Thursday, November 18, 2010

QB Race for Freshman All-American

Now 11 weeks into the season, with Jake Heaps comfortably progressing as the starter for the Cougars, it is worth a look at how he and the team are doing compared to other teams with freshmen quarterbacks.  BYU has had a freshman all-american each of the last 7 years (see BYUs Freshmen AA), so it makes sense to see how Heaps stacks up in the race for the honor. 

Only 19 freshmen quarterbacks have more than 800 yards passing, all having played meaningful portions of at least five games.  Of those, only six have winning records in the games they have played (highlighted).  And of those six, only one has passed for more yardage than Heaps.

The numbers below only inlcude passing yardage and win/loss records, and I haven't seen most of these guys play, so this there are clearly other factors to consider as well.  However, at a minimum, you would expect a freshman all-american QB to have had a winning record in his games.  Here is the list:

Player, School                   G   Yds    Record
Aaron, Murray, Georgia       11   2580   (5-6) 
Pete Thomas, CSU             11  2565   (3-8)
Corey Robinson, Troy          9     2553   (5-4)
Kolton, Browning, ULM       10    2141   (4-6)
Matt Shilz, Bowling Green    9     1941   (2-7)
David Pilandy, Houston        6     1733   (2-4)   started last 6
Jake Heaps, BYU                 9     1593   (5-4)
Ryan Williams, Memphis      10    1575   (1-9)
Danny O'Brien, Maryland      7     1571   (5-2)   started last 7
Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois 10   1482   (5-5)
Robert Boldin, Penn St          7     1350   (4-3)   injured
Keith Wenning, Ball St         10    1349   (3-7)
Taylor Martinez, Nebraska    9    1328   (8-1)  957 yds, 12 TDs rushing
Tanner Price, Wake Forest   8    1125   (1-7)
Jordan Webb, Kansas          6     1114   (2-4)  no longer starting
Chas Dodd, Rutgers             6     986    (2-4)  started last 6
Tyler Bray, Tennessee          5     951    (2-3)  started last 5
Chase Rettig, BC                  5     855    (3-2)  started last 5
Terrance Owens, Toledo      5     808    (2-3)   started last 5

With two regular season games remaining for most teams and the bowl season, there is still a lot of ball to be played, but at this point it looks as if the honor will likely go to Taylor Marinez of Nebraska or Danny O'Brien of Maryland.  However, a couple of solid performances, and a six game win streak to cap the season, could still put Heaps in the mix for freshman all-american.

A couple of other thoughts in looking at the stats:
  • Either good teams don't start freshmen QB's or freshmen QB's haven't been able to carry their teams to vicory, but only about 30% of these teams have been able to get a winning record with the rookie QB. 
  • BYU fans can feel slightly better about their early season struggles in light of how others with inexperienced QBs have struggled as well.
  • I have not pulled out the redshirt freshmen from this group... it would be interesting to see how Heaps compares with just the true freshmen.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Laying Out the Holiday Options

During the offseason, Craig Thompson and the MWC brass had an opportunity to enhance the conference's bowl possibilities, as nearly all bowl contracts across the country expired last year, and negotiations were the order of the summer across the land.  With a number of higher payout bowls in the footprint available, we did a bowl primer and comprehensive review of the options and the best case scenario at the time  Given the possibilities, the outcome was somewhat disappointing, if not unexpected.

The MWC went from this (2009):
Las Vegas                       MWC #1 vs Pac 10 #4/5  $1.1M   Dec 22
Poinsettia (San Diego)      MWC #2 vs Pac 10 #6    $750K   Dec 23
Armed Forces (Ft Worth) MWC vs CUSA               $600K   Dec 31
Humanitarian (Boise)         MWC vs WAC               $750K   Dec 30
New Mexico (Albuq.)        MWC vs WAC                $750K   Dec 19

