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ATVSQBPI and Why Wisconsin is LSU in Reverse

Burrow is great. So is the Badgers’ defense.

Florida v LSU
MeauxJeaux JeauxJeaux
Photo by Marianna Massey/Getty Images

Believe it or not, the football season has reached its halfway point. That’s both sad (only half of a season left, y’all!), but also wonderful, because we finally have enough games played for statistics to be somewhat meaningful.

Now, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. There’s halfway through and then there’s halfway through. Most teams frontload their schedule with a bunch of garbage games, so they can iron out the kinks early in the year. So even though you’ve played half your games, you haven’t played half of your meaningful games.

And that’s where our old friend ATVSQBPI comes in. There’s a long explanation for how we calculate it, but really, it’s this: ATVSQBPI is modified yards per attempt.* It’s how many yards a QB is worth each time he calls his own number, run or pass. ATVSDPI simply reverses the concept and is applied to all plays, so it is the value of a team defense by modified yards per snap.

*Poseur’s Note: If you really want to dig through all of the math of ATVSQBPI, all of that can be found here. But you really don’t need it, just the basic concept: modified yards per attempt.

OK? OK. Let’s see how we’re doing this year…


QB Season P5 Only
QB Season P5 Only
Burrow 11.99 12.35
Tugovailoa 12.97 12.35
Hurts 13.05 12.05
Fields 10.38 9.65
Shrader 7.11 7.58
Trask 7.78 7.25
Ehlinger 7.84 7.14
Plumlee 7.06 7.06
Fromm 8.27 6.64
Bryant 7.56 6.31
Mond 6.95 6.25
Nix 6.55 6.12
Neal 5.00 5.27
Hilinski 5.74 4.90
Starkel 5.57 4.86
Maurer 4.20 4.02
Smith 3.79 3.13
Stevens (MSU-2) 5.12 1.07

Oh my sweet Lord. Tua and Hurts are running away with things along with our very own Joe Burrow. Those three guys all score over 12 modified yards per attempt against Power 5 competition, which is mind-blowingly great.

How awesome are those numbers? Well, the next highest rating in the SEC belongs to Jake Fromm, at 8.27. And that’s against all comers. Against just Power 5 teams like our leaders, the next best SEC rating belongs to Garrett Shrader, with a 7.58.

Let that sink in. The SEC quarterback with the best production against Power 5 competition after Tua and Burrow is the guy we’re playing this weekend, the signal caller for lowly Mississippi St. It boggles the mind.

So how is Burrow doing it?

It starts with his accuracy. ATVSQBPI does not specifically have a completion percentage component, but it is based upon yards/attempt. And every incomplete pass goes down as a big fat zero in your ledger. Throw enough of them, and those zeroes add up.

Or, in Burrow’s case. They don’t. He’s completed just shy of 80% of his passes. EIGHTY. Against Power 5 defenses, he has thrown a mere 19 incompletions. That really adds up, as he’s gaining yards on nearly ever play. Tua ain’t far behind at 73.7%.

The next thing is that he takes care of the football. There’s a 45-yard penalty for every interception, essentially the value of the punt you lost. Burow and Tua each have one pick. To be fair, there’s only a few guys in the SEC who seem careless with the football so far, as only Bo Nix and Sawyer Smith have thrown five interceptions against power 5 defenses, and both have the excuse of youth.

Running helps, so long as you do it sparingly. ATVSQBPI takes running QB’s out behind the woodshed, as you simply can’t average that many yards running versus passing, and running QB’s also have a tendency to get sacked a lot. Counterintuitive, I know.

But Burrow is like Goldilocks, he runs just right. He doesn’t lose yards overall like Tua (12 for -6), but he doesn’t have so many carries that his rushing average drags him down by adding so many attempts (17 for 31).

At the end of the day, it’s about Burrow’s absurd efficiency. His base yards/attempt against Power 5 teams, completely unadjusted, is 11.98. Tua is at 10.88. The bonus structure honestly helps Tua more thanks to his 20 total TD’s to Burrow’s 13.

Joe Burrow is the most productive quarterback in college football right now. But he’s still got two of the most difficult defenses on his schedule left to play.


LSU 4.44
TEXAS A&M 4.94
TEXAS 5.92

I don’t want to talk too much about defense, but I will point out for all of the negative talk about it, LSU’s defense is only slightly poorer rated than the troika of Bama, Florida, and Georgia. And as per the norm, Mizzou has a quietly great defense.

The big thing keeping LSU behind Bama and Florida is turnovers. Bama has forced 12 turnovers and Florida has 17 takeaways. LSU has 8.

Now, I do agree with the standard analytical belief that turnovers have a lot to do with luck. However, ATVSDPI does not measure abstract “quality” or what you “should” have allowed. It measures what actually happened. And what did happen is LSU has not gotten those turnovers. Yet.

Before we take leave, let’s stop to admire how awesome Ohio St and Wisconsin have been defensively. I don’t care what your schedule quality is, if you’re only allowing modified 1.45 yards per play, you are awesome.

Wisconsin is quietly turning out a remarkably dominant season, and their defense is the LSU offense of defenses. The Badgers absolutely should be getting more publicity as maybe the best team in the country. And the only reason I’m not gushing about the Ohio St defense is because of how eye-popping Wisconsin’s numbers are. But the buckeyes are great, too.

Through six games, Wisconsin has pitched four shutouts and has not allowed more than 15 points in a game. They’ve given up just 29 points all year, forced 14 turnovers, and allow a mere 43.9% completion rate. They allow 4.14 yards/pass and 1.75 yards/rush.

Those are 1970’s kind of numbers. As great as the LSU offense has been, let’s take some time to gawk a unit that is every bit as good on the other side of the football. We used to care about defense around these parts…