The National: Five Penn State Stats Compared To The Rest Of The Nation
November 05, 2018 2:00 PM
by Ben Jones
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Penn State got beat on Saturday by a Michigan team that was good at everything and even better at the things Penn State was not good at. It made for a long afternoon if you're a Nittany Lion fan and an even longer night for those that had once hoped Penn State's season would match that of the past few years.

But fear not, while some of Penn State's season stats and trends are awful, there are a handful of things to hang your hopeful hat on.

Total defense: 388 yards per game is 59th best in the nation. Ranked 64st in the nation last week.

Despite the final score, all things considered Penn State's defense actually had a fairly decent outing for 2.5 quarters on Saturday. At some point the astronomical number of plays this unit has seen catches up to it. In fact only six teams have faced more plays this season than Penn State. Some of that is the defense getting off the field, some of that is Penn State's offense staying on the field.

Penn State's third down defense is 41st in the nation, so slightly above average. And Penn State's third down offense? Well, it's not quite as good.

Safe to say this is a group effort, but Penn State's defense isn't the biggest issue in need of repairs right now. It just needs help more than anything else. Penn State's defense held Michigan scoreless on five of six drives in the middle of the game, more than enough chances to respond on the other side of the ball.

Third down conversion: 34.17% on third down 111th in the nation. Was 102nd in the nation last week.

Penn State faced an average of 8.3 yards to gain a first down on third down this past weekend and this stat has been pretty indicative of how the Nittany Lions' season has gone. Limited gains on first and second down and limited success converting long yardage on third.

It doesn't seem like this ranking is going to change this season, not unless Penn State starts picking up far more efficient gains on the early downs. This particular issue isn't rocket science to diagnose, but Penn State does seem to have a good antidote yet either.

Red zone offense: 94.59% is 8th in the nation and was ranked 8th last week.

Fittingly, for all of Penn State's issues on offense the Nittany Lions are still one of the best when it comes to scoring in the red zone. With 35 scores on 37 visits, the 30 touchdowns is seven behind Alabama for the best in the nation. Penn State is scoring a touchdown in the red zone on 81% of its trips, which is third best in the nation.

So ironically, Penn State's offense is pretty good in the red zone, it's just having a hard time getting there sometimes.

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.

Sacks: 29 sacks is 8th best in the nation, was 3rd best last week. 

Yetur Gross-Matos registered Penn State's only sack of the day on an afternoon where Shea Patterson only dropped by 17 times to begin with. The Nittany Lions' pass rush wasn't great on Saturday but it also didn't have tons of chances to either. All in all this number dropped as expected, but given the opponent and how the game unfolded, it's not a shock or an indictment of the overall quality of Penn State's pass rush when the Wolverines ran it 52 times.

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: 2322 yards is 35th in the nation. Was ranked 23rd in the nation last week.

He's hurt, he's having a hard time finding someone who wants to catch a pass and when he runs his knee politely asks him to please stop. So his yards are down and so is Trace McSorley's shot at finishing in the Top 15 of total offense for a third straight year.

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