Here is a three-year look comparing the offensive and defensive results for ASU and the Texas Aggies using 15 different graphs. The three-year look coincides with the tenure of ASU head coach Todd Graham and his Texas A&M counterpart Kevin Sumlin.
Keep in mind when looking at the offensive output of the two teams, the Aggies had Johnny Football at quarterback for the first two years in the comparison. It’s not surprising that the offensive production took quite a dip in 2014 when the Aggies started multiple quarterbacks looking to replace the 2014 first round pick of the Browns.
In 2012 and 2013, the Texas A&M offense averaged nearly 550 yards per game. That equals over eight miles of offense in just 26 games. After Manziel graduated, the 2014 offensive output dropped by about 100 yards per game. Even though ASU and Texas A&M’s offenses gained about the same number of yards per game in 2014, there was a big difference in the way each team gained those yards against ranked and unranked teams. ASU actually gained 80 yards more against its ranked opponents than against its unranked opponents. On the other hand, the Texas A&M offense gained 107 yards per game less against ranked opponents than it did against unranked opponents.
During the Johnny Football years, the Aggies were able to score a touchdown in an average of just over a dozen plays in 2013 and a baker’s dozen in 2012. Last year, the offense needed nearly an additional 3.5 plays to gain a touchdown compared to the previous year. However, the 2014 mark for the Aggies still equaled ASU’s best year in 2012. Yes, with or without Johnny Football, the Aggies offense can score touchdowns.
As far as touchdowns go, in 2012 the Aggies scored an average of 4.7 more touchdowns in games they won compared to the games they lost. In 2013, the net margin narrowed to a 3.2 difference and last year it was a net difference of 3.6 touchdowns. Additionally, the Aggies scored 57 percent of all their touchdowns for the years in their early games in August and September.
The yards per carry were very impressive with Johnny Football helping the average. In the two years of 2012 and 2013, he ran for almost 2,200 yards and averaged 6.29 yards per carry. Excluding Johnny Manziel’s rushes, the rest of the team still averaged 5.2 yards per carry during those two years.
In 2014, the Aggies ran for just under 2,000 and a respectable 4.63 average yards per carry. That average was still better than any of the three years for ASU. Last year, the Sun Devils ran the ball 87 more times than the Aggies and gained 245 more yards.
In 2013 and 2014, the Aggies relied more on the pass than they did the run. Last year, they ran the ball just 45 percent of their plays and passed it 55 percent of the plays. That compares to ASU running the ball 52 percent of the time in 2014 and passing it 48 percent. During the Graham tenure, ASU has run the ball more than it has passed the ball each of the three years. Combining all three years, ASU has run the ball 55.5 percent of their plays and passed it 44.5.
Last year, the percentage of passes completed on both first and second down situations for the Aggies didn’t significantly decline from the two previous years when they had an experienced quarterback. Where the real drop happened is in the percentage of completions on crucial third down situations, which saw over a ten percent decline in the completion rate from the previous year to only 51.3 percent. As for ASU, the two quarterbacks for the Devils completed 54.5 percent of third down pass attempts in 2014. Better, but not by much.
In the two years of Johnny Manziel at quarterback in 2012 and 2013, the Aggies converted over 50% of their third down chances. That sure helped extend drives. Last year, the conversion rate dropped nearly ten percent to 40.8 percent. As a comparison, the two ASU quarterbacks combined for a 38.2 percent completion rate on third downs in 2014.
The 2014 Aggies saw their third down conversion rate sparkle in the early going of the season converting almost 54 percent of their third down chances. However, when the meat of the conference schedule began to take hold, that percentage dropped to under 30 percent for the first three games. In the last five games of the season, the conversion rate bounced back by over seven percent from the earlier conference games. That seems to points to inexperienced quarterbacks learning the system and getting more comfortable as the conference games progressed.
Texas A&M has shown an strong ability to get in the end zone once they reach an opponent’s red zone, and that ability didn’t decline much with the graduation of Johnny Manziel. In 2014, nearly 70 percent of the Aggies’ red zone chances ended up as touchdowns. This compares to 62.5 percent for ASU in 2014, which was the highest conversion rate in the three years of CTG’s tenure.
A very big reason why the Aggies outperformed the Devils overall in converting red zone touchdowns was their ability to convert red zone touchdowns against eight unranked opponents. In 2014, the Aggies score red zone touchdowns on nearly 78 percent of their chances against unranked teams. As for ASU, they scored red zone touchdowns on about 67 percent of their chances against nine unranked teams; nearly a ten percent difference.
This one is pretty straightforward in that ASU has consistently allowed fewer first downs for all three years compared to the Aggies. Even with a rebuilding defense last year, ASU averaged giving up just over 20 first downs a game, whereas over the three years, Texas A&M has consistently allowed more.
