What makes Baylor/Oregon offenses great?

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
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Baylor and Oregon both operate at an astounding pace.
Baylor and Oregon are putting up numbers at a historic rate, averaging 780 and 630 yards of total offense, respectively. The two schools are on pace to have the two most prolific total offenses ever in the FBS.

The current record belongs to the 1989 Houston Cougars, who were led by Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware and averaged 625 yards per game.

Quick-strike attacks
Perhaps the most impressive facet of each offense is how quickly each times its scores.

Baylor’s average touchdown drive is 1:18, the fastest in the FBS, while Oregon is the fifth fastest at 1:33. The Bears have 28 touchdown drives that lasted less than two minutes, second to Oregon’s 31. No other FBS team this season has more than 17 such drives.

Baylor and Oregon score quickly because they get a lot of big plays and they play fast. Baylor is averaging an FBS-high 10.8 plays per game that gain 20 yards or more, Oregon is second with 9.6 such plays.

The Ducks average one play per every 19.7 seconds, fifth fastest in the FBS, and the Bears are tied for the seventh-fastest pace at 20.1 seconds per play. The average FBS team runs a play every 24.9 seconds.

The running game
The Ducks and Bears have excellent running games. They both run on roughly 60 percent of their plays, which is 8 percentage points higher than the FBS average. The Bears average the second-most rushing yards per game (347.3) and the Ducks rank third (335.8).

Baylor’s running game is led by Lache Seastrunk, who is an Oregon transfer. He is averaging 11.1 yards per rush, the highest average for any FBS player with at least 30 carries.

Oregon’s running game features one of the most potent zone-read attacks, led by running back De’Anthony Thomas and quarterback Marcus Mariota. On zone-read plays, Thomas and Mariota have combined to average 10.6 yards per rush and have six touchdowns.

Play-action the key for both
Both quarterbacks have flourished in play-action passing. Mariota and Baylor’s Bryce Petty have combined to throw 13 touchdowns and one interception after a play fake.

Petty and Mariota have the two highest opponent-adjusted QBRs this season at 97.7 and 96.8, respectively.

In the past 10 seasons, the highest opponent-adjusted QBR ever posted by a quarterback over a full season was 94.5 by Andrew Luck in 2010.

Petty averages an FBS-high 14.7 yards per pass attempt. He has eight touchdowns on passes thrown 20 yards or longer, tied with Stanford’s Kevin Hogan for the most among AQ quarterbacks.

He is third in completion percentage (61.9 percent) on such throws behind Vanderbilt’s Austyn Carta-Samuels (64.7) and Florida State's Jameis Winston (64.5).

Mariota can also throw the deep ball. He has completed a Pac-12 high of 56 percent of his passes thrown 20 yards or longer this season. He has completed at least half of such throws in all but one game (California).

Mariota more heavily relies on his receivers to make plays. He has accrued 61 percent of his pass yards after the catch, 12 percentage points higher than Petty, who is right on the AQ average.

So which offense is better?
These are the two best offenses in college football right now, but which one rates better?

The advanced metric expected points added (EPA) allows us to make that assessment. This stat, also known as offensive or defensive efficiency when looked at on a per-game basis, goes beyond box score data. It looks at every play the offense is on the field to determine exactly how good the unit is in terms of moving the ball, converting drives into actual points and avoiding turnovers.

In terms of offensive efficiency without taking into account competition, Baylor’s offense is first at +36.3 EPA per game, well ahead of Oregon’s +24.2.

Once you adjust for the quality of defenses they’ve faced, it narrows the gap: +37.4 for Baylor, +29.4 for Oregon – Nos. 1 and 2 in the FBS.

While both offenses have been prolific thus far, this shows that Baylor's offense has contributed eight more points per game to the scoring margin than Oregon's, even after taking into account the tougher slate of defenses Oregon has faced.

The Bears have the edge at the moment. Do you agree? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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