Northern Illinois vs. Toledo: An advanced stats preview

One of my favorite sites on the internet is Varsity Numbers, a bit of a statistical experiment presented by Bill Connelly who is now the head 'football stats guy' here at SB Nation.

First we'll break down what is being presented in the F/+ rankings over at Football Outsiders, which is essentially is an unbiased breakdown of how college football team has been playing this season, taking out garbage time and things like that.

Unfortunately, the Toledo Rockets performance so far this season has garnered them a #19 ranking, with solid marks on each side of the ball. Despite only having a 4-3 record, the Rockets did however out-gain both Ohio State and Syracuse in their respective of 5 and 3 points respectively. Their only big-time loss is to Boise State, who ranks 3rd in the rankings and helps out their SOS.

Toledo is ranked 13th by S&P+ and 28th by FEI. Where as NIU is ranked 63rd and 76th. NIU is 72nd when the rankings are combined together.

Offense

Although NIU's offense has been prolific at points this season, it's not like they've been running roughshod over their opponents game-in and game-out. That's something Toledo has been doing very well this season while keeping the same offensive system in Tim Beckman's 3rd season as head coach. Under Beckman has been Offensive Coordinator Matt Campbell who has had that position since last year. Campbell coached under offensive powerhouses like Bowling Green and D-III Mount Union before arriving in Toledo in 2009.

The tools Toledo has to their expense is vast, highlighted by do-it-all WR Eric Page, a dual-QB system featuring both Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens and a stable of running backs, led by Morgan Williams and Adonis Thomas, a speedy back who led the team in receiving last year. Not to mention David Fluellen, a 6'0" 215 bruiser.

3 out of the 5 offensive linemen returned from last year highlighted by LT James VanDerMulen and every starting skill player will be playing against the Huskies except for TE Danny Noble, who suffered a broken leg three weeks ago vs. Eastern Michigan.

Toledo's offense has been consistent all season long, giving them the 29th best F/+ offense in the nation. NIU's offense is only ranked 42nd, which is much less efficient. The Huskie offense nose-dived vs. Wisconsin and takes naps occasionally. Last week against Buffalo was a good example and despite blowing Kent State out, the offense didn't do a great job moving the ball along.

Defense

As Toledo's offensive superiority may come as a surprise, it will come to no shock that the NIU defense comes in at a paltry 99th ranking in F/+ while the Rockets rank 23rd. In comparison, Wisconsin's D ranks 29th in the nation. It's also interesting to note that Kent State's D ranks 6th, so looking back at it, we did a pretty good job. Buffalo is 85th.

In terms of overall yardage allowed, the Rockets are ranked 45th in the nation and 4th in the MAC. UT is anchored by a solid run defense ranking 30th in the nation and 2nd in the conference to Temple, who they defeated 36-13 in a game where the Owls turned the ball over four times.

The defensive line returns 2 starters, missing DE T.J. Fatinikun, who suffered a dislocated right elbow vs. EMU. Watch out for DE Malcom Riley, who has 20 tackles and 4.5 TFL on the season.

Toledo's only returning starter, Dan Molls, suffered a stress fracture in his left leg since the beginning of September, but returned to the lineup against Miami OH. He is arguably the best player on that side of the ball. "Star" OLB Charles Rancifer stepped into the starting position after Isaiah Ballard had this little incident in the offseason. "Will" OLB Robert Bell has 45 tackles, 3.5 TFL and 2 FF and 3 FR.

As good as Toledo's run defense has been, the pass D has only ranked 87th in the nation in efficiency.

The secondary has 3 starters from last season, minus FS Mark Singer, who tore his labrum in the offseason. His replacement, Jermaine Robinson, who has 6.5 tfl on the season, just got back last week after only missing one week with a freaking broken arm. CB Desmond Marrow leads the defense with 48 tackles, 2 interceptions and 8 pass breakups.

Special Teams

Eric Page is one of the most dynamic punt returners in the game (11th in the nation), but the Rockets only rank 114th in kickoff returns. They also rank 115th in net punting and 99th in kickoff coverage D.

K Ryan Casano is 7 of 10 on the season.

Huskies strategy

It's going to be in all likelihood a shootout, so the offense has to be consistent and attack the weak Toledo secondary. Some sort of ground game will have to be established. Toledo is tops in the MAC in turnover margin, so NIU will have to force a few mistakes. Other than that, the Glass Bowl is there for the taking, but it hasn't been kind to the Huskies in the past.

Anything can happen on the day after Halloween.

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