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COLLEGE FOOTBALL THOR+ RATINGS SINCE 2000: OFFENSE

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Another week, another chart. This time, let's look at the offensive side of the ball.

David Purdy

Ah, offense. A touchy subject for us Big Ten fans. Our conference constantly faces ridicule for "playing slow, plodding football." Of course, historically, that characterization hasn't been all that incorrect. The Big Ten has placed an emphasis on solid, fundamental defense over the years. And, as Iowa fans, I think we have all developed an appreciation for good old fashioned, smash mouth defense. I mean, who doesn't enjoy a nice 6-4 slugfest every now and then?

But we can wax poetic on the beauty of a low-scoring slobberknocker next time. This time we are going to talk about offense because I made a chart about offense. In the same manner as the last chart I made, this one plots each FBS offense since 2000 by their Offense+ rating.

College Football Offense+ Ratings Since 2000

Like last time, the chart is interactive. If you hover over a particular team, information on that particular team will pop up. If you click on that team, it will highlight each variation of that team from 2000-2013 in order to give an idea of that team's offensive trend. And remember, when reading the ratings: 100 = FBS average for that given year, greater than 100 = above average for that given year, and lower than 100 = below average for that given year.

Per usual, before I go off into the data, let me give a short overview of what the numbers are measuring. First, the overall offensive rating (Offense+) is a measure of offensive points per possession. It used to include field goals, but now that I've started measuring special teams, field goals are included in the special teams' measurement. I did this for two reasons: 1) I don't think it's fair include field goals on offense if that unit is good at moving the ball into their opponent's portion of the field, but their kicker is terrible. 2) And, similarly, I don't want to reward an offense that frequently stalls once they cross the 35 yard line and still manages to score because they have a future NFL kicker on the roster. I think it makes more sense to judge the best offenses by the amount of touchdown points they score per play. That includes extra points because they are essentially chip shots that are rarely missed, and two point conversions because, well, that is the offense doing the scoring.

Similar to basketball, the other four things I like to look at are measures that attempt to show how the offense accomplished what it accomplished. The four things I look at for offense and defense are: 1) Passing; 2) Rushing; 3) Blocking/Pressure; and 4) Turnovers. Passing is measured by using adjusted net yards per passing attempt. I've used passer rating in the past, but I like this stat better because it shows how well the offense moved the ball through the air, while also taking things into account like how often the quarterback threw an interception. This number is also adjusted to include sacks from 2005 on (I'll explain why in a minute).

The next concept is rushing, which I measure using the simple yards per carry statistic. It is also adjusted so that sacks and sack yards are not included in the rushing totals from 2005 on. Third, I like to measure an offense's ability to block by measuring their tackles for loss per play allowed. This number only goes back to 2005 because tackles for loss and sacks are not easily available for me to aggregate from 2000-2004*. This makes me very sad, as I would really like to know what 2002 Iowa's offensive line would grade out at. And, finally, turnovers are measured by looking at how many turnovers per play an offense allows.

*As far as I know. Let me know if these stats are readily available somewhere that I'm not aware of.

I think these four measures can give us pretty good insight on why a team did or did not score many points on the season. Remember, however, all of these numbers are raw, and not adjusted for strength of schedule. Only the final offense rating with a "+" sign is adjusted.

Now, let's talk about Iowa.

Rank Team Year Season Rank Passing Rushing Turnovers Blocking Offense Offense+
1 Iowa 2001 #5 118 109 101 N/A 144 153
2 Iowa 2002 #9 152 126 138 N/A 133 139
3 Iowa 2005 #22 128 114 120 120 114 124
4 Iowa 2008 #28 101 111 93 104 118 118
5 Iowa 2003 #41 95 105 112 N/A 105 112
6 Iowa 2010 #37 139 98 147 103 108 112
7 Iowa 2011 #42 109 97 117 117 105 108
8 Iowa 2006 #57 100 104 73 124 97 102
9 Iowa 2004 #66 105 50 111 N/A 84 90
10 Iowa 2013 #71 91 88 99 122 83 88
11 Iowa 2009 #86 85 83 72 90 82 85
12 Iowa 2007 #99 84 96 139 88 73 71
13 Iowa 2000 #89 96 69 112 N/A 63 71
14 Iowa 2012 #119 72 86 143 102 58 61

