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Hurry Up Defense (Part2)

Again, this one is a lot of information so, take your time and don’t hesitate to stop and come back later. I’ll give you a few days before I post part 3.

In part 1, we saw how running more plays attributes greatly to poor statistical defense and we examined some accomplished defensive coordinators that were unable to overcome it. Again, my goal here is to affect perception and to better allow all of us (including myself) to become better educated football fans.

After researching for part 1, it occurred to me that our offensive philosophy might affect the defense but, I’m pretty sure I never saw Kevin Steele and Homer Simpson together…coincidence? And wait, didn’t Auburn just win the National Title with Malzahn using this same offensive philosophy? Yes, they sure did. Let’s look at that. Let’s use Auburn as the control. Not only do they use our system, they won the national championship with it.

As you probably already know, in 2003, Chad Morris and his high school staff met with Gus Malzahn to borrow his big picture offensive philosophy. Since then, the two have skyrocketed from coaching high school to becoming the "highest paid offensive coordinators" in FBS football.

Auburn has/had the same philosophy but they are a different animal. They intentionally speed-up their offense but they don’t always line up with the majority of other hurry-up teams as far as time of possession and plays run. Auburn’s national ranking in time of possession was 109 in 2009, 64 in 2010, and 108 in 2011. They were 29th in 2009, 54th in 2010, and 107th in 2011 in "plays run per game" against FBS competition.

Under Morris, we’re moving faster than they are and, as we learned in part 1, increasing the likelihood of poor statistical defense. Despite that, let’s see if we can find anything noteworthy by looking at Auburn’s national rankings over the past 9 years. Here are the Offensive and Defensive National Ranks for Auburn from 2003 to 2011 in scoring offense compared with scoring defense.

Auburn

Scoring
Off Rank

Scoring
Def Rank

2011

70

78

2010

6

54

undefeated

2009

20

73

2008

112

15

2007

85

6

2006

49

7

2005

15

6

2004

18

1

undefeated

2003

67

11

If we were all sitting in that chair on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and the million dollar question was "Can you look at this chart and tell me after what year Gus Malzahn was hired?," I think we’d all be rich…and hopefully not just because I bolded it.

Yep, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to notice the year where their offense improved 92 spots nationally and their defense dropped 58 spots nationally. And, Stephen Hawking doesn’t have to crunch these numbers to tell you what happened here either. The offensive and defensive numbers are skewed by the offensive philosophy.

You’ll also notice that before Malzahn, Auburn had a rich history of statistically dominant defensive play. In fact, they were much more dominant than we were over that stretch at Clemson. Yet, with the switch to Malzahn’s system, the bottom fell out on their defensive rankings and stayed there.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that the DC on that 2004 undefeated team (notice the #1 Defense Nationally) was their head coach during their drastic defensive drop-off in 2009 (Chizik). This is interesting because now the defensive philosophy, school, and conference remain the same as the defense drops off significantly.

Also, I considered the argument of "wrong defensive scheme for the offensive philosophy" but that theory dead ends at, "they have a National Championship running that scheme."

Now let’s look at Clemson in the same way.

Clemson

Scoring
Off Rank

Scoring
Def Rank

2011

23

81

2010

86

11

2009

24

27

2008

61

10

2007

23

10

2006

9

15

2005

57

13

2004

92

34

2003

51

24

Clearly this chart shows that Chad Morris is just Gus Malzahn with a lake. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. In the first year of Chad Morris’ philosophy, our offense improved 63 spots while our defense dropped 70 spots. That’s eerily similar to what happened at Auburn.

We’ve now learned that:

The average defensive rank of the "top ten team in plays run" is 82.3

The average defensive rank of a "top ten team in plays run" over the past 5 years is 60.3

In the first year in our offensive philosophy Auburn’s defense dropped 58 spots to 73.

Clemson’s defense dropped from 70 spots to 81.

For me, this is when I can definitively attribute the largest portion of the statistical drop-off on defense to our offensive philosophy. Once that’s figured out, I can work on answering the most important question:

How do you define what good defense is in our offensive philosophy?

First, I want to separate the skewed national rankings from the argument. We need to examine another angle. We need the bottom line. In order to compare our effectiveness with previous years and other offensive philosophies, I want to look at the effectiveness of both the offense and defense on a "per possession" basis and also look at our strength of schedule at the same time. Let’s start with the defense first.

