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The College Football Five Factors Review: Louisville Cardinals vs. Purdue Boilermakers

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Louisville did win against the Boilermakers in Indianapolis Saturday night, but not in the fashion that most expected.

Louisville v Purdue Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The 2017 season didn’t exactly get off to the start that the Louisville Cardinals were expecting. While they did wind up winning 35-28 Saturday night in Indianapolis against Purdue, it felt that going in to the game that Purdue was going to be overmatched and that this would be more of a comfortable win. Making his debut as head coach of the Boilermakers, Jeff Brohm is considered to be an up and coming coach (rightfully so), but it was expected that Brohm would need more time in order to get the program at a level to really start competing against other talented teams.

One thing that I wanted to start looking at after Louisville’s football games were the College Football Five Factors, which are five factors that can alter and determine the outcome of any single game. SB Nation’s/Football Outsiders Bill Connelly came up with this advanced statistical look at college football stats. You can delve in and learn more about these metrics, and other advanced statistical metrics, over at SB Nation’s Football Study Hall, but we’ll just look at the basics of them for now.

A quick rundown of how much each factor plays in to the outcome of any given game, per Football Study Hall:

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

If you win the efficiency 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: 6.6

Purdue: 4.4

There’s a drastic difference here in YPP between Louisville and Purdue, which makes sense since Louisville still has Lamar Jackson and Bobby Petrino. To help delve in to this further: Louisville had a total of 524 yards. Of that 524 yards, Jackson accounted for 485 yards.

The difference of 2.2 yards between both offenses is quite drastic.

As far as individual explosive plays, the Cardinals accounted for 15 total, as defined above (ten passing, 5 rushing). Purdue only had six (five passing, one rushing). Of Louisville’s five explosive rushing plays, only two came from someone that wasn’t Lamar Jackson (running back Reggie Bonnafon).

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.

Passing Success Rate

Louisville: 50%

Purdue: 44%

Run Success Rate

Louisville: 36%

Purdue: 48%

One thing that the Success Rate points out that sticks out to me the most is the work that is going to need to be put in to the offensive line. (Who would have thought?). I don’t mean to harp and bash on that unit anymore, because that’s been talked about plenty since last year, but the sheer difference of successful plays from passing compared to rushing is alarming. To add to that, Louisville had more passing attempts than rushing attempts, so you’d think that the Pass Success Rate would drop a little more while the Run Success Rate gets a bit inflated. For example, Purdue had 57 passing attempts compared to 21 carries, and the difference of success rates between the two is 4% in favor to the Run Success Rate.

The lack of successful rushing attempts isn’t solely to be blamed on the offensive line. The Cardinals don’t have a proven running back yet like in past years, but it certainly does start with the five guys up front.

Field Position

Louisville average starting field position: 27

Purdue average starting field position: 22

The average starting field position for both teams was pretty similar. Louisville does have a slight edge in this regard by having a 5-yard advantage over Purdue. Both teams did start in their opponents territory for two drivers (although you could say three for Louisville if you count the turnover on downs at the end of the game). Average starting field position is a big advantage that seems to get lost in the shuffle when looking at the box scores, but for this contest, there wasn’t much of an advantage for either team.

Finishing Drives

(Defined as points per trip inside the 40).

Louisville: 3.4

Purdue: 4.6

Here is where Purdue had a clear advantage over the Cardinals. Louisville had nine trips inside the Purdue 40 yard line as opposed to Purdue’s six. However, the Cardinals only got three touchdowns and three field goals. (The other three trips ended in two lost fumbles and running out of time to end the first half). While the Boilermakers had six trips inside the Louisville 40, they did capitalize by scoring four touchdowns.

Louisville’s numbers here will look a lot better once the offense starts to capitalize on getting touchdowns instead of having to settle for field goals. Oh, and by not fumbling it on the goal line as well.

Turnovers

Louisville: 3 (all fumbles)

Purdue: 4 (3 INTs, 1 fumble)

And finally, we get to the turnovers. Two of Louisville’s fumbles couldn’t have come at a more costly time. If it weren’t for two fumbles at the goal line, the Cardinals would have had a much more comfortable lead and not give fans panic attacks coming down to the wire. As I say that, it was a key third quarter pick-6 from Stacy Thomas that did help give the momentum back to Louisville and get the lead back. On the following drive, TreSean Smith followed that up with an interception in the endzone as Purdue was knocking on the door again. Two key defensive plays on back-to-back drives in the third quarter helped prevent a major week one upset.

A couple other key stats

Penalties

Louisville: 15

Purdue: 6

The drastic difference in the amount penalties each team committed is laughable. Of Louisville’s 15 penalties (15!), 10 were false starts. This is nothing new to Cardinal fans who watched any games last year. It’s something that you thought would have been addressed in the offseason, but it looks like this is still going to be an issue. It was evident last year, and so far the same can be said for this year until otherwise shown: this team lacks discipline.

One penalty that I am going to choose to discard is the pass interference call on Trumaine Washington. The guy was looking back to the ball and was pushed down by Purdue’s Jackson Anthrop. In what world is that defensive pass interference? The correct call would have been a push-off on Anthrop and should have pushed Purdue back.

Sacks

Louisville: 4

Purdue: 0

I fully believe that if Lamar Jackson wasn’t Lamar Jackson, the Boilermakers would have a handful of sacks on this game. One encouraging sign from this game is that Trevon Young made his return from hip injury and seems to be fully healthy. He had 1.5 sacks, 1 tackle for loss, three quarterback hurries, and two passes defensed. Here’s to hoping that Trevon has a monster year in the upcoming campaign.

Final Summary

If you were to just show me the stats above without the final score, I would have thought Louisville would have won by a landslide. Penalties and Points-Per-Scoring-Drive were ultimately what made this game too close for comfort. While a lot of this is self-inflicted (lack of discipline and goal line fumbles), it’s disheartening because both of these things were issues that lead to the downfall of last year’s squad. These are things that are going to have to be cleaned up as we head in to the tougher ACC schedule.

I don’t want to take anything away from Purdue. They came out firing and were not intimidated at all by the reigning Heisman winner and the Cardinal’s potent offense. Jeff Brohm is a very good coach and seems to be already working his magic in West Lafayette. I doubt he’ll be at Purdue for very long and will find his way to bigger programs.