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Bonanza of Numbers: Part V

And the Bonanza rolls on....

A few days ago I took a brief look at offensive drive efficiency and how the members of the Big East stacked up against each other. While a nice illustration of what was happening offensively in the Big East this year, the portrait painted was not completely indicative of which teams were the most efficient overall in 2005.

In order to construct a complete picture of a team's production and value, it is necessary to examine a team's efficiency on both the offensive and defensive sides of the football. The premise behind this maxim is simple: teams that have a great disparity between points yielded and points scored are bound to have more success.

With this in mind, here's the 2005 Big East Drive Efficiency data:

2005 Big East Defensive Drive Efficiency
West Virginia1.82991.4491.068157.000
South Florida1.8691.48971.111169.917

PF = Points Factor
SEF = Scoring Efficiency Factor
DEF = Drive Efficiency Factor
TDB = Total Defensive Benefit

General Thoughts
Looking at these ratings, some things instantly come to mind. First, teams that performed best in stopping the opposition's third-down opportunities ultimately generated a better TDB value. With Connecticut and South Florida topping the Big East in this statistic, it's not surprising to see their defensive units yielding such a low number of TDB points.

Second, which is also along the same line as the first point, is the importance of limiting the number of first downs the opposing offense generates. The top three teams in TDB are also the league's top three squads in limiting the opposition's number of first downs, albeit in a different order.

Finally, defensive units that generate takeaways will always yield fewer points. There is little explanation that needs to be given to this contention, especially when one recognizes that the top four teams in TDB are also the league's top four clubs in defensive takeaways.

Thus, if a team limits the length of the opposing offense's drives and creates turnovers, very few points will be yielded. The math is frighteningly simple when viewed through that lens.

Orange Perspective
What was all that stuff about Syracuse's defense being the Orange's saving grace this season?

Whether Syracuse's terrible defensive performance in 2005 is attributable to the offense's inability to stay on the field is debatable contention.

It is true that because Syracuse fielded such an inefficient offense (dead last in the Big East in 2005), the defense may have become fatigued from having to stay on the field for so long. Thus, because the defense was so fatigued, they simply ran out of gas as the game wore on and, consequently, yielded an uncharacteristic number of point-producing drives. This point is buttressed by the fact that Syracuse yielded 152 total second half points this season as opposed to 143 in the first half.

Additionally, it could be argued that a defensive unit that is unassisted by an inefficient offensive unit is almost guaranteed to fail and yield lots of points because of the short field the defense must defend. When an offense cannot string together prolonged drives, a defense is bound to be forced to essentially have to play with only a half-field behind them, thus giving a defense's opposition great opportunity to score.

However, these arguments cannot be the only reasons for the Orange's weak statistical production. Syracuse was only yielded 11 more points in the second half on the season than they did in the first. That does not really smack of defensive inefficiency as the result of offense-induced fatigue.

Moreover, the Orange defensive unit yielded 4100 yards to its opposition this year and only managed to generate 23 takeaways. To believe that these aspects of Syracuse's defensive performance are directly attributable to Perry Patterson's chubby an innacurate throwing arm is ludicrous.

What plagued the Orange all season (and is probably attributable to Syracuse's poor defensive production) is the team's inability to: a) generate sacks, b) create turnovers, and c) turn the opposition's opportune field position into field goal attempts rather than red zone possessions.

This season, the Orange defense managed only 25 sacks on the season (6th in the Big East). When a team cannot generate sacks (especially a defense that blitzes and attacks with reckless abandon), the opposition is not losing field position and, consequently, is in a prime position to create prolonged drives and scoring opportunities.

As for the inability to create turnovers, Syracuse wasn't quite dreadful, but they certainly weren't superb. With 23 takeaways, the Orange finished 5th in the conference. However, many of these turnovers were of little assistance when viewed in the abstract because the Orange's offense was bound to either squander field position or generate a giveaway in plus territory. Thus, because Syracuse's offense was so terrible, the Orange defense needed to actually create a ridiculous number of turnovers in order decrease the number of scoring opportunities its opposition could have.

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