Everybody agrees that the primary job of the defense is to keep the opposing team from scoring, get stops, and get the ball back to the offense.

Let’s look at strictly "Stops" or "Defensive Stop Rate Per Possession." That is what percentage our defense is getting off the field without allowing points. This way, we eliminate National Rankings and some (not all, of course) of the vaccum problem that comes with them. We’re judging the defense on what they were asked to do…get off the field.

First, here was our #11 ranked scoring defense in 2010. Here is the rate of how we were stopping offenses in 2010 (game by game with totals and averages at the bottom). Possessions at the end of halves where the clock was being run out were not counted.

2010 Opponent

Stops

Drives

%

TD Drvs
Allowed

TD %

North Texas

10

12

83.33%

1

8.33%

Presbyterian

11

14

78.57%

3

21.43%

Auburn

9

14

64.29%

3

21.43%

Miami

12

18

66.67%

4

22.22%

UNC

7

10

70.00%

3

30.00%

Maryland

13

14

92.86%

1

7.14%

Ga. Tech

6

9

66.67%

1

11.11%

Boston College

7

11

63.64%

1

9.09%

NC. St

8

11

72.73%

1

9.09%

Florida St.

6

10

60.00%

1

10.00%

Wake Forest

8

10

80.00%

1

10.00%

South Carolina

8

13

61.54%

2

15.38%

South Florida

7

12

58.33%

4

33.33%

Totals

112

158

70.89%

26

16.46%

You’ll notice that we held our entire division to just 1 offensive TD in 2010. That’s pretty solid defense any way you spin it. We didn’t win our division though and ultimately, that’s what matters.

Out of 158 drives by opponents, we stopped opponents from scoring 112 times. So, 70.89% of the time the defense got off the field. Teams scored TDs against us in 16.46% of their drives and the "average national ranking for our opponent’s offenses (OAOR)" was 60.2 (the lower number the better the offenses obviously).

Remember that the OAOR is a gauge and not the gospel because you can have under or over-achievement on one side of the football conference-wide and skew the national rankings.

By comparison, let’s compare Clemson with a few more teams from 2010:

Alabama: 143 drives, 77.62 % stop rate, 12.59% Opp TD rate, OAOR 50.5

Clemson: 158 drives, 70.89% stop rate, 16.46% Opp TD rate, OAOR 60.2

Florida State: 159 drives, 69.18% stop rate, 17.61% Opp TD rate, OAOR 57.5

Auburn: 161 drives, 66.46% stop rate, 25.47% Opp TD rate, OAOR 41.5

Duke: 139 drives, 53.96% Stop Rate, 37.41% TD rate, OAOR 59.9

Now let’s look at this year with the new offensive philosophy.

2011 Opponent

Stops

Drives

%

TD Drvs

TD %

Troy

12

16

75.00%

2

12.50%

Wofford

8

13

61.54%

3

23.08%

Auburn

7

11

63.64%

3

27.27%

Florida St.

7

11

63.64%

3

27.27%

Virginia Tech

13

14

92.86%

0

0.00%

Boston College

8

11

72.73%

2

18.18%

Maryland

8

14

57.14%

5

35.71%

UNC

10

15

66.67%

5

33.33%

Ga. Tech

6

11

54.55%

3

27.27%

Wake Forest

8

11

72.73%

3

27.27%

NC St.

8

15

53.33%

4

26.67%

South Carolina

5

11

45.45%

4

36.36%

Virginia Tech

11

13

84.62%

1

7.69%

West Virginia

6

15

40.00%

9

60.00%

Totals

117

181

64.64%

47

25.97%

Clemson has dropped 6.25% in stop rate and 6.78% in Opp TD rate (FYI: During the 8-0 start, we were only a little over 2% off last year). The average national ranking for our opponent’s offenses was similar to 2010 at 59.4.

