USC at Minnesota Offensive Recap

USC advanced to 3-0 for the 2010 season.  However, as has become the norm this season, the game at Minnesota was closer than it “should” have been.  USC is 3-0, gained 408 yards offensively, and reduced the number of penalties in half.  USC also improved on its run game from last week.  However, USC turned the ball over 3 times and failed to truly dominate the inexperienced defense of Minnesota.

In this post, we will look at the overall play calling for the USC offense.  Then we will look at USC’s situation by each down.  This means looking at the average distance to go to convert each down and also the conversion rates.  Then we will look at the field position battle by USC.

Play Calling

Overall, USC ran the ball 38 times (59%) and passed 26 times (41%).  However, USC’s play calling was very balanced up until the final quarter when Mitch Mustain entered for cleanup duty.  Let us look at the play calling by quarter for USC’s offense.

As can be seen in the graph, USC’s offense relied on balance up until the 4th quarter when USC was eager to close the game out with the lead and start preparing for Washington State.  Now let us look at the Run vs Pass play calling by down.  In the first graph, we will look only at the first three quarters, to show what our gameplan was while the game was still in question.  Afterward, we will look at the overall play calling.

As can be seen and expected now of USC, the play calling was very balanced.  1st down was completely balanced, 2nd down favored the run slightly, and 3rd down favored the pass.  Now if we add in the final quarter, this is what we get.  Notice how the pass increases in all situations.

Situation by Down

First let us look at the average distance to go for each down.

The troubling fact is the average distance to go for 2nd and 3rd downs.  Both downs averaged over nine yards to go to convert the down.  Here is how the average distance to go compared to various other baselines.

Compared to the games against Virginia, Hawaii, and the 2009 USC Average, this game had the highest distance to go to convert for all downs other than 1st down.  Virginia’s high 1st down is due to the large amounts of penalties in that game.

Against Minnesota, USC had a ridiculous 9.18 yards to go on average to convert a 3rd down.  This stat was so odd that I was almost sure it was incorrect when I reviewed it.  However, upon further inspection, this stat is skewed because USC faced 3rd downs which were 15, 22, and 26 yards to go to convert. The 3rd and 15 was caused by a holding penalty on 1st down followed by a false start on 2nd down.  The 3rd and 22 was caused by a 13 yard loss when Barkley took a sack.  The 3rd and 26 was caused by a personal foul on the offense on 2nd down in the 4th quarter.  All of these long situation 3rd downs failed to convert for a 1st and stalled drives.  These 3rd and forever situations need to be avoided especially the ones caused by penalties.  The other 3rd downs averaged a much more healthy 4.75 yards to go on 3rd down.

The good news is that USC was able to convert 1st downs very well in the manageable situations.  USC was able to convert 7 out of 11 3rd downs (64%).  USC was also 3 out of 4 (75%) on 3rd and shorts.  USC also converted a healthy 43% of 2nd downs for new 1st downs.

Field Position

USC was able to win the field position battle during this game.  USC’s average starting position was its own 42 yard line.  Minnesota, on the other hand, started on their 29 on average.  That’s a 13 yard differential in average starting position.  USC also took 46% of its snaps on the opponent’s side of the field.  For comparison, Minnesota only took 31% of its snaps on the USC side of the field.


USC’s offense picked up 408 yards of total offense.  It also completed 65% of its passes and rushed for a 5.7 yards per carry.  Barkley spread the ball around well, with eight players caught passes, four of which caught at least three passes each.  Allan Bradford averaged over 10 yards every time he was handed the ball.  Even removing his long 57 yard run, Bradford still rushed for a healthy 6.8 yards per carry.  Yet, our offense still allowed three costly turnovers.

We will see how the USC offense continues to develop as conference play begins.  Expect for Kiffin to open up the playbook as the schedule toughens up.  Look for Havili to start to break out from the blocking he has been limited to since the season started and start to play a significant role in receiving and in rushing himself.  We’ll see if USC continues to use I-formation and two tight end sets or if we begin to use more three and four wide receiver sets.


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