Syracuse Offensive Preview

Up next for USC is the Syracuse Orange.  This post will look at Syracuse’s offensive play calling, conversion rates, and their yards per quarter.

Play Calling

Syracuse is the first team that USC will be expecting more passes than runs.  They have passed the ball 67 times (57%) this season and run the ball 51 times (43%).  Syracuse’s rushing attack hasn’t been very potent this year.  They have rushed the ball for only 130 yards on those 51 attempts which comes out to a 2.55 average yards per carry.  This includes their game against Rhode Island where they only managed 54 rushing yards on 22 attempts (2.45 ypc).

Let us first look at the run vs. pass play calling by quarter.

Syracuse tended towards the pass in every quarter except for the fourth quarter.  Expect to see a lot of passes against USC’s vulnerable secondary early and often this Saturday.  It will be interesting to see how much pressure the defensive line can apply against Syracuse.  Syracuse’s QB has already been sacked four times for 27 yards this season.  If USC can dominate the line of scrimmage, it will mitigate pressure off from the inexperienced secondary.

Now let us look at the play calling by down.

There isn’t a whole lot that is exciting here.  As they are overall, Syracuse tended towards the pass on every down.  They were most unbalanced on 1st down.  The interesting thing is the implications of the play calling on first down.  First down is actually where Syracuse has been most successful.  This brings us to our analysis on conversion rates.

Conversion Rates

Let us first look at the average distance to go per down compared to the average gain.

The average gain on first down is over double that of second and third downs.  44% of Syracuse’s first down plays were successful (gained at least half of the required yardage to convert) and 31% of the plays converted for new first downs.  This suggests that the key for USC’s defense will be a first down stop.

On third downs, Syracuse has converted on six out of 23 attempts (26%).  This includes four out of eight (50%) on 3rd and short, zero out of three (0%) on 3rd and medium, and two out of twelve (17%) on 3rd and long.  If USC’s defense can get similar results that they did against Utah, expect it to be a long night for the Orange.  USC forced Utah to face an average distance to go of 7.8 yards on 3rd down and also forced eleven 3rd and long situations.

Syracuse has not sustained drives very well in their first two games.  They average 4.58 plays per drive.  This likely means an average of about one first down per drive.  A surprisingly high 10 out of 24 drives (42%) converted no first downs and were three and outs.

Yards per Quarter

Let us take a quick look at the yards per quarter by Syracuse.

Syracuse is a late blooming team with the fourth quarter being their greatest in terms of yards.  36% of Syracuse’s yards came in the fourth quarter.  How will USC’s defense respond to this?  Last season saw the defense become ineffective late in the game.  This season, Minnesota had 38% of their yards came in the fourth quarter, but the defense did respond well to at least win the game.  Against Utah, USC’s defense improved to allow only 9% of Utah’s yardage to come in the fourth quarter.  How well USC does late will also rest in the offense’s ability to hold onto the football and force the clock to dwindle.  Will USC’s offense be effective late in the game and convert the necessary first downs required to keep the chains moving and the clock ticking?


Like last game, the key for USC’s defense will be a strong hold on first down and ultimately create 3rd and longs.  This will be achieved by a strong pass rush that can hide the weaknesses in our secondary.  If USC can achieve this, the defense will look dominating against Syracuse.  I hope to see another game of aggressive play calling by Monte Kiffin with lots of blitzes, especially in passing situations.


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