Right away we see the 2001 outlier that I talked about in the previous post. This time, though, with the other descriptive ratings included, we can visually see that something is a little funky here. The descriptive numbers look good, but probably not good enough to warrant such a high Offense+ rating in the 150s. I mean, both passing and rushing were above average. So were turnovers. And while we don't have a blocking rating, I highly doubt the blocking on that team was so good that it would make an above average offense jump to fifth best in the country. Rather, this team really took it upon themselves to score points when they came across a weak defense. They scored 217 of their 343 offensive points that season against Kent State, Miami of Ohio, Indiana, Northwestern, and Minnesota. The highest Defense+ ranking for any of those teams was #55 for Kent State. In those games they averaged 0.63 points per possession on offense, while only averaging 0.27 against the rest of their opponents. So, again, that 2001 team really inflated their Offense+ rating by racking up points when they came across weak defenses. And with those offensive descriptors, we can see that something fishy is up, which allows us to investigate.

That then, brings us to 2002, which should be the top offense of the Kirk Ferentz era. That team more fits the billing for a team that was legitimately one of the best offenses in the nation, which you can see by the fact that green highlighting is much darker for this team than the 2001 team. Before adjusting for strength of schedule -- which would be adjusted upward -- the 2002 Hawkeyes rated out at 52% above the average 2002 team in passing, 26% above average in rushing, and 38% above average at not turning the ball over. That was good enough for 33% above average when it came to scoring points, and 39% above average when you adjust for their schedule. The Offense+ rating of 139 was good for 9th best in the country that year. It really is too bad there is no offensive line rating for this team.

The next best offense of what is essentially the Kirk Ferentz era (sans the juggernaut 1999 team, of course) was the 2005 offense. Drew Tate's junior year saw a Hawkeye offense that could pass, run, block, and rarely turned the ball over. This is also the final team on this list that grades out above average in all four offensive categories before adjusting for strength of schedule. I think that kind of speaks for itself.

The rest of best of this period had some kind of weakness. The 2008 team thankfully had Shonn Greene to make up for inexperienced quarterback play, a developing offensive line, and a little bit of a turnover problem. The 2003 offense had Fred Russell, what I'm sure would rate out as a good offensive line, and was good at hanging onto the ball. All of which made up for the fact that Nathan Chandler was not the second coming of Brad Banks.

At #6, we finally get to the 2010 team. How this offensive unit doesn't rank higher on the list, I have no idea. The passing game with Ricky Stanzi, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, and Marvin McNutt, and Allen Reisner was very potent. The run game and the blocking were fairly mediocre, but not terrible. And this unit didn't turn the ball over. So how did they not score more points?

2011 and 2006 round out the list of above average offenses, and 2006's raw numbers needed a strength of schedule adjustment to bump it up over that threshold.

Now, for the worst Iowa offenses since 2000 (going from the bottom of the table up), I present to you the 2012 team; also known as the beginning of the Greg Davis era. That offense didn't turn the ball over and had a decent offensive line, but holy crap the pass game and run game were terrible. Of course, we should cut a little bit of slack here, because this was the transition to a new offensive system. That being said, though, it this was still a massively ugly offensive performance. I still feel bad for James Vandenberg.

The second worst offense of this period was the 2000 team. The passing game wasn't bad, but the running game definitely was. The exact opposite was true for 2007, which just happens to be the third worst offense of this time period. That was a year with a terrible quarterback and a terrible offensive line. And, honestly, I don't know if I feel worse for James Vandenberg having Greg Davis' scheme thrown upon him his senior year, or for a senior Albert Young trying to run behind that 2007 offensive line. Yikes.

2009 was a fun year, but let's not forget that offense struggled quite a bit after Shonn Greene decided to make the jump to the NFL. And last year's offense, while better than Greg Davis' inaugural season, was still not very good. Like 12% below average not very good. Let's hope for a big jump this season. Lastly, 2004 was the year of the exploding ACL.

All in all, there's a whole lot of meh in those numbers. Of course, I'm not really telling you anything you didn't already know.

Bonus AIRBHG visual:

Team Year Rushing
Iowa 2000 69
Iowa 2001 109
Iowa 2002 126
Iowa 2003 105
Iowa 2004 50
Iowa 2005 114
Iowa 2006 104
Iowa 2007 96
Iowa 2008 111
Iowa 2009 83
Iowa 2010 98
Iowa 2011 97
Iowa 2012 86
Iowa 2013 88

2008 was Shonn Greene. How often do guys make it back to Iowa City and become a success story like that? My theory: Kirk Ferentz sold his soul to AIRBHG for 2008.

