Deep Stats: Opportunities and Challenges Heading into Pitt

By Craig Fritz on September 13, 2019 at 9:00 am
The Penn State Nittany Lion
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

I was pretty stoked when I learned ESPN was hiring Bill Connelly to continue his stat-crazed SP+ (no &) system with a whole bunch of new resources. Unfortunately, the move happened so late, he wasn't able to set up individual stat profiles for every team on a weekly basis. So the information we're getting this year is just in bits and pieces. That said, there are a bunch of things we can take away from the advanced box score from last week's game against Buffalo.

As always, here's a handy glossary for you to equate yourself with some of the terms. Also, the lower-left corner of the sheet above has explanations. For this exercise, Challenges will be things that Penn State extremely well and maybe be difficult to replicate. Opportunities are areas that could see significant improvement going forward.


  • Good Matt wrote about this one earlier in the week, but it's going to be tough to maintain this level of Explosiveness (IsoPPP) week over week, probably. Right? Regardless if it's sustainable, the Lions were ruthlessly explosive against the Bulls, topping out at an absolutely ridiculous 1.73 IsoPPP for the game. The national average is 1.15. For comparison, Oklahoma was the most explosive offense in the nation last year and rated 1.46 IsoPPP.
  • As difficult as explosiveness is to maintain, Penn State is once again wrecking opposing backfields through two games. The Lions are 11th nationally in Havoc (tackles for loss, forced fumbles, defended passes), which is right in line with the last few seasons. Look for more big plays from the defense this week, as Pitt has already allowed five sacks, tied for 91st nationally.


  • For as explosive as Penn State's offense was last week, it was equally as inefficient. The Lions specifically struggled on passing downs (10% success rate), which are obvious passing situations. This, coupled with big scoring plays, led to just 46 plays on offense. The national average is a nice 69 plays.
  • Ricky Rahne's group was also never able to get the ground game going. Now granted, because there were SO few plays, there weren't many chances to establish the rushing attack (19 rushes). However, the team only managed 1.62 Line Yards Per Carry. The Line Yards metric divvies the responsibility of successful rushing attempts between the offensive line and the runner. The national average is 2.40 line yards/attempt, and Penn State should work toward at least that number. Last year, the Lions managed 2.80 line yards/carry, which was good for 18th in the country.

Since Pitt vs. Penn State is one of the more notable games from Week 3, I'm hoping we get another advance box score posted and can talk about opportunities and challenges headed into the bye and the Maryland game!