'08 Starks vs '11 Oliver: A Statistical Analysis

I was under the impression that everyone loved BO, the bright spot in our otherwise dark season. BO finished as the #13 running back in the nation, in 12 games, 2nd in the MAC to Bernard Pierce. With graduation and the NFL draft, 5 of the top 13 backs will not return, so theoretically, we will have the nation's #8 back next year and the #1 back in the MAC.


However I learned Bull Run Nation is split on BO, many believing his numbers were inflated by cupcake opponents, and his massive 306 carries. The Gold standard of Buffalo running backs, before this year, was James Starks and his performance during the championship year of 2008. That year, Starks not only finished #17 in the nation, he did so in dramatic fashion; breaking off long runs and ending OT games with flair.

So how do BO '11 and Starks '08 compare. In my analysis, I looked at the yards per carry of each back to remove inflated numbers based on increased carries. I then found the average yards per carry allowed for the (non QB) feature back of each team BO and Starks faced.

The results after the jump.


Screen_shot_2012-01-19_at_8

We'll analyze 5 categories:

1) Number of times the RB exceeded their Opponents Average YPC (Columns BO +/- and Starks +/-)
2) Number of times the RB was more than 1 YPC below their Opponents Average YPC
(+/-Columns)
3) Opponents Run Defense (Average of OPP YPC column)
4) Big games (Average +/- in big games)
5) X-Factors

BO Attempt BO Yards BO YPC BO +/- Opp Att Opp Yards Opp YPC
Stony 15 126 8.40 4.53 172 666 3.87
Eastern Mich 18 133 7.39 3.47 143 561 3.92
Akron 29 235 8.10 2.57 205 1135 5.54
Ohio 34 179 5.26 1.02 228 968 4.25
UConn 23 84 3.65 -0.14 146 554 3.79
NIU 28 112 4.00 -0.48 218 977 4.48
Ball St 27 118 4.37 -0.71 208 1056 5.08
Pitt 35 114 3.26 -0.89 224 928 4.14
Tenn 18 58 3.22 -1.70 192 945 4.92
BGSU 34 127 3.74 -2.14 178 1045 5.87
Temple 21 62 2.95 -2.38 178 950 5.34
Miami 24 47 1.96 -2.43 181 794 4.39

Starks Attempt Starks Yards Starks YPC Starks +/- Opp Att Opp Yards Opp YPC
Ohio 30 185 6.17 1.63 178 808 4.54
Kent State 24 136 5.67 0.86 179 860 4.80
Miami 26 177 6.81 0.51 195 1229 6.30
Pitt 20 97 4.85 0.37 217 972 4.48
Western Mich 28 125 4.46 0.30 196 817 4.17
UTEP 31 179 5.77 -0.70 202 1307 6.47
Akron 37 151 4.08 -0.91 206 1028 4.99
Central Mich 22 94 4.27 -0.94 177 922 5.21
BGSU 14 62 4.43 -1.05 201 1102 5.48
Ball State 19 82 4.32 -1.21 173 956 5.53
UConn 13 25 1.92 -2.53 174 774 4.45
Temple 8 20 2.50 -2.70 221 1149 5.20

1) Number of times the running back exceeded their opponents YPC

BO's YPC exceeded his opponent's average 4 times, (Stony Brook, Eastern Michigan, Akron and Ohio).
Starks' YPC exceeded his opponent's average 5 times, (Ohio, Kent St, Miami, Pitt and Western Mich).

Advantage: STARKS

2) Number of times the running back was more than 1 YPC below their opponent's average

BO 4 times (Tennessee, BGSU, Temple, Miami).
Starks 4 times (BGSU, Ball State, UConn, Temple).

Advantage: PUSH

3) Difficulty of opponents

BO: Opponent's average YPC allowed: 4.63, (4.70 not counting Stony Brook)
Starks: Opponent's average YPC allowed: 5.13

Advantage: BO

4) Big games

BO's average performance in the four biggest games of '11: .89 YPC under the opponent's average allowed.
(NIU (eventual mac champs), Temple (MAC East Powerhouse/rivals), Ohio (MAC East Champs), Tennessee (Toughest Non-Conference Game))

Starks' average performance in the four biggest games of '08: 1.1 YPC under the opponent's average allowed.
(Pittsburgh (Toughest Non-Conference Game), Bowling Green (MAC East Clincher), Ball State (MAC Champ game), UConn (International Bowl))

BO's UB was 1-3 in his big games, Starks' UB was 2-2 in his big games.

Advantage: PUSH

5) X-Factors

Durability:
Starks missed 2 games due to injury (Missouri, Army).
BO missed no games and was 7th in the nation in number of carries.

Efficiency:
BO's YPC for the season was 4.56, (4.36 minus the Stony Brook game)
Starks' YPC for the season was 4.9.

Impact:
When Starks' YPC exceeded the opponent's average allowed, UB went 2-3, UB went 5-2 when Starks failed to meet or exceed the opponent's average YPC allowed.

When BO's YPC exceeded the opponent's average allowed, UB went 3-1, when he failed, UB went 0-8.

Advantage: BO

Overall Best Season: BO (2-1-2)

Overall both backs put up big numbers but did not consistently outperform the average of the defense's they faced. Starks had better numbers, but the defenses he faced were not as adept at stoping the run. In 2008, many of our opponents faced Donald Brown (2083 yards), MiQuale Lewis (1736 yards), and Shady McCoy (1488 yards), and those backs put up bigger numbers than Starks.

The big components in favor of BO, was our record when BO exceeded the YPC allowed by opponents, and BO slightly outperformed Starks in "Big Games."

You could argue that the biggest X-factor is a championship. Starks delivered one, and that for some fans, could pull Starks even or ahead of BO for best Rushing season. However looking at yards per carry vs the average YPC of their opponents, BO in my interpretation put in a better season.

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