USC Midseason Defensive Comparative Statistics

Since USC is on a bye week, we will take a more in depth look at where USC stands currently at midseason.  This post and the last post are dedicated towards comparative stats.  This post will look at the defensive side of the ball.  First, I will explain what comparative stats are, just in case you missed the last post.  If you have already read the explanation, feel free to skip past that section.  Then we will go over some key comparative stats: total defense, passing defense, rushing defense, 3rd down conversion defense, and scoring defense.

What are Comparative Stats?

Comparative Stats look at a team’s production compared to what the opponent allows on average.  For instance, if a mythical opponent were to gain 500 yards of offense against USC’s defense, one might think “wow, USC’s defense is really bad.”  However, if this mythical opponent gains 600 yards of total offense on average throughout a season, then suddenly the tune changes.  In this situation, USC has held the opponent to 100 fewer yards than what the opponent typically gained, which shows a stronger USC defensive performance.

By using this over a number of games, you can see various trends on how good or bad a team is in a particular area.  A strong defense will consistently force their opponents to gain less yards than the opponents’ generally gain in various categories.  On the flip side, a poor offense will allow higher than average for comparative stats.

Please note that this is only part of the overall picture of football.  Losing in comparative stats in a particular game can be completely negated by forcing turnovers, etc.  Using comparative stats is just one tool we can use to try to see how good a portion of a team is.

So with that in mind, let us look at some comparative stats for USC’s defense.

Total Defense

Lets take a look at USC’s total defense compared to what our opponents have typically gained on offense through the year.  In the charts below, what the opponent gained on USC will be shown in Cardinal.  That same opponent’s average gain throughout this season is in Gold.  Remember, unlike offensive stats, we would like the Cardinal section to be lower than the Gold section.  We want a negative margin.

USC’s total defense has had a few good games and a few bad games.  Hawaii was able to put together a lot of yards against our defense with their pass happy attack.  Washington also gained much more than they typically gain in a game against USC’s defense.  Both Washington State and Stanford gained at about their average.  Lets take a look at the trend chart for total defense.

Again, remember that a downward trend is desirable on defense since we want to hold opponents under their average.  There is a general downward trend throughout this season, but there is still a few parts to be desired.  There is a peak at the Washington game when the “real” season started and the defense was at its worst.  Hopefully, the downward trend will continue and USC’s defense will begin holding opponents consistently under their averages.  At this point, USC’s defense holds opponents’ offenses to an average of -2.45 yards of total offense below their average.  Essentially this is a very average defense at this point.

Passing Defense

Lets take a look at the Passing defense comparative graph.

The passing comparative chart doesn’t look very promising.  Most teams are pretty much held to their averages.  Hawaii and Washington gained more than their average against USC.  Stanford also had a slight edge above their average.  This isn’t too surprising given the youth of our secondary.  Wright is the only defensive back who has had any starting experience at all, so you could expect many teams to pick on our secondary.  We did hold Virginia below their average, however.  Lets take a look at the trend graph.

There isn’t much going on here.  It settles at around average for the season based on what the trend appears to be.  A few teams blew us open through the air, and we held Virginia below their average.  On average, opponents have passed for 11.4 yards above their average when facing USC.  USC will need to shore up their passing defense.

Rushing Defense

Lets see how USC compares to their opponents’ rushing attacks.

Again, there is some left to be desired in parts of this graph.  Hawaii, Virginia, and Washington all gained more than their average on the ground against USC.  Minnesota was held under their average.  Washington State and Stanford were held marginally below their average.  The big one was Cal.  We held Cal to less than a third of what they normally gain on the ground.  Lets take a look at the trend chart.

There is an odd peak at the Washington game, but overall there is a healthy downward trend to this graph.  USC has been unhealthy up front at the defensive line, which has proved to hurt our ability to attack the trenches.  Linebacker play has improved recently, which has helped us stop running attacks earlier.  Overall, opponents rush for -13.85 yards less than their average when facing USC.

3rd Down Conversion Defense

Lets see how USC’s defense on 3rd down compares to how our opponents’ offenses typically perform.

As seems to be the overall trend of our defense, it is just very inconsistent. Hawaii, Washington, and Stanford were able to convert a higher percentage of 3rd downs against USC than against their other opponents on average.  Minnesota and Washington State pretty much performed at their average against USC.  Virginia was held below their average and Cal was held way under their average.  Lets look at the trend chart.

There is a slight downward trend in this overall.  USC is getting marginally better at defending the 3rd down throughout the season, but Stanford really ripped us apart.  Overall, USC has held opponents to 0.68% lower on 3rd down conversion rate than is their average.  This is pretty much average production overall.

Scoring Defense

Lets see how USC’s defense does against scoring compared to their opponents’ average.

The good news is USC is doing fairly well on scoring defense.  The only team to beat its average against USC has been Washington.  Every other team was held below its average.  Virginia and Cal were held a good amount below their averages.  Lets look at the trend chart.

There is a slight downward trend, but much of it will depend on what happens against Oregon.  We’ll have to see if the Cal game was an aberration or not. A strong performance in the next few games could show a significant improvement in scoring defense.  On average, USC holds opponents to -5.34 points below their average.


USC’s defense at this point is very average.  We typically hold opponents right at their averages.  How much of this can be explained by inexperience, injuries, and lack of depth?  If USC can improve defensively through the second half of the season, we could have a pretty good offense going into 2011. Hopefully this is the case.

Time permitting, I will do a post about the formations that USC has used offensively this season.  I will definitely do a post previewing the Oregon game, so keep an eye out for that too.


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