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The National: Five Penn State Stats Compared To The Rest Of The Nation

by on November 12, 2018 2:55 PM

Hey, Penn State won. That's good news for fans and coaches, and even better news for a few key stats we've been following the past several weeks as the Nittany Lions round the turn into the final two games of the regular season.

So how did things fare? Take a look at five figures compared to the rest of the nation.

Total defense: 376 yards per game is 51st in the nation. Was ranked 59th in the nation last week.

Penn State's defense had one of its best four quarters of the season last weekend so it's not a huge shock that this number went up. The Nittany Lions took on a Wisconsin team that couldn't really pass the ball which largely telegraphed the majority of the Badgers' plays.

To Wisconsin's credit though, Jonathan Taylor was still outstanding, but he couldn't do it all on his own. In reality total defense isn't really a measure of effectiveness, Penn State is ranked 41st in the nation in scoring defense giving up 23 points a game overall and 25 points a game in conference play. Nevertheless yards can be a good look at how much the ball is moving up and down the field. 

And after a weekend of fairly easy work, Penn State was rewarded for it in the stats.

Third down conversion: 34.81 percent is 106th in the nation. Was 111th in the nation last week.

This season is far too old for this number to change too much, but Penn State does get some credit for going 6-for-15 on third down against Wisconsin. This category isn't really a surprise anymore, if you're reading about Penn State you already know that the Nittany Lions have struggled on third down. A big key, those first and second down plays and on Saturday the average yards to gain on third down was just a hair above six. That's still a decent gain, but an improvement over the 8.4 yards needed per third down against Michigan. 

Where Penn State is ranked won't change too much, but the Nittany Lions certainly took a positive step froward on Saturday in this area.

Red zone offense: 95.0% is ranked 6th best in the nation and was ranked 8th last week.

For all the things you might take issue with when it comes to Penn State's offense, scoring in the red zone sure isn't one of them. Penn State scores a touchdown on 80.49% of its trips into the red zone which is fifth best in the nation. 32 red zone touchdowns are actually the best in the Big Ten. Then again Ohio, yes Ohio, has scored more red zone touchdowns than anyone, so it's not entirely a stat indicative of anything.

Nevertheless, Penn State keeps punching the ball in for points when it gets deep into opponent's territory and that's something worth mentioning.

Of note, over the past 10 years no team that has led the nation in red zone success has done it with a rate lower than the North Texas rate of 94.29% in 2014. Penn State last ended the season in the Top 10 in 2015 at a 93.18 clip, good enough for sixth in the nation.

Sacks: 34 sacks is 6th best, was 8th best in the nation last week. 

Considering that Wisconsin barely ever threw the ball on Saturday it's kind of amazing this number went up. Two sacks by Shareef Miller sure helped the cause though. All told Penn State continues to get to the quarterback and has done so for years now. It stands to reason against Rutgers and Maryland that number ought to go up even more.

Of note, Alabama has 36 sacks while UAB leads the nation with 38.

Penn State has had at least 40 sacks each of the past three seasons which has seen the Nittany Lions ranked anywhere from first in 2015 to 19th in 2016. The 2017 figure of 42 sacks, seventh best in the nation, seems like a reasonable goal to aim for.

Total individual offense: 2491 yards is 38th in the nation. Was ranked 35th in the nation last week.

Something will have to change pretty drastically for Trace McSorley to make a late run in the total yardage category. While Maryland and Rutgers might be the teams to do it against, there's little evidence this offense is going to change overnight or that McSorley is going to have two fully-functioning legs by that time anyway.

You can't knock the kid for his guts, but his numbers aren't going to hit that Top 15 in the nation for a third straight year. He's still better than most though, and probably tougher than everyone.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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