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Offensive Efficiency: A Precursor to Confusion

When all is said and done, the most important thing an offense can do is produce points. The more points an offense can produce, the greater the opportunity for victory.

Simple, right?

Well, sort of. If you're a schlub on ESPN, the aforementioned proposition passes for adequate analysis. Unfortunately, I'm hopelessly dedicated to making things more difficult than they need to be in an effort to accurately illustrate how poorly Syracuse is when the pigskin is in their hands.

Essentially, the following is mind-numbingly complicated and may not be readily comprehendible. However, it does have merit and is worth the statistical gymnastics necessary to produce the ratings.

[Introduction]
Drive efficiency is a terrific indicator of what constitutes a great offensive unit. Offenses that are able to limit turnovers (either via interceptions or fumbles) and score on a per drive basis limit an opponent's ability to seize control of the game, either defensively or offensively.

In simple math:

Ability to Score - Dumb Mistakes = Offensive Efficiency

It is this correlation between yards gained by an offensive unit and points scored that shows whether an offense is doing its job - to score as many points as possible in the most effective means available.

*Note:* I would be remiss not to thank Raymond Lee over at Professional Football Researchers Assocation for developing the drive efficiency methodology. He's the brainchild behind this system of measurement and without his statistical insights, there would be no analysis.

[Nitty Gritty]
In The Hidden Game of Football, the authors postulate that for every 12 yards an offense gains, a team should generate 1 point. The more offensive yards a team gains, the more points it should, logically, score. However, this fails to consider turnovers. Turnovers stall drives for one offense and generally put another offense in a prime position to score. Predictably, the prophetic authors of the aforementioned book took this into consideration.

Offensive turnovers are calculated to be worth about negative 4 points - 2 points against your offense and 2 points for an opponent's offense. The fewer turnovers a team commits, the fewer opportunities it gives an opponent to score.

Therefore, if we calculate a team's average yards per drive divided by 12 and minus the fraction of points lost on a team's average number of turnovers per drive, we should get an idea how effective a team is offensively.

[Terminology]
Total Points (TP)
Total season points scored.

Scoring Offensive Unit (SOU)
Season points scored minus touchdowns and extra points resulting from kickoff/punt/interception returns and safeties.

Points Factor (PF)
Yards per drive divided by 12.
This is the average amount of points a team would score per drive if it did not commit a turnover.

Scoring Efficiency Factor (SEF)
Points Factor minus [(Turnovers/drive) x 2]

Drive Efficiency Factor (DEF)
Points Factor minus [(Turnovers/drive) x 4]

True Offensive Benefit (TOB)
Drive Efficiency multiplied by total number of drives
This is the net number of points an offense benefits a team.

[Data]
2004 Big East Conference

SchoolTPPFSEFDEFTOB
CONN3632.58892.29972.0105333.75
WVU3612.55442.28612.0178330.9167
PITT3252.05651.90711.7577305.8333
BC2962.43932.16091.8824297.4167
TU2382.47202.23912.0063292.9167
SYR2872.08981.77841.4671245
RU2692.18891.76461.3404221.1667

[Knee-Jerk Analysis - Syracuse]
In yet another measure of offensive production, Syracuse takes it place amongst the bottom of the Big East. In every single efficiency category, Syracuse is closer to the basement of the league than to its middle ground.

Thanks, Pasqua-DeLeone!

It's almost mind boggling to understand how inefficient Syracuse was with the pigskin last season. Pasqualoni, along with his partner in destruction DeLeone, guided Syracuse to just 25.0778 yards per drive with a .1617 turnover factor. It's no wonder that Brendan Carney is sky-rocketing up Syracuse's all-time punting records.

It's really unbelievable how Syracuse was able to rest upon its special and defensive teams to win football games. Considering the offense was only able to provide 85% of the team's total scoring (second to last in the Big East), six wins was a miracle. Considering this team had short offensive drives requiring the defense to be on the field more than it should have been (read: fatigue), Smith & Co. performed admirably.

Syracuse can thank Ryan Hart (Rutgers) for throwing so many interceptions, because if he hadn't, Syracuse, more than likely, would have been lying dead last in the league in drive efficiency.

So what needs to change to generate more Syracuse offensive success? Well, it's pretty simple:

1. More yards per play to lengthen drives;
2. Convert field goal attempts and become more efficient in the red zone;
3. Fewer turnovers.

To quote Tony Kornheiser, "That's it; that's the list!"

As the points factor indicates, turnovers were never the primary reason Syracuse did such a poor job scoring offensive points last season. This is quite disheartening, considering that cutting down on turnovers is a relatively easy adjustment to make from a coaching standpoint. When an entire offensive philosophy is not generating points on a per drive basis, there is a major problem. The coaching change to Robinson seems to be making more and more sense.

[Knee-Jerk Analysis - Overview]
One thing should stand out right away - Temple and BC's TOB is greater than the team's actual points scored. I'm not exactly sure the reason for this, but I'll try to explain it anyway.

Given that this methodology is based on a team generating one point per 12 yards gained, these teams were missing scoring opportunities despite gaining a boatload of yards. Basically, these teams were able to string together long drives (thus dropping their total number of drives), but were unable to make field goals, turned the ball over in the opposition's territory, or were just abysmal in the red zone.

If Syracuse had a mirror image this season, it would be Temple. Temple was very efficient on offense this season with a .116 turnover factor and gaining almost 30 yards per drive. With a drive efficiency factor above 2, it is quite obvious that Temple was victimized by a terribly inept defensive unit that could not stop its opposition or create turnovers that would give the Owl offense advantageous field position.

Walter Washington, please come get your kudos.

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