Welcome to the weekly Big 12 stat crunch, where we’re taking a deeper statistical look at what’s going on in the conference. Three things that stood out after Week 3:
1. Texas Tech getting cleaned up
Give Kliff Kingsbury and his coaching staff a little credit: They’re not just winning because of their quarterback.
Texas Tech has done an impressive job so far of improving in two areas that have ailed the program for years: penalties and turnover margin.
Last season, Texas Tech ranked worst in FBS in penalty yards per game and second worst in penalties per game. Through three games, the 2014 Red Raiders logged 30 penalties for 264 yards. The results after three games this season: 18 penalties, 138 yards.
Cutting that problem in half is a great start, but that’s not all. Texas Tech’s defense has only been penalized four times this season. No defensive pass-interference calls, either. The team’s No. 1 penalty last season was holding, at 24 flags. Just three so far this season.
Even better, Texas Tech’s turnover margin through three games has flipped from minus-4 to plus-5, with four times as many takeaways (eight) at this point in the season. That plus-five margin is tied for seventh best in FBS this season.
We hammered the Red Raiders on this issue in the offseason because you knew when they got this fixed, they’d have a chance to take off. By cleaning up their game, Texas Tech’s offense currently ranks No. 2 in ESPN’s efficiency metrics behind Ole Miss.
2. Is Texas going 1-5?
The ESPN FPI computers do recognize there’s a possibility Charlie Strong’s team is about to hit a real rough patch.
According to FPI projections, Texas has a 40 percent chance of starting the season 1-5. More concerning: Those projections also put Texas’ chances of missing out on a bowl game this season at 75 percent.
While such predictions do sound harsh, the reality is this: Texas has, by FPI’s calculations, the 13th-toughest remaining schedule of any FBS team. The Longhorns' odds of beating their next three foes:
Oklahoma State: 43.7 percent
TCU: 11.7 percent
Oklahoma: 19.8 percent
There’s room for a rebound after that, with Kansas State, Iowa State and Kansas next up on the schedule, but those are the only remaining games in which FPI projects a Texas win. The odds aren’t exactly in the Longhorns’ favor right now. They’re going to have to beat a few teams they shouldn’t.
3. Kansas vs. Rutgers sad-tistics
Listen, I’m not here to pile on about a game that America has been mocking all week long. Yes, it’s one of college football’s finest bottom-10 matchups of 2015. The most dysfunctional team in the game vs. the one that might not win a game this season.
But how is it actually going to play out? Probably safe to expect some points in Piscataway.
Kansas is giving up nearly 7.4 yards per play this season, which ranks 124th in FBS. Rutgers has allowed more than 6.3 yards per play, good for 112th.
These are two of the worst pass defenses in the country, too, at a combined 603 yards per game. The two defenses have given up a combined 85 plays of 10-plus yards in five games.
So I’m not expecting too many defensive stops in this one. Shoot, this game could a lot more entertaining than everyone’s expecting.