I'd like to move on from the Columbus Screwjob, circa 2016, and focus on the improvement in the team from 2015 to 2016. (Yes, this is a coping mechanism, but we all have our own ways of dealing with the pain.) The biggest question going forward is how much the improvement is due to the system being implemented (year 2 of the Harbaughffense, importing Don Brown) and how much is due to the players just getting 1 year older. We did have a lot of seniors on the roster this year. Anyway, links to the stats are here:
* The first thing we see is a dramatic increase in points scored (yay.) We went from 367 (30.6 ppg) to 492 (41.0 ppg.) A TD and a FG better per game in 2016.
* First downs increased from 237 to 267. But the mix tilted more heavily to the run in 2016 as the Harbaughffense got closer to full implementation. We went from 85 rushing first downs in '15 to 138 in '16, an increase of 53 first downs.
* Rushing yardage increased from 1832 to 2679 yards and the per carry average increased from a measly 4.1 to a respectable 5.0. I know the criticism will be that we couldn't grind out first downs against Iowa and OSU when we needed them, but only the truly elite teams can impose their will on solid defenses and run the ball effectively when everyone knows that's what they are trying to do.
* Passing yardage decreased somewhat. I would attribute that to us playing well ahead of the opposition for large stretches this year, and the lack of deep balls to Chesson. He and Butt both saw their per game averages go down this season. We will miss Darboh, but there are opportunities for the young WRs to improve upon Chesson's production this year, and a gaggle of more experienced tight ends should mitigate the loss of Butt.
* Regarding QB play, the Total efficiency went from 133.75 to 143.23, a nearly 10 point improvement. Considering we were going with a first time starter this year versus an experienced, 5th year QB last season, that speaks positively to Jim's QB development skills. Can we get another 10 point increase from Speight next season?
*Oh man, Don Brown. The first thing one checks is sacks. Those increased from 30 to 44. But the major, eye-popping stat is the QBHs. We had 16 in 2015. This year? 52! Was our statistician more generous this year with QBHs? Our opposition had 13 last year to 25 this year, so maybe, but I think Wilton had a tendency to hold onto the ball longer than Rudock did and saw more pressure as a result.
* TFLs are less subjective than QBHs. They went from 82 to 115.
* But all those fancy stats don't mean anything if they don't show up on the scoreboard. Average points allowed dropped from 17.2 to 12.5, a 4.7 point per game reduction. (Hey, the offense showed more improvement than the defense did, at least using raw PPG as a metric.)
There's lot of other interesting stuff in there, so I recommend you take a look. In this time of infinite sadness at the missed opportunities and horrible Ohioness of the reffing, take solace in the fact that even though we only improved the regular season win total by 1 game, the team was dramatically improved over last year's squad in just about every metric. What will year 3 of the Harbaughffense bring? What will year 2 of Don Brown's defense bring? The Knowledge knows, but I don't. I do think the future is bright. If I know one thing about Harbaugh, it's that the result on Saturday is going to put steel in his spine, and he's already a pretty tough S.O.B.