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Advanced Statistical Preview: Cincinnati Bearcats at Connecticut Huskies

Taking an in depth look at tonight's game through the prism of advanced metrics.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Cincinnati Offense Connecticut Defense
S&P+ 110.3 (32nd) 93.4 (90th)
Success Rate 45.8 (34th) 42.0 (76th)
ISO PPP .98 (13th) .76 (25th)
Rushing S&P 105.2 (57th) 108.1 (42nd)
Passing S&P 132.0 (13th) 89.8 (100th)
Standard Downs S&P 113.8 (33rd) 96.0 (84th)
Passing Downs S&P 137.8 (12th) 108.3 (49th)

Note: If you have been reading Down The Drive long enough some of these terms will be familiar to you, but for those of you that are new to the site and/or the exciting nerdom that is inherent with advanced state there is a glossary that explains most of the terms you will see here. Also on the Football Outsiders ranking pages there are explanations of the major terms.

As things currently sit as I type out this preview (1:30 on Saturday) the Bearcats are considered a 9.5 point favorite over the Huskies. Its not hard to see why that is the case. On the face of it the Bearcats have a couple of big advantages on both sides of the ball (we will get to the UC defense and UConn offense shortly), but there is potential for the UConn defense to make this game interesting, mainly because they approach the game in a way that is by design or randomness perfectly suited to make life bumpy for the Bearcats explosive offense.

UC has thrived on the big play this year, it has been the lifeblood of the offense in many respects. Only ECU has produced more plays of 30 or more yards than the Bearcats have this season. On average the Bearcats get a little over two per game. The one thing the Huskies do well on the defensive end is prevent the big plays. their ISO PPP mark* is the third best in the AAC, not far behind Temple and UCF. More than anyone else the Bearcats have played this year this is a defense that is set up to take away the big play above all else.

*A state designed to isolate the explosiveness of an offense or the ability of a defense to prevent big plays.

The flip side of that is that while the Huskies will try to take the deep ball out of the equation tonight there are ways to move the ball against this defense, but to do so requires patience and methodical drives. Neither attribute is really a strength of Gunner Kiel, but with the continued improvement of the running game that is something the Bearcats can do now. This could wind up being a big day for Shaq Washington if the Huskies vacate the intermediate area of the field in favor of defending deep and in depth with their secondary. No one in the conference is better than Shaq at finding the soft spots in the zone.

Cincinnati Defense Connecticut Offense
S&P+ 93.5 (89th) 82.4 (119th)
Success Rate 46.2 (111th) 32.9 (127th)
ISO PPP .86 (74th) .82 (87th)
Rushing S&P 92.9 (93rd) 78.7 (122nd)
Passing S&P 97.8 (67th) 74.4 (121st)
Standard Downs S&P 99.0 (73rd) 75.1 (124th)
Passing Downs S&P 89.2 (98th) 83.0 (111th)

The stats say that this is a match up between a bad defense and a bad offense, and that you should probably avert your eyes anytime these two groups take the field. Taking the season as a whole that is basically true, the UConn offense doesn't do any one particular thing at a high level, though Geremy Davis and Deshon Foxx have given the offense some dimension of explosiveness. However down in, down out this is a very bad offense whose weakest line aligns nicely with the Bearcats defense only relative strength, their ability to rush the passer.

Line Stats

Cincinnati Offensive Line Connecticut Defensive Line
Rush Yards Per Game 156.56 (76th) 148.22 (48th)
Rush Yards Per Carry 4.74 (43rd) 3.89 (43rd)
TFL Per Game 3.11 (2nd) 5.44 (87th)
Sacks Per Game 1.22 (20th) 1.22 (117th)
Sack Percentage* 3% 4%
Pressure Percentage* 8% 9%
Cincinnati Defensive Line Connecticut Offensive Line
Rush Yards Per Game 202.78 (104th) 97.67 (120th)
Rush Yards Per Carry 5.03 (107th) 3.01 (121st)
TFL Per Game 5.56 (80th) 7.78 (123rd)
Sacks Per Game 2.78 (26th) 3.11 (117th)
Sack Percent* 7% 9%
Pressure Percent* 12% 17%

For UConn the problem starts up front, not just in this game, but in general for the program moving forward. They simply aren't unearthing difference makers in the trenches with the regularity that they used to. Its a problem on both sides of the ball in this game, but it is a potential back breaker on the offensive side of the ball. The Bearcats defense has picked up 13 sacks in the last five games. They were at their best last week when they picked up 4 sacks of Shane Carden and hurried him an additional 6 times. In all the Bearcats got pressure on Carden on 15 percent of his drop backs. For UConn allowing pressure on 15 percent of their quarterback's (be it Tim Boyle or Chandler Whitmer) would represent a meaningful improvement over their season long averages. If ever there was a day for the Bearcats defensive front to truly find themselves and have a monster day this would be it.