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88 days to football: More chunk plays on the ground coming soon




Every day from 99 days out (May 25) until kickoff, I'll put up a post telling you how many days until kickoff and breaking down something about the upcoming season related to that number.  


Today, since we are 88 days away from kickoff, we take a look at: Bill Connelly's metric to measure explosiveness, IsoPPP, had the MSU run game ranked 88th in the nation. Why last year's run game was that poor, what the Moorhead offense did in that regard at Penn State and will MSU be any better in 2018? 




(First of all, a quick explanation of IsoPPP. It stands for Isolated Points Per Play. You see some people use points per play as a measure of explosiveness, but what Connelly does is filter points per play to only those that his Success Rate measure deemed successful, so consider IsoPPP a measure of how successful you are when you're successful: are you scraping by with six yards on second-and-10 or are you busting out for 40 yards and a score?) 


So first, let's discuss why last year's offense was so bad at this. First, Dan Mullen's offenses were bad at this in a small sample: Connelly's IsoPPP stat is only available for the last three years, and those three years MSU ranked 101st, 18th and 88th. In fairness, if you go beyond 2015 and use the more elementary numbers at our disposal -- rushes over 10 yards, for instance -- it shows MSU had a more explosive rushing attack over the entire Mullen era than that three-year sample suggests. 


So why did MSU perform so badly in rushing IsoPPP in recent years? My best bet is the quarterback position: I only covered one season of Mullen in Starkville, but I saw an offense that used the quarterback rush primarily as a short-yardage mechanism. There wasn't much of quarterback running in the option game that is designed to get more open space and thus explosiveness. Plus, Aeris Williams is the type that gets his big plays by busting through the tackles, which is naturally harder than hitting the edge. (Or at least that's what he was last year. Who knows what the new staff turns him into.) 


And now we move on to the Moorhead era. His Penn State offenses ranked 72nd and 11th in rushing IsoPPP, but I question how much that first year was a real representation of the Moorhead offense. For whatever reason, those 2016 Nittany Lions went all in on explosive plays at the expense of efficiency -- 2nd in IsoPPP but 80th in Success Rate -- and that's not necessarily been true for the Moorhead offense over the decades. The next year, as Moorhead started to install some more wrinkles, Penn State was 8th in Success Rate and 19th in IsoPPP.  


Now, will MSU be better in 2018? Well, it returns just about every piece of the rushing attack -- line, quarterback and running backs -- and brings in a coach that's generally structured his rushing attack to produce more explosion. I'm guessing MSU's rushing IsoPPP is going to be up at least 20 spots in 2018, and that's a conservative guess. 


Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson



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