Here is another straightforward graph showing that the Devil defense has done, on average, a better job at limiting the number of yards gained by its opponents on the ground compared to the Aggies. In fact, in all three years, on average, the Aggies have surrendered five or more yards per carry. That’s pretty generous.
The Aggies defense has been consistent over the three-year period in allowing passes completed within a two percent range, (58-56). Last year, the Aggies did a better job of limiting the percentage of passes completed compared to the Devil defense. Looking closer at last season, the real difference was in the unranked opponents where ASU allowed over 57 percent of the unranked opponents’ passes to be completed, while the Aggie defense limited the completion rate of its unranked opponents to under 52 percent.
Another difference in the 2014 pass defenses between ASU and Texas A&M was that the Aggies allowed roughly the same percentage of completions at home as on the road. On the other hand, ASU allowed nearly a six percent increase in completed passes by its opponents when the Devils were on the road.
One more big difference in the completion percentage between ASU and Texas A&M was that ASU allowed over 57 percent of all third down opponent passes to be completed, while the Aggies only allowed about 48 percent of the third down passes to be completed.
The Aggies made significant improvements to the number of passing touchdowns allowed from 2013 to 2014. The biggest difference for the Aggies happened in their home games in 2014, where the defense only allowed four touchdowns in six home games instead of the 16 touchdown passes in eight home games in 2013. In comparison, ASU allowed eleven touchdown passes in their six home games in 2014.
All three years, the Devil defenses were able to cause significantly more TFLs than the Aggie defense. In fact, over the three years analyzed, the ASU defense caused almost 100 more TFLs than did Texas A&M. Interestingly, in 2014, ASU caused more TFLs per game against conference foes than non-conference foes, (8.33-5.75). For the Aggies, it was just the opposite, (4.00-8.80). It was also the same with ranked and unranked opponents, as ASU caused more TFLs on the ranked opponents than the unranked opponents, (8.25-7.22). Again for the Aggies, it was just the opposite, (3.60-7.25). As a note, ASU had the same trend in the 2013 season too concerning TFLs against ranked and unranked opponents.
The ASU defense also got to the quarterback with a greater frequency all three years of the analysis compared to the Aggies defense. Last year, roughly one-third of all the sacks registered by the Aggies defense was caused by one player, former five-star defensive end Myles Garrett.
Last year, the Aggies defensive line accounted for over 75 percent of all the sacks generated during the season, while the ASU defensive line only accounted for 38 percent of the sacks for the season. Also, the Texas A&M defensive backs only accounted for one sack all of last season, while the Devils defensive backs generated 8.5 sacks in 2014.
Clearly the ASU’s defense makes interceptions at a far greater pace than the Aggies’ defense. Over the three years, the Aggies defense has averaged just over eleven interceptions a year. That’s an average of less than one interception per game over the three years. ASU on the other hand, has averaged almost 19 interceptions per season. One of the many reasons Sumlin decided to go searching for a new defensive coordinator in the off-season.
One might think that the ASU defense garners more interceptions, because it faces more passes being in the Pac-12, not so. Over the three years analyzed, the Texas A&M defense actually faced 50 more passes than the Devil defenses.
Over the course of the three years analyzed, the Aggies defenses has broken up 26 more passes than the ASU defenses, and have averaged breaking up almost twelve percent of the passes they face. The ASU defenses have broken up just ten percent of the passes their defenses have faced over the past three years. The Devils have seen the percent of passes broken up by their defense decrease each year from 13.7 percent in 2012, to 9.2 percent in 2013 and then only 7.9 percent last year.
What the Numbers Say
Unfortunately, even though both opposing coaches have been at their institutions for the same amount of time, comparing the three years of each may not yield many clues. First of all, the Texas A&M defense should look and perform differently in 2015 than in the previous three years, because of the new defensive coordinator. Additionally, only the offensive results from last year will give out a clear picture of the capabilities of the offense for the coming season, since the 2012 and 2013 results were enhanced by one Johnny Football.
A very big takeaway on the offensive side is that with or without Manziel, the A&M offense is potent. It can still put points on the board and eat up yards, even with a sophomore quarterback now running the show.
One surprising finding for 2014 is the Aggies ability to still get into its opponents’ end zone once it has reached the opponents’ red zone. Additionally, a bigger chunk of its touchdowns happened in the early games last year partly because three of the early opponents were not very good.
On the defensive side, a change needed to be made for the Aggies. It’s anybody’s guess how the 2015 defensive stats will compare to the previous three years, but they will probably look a lot better. The Aggie faithful probably hope that manifests in the takeaway category, where the defense has only generated a total of 51 takeaways in three years. This compares to 90 takeaways that ASU has generated over the same period. That is a lot of momentum swings.
All data used can be found on cfbstats.com.