Now that the 2010 season is done for USC, this gives me some time to take a more in-depth look at the stats involved with USC. In this post and the next, we will be looking into comparative stats. This post will deal with the offensive side of the ball and the next post will deal with the defensive side. First I will explain what a comparative stat is and the significance of them, then we will go over a few key comparative stats: total offense, passing offense, rushing offense, 3rd down conversions, and scoring offense.
What are Comparative Stats?
Comparative Stats look at a team’s production compared to what the opponent allows on average. For instance, if USC were to gain only 250 yards of total offense against a mythical opponent, one might think “wow, USC’s offense is really bad.” However, if this mythical opponent allows only 150 yards of total offense on average throughout a season, then suddenly the tune changes. In this situation, USC has gained 100 yards more than what the opponent typically allowed, which shows a stronger USC offensive 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 offense will consistently gain more yards than their opponents’ generally allow in various categories. On the flip side, a poor offense will fall below the averages for comparative stats.
Please note that this is only part of the overall picture of football. Winning in comparative stats in a particular game can be completely negated by committing 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 offense.
Lets take a look at how USC’s total offense compares to what their opponents’ typically allow. Here is a chart which shows how many total offensive yards USC gained against each opponent (shown in Cardinal) vs what that team’s defense is credited for on their average total yards defense for the year (shown in Gold).
USC was not quite able to sustain it’s offensive power after the midseason bye week. Prior to the bye week, USC gained more total yards than the opponent’s defense typically allowed in six out of their seven games. Four of those games were ahead of the comparative stats by a significant margin. Against Washington, USC gained 83 yards more than Washington typically allowed. Against Hawaii, Washington St, and Stanford, USC gained around 150 total offensive yards more than their defenses’ typically allowed. Against Cal, USC gained a whopping 283 yards more than the Bears defense typically allowed. However, once midseason passed, USC was in the positive margin in four of their six remaining games, but not nearly to the level that was seen in the first half of the season. USC only broke a +50 comparative total offense margin once, which was the UCLA game. USC also had two very negative games where they gained 153 yards less than Oregon State typically allows and 92 yards less than Notre Dame typically allows. Let us look at trend line for the margin between USC’s total offense output and the opposing defense’s average.
As can be seen here, USC peaks at midseason and takes a pretty quick dive that it never fully recovers from within the season. The downward trend bottomed out at Oregon State when it finally begins to rise again. As noted in the graph, there is an overall downward trend for the USC offense throughout the season. However, on the bright side, USC did still end up on the positive side of the comparative stats margin in 10 out of their 13 games. On average, USC has gained 57.12 total yards more than their opponents have typically allowed.
Now let us look at the passing offense behind Matt Barkley.
Again, there is a general drop-off starting at the bye week which continues throughout the entire season. USC actually ended its final five games gaining less yards through the air than the opposing defense typically would allow. It is worthy to note that starting QB Matt Barkley was injured halfway into the Oregon State game and did not play at all for the Notre Dame game. Let us look at the trend chart for the passing offense.
Just like the total offense, USC’s passing offense peaks at midseason and takes a pretty steep dive before flattening out to end the season. The passing offense bottoms out at Oregon State again before having a slight recovery. There is the same overall downward trend for the USC passing attack. USC ended on the positive end of the comparative stats margin in only six out of 13 games. As noted previously, USC’s final five games failed to produce more yards through the air than the opposing defense typically allows. However, the negative margins were not as large as the positive margins. On average, USC gained 29.6 yards more through the air than their opponents typically allowed.
Let us look at the rushing offense comparative stats.
USC’s rushing attack had many ups and downs throughout the season. This included rushing for 114 yards more than Hawaii typically allows, 99 yards more than Washington typically allows, and 60 yards more than Washington State, ASU, Arizona, and UCLA allow. However, there were also games where we were held 77 yards below what Virginia typically allowed and 60 yards below what Oregon State and Notre Dame allow. Overall, USC finished the season with eight games beating the opposing defense’s average and five games falling below it. Let us look at the trend chart for the rushing attack now.
You can see the erratic nature of the rushing game in this trend chart. Unlike the total offense and passing offense charts, not many games really fall right around the trendline “average” for the team. The team either had great rushing games where they were significantly higher or they had poor performances where they fell significantly lower. Overall, USC did finish with an average rushing gain of 27.5 yards above what the opposing defense would typically allow.
3rd Down Offense
Now let us look at the 3rd down conversions that USC gained comparatively.
3rd down conversions were a bit erratic as well, but this is to be expected due to the much smaller sample size of 3rd downs in a game. One or two missed opportunities or botched execution could swing a team from being ahead of the average to below. There were some very positive games. USC conversion rate was 37% higher than Hawaii typically allows and just under 25% higher than Washington State and Stanford typically allow. Oregon State was the majorly negative one where we finished 22% below what they typically allow. USC only converted 25% of their 3rd downs in that game when Oregon State typically allows their opponents to convert 47%. Let us look at the trend chart for USC’s 3rd down offense.
Again, a general downward trend for USC’s offense. USC started very strong against Hawaii, but that would be the high point of the season. After low points in Virginia and Minnesota, USC reached a high note against Washington State, but it was downhill from there. Overall, USC averaged a 5% higher conversion rate than their opponent’s typically allowed.
Let’s take a look at the scoring offense comparative stats.
USC’s scoring offense had a lot of high notes and also a few low notes. Overall, there were very strong games in Hawaii and California, where we scored about 25 points more than they typically allow. We scored about 14 points more than Washington State and Oregon allow on average as well. However, on the flip side, USC was held 20 points under what Oregon State typically allowed and 11 points below what Virginia typically allowed.
Again, another slight downward trend for the USC offense which seemingly peaked at the bye week. USC ended with three games below the comparative stats margin in terms of scoring. Overall, USC had seven games in which they scored over the opponent’s average defense and six games in which they scored below the average. It is worth noting that the Minnesota and Washington games were pretty much at average as they were within one point below the typical scoring defense of the opponents. Now let us look at the trend chart. Overall, USC scored an average of 5.3 points above what opponents typically allow.
It is a mixed bag for the offense. On one hand, USC averaged a positive margin in every category when looking at comparative stats. This typically means that the team is playing above average and consistently out performing opposing defenses. And I personally would classify USC’s offense as above average. However, it is disheartening to see a downward trend in every single offensive category as well. There are a ton of factors that go into the trend. Injuries or general fatigue from a depleted roster, especially on the offensive line, probably was a factor. Conservative play calling, especially when Barkley was injured at Oregon State and when Mustain had to step in for Notre Dame, probably was a factor as well.
However, in my mind, the key question is how much coaching was a factor in to the downward trend. Teams typically improve over the course of a season. This is true for both our offense and the opponent’s defense. If the opposing defenses are improving at a faster rate than our offense is improving, then it would show in the trend charts as a general downward trend. So the question that whether our offense struggled to improve as much as opposing defenses were improving under our new coaching staff. We, as fans, can speculate on this all we want. Time will tell on how effective this coaching staff is at building and developing players up.