Oregon Offensive Preview

As much as anything, this is USC’s bowl game.  #1 Oregon comes into town to face off against the #24 Trojans.  Both teams have high powered offensive attacks and this looks to be a shootout.  Will the bye week and home field advantage be enough for USC to topple Oregon?

This post will look at the offensive side of the ball for the Oregon squad coming into town.  We will look at the play calling by Oregon from a number of angles, the conversion rates, and the gain histogram.

Play Calling

Overall this season, Oregon has been a run first team.  This is not surprising since they run the spread option.  They have run the ball 329 times (61%) and passed the ball 214 times (39%).  However, this number is likely skewed by the sheer number of blowouts that Oregon has forced upon its opponents.  So let us first look at the play calling per quarter.

Oregon starts the game off fairly balanced with a slight lean towards the run.  In general, Oregon tends to pass the ball more in the 2nd quarter.  However, once the 2nd half hits, it becomes very run heavy, most likely because of the blowouts mentioned.  Let’s now take a look at the play calling by down.

Oregon tends to run the ball on 1st and 2nd downs.  3rd and 4th downs become perfectly balanced.  This is interesting since most teams tend to run on 1st down, but tend to pass more on 2nd down and pass a lot more by 3rd down.  Oregon’s production on 1st and 2nd down allow them to be balanced on 3rd down.  Now let us look at the play calling by field position.  Please note that the “Red Zone” stats also include “Goal to Go” within them.

All over the field, Oregon will run the ball more than they will pass.  However, the most likely zone for passing attack is between midfield and the redzone.  The most likely chances for runs is on either extreme end of the field.

Conversion Rates

My program logs Oregon at a 46% 3rd down conversion rate.  Let us first look at the situations that Oregon often finds itself in by looking at the average distance to go by down compared to the average gain.

Oregon is averaging a 7.47 gain per play.  This includes an average gain of 8.5 yards on 3rd down.  The surprising fact to me is the high average distance to go on 3rd down.  Teams get high distances to go on 3rd down by either not being effective on 1st and 2nd downs or conversely doing very well on 1st and 2nd downs and converting for early 1st downs, leaving only the unsuccessful plays to reach 3rd down.  Oregon is likely the latter.  However, most teams with a 7+ average distance to go on 3rd down typically convert in the 30’s, not 46%.  Usually to convert in the 40’s, teams typically have an average distance to go of about 6 on 3rd down.  So to further analyze this, first we will look at the conversion percentage by down.

Oregon converts 29% of their 1st downs and 45% of their 2nd downs.  Only 92 offensive snaps have reached 3rd down out of the 257 snaps they have taken at 1st down.  This means that 64% of Oregon’s plays are converted before they reach 3rd down.  Now let us break down the actual 3rd down conversions by distance to go on 3rd down.

Oregon converts a very high percentage of 3rd and shorts and 3rd and mediums.  They aren’t quite as good as Stanford was on 3rd and short by the point that USC played Stanford, but 71% is still a high rate of conversion on 3rd and short.  Even on 3rd and long, Oregon is still converting on 28%.

Gain Histogram

Let us look at the gain histogram for Oregon’s offense.  The 78 incomplete passes have been removed from the histogram for ease of reading.

Oregon’s run is based on option concepts.  According to TrojanFootballAnalysis.com (always a very good read, by the way), Oregon runs only four basic run plays: inside zone option read, outside zone, counter, and draw.  Oregon mixes up these four basic plays and adds twists to cause the defense to either hesitate or get out of position.  Once that occurs, Oregon starts hitting home runs.  Oregon is patient in setting up the run.  In fact, 46% of their runs are stopped for a gain of three or less (including 17% which are stopped for no gain or a loss).  However, 19% of their runs break for more than a 10 yard gain and 11% are explosive 15+ yard runs.  There is also a healthy dose of middle gain runs between four and nine yards.

On the passing side of the ball, Oregon has a strong distribution of gains.  Including incompletions, 53% of their passes gain five or more yards, 36% of their passes gain at least 10 yards, and 19% of their passes are explosive and gain 15+ yards.

Overall, Oregon’s offense is very explosive.  26% of their offensive snaps gain 10 or more yards.  That is one in every four plays.  14% of their offensive snaps gain 15+ yards.

Conclusion

USC’s entire defense will be tested with this Oregon attack.  Oregon will no doubt gain yards and score points.  The front seven must play very disciplined to stop Oregon’s rushing attack.  USC’s secondary must prevent the explosive passing attack which has picked opponents apart.  The defense must provide enough stops for USC’s offense to take and keep the lead.

I will next post a preview for Oregon’s defense.

Click here to download the excel spreadsheet.

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