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4 keys to Maryland’s win over Minnesota, according to the numbers

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Let’s parse through the advanced stats from Maryland’s thorough win over the Gophers.

maryland football-minnesota-final score-football-stats-highlights Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the advanced stats box score review, a new postgame feature we’re doing at Testudo Times. Join us on a journey as we explain Maryland’s 42-13 win over Minnesota through Bill Connelly’s Five Factors Box Score.

1. Maryland broke away for some big plays. Minnesota, uh, did not.

The Terps averaged almost five more yards per play than their opponents, as the final marks there were 8.5 and 3.9. That’s a huge margin, good enough for second-largest across the nation in Week 4. Ty Johnson’s 81-yard rushing TD, Anthony McFarland’s 64-yard score and DJ Turner’s 54-yard receiving touchdown were huge in this area, obviously.

Maryland had 432 total yards to Minnesota’s 263, and those explosive plays are part of the reason the Terps got there on just 51 plays to the Gophers’ 72.

2. Maryland *owned* the turnover advantage.

Minnesota turned the ball over three times: On Tre Watson’s pick-six, RaVon Davis’ interception in the end zone and Byron Cowart’s strip-sack of Zack Annexstad.

These plays turned the game significantly not just because they gave Maryland some extra possessions. They also robbed Minnesota of two scoring opportunities.

The “expected turnover margin” for the game favored Minnesota by 0.61. The actual turnover margin was 3, which means Maryland had a mark of 3.61 in “turnovers luck” for the game.

3. Maryland’s offense was “meh” at grinding out first downs, but was still better than Minnesota.

Success rate is Bill C.’s stat that measures how good a team is at steadily marching down the field. It’s rarely been a strength for Maryland in recent years. Saturday’s effort in that area was solid, with the Terps garnering a success rate of 37.1 percent to Minnesota’s 31.7. Neither mark is excellent or dreadful. Maryland’s ability to get a few more short gains combined with its stark advantage in creating bigger ones was way too much for Minnesota to handle.

4 . Maryland capitalized on scoring opportunities, but this one’s a bit complicated.

Bill C.’s box scores say each team had five scoring opportunities. Maryland averaged seven points per scoring opportunity, while Minnesota had 2.6. That too was the second-largest margin in the nation in Week 4.

Unless you’re going for two on every score, seven points per scoring opportunity is as good as it gets. However, we might not want to read too much into this one. Only two of Maryland’s scoring drives actually included first downs inside Minnesota’s 40-yard line. That’d be the eight-play, 75-yard drive in the first possession of the game and the 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter with the game already out of reach. Those were absolutely positive signs from a team that usually relies on big plays to score. It’s just the advanced stat in the box score is slightly deceiving.

The rest of Maryland’s scoring drives didn’t include first downs inside the 40 because they ended in long touchdown plays. It’s possible that these explosive plays won’t be a reliable way to score against tougher defenses, but Minnesota’s defense was No. 11 in S&P+ coming into this game. No need to turn “Maryland had a bunch of big plays” into a problem.

Those were Maryland’s keys to victories. Two more stories from the game, told by advanced stats:

Minnesota had a huge lead in field position. Didn’t matter.

While field position might not seem like the biggest deal, Bill C.’s research from a few years back says teams that win the field position battle win the game 72 percent of the time.

Minnesota clubbed Maryland in this area on Saturday. The Terps’ average starting field position was their own 17-yard line, the second-worst mark in FBS last week. Minnesota’s average drive started on its 30-yard line, an average mark.

Maryland’s ability to rip off explosive plays and go on a few lengthy marches down the field helped rub out this margin, and as you can see from the final score, it didn’t matter. But the final score isn’t the only measure we have for how close a game was...

The final score was not deceiving.

Postgame win expectancy is a measure that takes into account all the key stats from a game and spits out the probability that each team could have won. For Maryland-Temple, the Terps had a 0.01-percent win expectancy. This week, Maryland was on the other side of a thorough rout. The Terps had a postgame win expectancy of 99.6 percent, and Minnesota had a mark of 0.04.

That Maryland could have won the game with the kind of performance we saw on Saturday 99.6 percent of the time confirms what we just talked about above, and it confirms what your eyes told you while you were watching.

Here’s the full advanced stats box score, with everything we just talked about:

offense points postgame_win_prob drives plays yards yards_per_play success_rate scoring_opps points_per_opp average_fp yds_per_play_margin yardage_margin success_rate_margin pts_per_opp_margin fp_margin turnover_margin exp_turnover_margin turnovers_luck
offense points postgame_win_prob drives plays yards yards_per_play success_rate scoring_opps points_per_opp average_fp yds_per_play_margin yardage_margin success_rate_margin pts_per_opp_margin fp_margin turnover_margin exp_turnover_margin turnovers_luck
Minnesota 13 0.40% 12 72 263 3.65 31.70% 5 2.6 30.4 -4.82 -169 -5.50% -4.4 13 -3 0.61 -3.61
Maryland 42 99.60% 11 51 432 8.47 37.10% 5 7 17.5 4.82 169 5.50% 4.4 -13 3 -0.61 3.61
Via SB Nation’s Bill Connelly