Bob Diaco and the UConn Huskies are on their way to Utah to take on BYU Friday night at 10:15pm on ESPN2. Last week Football Study Hall predicted a 10-point UConn loss which turned out to be spot on. Good job, computer. This week, the Huskies are projected to fall on the road against BYU by 19.7 points.
The Huskies came in at 93rd in the S&P+ rankings, which use play-by-play efficiency to determine the quality of a team. BYU is currently ranked 42nd.
Football Study Hall also now produces advanced statistical profiles for each team every week. This data provides insight into things like Noel Thomas' usage in the passing game and where the strengths of UConn's defense lie.
Tracking receiver targets is a personal favorite of mine because it offers an improved understanding of a receiver's role in an offense by using catch rate, which is receptions divided by the number of targets, and target rate, which is individual targets divided by team passing attempts. While standard box scores tell us that Noel Thomas leads the team with 19 receptions, his 28% target rate outlines how often Bryant Shirreffs looks his way.
But we already knew that Thomas is UConn's top receiver. How is the rest of the passing game shaking out?
Surprisingly, Arkeel Newsome is the second-most targeted receiver for the Huskies right now, edging out Tyraiq Beals by one with 17. His 64.7% catch rate is low for a running back, which isn't too worrisome this early in the year, but it is definitely something to keep an eye on.
Though Beals has fewer targets than Newsome, he has more receptions which explains his 81.2% catch rate and gives us an indication for the magnitude to which he is used in the short passing game. Beals has done a good job of keeping his production high thanks to a few longer receptions which boost his yards per catch and yards per target. The early numbers would suggest UConn should find a way to get him more involved.
With the tight ends, Alec Bloom and Tommy Myers' nearly identical numbers tell us that the two are basically used interchangeably in the offense. Combined, the tight end duo is as targeted as Beals right now.
Defensively, UConn ranks 69th in the country in S&P+ defensive efficiency. This figure paints a slightly more accurate picture of the Huskies' defensive quality than UConn's 24th-ranked scoring defense because it factors in the level of competition.
BYU's advanced stats profile tells an opposite story, where its offense and defense are better than their national scoring rankings of 106th and 78th, respectively. The Cougars' offensive efficiency is ranked 56th in the country and their defense is ranked 39th. Those results are especially impressive when you consider they are doing it with their backup quarterback.
Something that has been holding UConn back has been field position, where UConn is outside the top-100 in offensive and defensive average starting position. This speaks to the Huskies' need to improve special teams. Diaco appears to have spent extra time on this in practice across the past two weeks and has shuffled some of the personnel to improve those units. Hopefully those efforts bear fruit Friday night against a BYU team which has had similar struggles in field position.
One of the key match-ups to watch in this game is UConn's running game against BYU's front seven, which was described by Vanquish the Foe as "worn out". If the Huskies can get the run game going, the offense should be able to keep things competitive. The Cougars' S&P+ run defense efficiency is ranked 74th in the country.
The same matchup will be the key on the other side of the ball, where UConn's front seven versus BYU's offensive line will be an interesting battle to watch. Both units are considered strengths for each respective team.
BYU's rushing offense is currently ranked 3rd in the country by S&P+. But they may be shorthanded there as well, with leading rusher Adam Hine listed as doubtful with an ankle injury. BYU's other two running backs have less than 50 rushing yards combined.
College Football TV Schedule
And, of course, a few suggestions for what to watch:
Miami (FL)) at Cincinnati, Thursday at 7pm, ESPN - Keep stacking those powerful wins, AAC. #Rising
Memphis at USF, Friday at 7pm, ESPN2 - UConn will host USF on Oct. 17 for Homecoming. The Bulls are looking for their first FBS win and may still be searching for it when they travel to PAWS ARF in two weeks.
Pittsburgh at Virginia Tech, Saturday at 12pm, ESPN3 - This is a good one to watch if you happen to be feeling insecure about whether or not UConn Football could hang in the ACC.
UCF at Tulane, Saturday at 12pm, ESPNEWS - A bar in Orlando will be serving free beer during UCF games until the Knights win a game. We are all Tulane fans this weekend.
Houston at Tulsa, Saturday at 12pm, CBS Sports - Houston is pretty good but Tulsa has been frisky this year. Both teams have new head coaches and plenty of optimism for a brighter future.
Air Force at Navy, Saturday at 3:30pm, CBS Sports - We found out just how good Navy is last week. This week they take on a solid Air Force team with service academy bragging rights on the line.
(13) Alabama at (8) Georgia, Saturday at 3:30pm, CBS - This one is pretty obvious. There's a lot on the line for Georgia head coach Mark Richt, who is under scrutiny despite winning a bunch in a tough conference and running a (relatively) clean program. He has a chance to make a statement against big, bad Alabama. Richt has watched multiple SEC competitors win titles with players he released from his Georgia team due to disciplinary reasons.
A second loss for Alabama would end their CFB Playoff hopes much earlier than Tide fans were hoping to have that fate decided. Rumors of Nick Saban's demise are probably greatly exaggerated, but the Alabama fan meltdown should be interesting to watch should 'Bama lose.
(21) Mississippi State at (14) Texas A&M, Saturday at 7:30pm, SEC Network/Watch ESPN
(6) Notre Dame at (12) Clemson, Saturday at 8pm, ABC
Close out your college football wekekend with two showdowns featuring nationally-ranked teams. Notre Dame and Clemson are both undefeated and hoping to compete for a CFB Playoff spot this year, a loss would make things tough for either team.