September 3, 2015

Beta Offensive Tempo Stats

Below is my initial pass at offensive tempo ratings for college football. This wasn’t an original idea of mine, but an idea I first began thinking about when reading a tweet from @travis_sawchik.

The concept is pretty simple: 80 plays today isn’t what 80 plays used to be. Meaning, it’s not abnormal for a team to run 80 or more plays. Offenses need to be judged based on how they compare with other teams, not against an arbitrary number (80, for example).

I gave this idea some thought last year and earlier this year by pointing out that Gus Malzahn’s “never lost when we have run 80 plays” no longer applies in college football. In fact, the average Division I team runs 71.47 plays per game in 2012 and 11 teams average 80 or more plays per game.

The Tweet from Travis got me thinking about this project again.

Clemson’s offense plays fast, but how fast is Clemson’s offense relative to Oregon or Baylor or West Virginia?

Perhaps the information on this page is the beginning of the answer. I hope this metric evolves over time. At some point (like in the offseason) it’ll be worth looking at adding strength of schedule into the equation (I’m open to suggestions on how to accomplish this) because let’s face it – not all defenses are created equal.

One idea I’ve tossed around is adopting different strengths for each side of the ball instead of assigning one composite strength rating for an entire team. Makes sense because we all know that LSU’s defense would be higher rated than LSU’s offense. Same for Florida. Clemson is the other way around, as is Texas A&M. Again, I’m open to suggestions on the best way to accomplish this.

There are probably other pieces of the puzzle that I’ve overlooked or not given proper thought, too. Please feel free to chime in.

Here are the parameters:

    • Numbers below include all games played.
    • “TOP” = Time of Possession, in seconds, averaged per game.
    • Tempo = Average plays per game.
    • Adj Tempo = Tempo/Average plays for all teams (currently 71.47)*100.
    • The average Adj Tempo = 100.00.
    • There are two ways to read the Adj Tempo. You could read it as “When the average team runs 100 plays, Clemson runs 112.” The other is to say “Clemson runs 112% of the average number of plays per game.”
    • Adj Efficiency = Yards per play/average yards per play for all teams (currently 5.73) *100. Not only does a team need to have tempo but they need to be efficient (i.e. gain yards – the more the better).
    • The average Adj Efficiency is 100.00.
    • eTempo = Effective Tempo or the efficiency of a teams tempo. This is the sum of 50% Adj Tempo and 50% Adj Efficiency and is ultimately how the teams are rated here – fast (plays) and efficient (yards per play).
    • How to read the data: Through week 11, Clemson has the 7th fastest tempo and the 22nd ranked efficiency which equals the 9th most effective offense in college football.

Other interesting tidbits from the data:

  • The Adj Tempo rankings closely mirror the eTempo rankings which tells me, in general, up tempo teams have high yards per play averages – up tempo works.
  • Who knew N.C.State was an up tempo team? They are right behind Clemson at 79.40 plays per game.
  • Up tempo does not necessarily = wins. Two of top 7 are 4-6. 4 of top 10 have non-winning records.
  • Looking for a potential replacement at OC? Want to keep a similar tempo? Look to Marshall, Louisiana Tech, Nevada (familiar with this guy already), Ball State (should be familiar with him, too) and maybe even Tulsa again.
  • Clemson has already played 2 of the 4 worst offensive teams (by this ranking) in America – Auburn and Maryland.

Comments, criticisms, suggestions all welcome. You can comment on this post, reach me at @seldomusedrsrv on Twitter or

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