Did your team mute explosive offenses?

February, 23, 2011
Coaches love talking about explosion plays. You want to get a lot of them and give up very few.

On Tuesday, we looked at offensive explosion plays -- plays of 20 or more yards -- which you can see here. Tomorrow, we'll look at explosion plays in terms of rushing offense and rushing defense. On Friday, we'll look at explosion plays in terms of passing numbers.

So here's how the Pac-12 stacked up in 2010 (again, thanks to ESPN Stats & Information). The number to the left in national rank. The number to the right is the total number of explosion plays in 2010.

7. California... 34
13. Arizona State... 38
21. Arizona... 41
28. Stanford... 43
49. Oregon... 49
52. Colorado... 50
60. Utah... 52
63. Oregon State... 53
63. Washington... 53
84. UCLA... 59
95. Washington State...62
99. USC... 63

It's interesting that the defensive numbers are better than the offensive: average rank of 53 on defense versus 65 on offense. Isn't the Pac-12 supposed to be flashy on O and soft on D? The SEC's average rank on defense was 54, even with two top-10 teams (No. 2 Florida & No. 9 LSU).

Of course, Utah and Colorado weren't in the Pac-10 last year (average rank of Pac-10 was 52).

Wow. USC. That's terrible.

Some other thoughts.
  • In 2009, Oregon was No. 1 in the Pac-10 and tied for 18th in the nation with 41 explosion plays yielded. Oregon State was second with 43 (25th in nation).
  • Don't be too surprised by Oregon's middling number in 2010: The Ducks play an aggressive, attacking scheme that sometimes leaves them vulnerable. And they also see a lot of plays, which means more opportunities for an offense to break one.
  • USC tanked in 2010. It ranked second in the nation in 2008 with 22 and 28th in the nation in 2009 with 43. So in the first season under touted coordinator Monte Kiffin, the Trojans nearly tripled the number of explosion plays they surrendered in 2008.
  • Washington State ranked 95th in 2010 (62), 113th in 2009 (69) and 116th (75) in 2008. So that's improvement. Slow improvement.
  • Remember how it seemed like former Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory's defense was conservative, which would suggest not yielding a lot of explosion plays? Well, in 2009 the Bears ranked 89th (58), so that's significant improvement in year one under Clancy Pendergast. Of course, in 2008, the Bears ranked 14th (38).
  • Teams that ranked in the top-10 the past three years: Florida, TCU and Iowa. Ohio State and Penn State were also notably consistent.

But do limiting explosion plays on defense equate to winning? Short answer: Mostly, but not as much as the offensive numbers, at least this past season. Here's the top-10 in 2010 with the team's record in parenthesis to the right.

1. Pittsburgh... 30 (8-5)
2. Florida... 32 (8-5)
2. TCU... 32 (13-0)
4. West Virginia... 33 (9-4)
4. Iowa... 33 (8-5)
4. Temple... 33 (8-4)
7. Kent State... 34 (5-7)
7. California... 34 (5-7)
9. LSU... 36 (11-2)
10. Boston College.. 37 (7-6)
10. Ohio State... 37 (12-1)

Two teams have losing records, but three won 11 or more games. Still, it's a bit surprising that eight of 11 lost four or more games.

As for a correlation to defensive success: Every team here ranked in the top-42 in the nation in scoring defense and eight were ranked in the top-20. TCU, West Virginia, Ohio State, Iowa and LSU ranked in the top-11 in scoring defense.



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