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IU football: PFF advanced metrics put quarterback Michael Penix in elite company

You knew Michael Penix, Jr. was good when healthy as a redshirt freshman in 2019.

But did you know he was this good?

Advanced statistics released by Pro Football Focus (“PFF”) highlight just how effective Penix was when he was able to stay on the field during Indiana’s memorable 8-5 campaign.

PFF teased their story on social media with this reminder of what is potentially in store for IU this fall —

“Indiana might have one of the best teams in program history this year, and a big reason for that is QB Michael Penix Jr.”

With the 2020 college football season seemingly hanging in the balance right now, the minds of many Hoosier fans will immediately go in another direction.

Of course Indiana should have one of its best teams ever — in a year when the season gets canceled.  Right?

We’ll leave that for another day.

As it stands, the 2020 season is moving forward as scheduled, and on paper IU should not only have one of its best teams ever — it should have one of its best quarterbacks ever.

Looking at traditional statistics, Penix delivered in 2019 in a way that most fans can immediately recognize.  The Tampa product completed 110-of-160 of his passes (68.8 percent) for 1,394 yards to go with 10 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.

Those are solid numbers, but perhaps nothing that sets Penix apart from the upper echelon of FBS quarterbacks.

The PFF numbers do just that.  Consider these three metrics:

Penix is known for his strong arm, but his accuracy might be a bit underappreciated.

– No Big Ten quarterback threw a higher rate of accurate passes in 2019 than Penix (59.6%)

In case you were wondering, PFF charts every throw and categorizes them anywhere from perfect to uncatchable.  Clearly with a completion percentage higher than his accuracy percentage, Penix had some help.  But the best in the Big Ten accuracy result is the real headline here.

Think you are going to bring pressure on Penix and successfully register a sack?  Think again.

– No FBS quarterback converted pressure to a sack at a lower rate than Penix in 2019 (2.6%).

Penix was the best in the country at avoiding a sack when defenses brought pressure.  A combination of high level attributes come into play here, including Penix’s ability to rapidly work through his progressions, a quick release and good mobility.

Finally, Penix took care of the football as well as almost anyone in the FBS.

– Penix had only three turnover-worthy plays in his six appearances, forming a rate that would rank fifth in the FBS.

This is particularly noteworthy when considering that two of Penix’s four interceptions came in the first game against Ball State.  He got that much better after an up-and-down first game — his first career start.

Of course that same Indiana football fan cynicism that knows this promising 2020 season is doomed reminds us that while the numbers are wonderful, Penix has to stay healthy.  Especially in 2020 when the Peyton Ramsey safety net is gone.

That’s a valid point.  Perhaps not within Penix’s control to a high degree, but still valid.

Penix had surgery to repair a right sternoclavicular joint injury in November after a series of injuries forced him out of multiple games during the 2019 campaign.

His true freshman season was ended abruptly after a knee injury.

The solution that is within Penix’s control — add more mass to his frame.

Penix was listed at 202 on the 2019 roster, and he had increased his weight to 218 on the 2020 spring roster.

There are more questions than answers right now as it relates to the 2020 campaign.

Will there be a season?  And if so, can Penix stay on the field?

Those are legitimate questions.

But there is no question when it comes to Penix’s ability.

Indiana is fortunate enough to simply have one of the best.

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