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One of the old maxims in football is that a team's success on the gridiron is directly related to an offense's ability to run the football.

However, alternative football statistical analysts like Bud Goode and Aaron Schatz have successfully postulated that an effective running game does not translate into wins and losses. In fact, the particular method used for offensive production does not matter as much as a team's ability to produce efficiently, both offensively and defensively.

While these two stat geeks have used the NFL as their methodological model, the basic premise and formulae these individuals have promulgated should apply to the college landscape since the game replicates the NFL's the tension between an efficient scoring offense and scoring defense.

With this understanding, it's time to take a peek at Syracuse's yards per pass attempt differential for last season. I'm sure that the data detailed below and the accompanying rationales are only a starting point for looking at the 2004 football season and this particular statistic. More detailed analysis is sure to come.

[Yards/Pass Attempt (Differential)]
Looking at the raw data, it's amazing that Syracuse managed to grab six wins on the season. Not only was Syracuse just an abysmal team passing the ball efficiently, the defense was leakier than the hull on the Titantic.

An average team will give up as many yards per passing attempt as it gains. Thus, a team with a differential around 0 will finish with an average season record.

(Note: This does not necessarily mean a team will finish around .500)

Teams generally gaining 2-2.5 more yards per passing attempt than their opponents are considered the strength of a conference. To illustrate this point, a team gaining more yards per pass attempt is generally lengthening drives and consequently generating more points scored per yard garnered or drive completed.

In 2004, Syracuse's Yard/Pass Attempt (Differential) came out to -1.415. The average for the Big East was .0244. Here's a tabular representation of Syracuse's differential game-by-game and the overall season differential for all the Big East squads.

OpponentY/PA (Dif)
Fl. State.64

Big EastY/PA (Dif)

What does this all mean? Well, that's a complicated question.

First, Syracuse had one of the worst differentials in the Big East, if not the country. Given this statistic, it is very clear that in the games Syracuse was able to win, their opponents were forced into playing offensively ineffecient or, on a rare ocassion, Syracuse actually acted efficiently on offense.

For example, UConn, which had a season differential approaching almost 1, actually had their differential drop almost twofold. Even though Orlovsky threw for over 400 yards in that game, Syracuse had an efficient offensive and defensive outing making all those UConn passing yards virtually worthless and remarkably inefficient. It's the utility of yards gained and the ability of a defense to limit an opponent's marginal utility in yards gained that's important.

Furthermore, look at Syracuse's four Big East victories in 2004 - Rutgers, UConn, Pittsburgh and Boston College. While Syracuse had a negative differential in three of the contests (Rutgers, UConn, Pittsburgh), Syracuse had some of its most efficient offensive outings, statistically, and Syracuse's opponents created some of their worst differentials in 2004. Quite simply, Syracuse's offense was able to keep pace with its defense on those four rare instances. By acting efficiently on offense, Syracuse's defense was able to mitigate any potential disparity and put the offense in position to score. Note: In those 4 games, the Points/Pass Attempt (Differential) were all in Syracuse's favor.

Second, taking a look at Syracuse's average differential and the wide game-to-game swings with regard to differential, it's not surprising that the Orange finished with a 6-6 record. Given the inconsistent nature of Syracuse's applicable offensive and defensive output, it's not surprising that SU was unable to pull off any semblence of a winning streak.

Third, even an offense that emphasizes the pass will not succeed. The more Syracuse seemed to pass the ball, the worse its differential became and the losses ended up being more grusome.

For example, in every game in which Syracuse average more than 35 pass attempts, it's differential was at or close to -2. The reasons for this great differential can be explained three ways.

First, when Syracuse was throwing the ball around it was not throwing it around effectively by either throwing incompletions (netting 0 yards/attempt) or only throwing for short gains on screen passes. Such playcalling failed to maximize each passing attempt and was the direct result of Pasqualoni/DeLeone failing to look beyond simple pass completion numbers. In short, Syracuse's woes were equal part Perry Patterson's poor accuracy and Pasqualoni/DeLeone's poor playcalling.

Also, this raises an interesting question as to whether Coach Pariani's new West Coast Offense will translate into a better differential due to the system's methodology. And, of course, whether Patterson will murder the system to a degree that even the nature of the offense will not be able to overcome Patterson's shortcomings as a pocket passer.

Second, when a passing game is ineffective, time is not drained from the clock and a team's defense does not get a sufficient time to rest. Thus, it is not surprising that Syracuse's opponents were carving up the Orange's pass defense creating a great statistical differential. In short, the offense's failure to act efficiently directly impacted the defense's ability to stop an opponent and the vehicle that accomplished this was fatigue and poor clock management.

Finally, the differential formula does not consider turnovers, but it does consider sacks (sacks increases the number of passing attempts). If Syracuse had forced more sacks (read: not overpursued every quarterback it faced), the differential would have been signficantly lower. It's not surprising that West Virginia, who was second in the league in sacks by, finished the season with a respectable differential. So, the onus is on James Wyche, Ryan LaCasse, and the nickel backs to cash in their sack potential this season. In no uncertain terms, it would drastically help the team's chances for success.

This leads to another interesting phenomenon concerning Syracuse's poor differential. Given the number of turnovers Syracuse forced this past season (second in the Big East), its opponents were not given the opportunity to rack up more passing attempts and yards thus limiting the differential disparity that was possible. Assuming that the defense was acting in a limiting fashion, there is only one explination for the poor differential - Syracuse's offense was terrible.

Succinctly, it may be assumed that it was Syracuse's offense that created the great disparity in differential rather than the team's defense. Only when the offense acted efficiently did the team limit its opponents' yards/pass attempt. Syracuse's defense was performing at an average clip. It was the offense that was unable to contribute and was the primary culprit in the team's inability to win games in 2004.

2 Responses to “'Cuse Football 2004: Yards/Pass Attempt (Differential)”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous

    It would be interesting to look at the Yards/Pass Attempt (Differential) by examining a school's statistics during their Big East schedule.

    This would probably shed a clearer light on the actual ranking of Syracuse in this statistical shakedown for two reasons:

    1. Sisters of the Poor would be eliminated and, consequently, some differentials like UConn's would possibly move toward the negative while Syracuse's would potentially rise toward the positive. In short, it paints a more accurate picture of how Syracuse shapes up with the rest of the conference.

    2. An out of conference schedule may have asked that a team implement a differnet offensive philosophy than they did in conference.

    I'm glad you didn't examine the new conference members. No reason to make Syracuse's output in '04 look any worse!  

  2. # Anonymous Anonymous

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    servimundos melifermuly  

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