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Tipping Points: Buffalo

This essay is Part 2 of a series of about 12 detailing the plight of Syracuse Football 2005. The structure of the essays is derived from the looking glass erected by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. For more information about Gladwell's book and the data used for the following examination, check out this previous essay.

Final Score: 31-0
Box Score

Tipping Points: Buffalo

There’s not much useful knowledge that can be taken from the numbers generated in the Buffalo game. Buffalo, with all due respect to Temple, is arguably the worst team in Division-1A this season. Thus, the statistics lend themselves more to Buffalo’s incompetence than Syracuse’s ability.

However, for the sake of presenting an analysis, there are some things worth pointing out.

Damien Rhodes had an awesome game against the Bulls racking up over 200 yards on the ground and a bushel full of touchdowns. This individual performance, though, put a mask on a lot of the offense’s other deficiencies.

Against Buffalo, Syracuse was able to pound the football at a 6.327 yards per carry clip. While impressive, the ability to run the pigskin greatly overshadowed the Orange’s inability to pass it. Against Buffalo’s horrendous secondary, Perry Patterson and the Syracuse receivers were only able to rack up 6.318 yards per pass attempt and 8.1 yards per pass completion. Considering the fact that Syracuse was running the ball so effectively, it is reasonable to believe that the Bulls defense would be predisposed to stopping the rush, thus opening up greater opportunity for Syracuse to covert long yards via the passing game. This never came to fruition.

Essentially, when the Orange was given its best chance at passing the ball effectively, it wasn’t able to do so competently. Thus, it can be argued that Syracuse didn’t stick with the run because Buffalo couldn’t stop it. Rather, Syracuse stuck with the run because the Orange simply couldn’t pass it effectively. When a team is almost running the ball at the same clip they are passing it, a clear deficiency is present.

In fact, Syracuse was so pitiful attempting to advance the football through the air, it was actually out gained by Buffalo on a yardage per pass completion basis by almost six yards. That is totally unacceptable. Buffalo is a team that needs to be dominated in every aspect of the game, and Syracuse was unable to do that.

Another interesting statistic coming out of the Buffalo game was Syracuse’s true offensive benefit. True offensive benefit is an indication of how many points a team’s offense generated through a consideration of yards gained, turnovers committed, and total drives completed. Thus, a team that values the football and possesses it for long periods of time generates a high TOB since more opportunities to score are present.

Against the Bulls, Syracuse generated a TOB 40.583. While impressive and leads one to believe that the Orange really had things clicking on offense, this value is grossly misleading. With a TOB higher than the actual points scored by the Orange, only one conclusion can be reached – Syracuse was, once again, unable to effectively convert yards and field position into points.

Put another way, Syracuse was able to move the football, but was unable to maximize the utility of those yards. Considering the Orange did not commit a turnover in the game, the ultimate onus must fall on the coaching staff and the players executing the staff’s edicts for failing to cash in when the opportunities presented themselves.

That isn’t just disappointing, it’s maddeningly frustrating.

Granted, points are often taken away when an offense possesses the ball at the end of the half and time simply runs out before points can be scored, but with a discrepancy hovering safely above ten points, it is highly unlikely that the disparity between TOB and actual points accumulated can be blamed solely on the halftime and final buzzers being blown while the Syracuse offense possessed the football.

The numbers don’t lie, even though I wish they would.

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