For the sake of transparency, I was originally just going to lightly dig into the offensive and defensive numbers from 2014 in order to identify the most critical areas on each side of the ball that we need to shore up to have a more successful 2015 season. I know turnovers and penalties have received the most attention, but wanted to see what else was out there. So I started digging into the basic offensive numbers and a few things stood out. Then I wanted to see how the numbers compared to other top offenses. Then when I noticed some significant differences, I wanted to see if I could identify why. From there it devolved into a bunch of spreadsheets, researching numbers and even more numbers, blah, blah blah. So fair warning after the first few charts, I started heading down a rabbit hole that I couldn't get out of so I just started throwing everything into this article. I will give you a heads up when it gets to that point so you can check out if it is too much. .
Here's where we ended the 2014 season in major offensive categories per the NCAA's website.
Some of these offense stats look good. Total offense, passing offense and sacks allowed were really strong. In fact, while we were #12 in the country in sacks, we were #4 in pass attempts per game which tells you all you need to know about how good our offensive line was last season.
There are several concerning stats though. The two most concerning are obviously Turnovers and Red Zone Offense. We were one of the worst teams in the nation in both categories. The other and more concerning issue to me is the disparity between our Total Offense ranking and our Scoring Offense ranking. I think that tells you exactly why our offense wasn't as strong as it could have been. We were inefficient. I wanted to figure out why we were inefficient. So step #1 was to identify the top Total Offenses in the nation and compare their Scoring Offense numbers to ours. I dug into point per yardage stats since that is where I see disparity occuring. I divided out their average yardage per game by their average score per game to determine Yards Per Point. (FYI...I used the YPP rankings found on teamrankings.com but the actual efficiency numbers vary because they are based on the NCAA stats. Regardless they are only off by a few percentage points and still provide an accurate picture of the scoring efficiency.)
So yes we are inefficient from a YPP perspective. We ranked #9 out of the Top 10 Offenses in YPP. All hat, no cattle goes the saying. Six of the top offenses in the nation are also in the Top 15 in scoring. If we weren't scoring, were we moving the ball efficiently and using the yardage to pick up first downs?
Not dreadfully inefficient but not nearly as efficient as the other nine top offenses. So we really aren't moving the ball or scoring efficiently. The question then becomes why aren't we doing those things that the other teams are doing? Red zone offense and turnovers were the first two culprits based on the numbers from the first graph so I started there. Let's look at the Red Zone numbers first. (and here's where I started following the rabbit hole so jump to the conclusion section at the bottom if you don't like numbers).
Red Zone Efficiency:
Tech's red zone numbers are absolutely horrendous. We didn't get to the red zone very often and when we were luckily to get there we didn't take advantage of it. We were the only Top 10 offense to score a touchdown less than 60% of the time inside the red zone. That starts to explain our offensive inefficiency. However out of this group of high powered offenses, the highest ranked RZ Offense team was #30 which is surprising. I would have thought a handful of teams would have been in the Top 20 at least. So on to turnovers........
We already knew we turned it over too much, but this further proves that it hurt our efficiency. Every other team on this list with the exception of Wazzou played in a bowl so their turnover totals include an additional game. Ouch! Ohio State was bad at giving it away which is surprising but they played two more games than us and one more than everyone else on the list so it is a little more understandable at that point.
Then I moved on to passing stats. We rely so much on the pass that I wanted to see if that impacted our efficiency. I have complained regularly that I feel we should rely more on the running game and figured maybe this will show just that. Here's what the numbers say with regards to passing stats and its effect on efficiency.
Passing versus Rushing:
There's seems to be some correlation here, so I graphed YPP versus % of Plays Rushed. I arranged the teams left to right based on Yards-Per-Point with the thought that it would help to find a correlation.
The graph makes for a telling story. As the YPP number increases, the % of plays rushed decreased. Like most stats it isn't the only answer for our offensive inefficiencies. With us losing a lot last season we were forced to pass and not rush late in games. There are those types of situations that stats just can't account for. However, I do think there is something to be said for rushing and YPP's correlation.So from there, were we at least efficient when we did pass the ball?
Nope. Dead last again compared to the other Top 10 Offenses. We weren't miles away from the pack but there is definitely a difference in those near the top and us. Were we efficient rushing the ball?
Yeah I would say we were. Some of the rushing success may have been because of how often we pass, but our OL and RBs are very solid and should get the majority of the recognition for the success. I am going to stop there for now. There are some deeper offensive stats like explosive drives, methodical drives and first down rate. I will save those for next time.
The one thing that I wasn't able to look at but would have loved to see is offensive penalties. We were heavily penalized last season but I couldn't locate any penalty stats specific to offensive penalties. I think that would tell a big story. We repeatedly shot ourselves in the foot last season.
Overall, I said it early on in this article, offensively we looked good from a Total Offense perspective, but we weren't an efficient offense. If I had to choose I would definitely choose an efficient offense as most anybody would. I think all of these stats bear out the inefficiencies. Lots of reasons for the inefficiencies as well....Partly due to young coaches, partly due to young QBs, partly due to not having a Welker or Crabtree, partly due to a lot of things.
Next season, I will be looking at our red zone scoring, turnovers and % of plays rushed. I think if we can improve those stats, I think our offense will become much more efficient. I love stats, but again I think they can only explain so much. There are so many factors that impact the stats, to look at only stats is looking at half the story.