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.
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:
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+.
|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|
|7||Penn State||2008||Joe Paterno||#10||143||116||133||125||144||147|
|12||Penn State||2002||Joe Paterno||#7||107||141||133||N/A||133||141|
|14||Penn State||2005||Joe Paterno||#10||120||116||104||113||128||140|
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.
|5||Michigan State||2012||Mark Dantonio||#117||78||90||123||112||58||63|
|11||Penn State||2011||Joe Paterno||#105||77||93||88||133||66||70|
|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:
|1||Texas||2005||Mack Brown||Big 12||#1||153||133||123||118||192||212|
|5||Oklahoma||2008||Bob Stoops||Big 12||#2||176||104||163||133||185||204|
|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|
|10||West Virginia||2006||Rich Rodriguez||Big East||#2||137||149||129||102||176||184|
|12||Oklahoma State||2011||Mike Gundy||Big 12||#2||137||120||107||135||162||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:
|1||Florida International||2006||Don Strock||Sun Belt||#119||51||72||70||79||31||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|
|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|
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.