Pulling the content a little closer to home this week in an effort to keep a higher R squared value with the MGoBlog readers!
As always, this analysis only considers games between two D1 opponents and takes only plays during competitive game situations into account.
Not all great offenses are created equally
If we are going to know what it takes to become a great offense under Rich Rodriguez, we must first know what it will look like, because great offenses can take on many different appearances. Below is a play success distribution for my top rated offense last year (Georgia Tech, option baby), the top passing offense (Captain Leach Texas Tech) and a look at West Virginia from 2007, Rodriguez’s last year at the helm. I went ahead and threw in the BCS’s worst, Washington St, just for comparison.
The Paul Johnson option is working with big plays, rather they are taking out the bad plays. Over three-quarters of Georgia Tech’s plays go for positive yardage. This balances out no strong tendency towards big plays. The end result is old school football: lots of long drives and moving the chains.
At the Captain’s helm, Texas Tech had nearly a quarter of all of their plays go for no gain. As always, there are tradeoffs. For Tech they came in the form of the 10-20 yard gain.
Under Rodriguez, West Virginia saw something different than either of those two. Even with a run-pass split close to Georgia Tech, the distribution of the spread 'n' shred was much different than the Option. Where the Yellowjackets saw a heavy dose of positive but small gains, the Mountaineers had a solid lead in everything from 4-20 yards. The end results where similar with both teams producing touchdown drives with regularity, but the path was much longer for Georgia Tech. West Virginia’s ability to get the somewhat big play allowed them to shorten drives, add possessions to the game and eliminate some of the variance through an increase in scoring chances.
How close are we?
As everyone knows, we are much closer coming in to this year than we were last year. Here is another chart to support that notion.
There are many charts to look at that show the dreadfulness of 2008, so we won’t dwell on that. What is becoming clear is that the shape of 2009 is becoming quite similar to West Virginia 2007. The big difference, and its a big one, is that Michigan still has a lot of plays going for no gain, where West Virginia was able to get 5+ yards out of those same plays.
If Michigan is going to mirror the West Virginia offensive success, it appears to have a made very clear first step last season.
How does this compare to previous years?
The biggest difference between the Carr era and the Rodriguez era in terms of yardage gained distribution is the passing game bump from the Carr era in the 10-20 yard gain range. The Rodriguez system is more geared towards to the 4-9 yard gains where the Carr offense excelled in the 0-3 and 10-20 yard ranges.
What does this mean for 2010?
The cliché: Take the Next Step.
It looks like framework of what Rodriguez wants to do is in place after two rough years, but the execution is still behind his days at West Virginia. The offensive line now has two years in the system and for the first time there is a quarterback (in fact two!) who have both experience and talent. As I noted in a previous diary, a jump from average in 2009 to good in 2010 is certainly a good possibility and with a break or two and improved quarterback play, it could go from average to great.