[Blogging about the same general football topic as Heck on the same day = Bad idea]
Your defensive scatterplot, sans rant:
Bullets after the jump:
- I didn't reverse the axes, so you want to be in the lower left-hand corner here. Indiana was not so good at the defense last year--but you didn't need a scatterplot tell you that.
- This scatterplot is a little purer than the offensive one since offensive pass/rush splits can be skewed by a quarterback who scrambles a lot out of plays designed to be passes. On defense, the scrambles will presumably be randomly distributed across the schedule. (This is sort of analogous to my theory that defensive eFG% is a purer stat than offensive eFG%.)
- MSU ranked nearly a full yard per attempt better in the traditional rush defense numbers. Even accounting for sacks correctly--and the Spartans led the league in that department--they still come out as the best rush defense in the league, albeit by a narrower margin. For all the attention Narduzzi's blitzing schemes have gotten, it was the run defense that set the standard (not that blitzes can't work against the run). In a perfect world, the Spartans create a little separation from the rest of the league in this season's scatterplot. When you back out the the crazy small yardage numbers conceded to FAU and CMU (by using conference-only data), MSU was basically even with Illinois and Penn State last season.
- Among non-Hoosier defenses, Ohio State would be your #1 candidate for improvement since they return 9 starters. I said something similar about the Buckeyes on offense, so, like, look out.
- Illinois actually posted a higher sack percentage than MSU did--13.1% vs. 12.2%--as opponents passed the ball less frequently against them (see below). Whitney Mercilus and his 16 sacks (on the season) are gone, but the other three defensive linemen return.
- Michigan ranked third in sack percentage at 9.8%. Replacing three starters on the defensive line is, of course, the big question mark in Ann Arbor.
- Wisconsin should get a little extra credit for leading the league in interception percentage by a wide margin at 6.5% of actual pass attempts. MSU was second at 4.2%. Deduct points from Minnesota; the Gophers picked off just one of 208 pass attempts by conference opponents.
- Penn State is the top candidate for regression because, well, you know why.
Big picture finding: Teams pass more not so much when opposing pass defense is weaker, but when the opponent is a better team overall and, therefore, probably has the lead. The exception is the Wisconsin, against whom opponent were probably just paranoid about keeping Russell Wilson and Montee Ball off the field.
Finally, for conversational purposes only, here are my predicted 2012 Big Ten standings:
- Michigan 6-2*
- MSU 6-2
- Iowa 6-2
- Nebraska 4-4
- Minnesota 3-5
- Northwestern 2-6
- Ohio State 7-1** ***
- Wisconsin 6-2
- Purdue 4-4
- Illinois 2-6
- Penn State 2-6**
- Indiana 0-8