What is their body of work this season?
They have had a really tough season. They are 3-8. Of course, that includes a win at the Big House....and wins over Eastern and Miami, two teams that the Falcons failed to beat. Finally, though they are 3-8, they played CMU, Ball State and WMU, and BG, well, didn't.
What is their best result this season?
Well, for sure, its the win at Michigan. No matter how down things were in Ann Arbor, that was a high quality win. An overtime loss to a pretty good Fresno State team also should not escape mention.
What is their worst result this season?
Losing at home to Florida International.
What is the turnover margin?
They are perfectly in balance, 17 in, 17 out. They don't force that many or make that many.
How is their QB play?
Coach says Opelt has been playing better, and he is capable of doing well. He is only the 9th ranked QB in the MAC. He had a nice game at Michigan. His completion is just over 60%, and he has only 12 TD passes. Also, his yards per attempt is 12th in the MAC. This is nothing new for the Rockets, who have specialized in a very short passing attack that minimizes interceptions and sacks for years.
What is their yard per play?
5.5 yards per play, (just what Buffalo had coming into that game), which is tied for fifth in the MAC and considerably better than the Falcons.
Can they run the ball?
At 4.8 yards per carry, they are third in the MAC. Their rushing attempts are the lowest in the MAC of any team that has played 11 games so far...this is very unusual for the Rockets. They have been behind a lot, so maybe that explains it. No conversation of whether they run the ball can be considered complete, however, without noting that Morgan Williams set a school record with 330 rushing yards against Miami last week. That's a school record. Now, we don't know how hard Miami was trying, but he's dangerous, as is Collins.
Do they pass the ball.
They are near the bottom in passing. Obviously, at Michigan, they found Nick Moore, oh, a whole bunch. Williams is a good receiver, too. Obviously, they pass the ball better when the running game is good.
Are they high efficiency or big play?
This is a big time dink and dunk team. Not that they never go down field, but the UT version of the spread has lots of passes behind the line.
Do they convert on 3rd Down.
They are dead last in the MAC on third down. Special Tom Toledo note...23 times (tied for second in the MAC) they have gone for it on fourth after not making it third. They convert just under half of those. (Going for it on 4th is one of the hallmarks of the Tom Toledo reign).
Do they score in the red zone?
4.5 yards per red zone trip is a pretty common number. Their conversion % is second in the MAC. Two things. They have been held without points only four times, in fact, and ALL FOUR were on missed FGs. And, not to be lost in the math is that their number of red zone trips is by far the worst in the MAC.
Do they protect the quarterback?
They are second in the MAC in preventing sacks...very typical of their offense.
In summary, while their offense certainly has struggled at times this year, I think its safe to say that if the running game is there, they remain a dangerous team and certainly capable of scoring enough to beat us.
Topline: Scoring and yards per play.
The defense for the Rockets has been much maligned this year. They are ninth in the MAC in scoring defense, and sixth in yards per play. We'll see if there is something in here that explains the disparity--we know it isn't turnovers.
Do they defend the run effectively?
Well, they are ninth in total yards allowed rushing, but 4.2 yards per carry is really good and only beaten by three MAC teams. There are a lot of running attempts against them, but not a huge amount. I think if you look at it, the run defenses in the MAC have performed very similarly, except for a good team at the top and two lousy teams at the bottom.
Can they be passed on?
They are sixth in passing yards per game, and allow the second highest completion percentage in the MAC. They have allowed 21 passing TDs, 11th in the MAC. For these reasons they are 9th in pass defense efficiency.
Do they get off the field on 3rd down?
They are sixth in the MAC here.
Do they defend in the red zone?
Not very well. By percentage they are 8th in the MAC, but they allow five points per trip, which is not very good.
Do they pressure the QB?
They are dead freaking last in sacks with 8. We should be able to get time to throw...if we don't, its on us.
Special teams are serviceable for the Rockets. They are fourth in net punting.
They are 12th in this category.
They're very strong. Stiegerwald is one of the top kickers in the MAC. He's hit 75% this year, and 15 total, which is second in the MAC. (That's impressive, because when Toledo Tom doesn't have confidence in his kicker, he won't kick, no way, no how). His long is 48 and he is 5-7 from beyond 40.
They are 11th in covering kickoffs, and don't even have one touchback. They average 34 net yards on a kickoff, which means that on a typical kickoff, the team starts at the 36 yard line. Yes, really.
They are ninth here, almost equal with the Falcons.
Miscellaneous: Overall atmospherics and intangibles.
A lot going on here.
- It is Tom Toledo day. Do the players care?
- It is Senior Day. Do the players care?
- BG has not won here since its players were in elementary school.
I think the game comes down to a simple equation....which team decides to play in a game that doesn't mean a thing. On paper, its actually a more even match up than it first appears when you figure in that the Rockets had to make their bones against tougher MAC teams.
In general...the way the Falcons have played has not given me confidence that we will play well with nothing on the line. We haven't executed when we had the lead, and I worry that we'll turn in a lackluster performance Friday and lose on the road to a team playing with some emotion. I just don't think we will play as hard to be 6-6 as the Rockets will to win their last home game and Tom Toledo's last game.
Having said that, I am (believe it or not) an optimist. I'm hopeful that I'm wrong....that Tyler Sheehan will look to be the first QB to win at the Glass Bowl since long before Meyer/Brandon, that the rivalry means something to our team, and that they want to try and salvage something of their legacy with a win to avoid a losing season. Maybe the disparity between our ability and our results will piss our guys off, and motivate them to play the full 60 minutes, the way we know they are capable of.