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Bonanza of Numbers: Part VI

The Bonzanza rolls on!

In an earlier essay, I examined team efficiency, both offensive and defensive, in the Big East. The purpose of this essay is to examine whether or not there is a blatant, overt connection between quarterback efficiency and a team's offensive efficiency.

Obviously, a quarterback's efficiency will affect a team's efficiency. As a primary cog in the offensive machine, a quarterback may account for both of an offense's methods for moving the football. Therefore, the purpose of this essay is not to question whether there will be an effect. The question presented here is whether passing efficiency has a reach that supercedes a team's ability to rush the football.

Lots of writers have waxed poetic as to the importance of a quarterback and the changing role of the signal caller in contemporary college football. Thus, with quarterback efficiency at the forefront of discourse, it's important to actually examine its true value. Using the Big East as a laboratory to carry out this experiment, some reasonable assumptions and conclusions can be made.

2005 saw the Big East dominated by stingy defenses. Only one team - Louisville - generated an offensive benefit value above the 300 mark while four teams - West Virginia, South Florida, Connecticut, and Louisville - had a total defensive benefit value below 200. As a consequence, only two Big East passers - Brian Brohm and Ryan Hart - finished the season in the top 50 of the NCAA in passing efficiency.

A brief note on the data below is necessary. I did not present data for every Big East quarterback that took a snap this season. Instead, I only listed the primary passers from each team this season. I defined "primary" as the quarterback who threw the most passes for his team this season. So, D.J. Hernandez and Adam Bednarik, while frequent features in their team's offenses this year, were not considered.

Big East Passing Efficiency
PlayerPass Eff.Comp.%TD%Int%
B. Brohm166.7366.776.311.66
R. Hart148.1360.787.063.14
P. White132.4157.027.024.39
T. Palko126.6956.604.992.64
D. Grutza111.1456.003.673.67
P. Julmiste97.9749.212.384.37
M. Bonislawski97.5550.623.704.32

2005 Big East Drive Efficiency
West Virginia2.3772.1441.912279.083
South Florida2.1251.8361.546235.000

At first blush, there does not seem to be a connection between passer efficiency and drive efficiency. Only Louisville and Syracuse had their primary passers slotted in the same rank as their offensive units in drive efficiency. South Florida had the greatest deviation with Pat Julmiste ranking 7th in the conference in passer rating and his Bulls offensive unit ranking 3rd in drive efficiency. Almost every other club had a two position deviation with West Virginia serving as the exception, having only a one position deviation.

What does this tell us? Well, having a top-notch passer is not as important to an offense's ability to score points as we are led to believe by the "experts." What ultimately determines an offense's success or failure, at least in the Big East in 2005, is the ability to effectively run the pigskin.

South Florida and Pittsburgh serve as prime examples for this conclusion, albeit for different reasons. South Florida, led by Andre Hall, had the 3rd most effective offense in the league this season. With an offense built around running the football and pounding out yards, it did not matter that Pat Julmiste was borderline terrible this season. Through an effective running game, the Bulls were able to overcome Julmiste's interception infatuation and still effectively score points.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, relied heavily on Tyler Palko to score points. With the Panthers failing to place one rusher amongst the league's top ten ball carriers, Pittsburgh leaned on Palko to move the football. Had Palko not amassed the passer rating he did, it is likely that Pittsburgh's drive efficiency would have been even lower.

If you think I'm crazy for posing this conclusion by pointing at Louisville's Brian Brohm and the team's drive efficiency value, you're not totally off-base. However, Louisville wasn't totally reliant on Brohm to score points. Michael Bush, if you remember, was second in the league in rushing. So, while Brohm certainly was important to the Cardinals offense, his ability to efficiently pass the pigskin wasn't the sole reason for Louisville's success. He had a little help from his backfield mate.

And, of course, if a team is terrible at everything, like Syracuse, it doesn't matter who's messing up your offense.

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