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2021 West Virginia Offense Review: Part Two - Advanced Stats

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 18 Virginia Tech at West Virginia Photo by John McCreary/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome back West by Godders to the series that will likely cause your eye to twitch, trigger your PTSD and make you mad that I either pointed out a failing of the offense or didn’t point out a failing of the offense. In Part One, we reviewed the standard stats of the offense, looking at where the offense ranked both in terms of the nation and against their peers in the Big 12 Conference. Now we are going to take a deeper dive into the stats because you may have been bad, but where were you bad? I think (or at least hope) that this deeper dive will provide some insight where the team performed well, areas that need improvement and areas that the team was bad in and needs upgrades. So let’s get to it shall we?

West Virginia’s Offensive Efficiency

Stats Total Conference Rank National Rank
Stats Total Conference Rank National Rank
Fremeau Efficiency Index -0.03 9 73
Drive Efficiency -0.12 9 78
Touchdown Rate 23.00% 10 91
Value Drive Rate 32.50% 10 89
First Down Rate 72.20% 5 52
Busted Drive Rate 11.10% 7 57
Turnover Rate 12.70% 10 84
Offensive Effeciency Jake Lantz | Football Outsiders

Ok, so what in the world are we exactly looking at here. A bunch of small numbers that show West Virginia’s offense wasn’t really good. I don’t think we needed this table to tell us that. But what exactly are we measuring here.

Let’s start with the first column - Fremeau Efficiency Index - created by Brian Fremeau - to measure how much per possession an offense should score against the net defenses it faced.

Ted Fox 5:38 And so when you’re talking about a possession advantage, it’s if the net possession advantage was 2.91, that means on an average possession, when you put that offense against the defenses they’re playing, that possession is worth 2.91 points.

Brian Fremeau 5:52 Yeah, we’re gonna spend the whole time talking about this probably right? (Brian laughs) No the idea is, is exactly what you’re getting at, right? A touchdown is worth six points, typically close to an average close to seven points, because the extra point afterward is automatic, or nearly automatic. So let’s use seven points as an example. Offense scores a touchdown, seven points are recorded; how much of that seven points belongs to the offense’s contribution? You know, if they started at midfield, maybe only four points of that, of that seven really was the contribution by the offense; the other three were either gifted to them by a result of the previous possession that put them in great field goal range or field position range and/or some combination of what the defense is doing that allowed for that extra value to be recorded. So you’re right: The end result is a more precise number, not Team A is seven points better than Team B, but Team A might only be 2.9 points better than Team B, because we’re taking into account and better evaluating the true values that the teams are bringing to the table, the actual performance that’s happening on the field.

Having that knowledge, let’s re-evaluate the table above. West Virginia finished 9th in conference with a FEI of (negative) 0.03, meaning on each possession, West Virginia was giving away 3 hundredths of a point. The only team worse was Kansas, but - and you’ll have to take my word on this - the other eight programs all finished between 8th (Oklahoma) and 38th (Oklahoma State).

Drive Efficiency measures scoring value lost or gained per possession. So based on the defenses it faced, West Virginia was going go give away points based on its FEI but worse, it was going to also lose points based on how it managed its drives.

The new few columns will all be easier to understand and less nerd math. Touchdown Rate - percentage of drives that resulted in an offensive touchdown. Value Drive Rate - percentage of drives that ended greater than they began, i.e., if you start at your own 1 and move to the 50 that has a greater value than starting at your 30 and moving to the 50. You ended both drives at the same place but one you were almost guaranteed to punt or give the defense a great field position and the other was a normal starting spot. First Down Rate - percentage of drives that earned at least one first down. Busted Drive Rate - percentage of drives that earned zero or negative yards. Finally Turnover Rate - percentage of drives that resulted in a turnover.

Pretty straight forward stuff to follow but what interested me was the First Down Rate and the Busted Drive Rate. The First Down Rate (FDR) shows that West Virginia was pretty good at gaining at least one first down but finished near the bottom of Busted Drives when they finished with 0 or negative yards. I would have thought both would correlate but Oklahoma was second in FDR but finished 9th in Busted Rate. I don’t think the logic that applies to Oklahoma applies to West Virginia but the stark differences in the tables did catch me off-guard.

Overall, I don’t think I need to spend a whole lot more on this table than I’ve already written. I’m sure you do not want more explanations on how this offense was bad and looking at this table depresses me. I’m always interested in the conference rank more than the national rank because if we’re 10th in scoring in the nation but also 10th in scoring in the conference, it doesn’t mean much. You have to be better than your immediate peers.

A Different Look

We took a look at a bunch of fancy numbers but now let’s look at some hard numbers. First up is just the long plays. Explosive offenses generate “chunk” plays in succession - its the hallmark of those types of offenses. Once a big play is gained, rather than huddle up and wait on the defense, the idea is to try and stack those plays. One ten yard run becomes another ten yard run which becomes a 20 yard pass play which becomes a touchdown. You are able to traverse the field quickly and in short succession rather than methodically moving the ball 5-6 yards every time.

The Mountaineers finished ninth in conference in number of 10-yard rushing plays (53). Only Kansas had fewer. The Mountaineers finished tenth in 20-yard and 30-yard rush plays. They finished tied for eighth in 40-yard rush plays.

Passing wise they were a bit better, finishing fourth in the conference in 10-yard pass plays and third in 20-yard pass plays. That number drops off precipitously once you get to the 30-yard and 40-yard plays where the Mountaineers finished 8th in conference.

Points Per 100-Yards

Team Offensive Points Offensive Yards Points / 100-Yards
Team Offensive Points Offensive Yards Points / 100-Yards
Oklahoma 508 5851 8.68
Texas 423 5096 8.30
Baylor 443 5913 7.49
Iowa State 407 5519 7.37
Oklahoma State 435 5827 7.47
Texas Tech 394 5419 7.27
TCU 344 5230 6.58
Kansas State 358 4705 7.61
West Virginia 328 4830 6.79
Kansas 249 3890 6.40
Points per 100-yards Jake Lantz

One of the last items I wanted to look at is something I thought of while doing the defensive review and that is Points Per 100-yards. In baseball, there are metrics that cover “runs created” and it is generally accepted at 10 “runs created” is worth one win-share. When you hear people talk about players have a 10.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) they are essentially saying that player created 104 runs for his team.

For football, I wanted to look at something similiar with the thought that if you went 100-yards you should gain seven points. How efficient or inefficient is an offense with its 100-yard chunks? A team that moves the ball between the 20’s and gains lots of yards but always kicks field goals will lose many games while a team that scores touchdowns and scores touchdowns with shorter fields will win a lot of football games.

Here I took every team in conference and how many points they scored, how many total yards they had and we did some math to normalize this per 100 yards. West Virginia, Kansas and TCU all were bad offenses, scoring less than a touchdown per 100 yards. Another way to think of this is West Virginia often needed to go 102-103 yards to score a touchdown. Imagine their endzone only being 7-yards deep instead of 10. On the flip side, Oklahoma and Texas had shorter fields, often only needing to go 90-yards for a touchdown. Their endzone was 10-yards closer.