Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Is Oregon’s Offense a “Game Changer”

The college football world is abuzz about Oregon’s prolific 2010 offensive results. Through 6 games the Ducks have scored more touchdowns than any other team with 43 (second places Nevada and TCU have 34). They have more total yardage (3402 to Nevada’s 3272), and more yards per game (567 to 545.33 for Nevada) than the rest of division FBS. Needless to say statistically, at this point, they stand out.

Gregg Easterbrook has an article on describing in detail what makes Oregon’s offense different (he coins the term “Blur Offense” for the Ducks). Apparently Oregon takes a mere 15 seconds from the spot of the ball to the next snap, where even experienced no-huddle teams are more on the average of 25 seconds.

So what can we see statistically about Oregon?

Surprisingly, they haven’t run the most plays in FBS football so far this season –

Total Number Offense Plays Through Six Games –

1 Tulsa 481
2 Oregon 470
3 Southern Miss. 470
4 North Carolina St. 467
5 Arizona St. 458

While Tulsa is known as a highly prolific offensive team, I wouldn’t necessarily put the other 3 in that category.

Oregon also isn’t nearly the top team by yards per play.

Yards per Play Through Six Games –

1 Nebraska 8.3
2 Michigan 7.81
3 Boise St. 7.72
4 Hawaii 7.58
5 Nevada 7.4
6 Michigan St. 7.34
7 Oregon 7.24
8 Auburn 7.23
9 Arkansas 7.23
10 Southern California 7.21

However when we look at another statistic – Time of Possession – the real story of the 2010 Oregon defense begins to take shape. Presently Oregon is 104th (of 120) among FBS teams in time of possession offensively, with an average of only 27:32 per game. For an offense that has held the ball far less than half the game, 36 touchdowns (on offense, 43 total) is quite impressive.

Looking back at the two categories above (Total Number of Plays, Yards per Play) and adjusting for Time of Possession we find Oregon the top in both categories (I’ve adjusted the first category to be Plays per Game) –

Plays per Game / Average Time of Possession -

1 Oregon 2.85
2 Notre Dame 2.76
3 Louisiana Tech 2.72
4 Arizona St. 2.67
5 Tulsa 2.57
6 Texas Tech 2.52
7 Arkansas St. 2.51
8 BYU 2.47
9 Rice 2.46
10 Baylor 2.43

Oregon runs nearly 3 plays for every minute they possess the ball. The FBS average is just over 2 at 2.07.

Yards per Play / Average Time of Possession

1 Oregon 20.59
2 Oklahoma St. 19.74
3 Michigan 18.97
4 Houston 18.84
5 Hawaii 17.49
6 Auburn 17.14
7 Nebraska 17.04
8 Nevada 16.78
9 San Diego St. 16.69
10 Boise St. 16.59

Oregon gets an incredible 20.59 yards per minute of possession. The FBS average is 12.84.

Notice the teams change in their entirety between the first and second statistics, except for Oregon.

Looking at the second category above, the standard deviation for YpP/AToP is 2.52. That means Oregon is the only team in FBS with more than 3 deviations from the mean, which should occur only 0.1% of the time. They clearly are doing something exceptional here.

How does that compare to great offenses of the past? With statistics available only back to 2000, many considered the Oklahoma team of 2008 (BCS title game not withstanding). The Sooners scored 99 touchdowns in 2008 on 7670 total yards.

In the PpG/AToP category the ’06 Sooners did an excellent 2.68, about what Arizona State is doing this year, and far less than this year’s Ducks. In the YpP/AToP the ’08 Oklahoma team rated 18.61, or nearly 2 yards per play per minute worse than Oregon so far.

Easterbrook comes to the conclusion that “The Blur” doesn’t revolutionize football. With the Duck’s easy schedule so far, I’m inclined to adopt a wait-and-see attitude. As of right now, it’s quite a show to watch.

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