russelbowl16hdWest Virginia went on a run, but just couldn’t get into the Big 12 title race after losing to both Oklahoma teams.   Due to that they find themselves in Orlando facing a Miami squad they’ve gone 3-16 against dating back to their old Big East days.

That and a weak strength of schedule have the Mountaineers the underdogs in this game, with Miami giving points and playing in their home state.  Is Miami that good, or West Virginia that bad, however.   In the first bowl “tale of the tape” for Boise State and Baylor, I’m using new advanced statistics from Football Outsiders to try and normalize how each team played against good opponents in quality situations.

From a wins and loses stand point, West Virginia has the edge, having a better winning percentage against the FBS and Power Five teams.   However, Miami has played a bit tougher schedule, which reflects upon their record.   The Femeu Efficiency Index, shows how russelbowl-1well each team played against an opponent-adjusted drive efficiency, and their performance against their schedule shows that Miami isn’t as far away from West Virginia as the records may indicate.   The question becomes, how close are they?

Offensive Efficiency measures non-garbage plays, taking out the victory formation and other throw away possessions, and weighs it for performance against good teams.  In that light, the Mountaineers have the stronger offense on the field.  Their efficiency is significantly higher than Miami’s, ranking them 45th to Miami’s 60.  More importantly, when looking at how much of the available yards were gained by each team, West Virginia achieved around 56% of them while Miami was 10% less.  This showed up in the first down rate as well, which rates how well an offense secures a first down or a touchdown, and West Virginia did that at a 75.2% clip to Miami’s 66.1%.  The one negative for the Mountaineers is they’ve turned the ball over more often than the Miami Defense.  In big games like this, a single turnover can dictate the outcome, so that’s important.

One area where West Virginia hasn’t received a lot of attention is on their defense.  On a play by play basis they’ve run as efficiently as Miami’s defense, which has more press. Miami outplays the West Virginia defense slightly, holding opponents to less achievable yards and less first downs, but the Mountaineers have a slightly higher overall efficiency against top talent and have caused more turn overs.

This game will come down to which offense can impose itself on the other.   Miami padded their running stats against teams like Florida Atlantic and A&M, but were much worse in conference play.  West Virginia, on the other hand, had several big games where they gained over 200 yards rushing.   If they can do that, or cause turnovers, West Virginia will end the year with a solid victory and, apparently, the upset.

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