Gary Doran

Grading the Pac-12 Passing : Week 3


To help broaden the perspective of the effectiveness in each team’s passing attack within the Pac-12 Conference, we’ve been working on a few new passing metrics. The metric helps to assign three different levels of “quality” to each type of completed pass, and then categorizes the completed passes into one of the three categories. So the use of this metric is only to measure the “quality” of the passes completed. Additionally, if a completion has more than one quality attributed to it, that completion only counts as a single quality entry. For instance, if a pass completion is for a touchdown that covered 30 yards, even though it had two quality outcomes, it still counts a one quality completion.

Here are the three metrics and what constitutes each:

Premium Completions:

A pass completion for a touchdown
A pass completion converting a third or fourth down play into a first down
A pass completion of 25 yards or more

Quality Completions:

A pass completion that gets a first down, but wasn’t for a touchdown, was less than 25 yards and wasn’t a third or fourth down conversion pass play.

Standard Completions:

A pass completion that did not get a touchdown
A pass completion that did not convert a third or fourth down
A pass completion that did not gain 25 yards or more
A pass completion that did not get a first down

Using this new classification metric lets see how the teams stack up after week three. Just remember that in the early part of the season, the quality numbers should look a lot better than later on in the season when conference play kicks in.


Over 45-percent of the passes the Trojan offense has attempted so far this year has seen a quality outcome (either a TD, a 25+ yard reception or a third or fourth down conversion). Additionally, almost 60 percent of the passes the Trojans have completed so far have had a quality outcome. One troubling aspect to the Trojan passing game has been less than stellar results on third or fourth down passes, where USC has only converted five of 19 third or fourth down passes. The good news is that the Trojans have attempted the fewest third or fourth down passes in the conference.

Another surprise is that although Utah is third in the percentage of quality outcome passing percentage so far, they lead the South Division in the percentage of third or fourth down pass conversions made at 47.8 percent, (11/23). The Utes and the Devils had the most third or fourth down snaps within the South Division with 53 plays each. The difference is that the Utes ran the ball 57 percent of those plays, while the Devils passed the ball 68 percent of their third or fourth down plays.

What has dragged down the Utes’ quality outcome percentage is that the Utah quarterbacks have only thrown one touchdown in 81 pass attempts. In comparison, USC had seen ten touchdown passes so far this year in only 101 pass attempts. Additionally, the Trojans have gotten a 25 or more yard reception once in every 8.42 pass attempts, which is the best in the conference. In comparison, ASU has gotten a 25 yard or more reception only once in every 28.3 pass attempts.


The Golden Bear passing attack has been hitting on all cylinders so far this season, while the Oregon Ducks passing attack is not far behind from a quality outcome standpoint. In fact, many of the North Division teams have completed a good percentage of quality outcome receptions. Four out of the six North Division teams have seem over 60 percent of their completions register a quality outcome, whereas none of the South Division teams even registered 60 percent.

Both California and Oregon has had 50 percent of their third or fourth down pass attempts convert to a first down so far this year. Stanford leads the conference in the number of third or fourth down pass conversions with 13 so far this year.  At the other end, the Beaver offense has converted only seven third or fourth down conversions in 22 pass attempts so far this year.

The Oregon State Beavers have completed the fewest quality completions so far this year with only 20 passes getting a touchdown, a 25 plus yard gain or a third or fourth down conversion. The Beavers have gotten four touchdown receptions so far this year, but only two of their 67 pass attempts have gone for 25 yards or more.


It really helps the defensive side of the passing metric when two out of three games are against run-oriented teams, as ASU has only allowed twelve total quality outcome pass completions in their three games. Another way to look at the ASU numbers is that only 34 percent of the completions the Devils’ defense has allowed registered a quality outcome. In comparison, 56 percent of the passes completed against the Utah defense ended in a quality outcome.

From a third down passing conversion percentage, the UCLA Bruins defense is the stingiest allowing only 21.6 percent of third or fourth down passes to be converted. On the other end of the spectrum, the Utah defense allowed 42.4 percent of third or fourth down passes to be converted into first downs.

The Wildcats defense has allowed 40.5 percent of third or fourth down passes to be converted to a first down so far this year, which is high, but even more troubling is that four of the 15 of those pass completions went for 25 yards or more. That is the most in the conference, and represents 25 percent of all the 25+ yard receptions on either third or four down for all the conference teams.


While the Oregon State offense has only been able to generate 20 quality completions in 67 pass attempts, its defense only allowed 20 quality completions in 95 pass attempts. In fact, in those 95 pass attempts the Beavers have faced, they have not allowed a pass completion of 25 yards or more, only one touchdown pass and just four third or four down conversions. The Huskies are doing as well as the Beavers in not allowing a passing touchdown yet, and only one pass completion of 25 yards or more. Where they have not been as stellar is in allowing 13 third or fourth down conversion in 40 pass attempts.

The Oregon Duck pass defense has not had a strong showing so far this year. The Duck defense has allowed ten touchdown passes in 127 pass attempts, while allowing opponents to complete almost two-out-of-every-three passes thrown. Another comparison is that in 2014, the Duck defense allowed a touchdown pass once every 27.6 pass attempts, while they have allowed one once every 12.7 pass attempts so far this year.

Let us know what you think of the metric or how we can make it more meaningful for you on Twitter, Facebook, or by e-mail.

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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