Gary Doran

Weekly Stat-Pac: Defense Week 7

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It’s All About the Score

This may sound like a broken record, but Stanford is again the shining example of scoring defense, as there have only been 60 points scored against the Cardinal in six games. On top of that, one of the scores was actually a fumble recovery that wasn’t the defense’s fault. The Cardinal averages giving up ten points a game. The next best scoring defense, Washington averages giving up over 21 points per game. Notice that Colorado, Washington State and California have all give up over 100 points in the second half alone. Additionally, all three of them have given up more points in the second half than the first. The combined record of those three teams is eight wins and eleven losses. The only other conference team to allow more points in the second half is Utah. Five of the teams average giving up more than 30 points per game: Cal, Colo, WSU, UCLA and ASU.

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Defense by the Yard

The Cal defense is again at the bottom of the Pac in terms of the yards given up to opponents at 518 yards a game. The next generous defense is the Oregon Ducks giving up over 470 yards per game, followed by ASU at 453 yards per game. Again, Stanford is at the top of the conference in giving up only 238 yards per game. Including Stanford, there are only three other conference teams that have allowed fewer than 400 yards per game average: OSU at 331 yards per game, Utah at 377 yards per game and Washington at 392 yards per game.

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First Defense

No surprise here as Stanford again leads the conference in giving up the fewest first down at just 88, and the fewest per game at 14.7 per game. Oregon State is next, giving up only 19.4 first downs per game. ASU is third at 21.6 first downs per game. On a per play basis, Stanford only allows a first down once every 4.5 plays. The next best teams on a per play basis allow a first down once every 3.5 plays, and there are five of them. The bottom three teams giving up first downs on a per play basis are Cal, Colo, and Oregon in that order.

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Third Time’s a Charm

Oregon State has given up the fewest conversions from a third down situation at only 23 in five games. The defense that has the best success rate at keeping opponents from getting a first down in a third down situation is Stanford denying a first down in over 70 percent of its opponents’ tries. Oregon State is next best by denying opponents a first down 68 percent of the time. The defense that has allowed the greatest percentage of third down opportunities to be converted to first downs is the Oregon Ducks. The Duck defense has stopped opponents from getting a first down in just over 50 percent of their opponents’ chances, or in other words, opponents are converting on almost 50 percent of their chances. There have only been four times this season where a team has allowed its opponent to gain a first down from a third down situation more than ten times in a game, and two of them happened last weekend, where UCLA gave up eleven first downs to the Ducks and Arizona gave up eleven first downs to the Trojans.

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TFLs – A Lost Cause

Utah is still leading the conference in TFLs per play at one for every 7.8 plays. Stanford is next with a TFL for every 9.6 plays. ASU is third with a TFL once every 10.1 plays. At the bottom end of the conference are the Cal Golden Bears with a TFL once every 16.4 plays followed by the UCLA Bruins with a TFL once every 15.8 plays. Last week’s games saw the fewest TFLs per team than any other week so far this season since Week Number One, as there was only an average of 5.5 TFLs per team playing. So far this season, there have only been five teams that have registered double-digit TFLs in a game: Utah has done it twice, while Arizona, ASU, Oregon and OSU have all had a game with double digit TFLs.

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Sack It Up

Utah still leads the conference in the number of sacks per pass attempt with one every 7.2 attempts. The Washington Huskies are next with a sack once every 9.6 pass attempts. At the bottom of the conference is the UCLA Bruin defense, which is getting a sack only once every 33.6, passes. The Bruins are the only conference team with fewer than ten sacks. They are registering only 1.2 sacks per game. A defense not far behind the Bruins is Cal with a sack only once every 32.6 passes. No other defense is close to those two on a per pass attempt basis.

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Turnover Beethoven

The Washington Huskies defense is doing the best job at getting a turnover on a per play basis. They currently lead the conference with a turnover once every 30.7 plays. Oregon State is next with a turnover once every 34.2 plays. At the other end of the scale, the Washington State defense is only getting a turnover once every 103.4 plays. The Cal defense is next at a turnover every 75.0 plays. It’s interesting that the past two weeks have been the lightest weeks so far this season in terms causing turnovers. This could be that more games are conference team against conference team, and the Pac-12 teams are doing a better job of protecting the ball than the non-conference opponents.

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Red Zoning Out

Again this week, Stanford leads the conference in allowing the fewest number of red zone touchdowns at only five, while USC, Utah and Washington have all allowed nine red zone touchdowns. USC and Washington have had the best success at keeping opponents out of their end zones from the red zone only allowing slightly more than forty percent of the red zone trips to end in a touchdown. This means that roughly six out of ten red zone opportunities have been turned away without a touchdown by these two teams. On the other hand, Utah, Oregon State and Arizona have all allowed opponents to score touchdowns from their red zones more than 70 percent of the time. The California Golden Bears allowing opponents to enter their red zone an average of five times a game. That’s a lot of scoring opportunities.

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Havoc Rate (yes it’s new)

Of the eight teams that played last week, seven of them saw their Havoc Rate decline from the previous week. (That was first published in our initial Raising Havoc article last week.) In fact, the conference Havoc Rate is now slightly lower than it was for the entire season last year at 18.84 percent compared to 18.86 percent in 2013. UCLA is still at the bottom of the conference in terms of an aggressive defense as measured by the Havoc Rate at 12.63 percent. The California Golden Bears are next at 14.48 percent. In terms of the Havoc Rate, what is pulling ASU’s percentage lower is the number of pass break ups it has accomplished. On a per pass attempt by its opponents, ASU breaks up a pass only once every 16.2 pass attempts, which is the lowest in the conference. UCLA is the next weakest at pass breakups per pass attempt at only one every 14.7 pass attempts. The Colorado Buffalos are doing the best at breaking up passes with one every 8.1 pass attempts.

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** Havoc Rate developed by Bill Connelly at Football Outsiders **

Next ASU Opponent

We have seen how stifling the Stanford defense has been so far this season with our weekly Stat-Pac looks, but how does this year’s squad stack up to last year’s squad? Here is a look:

Points per game………………2014—10.0 2013—19.0
Yards allowed per game….2014—238.0 2013—343.1
Turnovers per game……….2014—1.3 2013—1.4
Giving up red zone TDs……2014—50% 2013— 49%
3rd down conversion rate..2014—29% 2013—32%
Completions % allowed…..2014—56% 2013—62%
Havoc Rate……………………..2014—22% 2013—23%

Based on the seven defensive categories above, this year’s squad is slightly outperforming last year’s squad so far this year. That’s not a great sign for the ASU offense, which struggled with last year’s group.

Let us know what you think of the our weekly Stat-Pac for the defenses in the conference and also our new Havoc Rate, which measures how well a defense is impacting its opponents’ offensive plays. Impacting the opponent’s offense and quarterback is a mainstay of a Todd Graham defense, and why we are tracking the Havoc Rate.

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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