinals’ defense did a really good job of tightening things up when the Eagles got within their 40-yard line. On BC’s first two trips inside the Louisville 40-yard line, they gave up a sack on the first trip to push them back and ultimately having to punt and followed that up by throwing an interception on the second trip inside the 40. They’d also go on to miss a field goal after driving inside the 40-yard line to open up the second half.

Turnovers

Louisville: Two (interception, fumble).

Boston College: One (interception).

Lamar’s interception in the third quarter when trailing by a touchdown wasn’t as critical of a turnover as the fumble that would follow that. Darius Wade forcing Jaylen Smith to fumble the ball when the score was tied up at 42 with just a few minutes left in the game was a dagger. Louisville could have theoretically taken the ball down the field, kill some time, and kick the field goal to barely escape with the win. Instead, Kamrin Moore was able to recover it and hand the ball back over to Boston College’s offense, where they would wind up kicking the game-winning field goal with time running out.

Final Thoughts

For so many years, the Cardinals’ defense has been the strength of the program and is what helped them win so many games. I know that they lost a lot of talent on that side of the ball from last year, but still, it should be much better than this. No decent defense should allow that kind of success rate and that many explosive plays to Boston College. As I finish this up Wednesday evening, Peter Sirmon is still employed as the defensive coordinator at the University of Louisville. You have to wonder (hope) if that is going to change at the end of the year.