By The Numbers: 99%
The Good Guys started the evening in a position where about one in four teams come away with a win. That seems like a lot, but in college football, that’s a pretty big advantage … unless you’re Ohio State playing Purdue, and even then, past Boiler wins - as we discussed - were generally close. The Boilers were 4-3 in West Lafayette in the 21st century against OSU, but no win was by more than 8 points; the Buckeyes won several close games themselves, but also had 35-9 and 56-0 wins in that time. (49-0? Nope, sorry, that was vacated. Nice try though, Tressel.)
Then there was Tyler’s Night.
Two of Purdue’s three previous wins had a 100% postgame win expectancy (teams with advanced stats like that simply never lost). Saturday night, they were at 99%. While many OSU fans took the news as best they could under the circumstances, for the rest of them - we know who you are - let’s go over exactly how this game went. Spoiler: Purdue beat Ohio State across the board.
In fact, only two teams in the modern era had ever scored more points at home against the Buckeyes … even though Purdue wasn’t even the first team from Indiana to hang 49 on an Urban Meyer team. That was IU, in 2012 … in a 52-49 loss, the only time OSU gave up 49 or more and won. The other Meyer-era blowout was Iowa’s glorious 55-24 win last season; Penn State beat OSU 63-14 in 1994, but that’s Paterno-era Penn State, so feel free to ignore it.
Yards per play: Purdue 7.5, Ohio State 5.6. Big edge to the Good Guys, and remember, the vast majority of the fourth quarter was garbage time (a lead of 16 points or more). Those plays are included here, but not in the opponent-adjusted stats (those which have a + by them).
Success rate: Purdue 43%, Ohio State 39%. Small edge to Purdue. If you only saw yardage totals, you’d expect OSU to be in this game, if not winning - they were successful more often than you might expect for a team that had 6 points through three quarters. So … where’s that taken into account?
Points per trip inside 40: Purdue 7.0, Ohio State 2.86. That’s the third-biggest gap this week, behind only Oklahoma and Arkansas. Purdue scored on all six trips inside the OSU 40, even though on half of them they didn’t actually run a play inside the 40, haha. OSU had seven trips; on three of them, including the concession at the end of the game, they scored nothing. Purdue’s defense was textbook bend-but-don’t-break.
Average field position: Purdue 23.5, Ohio State 26.1. Probably the one thing that prevented this from being a 100% game. There were a couple of times where Purdue couldn’t dig themselves out of a field-position hole. In a game where Ohio State played gap-sound defense, or where Purdue didn’t make great fourth-down plays, those might have been a factor. Here, they were merely footnotes.
Turnover luck: Purdue +0.6. Adjusted turnover margin is the difference between an average team’s turnovers (recovering half of all fumbles in the game, plus seeing the mean ratio of INTs to PDs, which is 21-22% or so) and actual turnovers. Expected turnovers were +0.39; with the Boilers’ pick-six being the only actual one, that gave Purdue about a three-point edge (each turnover is worth about five points on average).
For one thing, Purdue’s postgame win expectancies are now no lower than 60% (EMU), with the Northwestern and Missouri losses at 63% and 64%, ahead of the Nebraska win (62%). Those will settle down as we get closer and closer to the end of the season, since they kind of depend on how numbers look from all games played to date.
More importantly, Connelly now favors Purdue (click on Purdue in the menu at that link) in four of the five remaining games, giving them a 5% chance to win out and an 88% chance to become bowl eligible. (Take that, zlionsfan!) Yeah, MSU and Iowa are still coin flips, but slightly in Purdue’s favor; Wisconsin is slightly the other direction (Badgers -1.6), with Minnesota and Indiana solidly in the W column. That makes sense - when you blow a top-five team off the field, you should be able to beat just about anyone playing like that.
Conference title hopes
Why not? Drink the Kool-Aid, my friends. The Boilers had an extremely favorable schedule if they played well, with Michigan and Penn State off the schedule and Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa coming here. The Buckeyes are out of the way, so being in a virtual four-way tie for first actually means something now. Remaining conference games (Northwestern plays Notre Dame next week) are color-coded on win probability, with Rutger in green and least-likely win in red. Note that Penn State hosts both Iowa and Wisconsin the week before they come to West Lafayette; the Nittany Lions can play spoiler in the West as well as in the East.
Yes, the two games contenders are least likely to win are Northwestern vs Wisconsin and Northwestern at Iowa. Anyway, about that four-way tie …
Because Purdue and Iowa have already lost a division game, we can’t have a four-way tie at 7-2 with 5-1 division records. Also, as you can see, we can’t have a tie among an even number of teams because there’s an odd number of games within the group: in this scenario, Northwestern and Iowa are 2-1 in the group, and Northwestern loses to Iowa, so Iowa would win the division. If Purdue beats Iowa and loses to Minnesota, they’re 2-1 with Northwestern, who has the head-to-head against them.
But what if the favorites win all remaining games?
That’s no good. Purdue and Wisconsin end up tied, but the Badgers’ win gives them the head-to-head tiebreaker, and they go to Indianapolis.
So tiebreakers don’t look good right now. Still, the path to the division title is on the table: Northwestern is almost certain to lose at least twice, which would put Purdue’s destiny in their own hands - win out and they’re in. A road loss wouldn’t even knock them out, at least not at this point, but a win at Michigan State, coupled with probable losses by Iowa and Northwestern, would make next week’s picture a bit more interesting.
Feature image courtesy of Purdue Athletics - not sure who took it, but they did a fine, fine job capturing Antonio Blackmon’s eyes.