Advanced Metrics & The Mike Stoops Miracle

Tom Pennington - Getty Images

Wescott Eberts has been taking a lot of flak, and some of it rightly so, for misinterpreting some advanced stats that would seem to have indicated that the Texas run defense was better than it looked so far. To his credit, there was data that would indicate that the Texas front 7 was at least a little bit better than the numbers would bear out. After all, statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital. Unfortunately in Wes' case, what they concealed was the abject ineptitude of a Texas LB corps that went from adequate with Jordan Hicks in the lineup, to utterly useless without him. In Oklahoma's case, the stats have been concealing just how good the Oklahoma defense is under Mike Stoops. But a close look at some advanced metrics tells the real story.

When you go to the NCAA's stats website, and you look at the defensive categories, you can already see a major turnaround in Oklahoma's standing. Last year, you'd have had to hit Page Down at least once before you found OU's name in a few of those categories. Here's where OU sits in some major statistical categories, per the NCAA stats, as of this point compared to where they finished last year.

Raw Data - NCAA 2011 2012
Pass Efficiency Defense 23rd 9th
Passing Defense 79th (!!!) 11th
Rushing Defense 43rd 40th
Total Defense 55th 14th
Scoring Defense 31st 20th

Looks good, right? The run defense isn't just mind-blowing, but we weren't expecting that with our front four. The total defense numbers are rather impressive because our pass defense is now easily in the realm of the elite. OU is a tough team to throw the ball on, and we're tough to score on.

Here's the amazing part: those stats actually UNDERSELL the improvement of the Oklahoma defense. This is where advanced metrics come into play.

If you go to the Advanced Stats website, you'll see a fairly simple interface with a ton of data just waiting for you to mine out the good stuff. In OU's case, there's a LOT of good stuff. The premise of the adjusted statistics over at Advanced Stats is fairly simple: throw out the FCS games and adjust for the overall quality of your opponents. The bottom line being that if you've faced 5 of the 7 best passing offenses in the nation, and your pass efficiency defense looks just okay...well, duh. No one's going to look great by the end of that stretch. Additionally, scores given up on offensive turnovers are not counted against the defense. If the offense throws a pick six, fumbles into its own end zone, or gives up two points on a botched extra point attempt, that's not on the defense, is it?

So...what does it all mean?

Adjusted Stats 2011 2012
Pass Efficiency Defense 8th 1st (!!!)
Passing Defense 42nd 4th
Rushing Defense 23rd 26th
Total Defense 22nd 5th
Scoring Defense 5th 2nd

Can you remember the last time OU had the best anything on defense? Yeah, me too. It was around 2002-03.

It bares repeating, the Oklahoma pass defense is, quite simply, elite. The Demontre Hurst/Aaron Colvin corner tandem, once arguably only one of the better ones out there, is now arguably the best in the nation. If you don't put Colvin on your All-American team, you don't know jack about football.

Here's what this means to you:

1) The defense under Brent Venables wasn't the weakness many thought it was. On balance, our defense was pretty good overall. The biggest issue, bar none, was that our pass defense was great 97 plays out of 100, but on those three plays it was bad...it was really bad. We all knew that. That kind of a pass efficiency/total pass defense discrepancy isn't on the scheme, it's on the coach. Mike Stoops has taken away those little holes that turned into huge plays. Just ask Texas Tech.

2) It's actually going to get better from here...but not too much better. If you follow recruiting, you can already see that we're picking up better talent in the secondary and getting more interest from guys we couldn't quite land before. Additionally, we've got talent at defensive tackle and defensive end that's going to improve significantly with an extra year of film, conditioning, and practice. That said, don't expect anything that major from this year to next. The significant holes have been patched, for now. From here, it's just tweaking the run defense and the personnel in the front seven. We're not that far away.

That said, here's the real lesson to all parties involved. Advanced metrics don't tell us anything we didn't really know. They put mathematical proof to the abstract concepts most savvy football fans already knew. If it seems contradictory to all sense, it likely is not a valid point

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