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NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at ArizonaPhoto Attribution: US Presswire

I’ve been rolling Saturday night over in my mind the last few days. The more I think about it, the more confused I am, the less I understand what happened.

Here are what I consider to be the three biggest issues at this point of the season, how they played out in the Arizona game, and whether or not OSU can fix them going forward.

1. Dropsies – Remember last year when OSU dropped seven passes in one half against Missouri? No, of course you don’t because OSU forced four turnovers and Missouri only scored once in the second half en route to a rout.

OSU again had seven drops against Arizona on Saturday, except this time it was for the entire game, not just one half. My point is that this is correctable, it happens, not everybody is Rashaun Woods[1. By my unofficial count, Rashaun dropped two passes in his career. One in the ’03 opener at Nebraska and one some other time my memory has chosen to block out.]. It’s just a lot more glaring when you lose by 20 rather than win by 20.

2. Discipline – Penalties are bad, obviously. But some are worse than others. Consider: you’d rather Justin Gilbert interfere with a wide receiver when you have a team backed up on its own goal line than you would Caleb Lavey get a personal foul with a team on the 50-yard line.

Also, every yard line on the field has an expected value of points scored when you start your possession from that yard line. For example: a team might be expected to score 3.5 points per possession when they start a possession on the 50-yard line but only .5 when they start out on their own 10-yard line.

So let’s say Quinn Sharp punts from his own end zone and the Arizona return man catches it on the 50. Arizona starts with a fresh set of downs and based on this historical data they would average 2.41 points scored from this position on the field.

But if Calvin Barnett runs out on the field and punches a line judge in the throat (not totally sure this didn’t happen, btw) then Arizona gains 15 yards before their first play and they’re now starting with 1st down on OSU’s 35. Well that penalty was worth something, it means Arizona is more likely to score and expected to score .84 points more from the 35 (again based on the data) than if they started out on the 50.

What if we applied that to where each of OSU’s penalties took place on the field last Saturday…

OSU on Offense

[table id=34 /]

OSU on Defense

[table id=33 /]

As you can see, a lot of the offensive penalties didn’t matter much because OSU was already backed up in its own territory and didn’t lose much expected value.

But -9.43 points on penalties alone is basically like telling Arizona’s kicker before the game “hey, go try three field goals from the 28-yard line, you get all the points if you hit them, we’re not even going to play D.” “No, really, go ahead, three free field goals if you can hit them from 28. Enjoy!”

3. Efficiency – OKC Dave tweeted a great stat yesterday morning about Arizona’s efficiency against OSU…

This creates problems, the most notable of which is that RichRod gets to keep his entire playbook open every time Arizona gets a first down. Obviously the penalties didn’t help much with this but all but two of the penalties too place on first downs anyway.

Turnover help quell this stat too, and as you know by now OSU didn’t get any of those[2. Interesting stat from @davidubben the other day: OSU only had three turnovers after two games last year (compared to two this year) and ended the season with a nation-leading 44.].

None of these areas are panic-worthy, except maybe the last one. If I had to bet my life I’d say this is the worst game OSU plays all season but you never know what you’re going to get when going from a veteran team to what we have now.

The Texas game is going to tell a lot.

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