One of the thoughts that occurred to me during this offseason was how the more up-tempo offense that TCU is going to run will have a similar impact to that of Texas Tech, in that defenses with teams that like to go full-speed end up having to defend a lot more plays and those offenses are more prone to three-and-out scenarios. The result is generally a defense that struggles a bit more and, looking at the statistics, a more porous defense. This isn't always the case, Baylor had pretty good defenses last year and they are as up-tempo as anyone, but you get the idea. Here's what I wrote when thinking about TCU's situation:
Like a lot of spread offenses, they move quickly and I can't imagine that Meacham or Cumbie will really want to slow down. It's the offensive philosophy to put opposing defenses in uncompromising positions and create issues. The problem with this defensively is that this means that the very successful TCU defense is, most likely, going to be on the field a lot more. I do think that a lot of the success of that TCU defense had to do with the conservative offensive philosophy (obviously a majority of it had to do with the terrific coaching of Bumpas and Patterson) but shaving time off the clock. TCU was 49th in time of possession in 2013 (4-8), 8th in 2012 (7-6), 50th in 2011 (11-2), 3rd in 2010 (13-0), 18th in 2009 (12-1). Pretty much no matter the situation, TCU has been in the top third of time of possession. For teams like Texas Tech, we've just somewhat accepted the life of an offense that keeps the ball around the 100th or so best in the nation. There will be inopportune times that the offense turns the ball over on downs and 30 seconds run off the clock. It just happens.
Then, this weekend, I started thinking about the inverse theory for Texas Tech, in that if Texas Tech will have a more efficient and not turn the ball over as much, shouldn't that account somewhere in helping the Texas Tech offense?
One of the by-products from last year was that Texas Tech was running out a very young and inexperienced quarterback and I was curious about the third down stats from last year and where they compared to previous years. Without looking, I felt that the offense had more unsuccessful third downs than in previous year and that was true. More true than I had expected. In fact last year, Texas Tech only converted 45% of their third downs (and actually had about 43 more third downs from 2012 to 2013). In 2012, Texas Tech completed almost 50% of their third downs, and in that one year where Texas Tech lost all of those games, 2011, Texas Tech completed 48% of their third downs. The other figure that surprised me is that in 2010, Texas Tech only 44% of their third downs, which is surprising to me.
With a piecemeal set of quarterbacks, and some incredibly reliable receivers, Webb and Baker Mayfield made things work, but there were a ton of missed opportunities. As mentioned above, Texas Tech was even faster than in previous years and of those 218 third down attempts, Texas Tech only converted 98 of them. If we assume that Texas Tech can convert 50% of those third downs this is 10 or so additional drives that don't end on third down (they may end after that, but you get where I'm going there). Not only that, Texas Tech may also not be in as many third downs.
In addition to having a better third down percentage, Texas Tech should be better in the turnover area, without Mayfield to put the ball on the turf (I am sure that running backs put the ball on the turf too) but Texas Tech was an astounding 118th in fumbles lost last year, a total of 15. Even if Texas Tech gets to the national average, of about 9.5 fumbles a game, that's 4 additional drives that the Texas Tech defense isn't going to see the field. Those yards and those plays help.
You could probably add in interceptions to last year too, where Texas Tech was 115th in interceptions thrown last year, 18 total last year (again, there are only 123 total teams). Webb and Mayfield were each responsible for 9, but Webb was slightly more efficient as he had 1 interception for every 40 attempts, while Mayfield was at 1 interception for every 37 attempts. Both quarterbacks were better than Seth Doege level of turnovers (he was at 1 interception for every 33 attempts), but assuming that Webb is even slightly more efficient at NOT throwing interceptions, you could maybe expect that to go up to 1 interception for every 50 attempts. For comparison purposes, Taylor Potts threw a pick every 60 attempts in 2010, Doege was at 1 pick in 58 attempts and so it doesn't seem unreasonable to see Webb to force things more down field than what Potts and Doege did as collegiate players (a ton of sideline and safe passes).
Cumulatively, these things add up over time and a little bit here and a little bit here and I think you'll see a defense that could be improved simply because the offense is just better. Obviously, the defense can do it's part too, but the offense could help tremendously.