Gary Doran

Breaking Down the Aggies


While we here with the ASU Devils Den have published two different previews on each of the opponents on the ASU 2015 schedule, we’ll now transition into our first preview of a weekly series that will analyze in greater detail the very next team to face the Sun Devils. The analysis will break down the Devils and their upcoming opponent by their statistical tendencies to either run or throw the ball based on field position and by the down. The analysis will also be from both an offensive and a defensive standpoint.  This we take a look at Saturday’s Advocare Texas Kickoff between the Devils and the Texas A&M Aggies.

When ASU Has The Ball


Running the Ball by Field Position


The first thing that strikes you in the table above is the big difference in how many running plays ASU had within its opponents’ red zone compared to how many running plays Texas A&M had to defend within its own red zone. Actually, ASU ran the ball in its opponents’ red zones at a greater frequency than the other eleven Pac-12 teams, where they averaged just 15.9 percent of their running plays in their opponents’ red zones.

Another interesting item appears to be Texas A&M’s ability to slow down opponents’ running game once they reach the Aggies’ red zone. A run defense that allowed an average of over five yards a carry shouldn’t be able to clamp down that much when the going gets tough in the confines of its red zone.

Outside the red zone, ASU flourishes in the run game between its own 21 and 40 yard lines, but appears to bog down in its running game between its opponents’ 39 and 21 yard lines, where the average yards per carry drops to 2.88, while the other eleven Pac-12 teams average 4.21 yards per carry in the same area. The Devils also see fewer runs of ten yards or more in this area, where they got less than ten percent of the ten yard plus carries between their opponent’s 39 and 21 yard lines while the other eleven Pac-12 teams averaged getting over 18 percent of their ten yard plus carries there.

Passing the Ball by Field Position


As with the running game, ASU’s most productive field position seems to be between its own 21 and 39 yard lines, where based on the number of snaps it takes there, the Devils are more productive in gaining yards, getting first downs, pass receptions of 25 yards or more, and the yards per pass attempt are at their highest in this area of the field.

Between the 21 and 39 yard lines for its opponents also seems to be an area where the Texas A&M defense is a little more generous. However, as their opponents near their goal line, the Aggies pass defense seems to get tougher where they keep their opponents completion rates under 50 percent starting from their own 40 yard line in.   ASU got almost 80 percent of its touchdown passes from inside its opponents’ 40 yard line, while the Texas A&M defense only surrendered about 60 percent of their opponents’ touchdown passes in the same area.

Running the Ball by Down


Third down seems to be the area the Devils struggled with in running the ball last year, as less than seven percent of the carries of ten yards or more happen on this down while the other eleven Pac-12 teams averaged over 15 percent of ten yards or more on third down. Additionally, while ASU got ten percent of its rushing touchdowns on third down, the other eleven Pac-12 teams got over 20 percent of their touchdowns on that down. Finally, the Devil running game averaged a dismal 1.75 yards per carry on third down.

Where the Devils seemed to do well in running the ball was on first down plays, where over 40 percent of their rushing first downs and almost 70 percent of their rushing yards and running touchdowns happened then.

Passing the Ball by Down


ASU seems to be more productive in passing the ball on first down in that almost half of their touchdown passes and 25 plus yard pass receptions happened on first down. What is a little disconcerting is that it was also the only down where the Devil quarterbacks completed more than 60 percent of their passes. The Devils also averaged almost nine yards per pass attempt on first down.

By contrast, the Texas A&M defense seems to be a little more generous on second down passes for their opponents, where they allowed almost eight yards per pass attempt and over 63 percent of opponent passes to be completed. Where the Aggies pass defense seems to do a little better was on third downs, where they outperformed the average of the other SEC Conference teams in completion rate and percentage of 25 plus receptions. One third down positive for ASU seems to be that almost a third of the touchdown passes the Aggies gave up, happened on that down. This compares to their SEC Conference rivals giving up just over 20 percent of their touchdown passes on third down.

When Texas A&M Has The Ball


Running the Ball by Field Position


When running the ball, the Aggies seem to do the best around midfield, as their yards gained and percent of first down thrive there. They also have their highest yards per carry in the same area. On the defensive side in that area, the Devils appear to be somewhat average in stopping the run around midfield.

From a field of play standpoint against the run game, the Devils really do shine backed into their own red zone, as they only allowed 1.37 yards per carry in this area, which was the best in the Pac-12 Conference. In fact, no other Pac-12 defense limited opponents to an average of less than two yards per carry in their red zone. Also, the Devils only gave up one ten plus rush play in their red zone in 73 opponent rushing attempts.

Passing the Ball by Field Position


The midfield area was also seems to be the most productive passing area for the Aggies, as their yards per pass attempt was at its highest there, along with getting almost half of all their 25 plus yard completions around midfield. Another area where the Aggies did a little better than other parts of the field was being backed up in their own territory from their goal line to their own 20 yard line. There the Aggies completed 67 percent of their passes, and over nine yards per pass attempt. They also got over twelve percent of their 25 plus pass completions while throwing less than nine percent of their passes in that area.

While the Aggies were most productive in their passing attack in the midfield area, the Devils were a bit more stingy in their pass defense in the same area allowing only 54 percent of opponent passes to be completed around midfield. Notice that outside their own red zone, the midfield area was the only 20 yard region the Devils held opponent passers to under a 60 percent completion rate.

Running the Ball by Down


The Aggies did a good job running the ball on third down. They got over a third of their running touchdowns on that down, while only running the ball 15 percent of the time. The Aggies also had their highest yards per carry on third down.   It seems like second down for the Aggies was not their best, which suits the Devils just fine, because that was the down in which ASU allowed opponents to over-perform a bit.

Passing the Ball by Down


Only three of the 39 touchdown passes thrown by the Aggies quarterbacks happened on third down. Their pass completion rate also took a tumble to just over 50 percent on third down. This 50 percent mark was well below the completion percentage of any of the other downs for the Aggies.   This compares to ASU’s pass defense which was a bit lax on third down, which is an obvious passing down. The Devils surrendered over eight yards per pass attempt on third down.

It is interesting to note how well the Aggies did on the few fourth down passing plays. They converted a first down on seven of the twelve tries gaining almost 170 yards in the process. Although from a yardage standpoint alone, the running game on fourth down didn’t look to be that successful, however, the Aggies did convert four first downs on seven tries.

What the Numbers Mean

Overall the Aggies seem to perform well in both running the ball and passing the ball in the middle of the field, while the Devils are better offensively on their side of the field. The Aggies also ran the ball well on third down, but not necessarily passed the ball that well on the same down. Like a lot of other teams, ASU does its best passing on first down. The Devils scored most of their running touchdowns on first down too, but ran the ball miserably in their opponents’ red zone.

From a defensive standpoint, the Texas A&M defense is much maligned for their 2014 performance, however, when their opponents got inside their 40 yard line, the Aggies kept the opponents completion rate to under 50 percent and only allowed eleven touchdown passes in this area. In comparison, ASU scored 27 passing touchdowns in the same area.

ASU’s defense last year was, at best, average when it came to overall rushing and passing defensive statics. However, the Devils seem to really stiffen when an opponent entered its red zone, especially defending against the run.

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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