To this (2010):
Las Vegas                         MWC #1 vs Pac 10 #5    $1.1M   Dec 22
Poinsettia (San Diego)       MWC #2 vs Navy            $750K   Dec 23
Independence (Shreveport) MWC #3 vs ACC #7     $1.1M   Dec 27
Armed Forces (Ft Worth)  MWC vs CUSA              $600K   Dec 30
New Mexico (Albuq.)         MWC vs WAC                $750K   Dec 18

The replacement of the Humanitarian Bowl with the Independence bowl is definitely an upgrade, but given what was on the table (Holiday, Sun, Insight), overall it feels like a loss.  The Vegas bowl dropped from the PAC 10 #4/5 to #5 going forward.  The Poinestta Bowl dropped the PAC 10 and has a contract with Navy/WAC going forward.  The Independence Bowl is a nice pick up date-wise, payout wise, and opponent-wise, but is in a terrible location for fans to get there (except TCU).  Overall, the conference was not able to improve its slate in any meaningful way.

So, Projections...
BCS--TCU (only one game left... vs New Mexico)
Vegas--winner of BYU-Utah if Utah loses to SDSU (Vegas would love a ranked Utah, but wouldn't mind one last dance with BYU)
Poinsettia--San Diego State (dream matchup for city)
Independence--Air Force (base nearby)
Armed Forces--Loser of BYU-Utah if Utah loses to SDSU (already had Air Force last two years)
New Mexico--MWC will not fill slot

Interestingly, this weekend's Utah-SDSU game will not have any meaningful influence on SDSU's bowl destination, as the Aztecs seem essentially locked in at this point to the hometown bowl, and even if Utah loses this weekend, but beats BYU, they would likely be headed to Vegas.  And, should Utah win this weekend, but lose to BYU, it is possible the bowl would take one last crack at a 7-5 BYU on a 5 game winning streak and sell out the stadium, over a 9-3 Utah having lost 3 out of its last 4, including to its rival, and risk an empty stadium.  If it were down to a 7-5 BYU or an 8-4 Utah, Vegas takes the Cougs.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Quantifying the Missionary Advantage--A 2010 Update

Last season, we tried to dig into the commonly cited, but never quantified, claim that BYU's players are "significantly" older than their opponents and concluded that on average, Cougar players were 1.11 years older than their counterparts (see analysis here).  A difference to be sure, but a far cry from the "your 26 year-olds vs. our 19 year-olds" that is nearly always claimed.

I wanted to do an update on that for this season.  Granted we are already 2/3 of the way through this season, but given how it has turned out so far, it might be of particular interest.  All assumptions are handled in the same manner as the original analysis (linked above).  Thanks to Jordan Christiansen in the BYU Football Medial Relations office for the cooperation on the data collection.

The only mission-related age difference for BYU vs other schools this year is 1.01 years per player on average.  Per the previous write-up, this is due to not all players serving missions and the class mix (e.g. more underclassmen than other schools).  A few interesting notes:
  • 1.01 is nearly 10% younger overall than last year's team (averaged 1.11)
  • 59 return missionaries on the team (same as last year)--56%
  • Only 14 seniors on the roster, and only 9 of which start (kicker, 3 DBs, 2 OLs, WR, LB, DE)
  • 41 freshmen on the roster, 9 of which are RMs
Here is the actual analysis for anyone interested:

                                              Fr         So          Jr          Sr         Total
Average Age (US)                 18.5      19.5       20.5      21.5
Class Mix (US)                      37.6%  22.1%    21.7%  18.5%
Weighted Ave Age (US)                                                             19.71

BYU Players by Class           41          27          24         14         106
Class Mix (BYU)                 38.7%    25.5%     22.6%   13.2%
BYU Ave Age w/o Mission   18.5      19.5        20.5       21.5      19.60

BYU Former Missionaries      9           24          16          10         59
Percent of BYU Class          22.0%     88.9%    66.7%   71.4%   55.7%
BYU Ave Age w/ Mission     18.9        21.3       21.8       22.9      20.72
Actual Age Difference (yrs)   0.44      1.78       1.33       1.43       1.01