Iowa's Path to 25ppg - Week 4

Continuing this series on tracking Iowa's famous 25 points per game contractual suggestion. As previously noted in the Week 1 Post, at the start of the season I calculated targets for each opponent based on 2022 points per game allowed and adjusted for home/away. Since we know some games will be harder than others, the goal was to put together a smarter budget of points needed each game to reach the 325 point goal.

Last Week

"I think it was AK [Arnold Ebiketie] when AK went down, the special teams coordinator flopped on the sideline because I guess he was saying it was a fake injury... Coach Franklin showed it [Iowa ST coach flopping] in the team meeting." - Chop Robinson, PSU

There's a scene in the movie Fever Pitch (American version) when the main characters of the movie, just normal fans like us, are at the bar after the Red Sox just lost a game. They are down, dejected, and miserable. Then across the restaurant they see three Red Sox players casually eating dinner as if nothing remotely troubling happened to them that night. Sometimes I wonder if fans take disrespect from opposing teams harder than the players and coaches of the team we root for do. But then I saw the above quote and I realized that James Franklin absolutely took the disrespect as hard as any of us fans and made sure to remind his team about it two years later.

Yes, we already knew Iowa's offense was offensive and PSU's defense was good. Nothing there surprised anyone. Iowa starting the game by picking up a few scripted yards and then punted the ball inside PSU's 10 yard line, and I'm immediately thinking "here we go again." This is how Iowa scores points in conference play. Play good defense, have their special teams put you in bad spots, and patiently wait for you to make mistakes.

There is no shortage of examples, but the one that really comes to mind that was a perfect embodiment of Iowa football was last year when they played Minnesota. I distinctly remember telling the Minnesota team through my TV in the 4th quarter, "just don't turn it over and you'll win the game." On the 16th play of an 88 yrd drive, Mo Ibrahim loses a fumble well within FG range. Iowa's offense then goes 3-and-out and punts. Minnesota gets the ball back and I say again, "be patient... don't turn it over and you'll win the game." Interception. Iowa hits one pass to their TE on 1st down to get in field goal range. Run, run, run, game winning FG.

Back to this past weekend, Penn State's longest play in the first half was a 14 yrd pass that was negated by a facemask penalty. Excluding that one, three others went for more than 10 yards. Two plays went for more than 10 yards in the second half before PSU's more mobile back-up QB and 3rd string RB combined for four more such plays in the 4th quarter. Singleton's 19yrd run, most of which came after two broken tackles, was their longest play of the day. Every one of their 11 drives was slow and methodical, but unlike the Minnesota game from the year prior, none of those drives ended in a turnover.

This is a long-winded way to say that Penn State outwaited Iowa this past weekend. Their 5-star QB and 5-star RB bought into the game plan, took what the defense gave them, and were perfectly content picking up 4.1 yards per play, every play. For comparison, OSU/ND were 5.6 and 5.5 yards per play respectively in their defensive slugfest. This game was a death by 97 cuts.

The Road Ahead

Iowa returns home this weekend to face a reeling MSU squad that has given up some points the past two weeks to competent offenses. MSU's defense has statistically not been good, but a lot of the standard, non-opponent-adjusted metrics will be skewed from having Washington and Maryland represent half their schedule to date. To their credit, SP+ still has them around a top-40 defense in the nation. Similarly, MSU's offense has been bad the last two weeks but less similarly, is projected to actually be bad. It will be interesting to see this week if MSU took notes from the PSU game and makes a concerted effort to protect the football.

We originally budgeted Iowa needing 32 points this week to stay on schedule. On top of that, they are now 13 points in the hole that they will need to make up over the course of the rest of the season. Unfortunately for Iowa, it looks like Vegas is thinking this is something like a 24-12 win for Iowa. So they'll need to significantly exceed expectations just to not fall into a further hole.

I also looked at roughly what 2022 offense Iowa would need to resemble to meet the 325 point target. Right now they are in middle-of-the-pack territory, needing to resemble 67th ranked USF's offense (about 1 ppg better than Wisconsin/Minnesota last year). While it's not likely to jump from 117 to 67, we're still not asking them to become an elite offense. So the goal is still reasonably in play.


Apologies for the less than ideal graphic - I couldn't figure out how to show a yellow bar this week.



Bonus 3-Way Tie Content

I was curious what a 3-way tie between Michigan, OSU, and PSU would look like if they all ended the season at 11-1. In that scenario, the first four tiebreakers wouldn't matter so we jump to the 5th tie-breaking scenario.

5. The records of the three (or more) teams will be compared based on the best cumulative conference winning percentage of non-divisional opponents.

(a) Example: East 1 non-divisional opponents are 20-7, East 2 non-divisional opponents are 19-8, East 3 non-divisional opponents are 14-13 – East 1 would be the representative.

We can quickly visualize this by looking specifically at the West opponent's schedules. Start by blacking out all the out-of-conference games and the Mich/OSU/PSU games (since we're assuming the West teams all loose these games in this scenario). Since everyone plays an equally lengthed conference schedule, all we need to do is add up the conference wins of the West opponents. I also greyed the games where both of their West teams in that game played the same East opponent. Those games aren't very meaningful to that East team since they will guarantee one win and one loss, and I am counting them as a half game each in the remaining opportunities for wins column.

Some quick observations.

  • OSU is in the early lead thanks to Minnesota beating Nebraska and Wisconsin beating Purdue.
  • OSU and Michigan have near identical West crossovers. Minnesota and Purdue are both common, so the tiebreaker between those two comes down to who has the better conference record between Wisconsin and Nebraska (advantage OSU)
  • PSU actually has a sneaky scheduling advantage here. Since none of their West crossovers play Michigan or OSU, their West opponents actually have two additional opportunities to pick up wins (again, since we are assuming Mich/OSU win all their west games to get to this scenario). This is illustrated in the tables in the bottom right.
  • Purdue vs Illinois is a big game this week for these teams. PSU fans are rooting for Illinois while Mich/OSU fans are rooting for Purdue.
  • PSU fans also need to hold their noses and hope for Iowa to beat MSU.


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