Rice and North Texas tangle in Denton

The Owls travel to Denton hoping to bust up a losing streak. The Mean Green are hoping get back to their winning ways after a rough trip to Birmingham.

Meet Wiley Green

Rice will turn to its third starting quarterback after injuries to Shawn Stankavage and Evan Marshman. This week it’s true freshman Wiley Green from Prestonwood Christian in Plano. Green threw for over 3,700 yards and 47 touchdowns as a senior. The Prestonwood offense isn’t exactly a one to one to Rice’s offense. Green threw almost exclusively from the shotgun, a lot of predetermined reads. Rice’s scheme requires drops, hitting a mark, and making reads. He was wildly productive at the TAPPS level, a classification that continues to grow in competitive balance and skill.

Expect Rice to shrink the playbook and give Green throws he’s comfortable with. The Owls have to stay in this game early; you’d rather not place a lot more on his shoulders until he proves he’s capable of handling the load. If Green struggles, Jackson Tyner is still in the fold and experienced.

Youth Movement

Mike Bloomgren is beginning to treat this as a year zero, and you can’t blame him. The Owls are 1-7, 0-4 in the league. They’ll start two freshmen on the offensive line with Clay Servin and Cole Garcia starting on the left side. Green gets his first start at quarterback. On defense, they’ll start Treshawn Chamberlain, Antonio Montero, and Prudy Calderon all continue to play big minutes as true freshmen on the defensive side. With JUCO transfer Blaze Alldredge now starting in Dylan Silcox spot, the Rice linebackers are all new from week one. All three week one starters are currently listed as backups.

Rice is giving some of its young talented players a shot, with the new redshirt rules, it’s less risky. There’s little harm in getting a little evaluation in this year.

Take to the Air

Not that Graham Harrell needs an invitation, but Rice is ripe for a passing attack. The Owls allow the second most splash plays through the air and are 106th in the FBS in pass defense. If you take away the UTSA game, Rice’s other seven opponents have all hit a QB rating above 150. Four of those seven have had a quarterback rating of over 200. Mason Fine is licking his chops.

Rice’s only hope is to get pressure on Mason Fine. This week should be Rice defensive coordinator Brian Smith’s chance to turn loose the pressure; the Owls can’t hold up otherwise.

The Continued Excellence of Mason Fine

We did this a few weeks ago with all the Roundup quarterbacks, this week let’s take a look at Mason Fine’s continued excellent play.

We track quarterbacks through 8-10 criteria the most important of which (and we stole this from Bill Connelly over at football study hall) are completion percentage, interception rate, sack rate, yards per attempt, touchdowns accounted for and yards per play (taking into account passing, sack, and rushing yardage). We take those six indicators and every quarterback with 70 or attempts and give each quarterback a percentile rank amongst his peers. Is it flawless? Nope. Does it give us a pretty good indicator of how efficient a quarterback is? You bet. If you rank in the top 75 in terms of percentile, you're excellent, probably elite. If you rank in the top 50% that's a decent number. Below that and we've got some work to do.

On the radar graph, visually, the bigger the coverage area, the better. Think of it as an umbrella, the more you're covered, the better. 

As to the criteria:

Completion Percentile:

If you can't complete passes and you don't play for Navy, Army, or Georgia Tech, then you aren't doing your job. Completion percentages have evolved in the last ten to fifteen years. In 2000, Josh Heupel led the country in 64% of his passes, and that was electric, that total wouldn't fit into the top 30. Now 61% is average, and you won't crack the top ten without 70% or better. 

Yards Per Attempt:

This is an efficiency mark that shows how worthwhile it is to throw the ball. Note the distinction between yards per attempt and yards per completion. This goes hand in hand with completion percentage, if you're dropping back and completing at a high rate, you're an asset in the passing game, and your yards per attempt will be above seven yards, eight and a half is considered elite. 

Interception Rate:

Maybe the better phrase is interception avoidance, but the idea is how often do you drop back and throw to the wrong colored jersey. Bear in mind that interceptions are a two-way street and for as often as a DB makes a dramatic, athletic play, some rock handed linebacker drops a pick. Until we can gauge intercept-able passes, this is an inexact science, but turnovers are drive and win killers. The average is a pick once every .024% of dropbacks. 

Sack Rate:

Again, sack avoidance is the better phrase, but sacks are drive killers as well. Negative plays have become the currency by which defenses make a living. If a defense can get you behind the chains and blow a down, they're winning. The average is a sack on 6% of dropbacks. Sacks aren't entirely the quarterback's responsibility, a porous line or great coverage can put a bullseye on a QB's sternum. Also, young players tend to be more susceptible to sacks as the speed of the game increases and throwing windows shrink.

Touchdown Rate:

We take rushing and throwing touchdowns and divide by total plays to get a percentage of plays to scores. It’s a little off because, on passing downs, the receiver has a lot to do with a touchdown, those behind the line bubble screens that go for 70 yards after fifteen broken tackles aren’t directly attributed to the quarterback. But quarterbacks are glory hounds so we’ll give them credit. The average is a touchdown on 5% of total snaps. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa accounts for a TD on an incredible 14% of all snaps.

Yards Per Play:

This, along with sack rate, gives credence to our dual threat brethren. Can you make yardage in the run game, forcing the defense to adapt or are you Scott Mitchell, a statute, waiting for the wolves? Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray average eleven yards a snap. The average is 6.6 yards per play; elite is seven or more. 

We've taken our quarterbacks and averaged out their percentile rankings to give us an overall percentile average. Sounds official and stuff. Finally, we took the percentile ranks in all six areas and averaged them out see who’s got the highest overall percentile rank. Last year Baker Mayfield hit 90% on his overall percentile rank. He never amounted to much.

Here’s Fine’s graph…

Fine.png

If you took Fine’s average percentile rank in the six criteria, he’s having the tenth best season in the FBS. Here are the other quarterbacks in the top 10.

Player School Comp. Pct Rank Yds Att Rank INT Rank Sack Rank Yds Play Rank TD Rank Percentile Average
Tua Tagovailoa Alabama 93% 100% 100% 97% 100% 100% 98.3%
Marcus McMaryion Fresno St. 94% 85% 95% 94% 92% 92% 92.0%
Dwayne Haskins Ohio State 96% 87% 77% 86% 95% 94% 89.1%
Kyler Murray Oklahoma 97% 99% 68% 68% 99% 99% 88.3%
D'Eriq King Houston 65% 87% 85% 97% 96% 98% 88.0%
James Morgan FIU 74% 95% 52% 81% 97% 96% 82.4%
Alan Bowman Texas Tech 95% 81% 75% 93% 89% 55% 81.3%
David Blough Purdue 82% 92% 97% 65% 90% 58% 80.6%
Trevor Lawrence Clemson 88% 77% 82% 68% 78% 83% 79.3%
Mason Fine North Texas 79% 73% 99% 77% 77% 70% 79.0%

That’s pretty elite company and Fine’s ahead of some elite company as well. Last season Fine finished the year ranked 58th in average percentile. Where he’s really improved is in interception avoidance. He’s grown from the 46th percentile to the 99th percentile. In every other area, he’s playing at elite level. He’s on track for over 4,000 and could knock on the 5,000-yard mark in the bowl game.

Not to look too far ahead, but if he continues to put up these numbers, he could hit over 13,000 for his career, putting him among the greatest yardage careers in college football history.