UConn vs. Spread Offenses in 2009

Submitted by OysterMonkey on July 20th, 2010 at 11:29 AM

There is some discussion on the internets about the UofM match-up against UConn, with the near unanimous thought seeming to be that Connecticut has a decent to good defense against the run (ranked 45th last year in opponents' rushing yards per game) but is susceptible to offenses that pass well (ranked 88th in pass yards per game against).

Here are some UConn defensive yardage stats to back that up (FCS tomato can free):

 

PassAtt

PYds

PYds/Att

RshAtt

RYds

Ryds/Att

Total Yds

Totals

381

2948

7.7

426

1698

4.0

4646

Avg.

31.8

245.7

7.7

35.5

141.5

4.0

387.2

Now, I watched UConn in two games last year (vs. Cincinnati and WVU) and they seemed exceedingly terrible to me against the run. This made little sense to me, given their fair to middling numbers. Then I engaged my similarity noticer and noticed a similarity between WVU and UC. They both run versions of the spread offense. So I decided to contrast UConn's defensive stats against spread and non-spread teams.

According to the Worldwide Leader 48 teams run spread offense sets at least 75% of the time. UConn played four of these. Here's how their defense did:

 

PassAtt

PYds

PYds/Att

RshAtt

RYds

Ryds/Att

Total Yds

Baylor

27

119

4.4

21

147

7.0

266

West Virginia

27

153

5.7

40

234

5.9

387

Cincinnati

37

480

13.0

36

231

6.4

711

South Florida

30

225

7.5

30

127

4.2

352

Totals v. Spread teams

121

977

8.1

127

739

5.8

1716

Avg v. Spread Teams

30.3

244.3

8.1

31.8

184.8

5.8

429.0

For comparison, here's how they did on average against the 8 other FBS opponents they faced:

 

P/att

PYds

PYds/Att

RshAtt

RYds

Ryds/Att

Total Yds

Totals v. Non-Spread Teams

260

1971

7.6

299

959

3.2

2930

Avg v. Non-Spread Teams

32.5

246.4

7.6

37.4

119.9

3.2

366.3

Passing numbers are similar, but the rushing numbers are definitely not.

Lest we think that the spread offenses they faced were simply supergreatrushingmachines, here's how these teams did on average for the year against everyone:

Opponents Averages per game

Pyds

PYds/Att

Ryds

Ryds/Att

Total Yds

Baylor

242.3

6.7

100.6

3.5

342.9

West Virginia

191.1

7.2

186.4

4.8

377.5

Cincinnati

308.8

8.5

138.7

5.0

447.5

South Florida

194.7

8.5

170.9

4.4

365.6

I didn't take the time to remove FCS opponents or UConn stats from these numbers for two reasons. One, I am very, very lazy. Two, removing those numbers would make these averages lower still, rendering my point even more forceful. I don't like to be forceful.

The upshot of all this is that UConn actually did a little better against the pass (in yds/att) than these teams' other opponents (except Cincinnati, who just went batshit crazy all over UConn's defense). But three of the four teams found running against UConn a less stressful affair than they encountered the rest of the year (by more than a full yard per carry) and USF was basically level with their average.

From this I conclude: yeah, UConn kind of stinks against the pass no matter what offensive scheme they're up against. But they really struggle to stop the run against teams that run from spread formations. Spread teams averaged 65 more yards per game on six fewer carries against UConn than did their old timey non-spread counterparts. That turns out to be over 2 and ½ more yards per carry on average. And I know that just as there isn't one “non-spread” offense there isn't just one “spread” offense but it's not like they were seeing teams that chuck the ball 70 times a game and run once a quarter to keep the defense honest. These teams ran the ball almost 32 times per game against UConn. Even the typically pass heavy offenses like UC and Baylor ran a lot. I conjecture that this is because they could.

If there's someone out there that has watched a significant amount of tape of UConn on defense, I would like some insight as to what might be the cause of this large discrepancy between spread and non -spread teams against the run. The little bit that I looked at on YouTube basically just looked like UConn was in a pretty standard 4-2-5 nickel package against WVU and UC, but I don't know too much about scheme and formation and so forth. A lot of what I've read about UConn indicates that their linebackers are a strength of their defense and their secondary a weakness, so could this simply be a matter of taking a starter-quality player from a good unit off the field and replacing him with a guy that can't crack the starting lineup of a lousy unit?

This makes me feel pretty good about the offense's ability to put up some good numbers Sept 4th,, at least until someone explains to me why all of this is misguided, and how UConn's front seven will stonewall us. Then I can go back to worrying about things I can't control.