To put this into a little bit of context, let's look at the top 15 Big Ten offenses since 2000, according to THOR+.

Rank Team Year Coach Season Rank Passing Rushing Turnovers Blocking Offense Offense+
1 Wisconsin 2011 Bret Bielema #1 163 122 157 117 183 188
2 Ohio State 2013 Urban Meyer #3 127 144 119 120 170 174
3 Ohio State 2006 Jim Tressel #4 145 109 123 116 156 163
4 Wisconsin 2010 Bret Bielema #5 147 117 159 118 157 158
5 Iowa 2001 Kirk Ferentz #5 118 109 101 N/A 144 153
6 Northwestern 2000 Randy Walker #9 116 128 154 N/A 139 148
7 Penn State 2008 Joe Paterno #10 143 116 133 125 144 147
8 Indiana 2013 Kevin Wilson #16 121 114 108 102 134 145
9 Minnesota 2003 Glen Mason #9 145 137 137 N/A 148 145
10 Michigan 2000 Lloyd Carr #11 146 124 133 N/A 138 143
11 Minnesota 2005 Glen Mason #8 142 116 138 143 128 142
12 Penn State 2002 Joe Paterno #7 107 141 133 N/A 133 141
13 Wisconsin 2005 Barry Alvarez #9 131 97 141 87 134 141
14 Penn State 2005 Joe Paterno #10 120 116 104 113 128 140
15 Iowa 2002 Kirk Ferentz #9 152 126 138 N/A 133 139

2011 Wisconsin tops the list here by quite a margin. As you all probably remember, that was the year that Wisconsin signed Russell Wilson to a one year free agent deal. #2 is last year's Ohio State Buckeyes, which is really annoying considering this was only Urban Meyer's second year on the job. If you go click through the chart, his 2004 Utah team owns the highest Offense+ rating during this period for the Mountain West Conference. In addition, if you check out the SEC, his 2008 and 2007 Florida Gators were the highest rated offenses in the SEC from 2000-2013. In a conference like the Big Ten, where high-powered offenses haven't historically been as common, don't be surprised if Urban Meyer cranks it up to a level that we haven't seen all that often in this conference.

As for Iowa, two teams make the list. The outlier 2001 team comes in at #5 and then the 2002 team at #15. If we acknowledge that 2001 is inflated, that means Iowa only has one offense that falls within the top 15. That's not necessarily a mark against them, since that list is fairly diverse and only Wisconsin shows up on it more than twice. Instead, the more concerning thing to note is the fact that all of the Iowa teams toward the top of the list are quite a ways removed from where we sit today. If we arbitrarily set the cut off at the top 50, then the most recent team to be within the top 50 Big Ten offenses since 2000 is the 2008 offense. 2010 comes in at #54 and 2011 comes in at #66, but this is a sample of 157 teams, so average is right around #78. Again, the numbers aren't really saying anything we didn't already know: Iowa hasn't had a great offense in quite a while. And, in general, Iowa's offense is usually pretty meh under Kirk Ferentz.

Moving on to the worst offenses of this period, the Hawkeyes unfortunately make more appearances here than they do in the previous list.

Rank Team Year Coach Season Rank Passing Rushing Turnovers Blocking Offense Offense+
1 Indiana 2003 Gerry DiNardo #115 75 84 127 N/A 49 51
2 Illinois 2003 Ron Turner #107 80 88 90 N/A 57 61
3 Iowa 2012 Kirk Ferentz #119 72 86 143 102 58 61
4 Purdue 2001 Joe Tiller #107 72 71 93 N/A 57 62
5 Michigan State 2012 Mark Dantonio #117 78 90 123 112 58 63
6 Purdue 2013 Darrell Hazell #115 71 76 74 73 58 64
7 Illinois 2012 Tim Beckman #116 55 89 45 60 60 64
8 Illinois 2005 Ron Zook #107 69 102 109 91 58 65
9 Purdue 2010 Danny Hope #105 54 97 68 108 66 67
10 Indiana 2011 Kevin Wilson #107 75 95 117 75 68 69
11 Penn State 2011 Joe Paterno #105 77 93 88 133 66 70
12 Iowa 2000 Kirk Ferentz #89 96 69 112 N/A 63 71
13 Iowa 2007 Kirk Ferentz #99 84 96 139 88 73 71
14 Minnesota 2011 Jerry Kill #98 80 92 109 102 67 73
15 Penn State 2006 Joe Paterno #92 88 105 103 86 71 75