We interrupt this post because I know you really want to see what Alabama 2011 looks like "per possession" so I’m gonna give it to you. Here is the top of the mountain for your enjoyment and also a few other teams from 2011 for perspective:

Alabama: 146 drives, 89.04% stop rate, 6.16% Opp TD rate, OAOR 70.4

Florida State: 158 drives, 79.11% stop rate, 15.19% Opp TD rate, OAOR 66.2

Clemson: 181 drives, 64.64% stop rate, 25.97% Opp TD rate, OAOR 60.2

Auburn: 154 drives, 61.69% stop rate, 27.27% Opp TD rate, OAOR 53.1

Duke: 139 drives, 56.52% Stop Rate, 32.61% TD rate, OAOR 58.3

Ridiculous. Seriously, Alabama’s defense this year got off the field in 9 out of every 10 possessions. Although, how many people knew that Duke played better offenses than Alabama this year? Yep, Alabama put up a ridiculous "stop rate" here but, I can’t help but notice how they benefited from playing four offenses tanked worse than 105 (Penn St. Tennessee, Kent St. Ole Miss).

Ok, back to the Tigers. Now let’s compare the past three years at Clemson side by side in "per possession defense."

Clemson 2009: Stops 73.14%, Gave Up TD 16.00%, OAOR 54.2

Clemson 2010: Stops 70.89%, Gave Up TD 16.46%, OAOR 60.2

Clemson 2011: Stops 64.64%, Gave Up TD 25.97%, OAOR 59.4

Granted, we all agree that the 2011 Clemson defense isn’t as deep or as talented as the 2009 or 2010 version and there was an expectation of at least some drop-off.

However, you’ll notice that a downward trend in "stop rate" and "TDs given up per possession" goes back to 2009. Many would likely equate some of this drop in effectiveness to Clemson’s weak offense in 2010 or the HUNH in 2011 but, it is what it is. The last number is the average offensive ranking (OAOR) of all of our opponents that year. So with the HUNH, to look good statistically, we need to get better performance over more drives with less rest.

For example, in 2010, we gave up 18.8 points per game (11th nationally). With the HUNH in 2011, there were more drives to stop. With our offense and special teams giving up 5 TDs like we did this year, Clemson’s stop rate would’ve needed to be 75.69% if we were to hold teams to 18.8 ppg. That would require us to actually be better "per possession" than we were from 2007- 2010, better than Auburn was in their NC season (more on that later), and better than their NC opponent, Oregon, in 2010 (75.00%).

Incidentally, I crunched the numbers and the Oregon Cheerleaders are performing at a 92.6% "Dropped Jaw Rate" this year (Clemson 57.2%) (South Carolina -14.3%).

In 2009, it should be mentioned that we had 175 drives, faced tougher opposition, and still had a 73.14% stop rate. I identify this as our best defensive performance in the past five years that I looked at every drive. Still, our Tigers had a nice sized drop off in "defensive stops per possession" in 2011. Maybe the defense should have responded better to our offensive philosophy changes.

Let’s go back to Auburn and look at them "by possession" on defense and compare them to Clemson. Here is Auburn the year before Malzahn arrived, 2008, compared with the Malzahn years of 2009-2011. Again, this is what percentage the defense is getting off the field without allowing points. The OAOR is their Opponent’s Average Offensive Ranking Nationally in Scoring Offense (the lower number the better).

Auburn 2008: 152 drives, Stop Rate 75.66%, Gave Up TD 17.11%, OAOR 66.2

Auburn 2009: 169 drives, Stop Rate 65.09%, Gave Up TD 25.04%, OAOR 55.9

Auburn 2010: 161 drives, Stop Rate 66.46%, Gave Up TD 25.47%, OAOR 41.5

Auburn 2011: 154 drives. Stop Rate 61.69%, Gave Up TD 27.27%, OAOR 53.1

Clemson 2009: 175 drives, Stop Rate73.14%, Gave Up TD 16.00%, OAOR 54.2

Clemson 2010: 158 drives, Stop Rate 70.89%, Gave Up TD 16.46%, OAOR 60.2

Clemson 2011: 181 drives, Stop Rate 64.64%, Gave Up TD 25.97%, OAOR 59.4

Auburn dropped 10.57% in Stop Rate in the first year and 7.93% in TD rate and held right around there during their National Championship run. You can see that Auburn’s drop-off in "stop rate" was more severe than Clemson’s and that drop also remained consistent in the second year and got even worse in the third. You can also see that Auburn slightly out-performed our defense in their first two years as well.

In that second year, Auburn won 6 more games and a NC. The difference between Auburn’s National Champion defense and Clemson’s 2011 defense in per possession effectiveness is 1.82% which equates to about 3 more stops than we had last season.

This means that Auburn’s best performance "per possession" under Malzahn was similar to ours this year and was good enough for them to go 14-0 with their offense. We performed near that level against our competition and ended up 10-4. That certainly doesn’t mean that our defense this year was better than Auburn’s in 2010.

