Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Keys to greatness: Offense

OK, here goes. Let's take a look first at the offense. We're going to lay it out like this: Stat category, 15-year average, great team (1993, 1998, 1999) average, 2008 average thus far.

Rushing attempts per game: 45.6, 51.1, 47.3
5.5 rushes per game may not seem like that big a difference between average and great, but over the course of a 12-game season that's a lot of time of possession, and considerably less exposure to turnovers.

Rushing yards per game: 199.1, 247.4, 238.7
No surprise here, either, given the previous stat. But 48 yards per game is a huge disparity between average and great. Our 2008 offensive line and backs show the potential to near that great number.

Passing yards per game: 181.7, 153.3, 184.7
This surprised me a little. I thought the great number would be less than average, but not by 28 yards. Consider that one of the three great teams was quarterbacked by Mike Samuel and this makes more sense. Still, makes you feel okay about Allan Evridge behind center.

First downs per game: 20.1, 21.1, 23
Nothing much to look at here.

Third-down conversion percentage: 43.6%, 48.1%, 44%
The great-to-average disparity is significant here, 10% different. That's a couple more drives kept alive per game, improves field position, keeps the defense off the field, etc.

Turnovers per game: 1.6, 1.1, 1.3
Also very significant. Over a 12-game season that's six less turnovers.

Penalty yards per game: 41.6, 40.2, 39.0
Surprised by this one, thought that the great teams would be far less penalized than average.

Points per game: 27.8, 31.8, 34.0
Of the three great teams, 1993 surprisingly averaged the fewest points per game — 29.5 ppg. It's not a stretch to see this year's team averaging more than 27.8 ppg.

The takeaway: run the ball, don't turn it over, don't get forced into throwing the ball.

The 2008 stats thus far have to be taken with a grain of salt, given the quality of our first two non-conference opponents. But the trend is encouraging.


Jim Polzin said...

Rushing stats can be a little deceiving. Teams are obviously going to be running the ball at the end of games they're winning. So teams that were winning a lot (1993, 98, 99) were going to spend most of the fourth quarter rushing instead of throwing.

So instead of saying you have to run the ball XX times to be a great team, it's probably more accurate to say a team ran the ball XX times because they were winning.

Make sense?

Scott Tappa said...

I agree with you, but isn't that a chicken and egg debate? Offensive and defensive stats will be interdependent. So as long as the team is winning, it doesn't matter why they got to those numbers, just that they did.

Feel free to disagree with me more, though, I'm interested to see if people think these statistical thresholds have any merit or if they're just numbers.

Will said...

Was thinking the same thing Jim...but I'm not sure if counting rushing stats before the 5-minute mark of the fourth quarter will help or not.

Just curious...anything from the Time of Possession numbers that stand out? With UW being such a run-first team, I'm curious if the numbers differ greatly from the average to the great teams.

I listen to the Bill Simmons podcast a bit, and they have a guy from Pro Football Outsiders on a lot as a guest...they often make the point that while statistical studies of football are improving they still have a long way to go to quantify football in the Moneyball fashion. There are just too many wildcards

Scott Tappa said...

Unfortunately the back stats did not list time of possession, although maybe I could look those up on an individual basis.