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3rd Down Deficiency

Mission: Impossible
Brian over at MGoBlog has really gone above and beyond with his latest effort at statistical comprehension.

Through a Herculian effort, Brian has graphed some interesting down and distance data for what appears to be every D-1A football team this past season. Syracuse's statistical output, of course, is pretty pitiful.

Offense
Third Down Efficiency
From Brian:
The thick line in the center is the NCAA average (e.g., approximately 68% of third and ones were converted last year). The second thinner line represents Syracuse's third down efficiency. Where there is a gap between the thick and thin lines, that gap is filled in with either red or green depending on whether it is "good" or "bad," respectively.

Being above the line is good for offenses--you convert more often than not. Being above the line is bad for defenses--you are converted upon more often than not. Basically, you want to see a lot of green in these graphs.



Yikes. That's a lot of red.

It should not be surprising to see how terrible Syracuse was on offense trying to convert third downs. What is freaky weird about this graph, however, is not that Syracuse was bad (everyone knew that), but where it was bad.

Syracuse was actually worse on third and three than it was on third and five. How, I'm not exactly sure. You would think that when the team had a shorter distance to go in order to convert, more conversions would occur. Of course, Brian Pariani never received the memorandum about that.

Furthermore, how is it possible that this team was able to convert only 50% of its third and one possessions? This is hard evidence that Damien Rhodes is a soft runner.

Third Down Distance Distribution
From Brian:
Again, the line in the center is the NCAA average and the thinner line is the individual team's. Green is just "above"; red just "below," since there's no clear distinction between good or bad based solely on what side of the line you're on.



I really don't know what to make of this data right now, but my initial impression is that the majority of Syracuse's third down possessions came with the Orange needing to get between six and 14 yards. That is not good and certainly played a large role in Syracuse's inability to convert third down tries.

Also, seeing the amount of red taking up space between one and three yards is disconcerting. However, given the fact that Syracuse was converting less than 50% of those tries anyway, it really didn't matter that the Orange had long distances on third down.

The Raw Numbers
From Brian:
The following graph shows the underlying data used to construct the first two. Each bar represents one yard line. Blue segments are failed conversions. Red segments resulted in first downs.



Defense
Third Down Efficiency



For the most part, Syracuse had its defense in order on third down. With the team in "green" territory from two to 13 yards, Anthony Smith & Co. got the job done. This is probably directly attributable to Greg Robinson's attacking mentality.

What is weird, however, is Syracuse's inability to stop teams in the 13 to 15 yard range. It's just absolutely schizophrenic.

Third Down Distance Distribution



The Raw Numbers

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