Gary Doran

Breaking Down the Oregon Ducks


This week’s opponent break down features the Sun Devil’s Thursday night conference opponent; the Oregon Ducks. The format has changed a little as many offensive and defensive statistics comparing the Devils and the Ducks have been added in a side-by-side comparison.  There is also a section on some statistical trends on the 2015 ASU football team.  Another feature is a comparison of the two teams by their running and passing plays-by-down, by-half and within the Red Zone.  The comparisons are from both an offensive and a defensive standpoint.  As always, we want to thank for their excellent compilation of statistics, along with the stats provided by the Pac-12 Conference website.


Oregon on Offense

A few things that pop out from the numbers above; Oregon scores touchdowns on roughly a third of its drives, while ASU scores on just under a quarter of its drives. The Ducks also get into the Red Zone about 10-percent more often on their drives than the Devils.  The Ducks average a half of a point per drive more than the Devils.  Not to mention the fact the Ducks have twice as many runs covering ten yards or more than the Devils.  On average, just over half the time the Devils get into their opponents’ Red Zone they end up with a touchdown, as for the Ducks, it’s almost two out of every three times.

Oregon on Defense

Almost 19-percent of the Ducks points come off of turnovers, while ASU is only cashing in on under 12 percent of its points off of turnovers. This is surprising for the Devils, because in 2014, 65 percent of the Devils’ points came off of turnovers. It’s interesting that the percentage of drives that each team’s offense is able to score a touchdown is almost the same as what each team’s defense allows opponents to score touchdown on their drives.  As poorly as the Duck defense has performed to date, they are first in the conference in limiting third down conversions, while ASU is tenth.   One area the Duck defense has a real problem is when opponents get into their Red Zone where on average almost 80-percent of the time the opponent scores a touchdown.

Sun Devil Trends

The Red Zone is where teams have their best chance of scoring a touchdown, so the more times a team can enter its opponents’ Red Zones, the better the opportunity to score a touchdown. With that in mind, here is an analysis of the Red Zone trips and Red Zone touchdowns for ASU per game in the Graham era:


Although the 2015 season alone hasn’t done very well in the Red Zone, the broader picture shows a steady decline in getting into the Red Zone and also scoring touchdowns in the Red Zone. It is definitely not a desirable trend and one that needs to be addressed.

Another interesting downward trend for the Devils is in Total Offense ranking in the conference. Since the Graham Era was ushered in with “Left Lane Hammer Down”, the hammer seems to be steadily easing.

2012 : Total Offense (per game)……….. 464.5 (4th)
2013: Total Offense (per game)…….….. 457.3 (5th)
2014: Total Offense (per game)………… 442.3 (7th)
2015: Total Offense (per game)………… 419.7 (9th)

  • The conference rankings were before last weekends’ games.

Analyzing Third Down

Teams usually want to stay out of third down situations as much as possible, but when they do find themselves facing third downs, then they want to convert as many as possible into first downs. For that reason, this analysis will be concentrating on offensive third downs for both ASU and Oregon.

So far this year, ASU has experienced the second highest percentage of third down plays in the conference where 22.08 percent of the Devils’ offensive plays came on third down. By contrast, the Oregon Ducks faced third downs only 18.7-percent of their offensive plays, which was the third lowest in the conference.

From a conversion standpoint, ASU was sixth in the conference in converting their third down plays to first downs, while Oregon was eighth. A closer look at the makeup of each team’s third downs reveals some interesting details.

Just under 55-percent of the third downs faced by the Devils had six or less yards to get a first down, while for the Ducks it was under 49 percent of their third downs. In other words, more than half of all the third downs Oregon faced had more than six yards to go to get a first down, whereas for ASU, it was only about 45 percent.

When it is third and six yards or less to go, ASU has done a great job in converting those into first downs at a 60-percent rate, which is the best in the conference at that down and distance. Under the same scenario, Oregon converted 46 percent of their third down plays to first downs.

Once the yardage goes beyond six yards, ASU’s ability to convert a first down drops dramatically. When there is seven or more yards to get a first down, ASU converts less than 17 percent of its chances. Only Oregon State has a lower conversion rate at this down and distance. For the Ducks when there is more than seven yards needed for the first down, they have converted just over 30-percent of their chances.

What hurts ASU’s third down conversion rate is its anemic conversion rate when the Devils need more than ten yards. The Devils have run 35 plays on third down where they have needed ten yards or more, and have only converted two of those plays into first downs, which is less than a six percent conversion rate. On the other hand, the Oregon Duck’s conversion rate on a third down and ten or more yards to go is the third highest in the conference at over 31-percent. More than any other stat, this poor showing by ASU in a critical situation points to the Devil’s lack of a “go to” person on offense.

As a point of reference, in those third and long situations, ASU has passed the ball 29 times and only gotten the two first downs, whereas in the three previous seasons, the Devils faced 98 similar third and long situations and converted 22 of them into first downs. That’s roughly four times better than the 2015 results so far.

Rushing Offense


Looking at third down running the ball shows the biggest difference in the explosiveness between the two teams. Another indicator of explosiveness is that one out of every five running plays for the Ducks goes for ten yards or more, whereas for ASU it’s closer to one out of every eight running plays.

Passing Offense


Overall, the Ducks have done better than the Devils through the air in most situations. The Devils do seem to perform better in the second half than the first, while it is just the opposite for the Ducks. Although it was highlighted in the third down analysis, the Ducks do very well through the air on third down situations when there is ten yards or more to go. In those situations, just under a third of their passes are completed for 15 yards or more.

Rushing Defense


Overall the ASU defense does a better job against the run than the Ducks, however, the Duck get just a little stingier on third downs and in the all-important Red Zone. It’s interesting that both teams surrender the majority of touchdown runs in the second half of their games.

Passing Defense


Overall ASU limits completions better than the Duck, except in the all-important Red Zone. Additionally, ASU is more susceptible to giving up the longer pass plays. However, in the Red Zone, ASU has given up eight touchdown passes, while the Ducks have surrendered 18. To be fair, ASU has only face 14 Red Zone passes, while the Ducks have faced 43 Red Zone passes.

What the Numbers Mean

Overall Oregon’s offense outperforms ASU’s offense in most offensive categories.  The Devils could really help themselves against the Ducks if they can keep their third down situations to short yardage, come out a little stronger in the first half of the game, run the ball a little better on third down and score Red Zone touchdowns more often.

Overall ASU’s defense outperforms Oregon’s defense in most of the defensive categories.  On average, the Duck defense gives up a somewhat generous amount of yardage on first down runs, way too many touchdown passes, allows opponents into the Red Zone too often, and worst of all, once the opponents get into the Duck Red zone, allow opponents to score touchdown too often.  AS for the ASU defense, it tends to give up the big plays and isn’t as stingy as it needs to be on third downs.

About Gary Doran

Gary Doran

Gary graduated from ASU many years ago. After careers working in banking, finance and the financial administration of academic research funding, he is now interested in utilizing his passion for numbers towards two things he thoroughly loves; Arizona State University and college football. He is looking forward to finding the “stories” buried within the numbers on a football stat sheet. He has gone to ASU football games all the way back to the days of Frank Kush and the WAC. He has been married to an amazing ASU graduate for almost forty years, and they currently live in Ventura, CA. Although this may disqualify him from talking football, he and his wife enjoy the practice of yoga and dancing the Argentine Tango. Ole!

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