[On second thought, Biggies and Slappies tomorrow. For now, please enjoy something that's actually well-researched and argued. --LVS.]
After the MSU-FAU game, the talking heads came on and pronounced, "there are still questions about MSU's defense" and "still work to do for MSU". (I also cringed every time I heard the color guy in the MICH-ND game talk about a "momentum shift" -- it was a bad day for TV analysts in my book. But I digress.)
Anyway, I wondered if they and I had watched the same game. I saw a game where MSU held FAU to four "three-and-outs", and allowed a majority of the FAU points after MSU had already run out to a 27-7 lead. I believed that there was still a "last year's performance" expectation bias that led to the TV guys' comments about "questions" and "work to do".
So, I started to look at the drive charts to see if I could find any evidence of how the 2010 defense's performance compared to 2009.
I noticed that FAU only scored on 3 of the 10 possessions they had the ball. Keeping in mind that the goal of the game offensively is to score points, not "gain yards" or "win the field position battle" or especially "have a higher time of possession", I did some analysis comparing the opponent Drive Success Rate and PPD (Points per Drive).
More, after the jump.
Here's the stats through 2 games this year compared with through 2 games last year:
By way of comparison, MSU's Drive Success Rate and PPD through the first 2 games this year is 46.2% and 2.62 PPD, respectively.
Now I know that Western Michigan 2010 is probably not going to be comparable to Central Michigan 2009 (although I think FAU 2010 is very similar to Notre Dame 2009), and that 2 data points barely make a line, much less a trend. But still, cutting the opponent success rate and PPD by more than half gives the overall impression that the defense is greatly improved over last year.
Here's the full data from 2009. [I excluded the FCS opponent, Montana State.]
So last year overall, FBS opponents scored on 36.3% of their drives, averaging 2.12 points per drive. (MSU's offense rates were 37.3% and 2.16 PPD.)
Again, it's only 2 games, but I think we have seen dramatic improvement by the defense so far this year.