2009 USC Trojan Review

Lets look at some interesting statistics for the 2009 season of the USC Trojans.  For the full Excel sheet: Click Here.

The play calling (Pass vs Run) seemed pretty typical for USC.  Fairly balanced with a slight tendency towards the run in almost all situations.  3rd down or any long yardage situation leaned more towards passing.  Our lean towards the run in most situations could possibly be explained by a Freshman starting a QB.  Here is a look at the various play calling decisions based on down (in the first graph) and by distance (in the second graph).  It will be interesting to see how these numbers change under new Head Coach Lane Kiffin.

One statistic that everyone seemed to harp on for USC in 2009 was their poor 3rd down conversion rate.  The NCAA ranked USC 90th in 3rd down conversion percentage with a recorded 36% conversion rate.  My program logged USC at 38% (discrepancy possibly due to differing criteria on when to count a play and when a conversion counts) which put USC in 7th place in the Pac-10 in terms of 3rd down conversions.   However, on 3rd and short (defined here as anything 3rd and 3 or less), USC converted 69% of the time, which was tied for 1st in the Pac-10.  This is possibly caused by getting into 3rd and long situations.  This seems to be confirmed as only 25% of USC’s 3rd downs were 3 or less yards to go.  In fact, the average distance to go on a 3rd down was 7.63 yards.  Ideally, our offense would perform much better on 1st and 2nd down to create 3rd and shorts rather than these 3rd and long situations.  Here is a look at how USC compared with other Pac-10 schools in 2009 for 3rd down conversion percentages vs 3rd and short conversion percentages (in the first graph) as well as average distance to go on 3rd downs (in the second graph).

On a similar note, USC often found itself in what I call “long to go” situations.  USC was actually last in the Pac-10 in that 8% of their total offensive plays (plays in which a pass or a run was called) required 15 or more yards to convert for a 1st down.  The Pac-10 average was 5.6%.  These situations are caused by penalties or negative yardage plays and can really kill the momentum of a drive.  They are difficult to convert and can make offenses very predictable.  Here’s a graphical representation of the percentage of offensive plays which required 15 or more yards to convert.

These factors brought about what many considered a sub-par season for the USC Trojans.  2009 was plagued by inconsistent offense and a defense that got tired as the season went on.  Look for Lane Kiffin to revitalize the offense by reducing the number of penalties and bringing consistency back to the offense.  Kiffin lead Tennessee to one of the least penalized teams in the nation, ranking #12th nationally (4.85 penalties per game for 39.69 yards per game).  In comparison, USC ranked #88th nationally (6.92 penalties per game for 61.38 yards per game).  By reducing penalties and bringing consistency back to the offense, we should be able to keep out of 3rd and long situations, which will lead to sustained drives and much better offensive production.

Look for more statistical analysis after the USC at Hawaii game tomorrow.

Fight On!


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