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Advanced Stats Preview: FAU Owls vs Rice Owls

How bad is FAU? Is Rice really the most disappointing team in C-USA? S+P has all the answers in what will be a huge swing game for both teams trying to keep conference title aspirations alive.

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

S+P is an advanced statistical measure created by SBNation author Bill Conley which combines success rate, explosiveness per play and opponent adjustments.

If you hate math like I do and can't quite understand what these numbers mean or would like a more detailed version, here's a breakdown of what S+P analyzes.

How S+P Sees The Game

Rice (2-3, 1-1) S+P Rank: 128

Offense Defense
Category Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.11 114 1.44 114 1.26
EFFICIENCY Success Rate 47.5% 23 53.3% 125 40.1%
FIELD POSITION Avg. FP 31.7 46 30.2 84 29.7
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.26 96 6.09 127 4.60
TURNOVER MARGIN EXPECTED -1.67 97 Turnover Luck (PPG):
ACTUAL -7 116

FAU (1-3, 1-0) S+P Rank: 88

Offense Defense
Category Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.08 124 1.17 47 1.26
EFFICIENCY Success Rate 42.4% 60 40.0% 62 40.1%
FIELD POSITION Avg. FP 32.8 27 27.7 40 29.7
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.31 126 5.70 122 4.60
TURNOVER MARGIN EXPECTED -2.76 108 Turnover Luck (PPG):
ACTUAL -3 91

So what does the two charts above say? Well, as the old saying goes 'Birds of a feather, flock together' and the Rice Owls have been just as inconsistent on offense as FAU.

Entering the season I predicted Rice would win the conference behind the wizardry of David Baliff and the potential that electric quarterback in Driphus Jackson possessed.

That seems like a reach now as Rice has disappointed massively according to S+P as they rank near the bottom at 125 (which is just behind FAU's last opponent Charlotte (122) and just ahead of future opponent UTEP (128), yeah, C-USA is pretty bad).

The offense has had to rely on steady drives due to the lack of explosive plays and for the most part has been efficient. But like FAU they have failed to finish those long drives and have had a hard time taking care of the ball.

Defensively the numbers suggest that Rice is far worse than FAU but the Owls in Boca have yet to play an explosive offense since the opener against Tulsa.

Against two top 40 S+P teams in Baylor (18) and Western Kentucky (34) Rice was outscored 119-29. Rice defeated a horrible North Texas squad (127) for their lone conference win, and lost a competitive game against a team that had superior talent in Texas (78).

Rice had the opportunity to play an FCS opponent in Wagner, which juices up their numbers quite a bit but all in all, Rice has played a similar schedule to FAU and registers as the worser team according to S+P.

When Rice has the ball When FAU has the ball
Category Rice Off FAU Def FAU Off Rice Def
Rushing S&P+ 106.5 (65) 98.7 (74) 84.6 (117) 76.6 (127)
Passing S&P+ 82.8 (113) 108.0 (49) 94.9 (92) 71.3 (125)
Std Down S&P+ 97.3 (93) 105.7 (52) 85.9 (116) 81.0 (125)
Pass Down S&P+ 87.4 (100) 109.6 (52) 101.0 (78) 62.2 (128)

The numbers indicate that if whoever can stay away from passing downs the most will probably win the game. FAU's secondary has been great in recent weeks against teams who didn't possess a good passing attack as Buffalo and Charlotte rank 91 and 124 respectively, in passing S&P. Rice fits that mold, as they rank 113.

If the defense can hold its own against a decent rushing offense (65), FAU should be able to continue its stellar play on defense and keep Rice's offense in check.

Rice's defense has been putrid. Again, they have played two amazing offenses in Baylor and WKU so the numbers are skewed a bit. North Texas is the only similar comparison to FAU but they rank last or near the bottom in every one of the above categories.

FAU's offense has been wildly inconsistent, but with a week off for Jaquez Johnson to heal his ankle I think we'll see an offense closer to the version against Tulsa than the one against Charlotte.

Entering the season FAU's conference schedule set the Owls up with a great opportunity to make some noise against teams that were predicted to finish ahead of them and a 3-0 start in conference play wasn't too far of a stretch.

After taking care of business against Charlotte, a game against Rice that would of been a toss-up at best in the preseason is now considered a definite win as S+P gives FAU a 92% chance of winning with a projected win margin of 24 points.

I don't think FAU is 24 points better than Rice, but S+P indicates that a loss would be a major upset as FAU should cruise to 2-0 with conference champ Marshall looming next week.