USC vs Washington Preview

USC returns home after a 4-0 “preseason” start.  Up next is a 1-2 Washington which has just come off of a disappointing loss to Nebraska two weeks ago.  The intangibles for the game run high on both sides of the ball.  For USC, this is a revenge game and the first game of our actual “season,” so expect some unveiling of some new looks and plays.  How much can we expect the playbook to expand with upcoming games against #9 Stanford, Cal, and #4 Oregon?  Hard to say.  For Washington, this is a bounce-back game.  An early road loss to BYU started the season off on the wrong foot.  Washington came back and beat Syracuse 41-20 at home, only to get beaten down by Nebraska 56-21 at home.  Washington may very well respond fired up to save their season at 2-2 and a win on the road against a ranked USC.  They are also coming off of a bye week, with extra time to prepare for USC.  Another point to note is that many of Washington’s current staff were previous USC coaches.  While they never worked under Lane Kiffin, they should have an intimate knowledge of all our players other than the freshmen, since they were actively recruiting them.  How much that plays into this game will be found out when the teams hit the Coliseum field on Saturday.

This post will look at the general playcalling of the Washington Huskies.  It will then look at 3rd down situations.  Finally it will look at the yardage gained histograms.

Play Calling

Up to this point in the 2010 season, Washington has run the ball 101 times (51%) and thrown the ball 97 times (49%).  First lets take a look at their tendencies by down.

As can be seen, Washington is a very balanced team on 1st down.  2nd down tends to be more run heavy, but 3rd down tends to be more pass happy.

Not let us take a look at the Run vs Pass based on the score margin of the game.

This is an interesting distribution.  When the game is close (within 7 points either up or down), Washington tends to pass more than they run.  If the Huskies are up by 8-14 points, they tend to be very balanced in their playcalling.  However, in every other case, Washington runs more than they pass.  I find it interesting that they would run more when they are down, especially in the 8-14 point range.  In that case, it is a two possession game, and running tends to lessen the game clock which hurts your ability to regain control of the game.  However, I do not know the specific circumstances in which the Huskies were down 8-14 points, so it may have made sense in their situation.

3rd Downs

Washington has converted 21/50 (42%) of their 3rd downs.  However, it is interesting to note that out of their 50 3rd down attempts, only 13 of them (26%) were 3rd and shorts (3 or less yards to go).  Of the 3rd and shorts, Washington has converted on 7 of them (54%).  Washington’s average distance to go on 3rd down is actually 6.98 yards.  Lets take a look at the average distance to go by down and also the average gain by down.

Washington gained the fewest yards on 2nd down (ignoring 4th down which has such a small sample size).  Remember that this was the down that they tended to run most on.  Also note how much lower the average gain for 2nd down is compared to the average distance to go.  No wonder that Washington was throwing so often on 3rd downs since they were not gaining many yards on 2nd down.

Yards Gained Histogram

Lets take a look at the histogram for the yardage gained for running and passing for Washington.  For ease of reading, I have removed the 44 incompletions from the passing histogram.

The passing is actually pretty well distributed.  The passing losses of -5 and -4 yards were most likely sacks.  There are a couple outliers on the lower end with completions of 0, 2, 3, and 4 yards gained.  However, the frequency of yardage gained starts to trend upwards at 5 yards.  Good midrange passing at 7 yards out before the numbers take a dip again.  However, there is a healthy distribution of longer passes.  27 passes this season (51% of total passes) went for more than 10 yards.  14 of these (26% of total passes) were “explosive” plays of greater than 15 yards.

The run, on the other hand, does not have as great a distribution.  The majority of the runs gained less than 5 yards.  55 runs (54%) went for 3 or less yards.  There are still some mid to long range runs, but the vast amount of runs which were stopped for short gains is pretty important.  On the flip side, 12 runs (12%) were big runs gaining at least 10 yards.

Conclusion

Washington provides a balanced attack that USC will have to account for.  Don’t let their 1-2 record fool you as they will play USC very hard.  This is a must win game for the Huskies to save the start of their season.  They’ve also had a bye week to prepare, so expect some new things to be thrown at us.  But also expect USC to have a trick or two up its sleeve.  This is the first game out of the “preseason” for USC and I expect the playbook to be opened up a bit.  While we won’t show all our cards with upcoming games against Stanford and Oregon, I expect us to see new wrinkles in the gameplan from the coaches.  Because of this, I am looking forward to recapping the USC game this Saturday.  Lets defend the house, boys.

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