2012 is the gift that just keeps on giving. And by giving, I mean a kick straight between the legs. According to THOR+, the only two Big Ten offenses that were worse than the 2012 Iowa offense were the 2003 versions of Indiana and Illinois. 2000 and 2007 Iowa come in at #12 and #13, which means Iowa joins some... interesting company with the likes of Illinois and Purdue as the only other teams to have three offenses make this bottom 15 list.

Finally, I shall end this post like I did the last one. First, the top 15 FBS offenses since 2000:

Rank Team Year Coach Conference Season Rank Passing Rushing Turnovers Blocking Offense Offense+
1 Texas 2005 Mack Brown Big 12 #1 153 133 123 118 192 212
2 USC 2005 Pete Carroll Pac-10 #2 150 147 137 128 187 210
3 Florida 2008 Urban Meyer SEC #1 166 132 144 115 185 205
4 Florida 2007 Urban Meyer SEC #1 169 119 133 120 182 205
5 Oklahoma 2008 Bob Stoops Big 12 #2 176 104 163 133 185 204
6 Hawai'i 2006 June Jones WAC #1 183 142 94 126 206 192
7 Wisconsin 2011 Bret Bielema Big Ten #1 163 122 157 117 183 188
8 Florida State 2013 Jimbo Fisher ACC #1 151 129 119 93 185 186
9 Louisville 2004 Bobby Petrino CUSA #1 162 139 134 N/A 191 186
10 West Virginia 2006 Rich Rodriguez Big East #2 137 149 129 102 176 184
11 Florida 2001 Steve Spurrier SEC #1 158 104 82 N/A 169 184
12 Oklahoma State 2011 Mike Gundy Big 12 #2 137 120 107 135 162 183
13 Utah 2004 Urban Meyer MWC #2 161 133 138 N/A 183 183
14 Baylor 2011 Art Briles Big 12 #3 175 122 104 126 161 182
15 Nebraska 2000 Frank Solich Big 12 #1 103 155 129 N/A 164 178

Hey, it's Urban Meyer again. This isn't getting old at all!

And the worst 15 FBS offenses since 2000:

Rank Team Year Coach Conference Season Rank Passing Rushing Turnovers Blocking Offense Offense+
1 Florida International 2006 Don Strock Sun Belt #119 51 72 70 79 31 29
2 Louisiana-Monroe 2000 Bobby Keasler Independent #114 60 50 58 N/A 33 29
3 Florida International 2013 Ron Turner CUSA #124 50 66 84 42 36 33
4 South Florida 2013 Willie Taggart American #122 51 76 33 85 33 33
5 Miami (Ohio) 2013 Mike Bath MAC #125 40 76 78 63 36 33
6 Rutgers 2001 Greg Schiano Big East #116 41 64 0 N/A 35 34
7 Massachusetts 2013 Charley Molnar MAC #123 54 72 59 94 36 34
8 SMU 2003 Phil Bennett WAC #117 53 77 80 N/A 36 35
9 Buffalo 2005 Jim Hofher MAC #119 48 87 62 66 40 37
10 Massachusetts 2012 Charley Molnar MAC #124 45 69 65 64 40 38
11 Kent State 2000 Dean Pees MAC #113 63 78 108 N/A 44 40
12 New Mexico State 2009 DeWayne Walker WAC #120 16 86 60 93 44 41
13 New Mexico State 2010 DeWayne Walker WAC #120 70 79 115 101 43 41
14 North Texas 2006 Darrell Dickey Sun Belt #118 34 81 55 65 47 42
15 Buffalo 2010 Jeff Quinn MAC #119 50 77 49 86 49 44

Interestingly, there are four offenses from last season on this list.

Next time we shall discuss defense. I promise you, fellow Hawkeye fans, it will be more cheerful than discussing offense. But for any of you Indiana fans who may be lost and have found your way here, I can't exactly make you that same promise.