You can clearly see that the level of competition offensively was very high for Auburn in 2010 and that their defense not only held serve, but they performed better than they did the previous year. We didn’t face that kind of competition this year.

You could also use Auburn’s "tougher SEC schedule" argument to also justify their higher defensive drop off than us in their first year (2009). Although, the schedule difference isn’t enormous by any means. When you compare 1st year’s in the system, Clemson performed slightly worse against slightly worse offenses.

You’ll also notice that we had 20 more drives than Auburn’s NC season so, either we played more fast paced than them, had shorter offensive possessions than them, or they ran the ball more effectively on offense and controlled the clock better. Perhaps, it was some combination of all three.

When I look at their time of possession increase in the National Championship year and combine that with their 3,987 yards rushing that year (we rushed for 2,219 yards in 2011) it makes me think they were able to run the ball in a clock controlling manner when they needed to. As we’ve seen, this helps the defense’s productivity.

Between the TOP difference and number of drives difference, it is most likely that Chad Morris is more "foot on the gas" than Malzhan. So perhaps, this identifies a variation in philosophy between the two. So, in summary, our defense is performing near the level of Auburn against our weaker schedule for more possessions.

Against our current schedule, I would define solid HUNH defense as getting off the field somewhere between what Auburn did against their "OAOR 41" schedule (more difficult than ours), which was 66.46% of the time, and what Oregon did against their "OAOR 64" schedule (easier than ours), which was 75.00% of the time.

A defense that gets off the field between 66.46% to 75.00% of the time is acceptable National Championship level defense for a HUNH team. The offense is taking liberties from the defense and should be responsible for doing the damage, however, if the defense can do this and get some turnovers to create "sudden change" situations to help the offense, I’m happy. (If our schedule strength is extremely weak or strong, this could be amended) At 64.64% this year, our defense fell below this "Championship standard."

Now I add up all the factors to get an acceptable level of getting off the field for this season. I factor in that we got off the field in 73% in 175 drives in 2009. Our average offense ranking was 59.4 this year. Oregon posted a 75.00% "stop rate" against a 64.0 OAOR. And, we had a decline in talent and depth from 2009 and 2010.

Therefore, I think we should have been somewhere between 68.00% and 72.00% this year with 68% being acceptable but not outstanding and 72% being the overachievement line.

Ok, so there’s our defensive standard. Now, I need to see the offense in the same way. Is the offense canceling out our defensive losses with offensive gains?

With offense, I initially assume that the strength of schedule argument gets flipped in our offense’s favor. If ACC defenses are actually weaker than SEC defenses, then an equally talented offense should perform better against ACC competition. Of course, Cam Newton and Auburn were pretty incredible in 2010. Maybe we won’t be better than them but, how do we measure up? And what about Auburn 2009? What about Spiller and Ford’s offense?

Looking forward to it. Lastly, lets close the book on defense by taking a look at what I think a lot of people would like to see out of curiosity… Steele vs. Koening.

Steele:

2009: Stops 73.14%, Gave Up TD 16.00%, OAOR 54.1

2010: Stops 70.89%, Gave Up TD 16.46%, OAOR 60.2

2011: Stops 64.64%, Gave Up TD 25.97%, OAOR 59.4

and now the Koening years:

2006: Stops:77.27%, Gave Up TD 14.29% OAOR 74.9

2007: Stops 74.68%, Gave Up TD 15.19% OAOR 73.8

2008: Stops 75.32%, Gave Up TD 13.64% OAOR 72.1

Take from that what you would like. Picking a winner here is tough. As you can see, Steele is playing a more difficult schedule now than Koening did from 2006 to 2008. Our opponent’s average offensive ranking goes up 18 spots in 2009 and our drop off was only 2.21% "per possession" over 175 drives. I would say we got better.

I would also say that this reflects how our schedule has gotten tougher under Dabo then it was under Bowden. Florida State, Georgia Tech, and South Carolina are much improved offensively from the 06-08 days. We also added Auburn and TCU to replace a Temple or Central Michigan from the Bowden days. Not to mention that we also played the Coastal Division Champ twice (Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech) in 2009 and 2011.

In Part 3, we’ll look at our Offense.

These opinions are not necessarily those of the Proprietors of Shakin' The Southland.

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