SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF AN EFFECTIVE RUSHING OFFENSE IN THE BIG TEN: 2000-PRESENT
I would like to mention first that I am going for a slightly more conversational diary this week because even I grow weary of charts and graphs from time to time. That, and I have to make far too many for work this week as it is, so for fear of mixing managing and MGoBlogging, I’ll try to present my wanderings of the past week in my normal strange prose.
I started thinking a few days ago about what some of the best rushing offenses were in the Big Ten since 2000. Admittedly, I chose this as the cutoff because I’ve been to the NCAA site enough that I know this is where the convenient tables end and the screens which read more like old printouts begin. In any case, it’s enough data to come up with a few good cases of teams that had very menacing rushing offenses. It is important to note that I used only the 11 teams which have been in the Big Ten through the entire studied period because of another diary that you might see in the coming weeks (no offense to Nebraska).
So, I dumped 13 seasons of rushing data into Excel.
In all that time, the Big Ten has amassed enough yards to actually make a round trip from the Earth to the Moon twice (using average orbital distance), with a little yardage to spare. (EDIT: I flubbed the math and unit conversion here - my fail). In numerical terms, that would be 299,397 yards. In those yards, the ball was handed to someone 69,988 times and that someone managed to get an average of 4.28 yards per carry. The many teams in this stretch averaged 169.63 yards per game (2,093 net yards on average) and generally sat towards the middle of the national rankings of rushing offenses. Those teams also averaged 21 rushing TDs per year.
Fun facts for the dinner table there, right? Well, next, I created another table of the teams that were above the grand mean in all of the following – net yards, yards per carry, yards per game and touchdowns – as I thought these would provide some insight just how much more productive some of the better rushing offenses were in that stretch.
As it turns out, 41 teams in that group qualify. They account for 113,193 yards (an average of 2,760 net yards), or 37% of the total for the 13 seasons, and 32% of the carries in that same stretch. These 41 teams actually averaged 5.00 yards per carry and 218.94 yards per game as well as 30 rushing TDs. Also interesting is this – the cumulative win percentage of the Big Ten in this period is 0.562, but among these 41 teams, it is 0.669. It could be said that being what would basically be the first quartile of rushing offenses, at least in the Big Ten, accounts for possibly 1-2 more wins in a season. It may even be the case that, if we drew out a football event tree, you might find that rushing performance cascades through the offensive performance in general.
At this point, I performed the same analysis with these 41 teams, taking only teams whose statistics were above the averages in all four categories. This pares the list down to 12 teams. These twelve teams account for 12.5% of the rushing yards amassed in this space, as well as nearly 10% of the carries. They average 5.4 yards per carry and 249.50 yards per game, as well as 3,118 net yards. The average TD number also jumped to 38 here, which is, well, 2-3 rushing TDs per game basically (again, average – we love averages here). Not surprisingly, most of them ranked in the top ten rushing offenses for their respective years.
Which twelve were at the top, you ask? They are, in no particular order, 2012 Ohio State, 2011 and 2010 Michigan, 2010-2012 Wisconsin, 2002 Penn State, 2000 Northwestern, 2003 and 2005 Minnesota and 2000 and 2001 Indiana. Something that I found interesting about this list, almost more than the numbers, was that only seven teams from the conferences are represented, and of those, three of them appeared more than once. If we look at the combined winning percentage of those teams, it actually falls to 0.680 compared to the previous grouping, but there are definitely apparent personnel-based explanations, if you will, now that you can see the years.
This was merely a short mental / statistical exercise in discovering the sorts of numbers that the most effective rushing offenses have put up over the last decade or so in the conference, as well as to explore – at a high level – the differences in being merely average in this capacity and very effective over that stretch. In a word, the differences seem to be substantial and the numbers definitely bear that out.