Comments

jrt336

July 20th, 2010 at 11:49 AM ^

We shouldn't have too many problems putting points up on the board, we just need to be able to play good D, especially against the run. We should be able to stop the run, and if we do, we will win. 

Blue in sec country

July 20th, 2010 at 11:57 AM ^

If it make everyone feel any better, I went to the UCONN vs South Carolina game. They were not impressive in the least. It was here in Birmingham and SC was freezing their nuts off. I think that's the only reason they won. SC suffered from bad coaching and the cold. Uconn couldn't get anything going until the shadow fell over the field and it got colder. The whole game I was thinking "I can't wait to play them"

gremlin

July 20th, 2010 at 12:03 PM ^

Excellent post.  Thanks for all the hard work.  Gives me something of quality to read during these dry summer months in the sports world. 

chunkums

July 20th, 2010 at 12:05 PM ^

Also, just look at the rest of their opponents:

 

1. Ohio (8-5 MAC)

2. North Carolina (Loss.  Held to 10 pts)(8-5 ACC)

3. Rhode Island (1-11 CAA)

4. Pitt (Loss.  Held to 21 pts)(10-3 Big East)

5. Louisville (4-8)

6. Rutgers (Loss.  Held to 24 pts)(9-4 Big East)

7. Notre Dame (6-6 God's conference)

8. Syracuse (4-8 Big East)

9. South Carolina. (7-6 SEC)

 

Aside from South Carolina and arguably Notre Dame, the only teams they beat all year were delicious cuppy cakes.  I'm a bit nervous because of the fact that they return so much of their offense, but their stats are really inflated.

Koyote

July 20th, 2010 at 12:49 PM ^

This gives me a lot of hope going into the game.

I sometimes get nervous before opening games (esp against non-cupcake teams), so I might just have to look up this post again a few days before the actual game.

joeyb

July 20th, 2010 at 12:54 PM ^

FWIW, when we had a guy rushing for 5 YPC on at least 10 carries, we were 5-1. When we didn't have anyone with 10 carries, or no one averaged above 5 YPC, we were 0-6.

Don

July 20th, 2010 at 1:20 PM ^

Why anyone would bother reading a newspaper for UM football info is beyond me. I guess we can't expect that people who get paid to write for a living would get off their ass and do this kind of work, can we?

JC3

July 20th, 2010 at 1:27 PM ^

Its excellent when I can read something informative with the phrase "bat-shit crazy".

But great work. We've been hearing from a lot of Uconn fans that their defense struggles in space (Paging Dr. Denard), so we'll see what happens when we bubble screen/let denard loose in space.

HoldTheRope

July 20th, 2010 at 2:03 PM ^

Haha wow, that same exact phrase (i.e., "Paging Dr. Denard') went through my head when I read this diary. Great minds think alike I guess!

But yeah, sounds like UCONN might have a case of the "we're not very fast" on defense. Of course, the read option should ultimately be our bread and butter, but perhaps we should try to attack the edges against UCONN. Either way, I think we should win this game pretty handily. There was a similar sense of pervading worry last year before WMU and look how that turned out. Now, UCONN is clearly better than WMU, but then again 2010 Michigan will be much better than 2009 Michigan. I hope.

Kinda Blue

July 20th, 2010 at 2:45 PM ^

Maybe I'm reading the stats wrong, but isn't the entire difference in avg. total yards given up by the UConn defense to spread teams versus non-spread teams entirely comprised by their abysmal performance against Cincinatti?

If you take out the Cincinatti game (which appears to be an obvious outlier), UConn actually did better against spread teams than non-spread teams on a total yardage basis...yielding only about 335 yards per spread opponent.

I don't usually advocate being selective about which stats should count and which shouldn't, but the Cincinatti game actually looks like an outlier to me that should not be allowed to be a singularly determinative reason for thinking that UConn struggles against the spread.

That being said, I hope they stink against the spread and we run right over 'em.

OysterMonkey

July 20th, 2010 at 2:55 PM ^

The total defense numbers sans Cincinnati would make UConn look better. But the real way in which the UC stats skew the analysis, I think, is in the fact that they put up almost 500 yards through the air. So yeah, remove them and UConn doesn't seem so terrible overall.

My real point wasn't about total defense, but more about the discrepancy between UConn's ability to stop spread teams from running as opposed to their ability to stop more traditional "Good old Rock. Nothing beats Rock" teams. Spread teams racked up significantly more yardage on fewer carries against UConn than non-spread teams.

MinorRage

July 21st, 2010 at 9:21 AM ^

in that our offense should move the ball. They just have to HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL! This game with the two offenses involved could really come down to turnovers. Let's hope a reversion to the mean is in order and our last 2 years starts to come back to normal in this category.