FanPost

This too shall pass?

And pass, pass, and pass some more? - James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

So I got curious about some things again and decided to write about what I found out.

This year has been exciting to watch so far, no doubt, but it’s also been very interesting because of how unabashedly one-dimensional Oregon State has been on offense. Mannion-to-Cooks is the headliner, but everyone seems to be a receiver this year no matter their listed position. Both Storm Woods and Terron Ward are averaging more than 10 yards per reception. Conversely, the two leading rushers in terms of yards per carry are Cooks and Bolden. Talk about topsy-turvy.

Fast Fact #1: Oregon State’s passing offense ranks first in the nation in yards per game. Their rushing offense ranks second to last.

If not obvious the first few games, it’s now become quite clear that Oregon State intends to pass, pass, and pass some more. It’s worked beautifully so far, but it got me wondering. How much of that success is due to the quality of their opponents so far, and how might it continue in the second half of their schedule?

To try and gain some perspective, I used two different methods. The first was pretty easy. I went to Football Outsiders and looked at how well they believe each team on Oregon State's schedule defends against the pass. They have a nifty statistic called Pass S&P+. They don’t reveal exactly how they calculate the statistic, but they do explain that it uses play-by-play data rather than full game statistics and only uses plays that occur in meaningful game time. When a game reaches what they call "garbage time", they stop counting.

It’s a neat way to look at it, but it seems to me it can skew data for teams that tend to get dominated early on as well as teams that do the dominating. In other words, Colorado and Oregon.

Case in point, Colorado actually ranks quite highly in all of Football Outsiders’ defensive statistics except for one: Points Allowed. I suspect this is because Colorado has been blown out of the water very quickly in their three losses. Since S&P+ is calculated on individual plays, the fact that those three games reached garbage time quickly would reduce their impact and skew the data toward their performance in their three wins against much more inferior competition.

Conversely, Oregon has dominated in every game they’ve played. Except for the two games against the Washington teams, their games have reached garbage time by halftime. Even the two Washington games didn’t last too much longer. That’s not to say Football Outsiders’ numbers aren’t accurate, but it does take an already small sample size of seven games and slash it in half.

These issues motivated me to also include a second approach.

This took a bit more work though the concept was very simple. I looked at the relation between the average yards that Oregon State’s opponents allow other teams per passing attempt versus how many yards Oregon State’s opponents’ opponents average per passing attempt.

In other words, for Utah let's say, how many yards per pass attempt have Utah allowed this year, and how does that compare to how many yards Utah's opponents average in all the rest of their games? The basic idea is to see how well teams do in relation to the quality of their competition. If you're familiar with how RPI numbers are calculated in college basketball, this is similar in spirit to the third part of that equation.

For this method, I still don’t trust Colorado’s numbers too much since they’ve played two FCS teams. I almost chose not to include the statistics from those games, but that made Colorado’s numbers dependent on only four games. That just seemed like too little so I chose to include them. That’s a lot of words to tell you to take Colorado’s numbers with a grain of salt.

I do trust Oregon’s numbers a lot more, however. Oregon scores fast and often which forces teams to try and keep pace. For most teams, that means passing a lot. That should mean that using full game statistics is useful here. Plus, I’m no coach, but I’ve a hunch Oregon State will go this route in the Civil War.

Fast Fact #2: Oregon State averages 49.6 pass attempts per game, sixth in the nation.

In the table below, Avg/PA stands for Average yards allowed per Pass Attempt. It does not include the numbers from the particular game that team played against Oregon State. OpAvg/PA stands for Opponents Average yards gained per Pass Attempt. Like Avg/PA, it does not include Oregon State’s average. S&P+ Rk is where that team ranks in pass defense among FBS teams according to Football Outsiders. Beavers/PA stands for Beavers average yards gained per Pass Attempt in that particular game.

Fast Fact #3: On the year, Oregon State averages 8.9 yards per pass attempt, ninth in the nation.

Fast Fact #4: The average yards per pass attempt for all of FBS is 7.3.

The Diff column shows the relation between the two yards per attempt numbers. Quick and dirty, negative numbers are good, positive numbers are bad. If Diff is around zero, I take it to mean that team is around average in defending the pass. If it's positive, they've allowed teams to do better than normal. If negative, they've forced teams to do worse.

Opponent Avg/PA OpAvg/PA Diff S&P+ Rk Beavers/PA
Hawai'i 7.5 7.3 0.2 38 9.0
San Diego St 7.6 7.6 0.0 64 6.7
Utah 6.8 6.9 -0.1 29 9.9
Colorado 7.3 8.0 -0.7 15 7.8
Washington St 7.5 8.0 -0.5 62 9.4
California 8.6 8.3 0.3 56 10.8
Stanford 5.8 7.5 -1.7 8 TBD
USC 6.3 7.0 -0.7 18 TBD
Arizona St 6.9 7.6 -0.7 48 TBD
Washington 5.6 8.0 -2.4 4 TBD
Oregon 5.4 6.7 -1.3 58 TBD

The neat thing about the table is it shows the Beavers have moved the ball through the air against teams that rank around average in defending the pass. The S&P+ numbers show most of their opponents so far to be middle of the pack in pass defense, and the similarity between the average yards per attempt numbers bear that out. That certainly lends some legitimacy to what Mannion and Co. have accomplished so far.

The not neat thing about the table is that the teams the Beavers have yet to play all seem to defend better than average against the pass. Oregon, USC, and ASU all look solid. Stanford and Washington really stand out.

If you look at individual games, Stanford has been consistently stout. Not completely dominant, but very good. Teams have moved the ball a little through the air, just not to great effect.

Look at Washington’s games, though, and allow your jaw to drop. Of the seven games they’ve played, they completely shut down their opponents’ passing attack in five, did well against ASU’s despite hemorrhaging yards on the ground, and were only torched by Oregon. Their average yards allowed per pass attempt go like this: 3.8, 6.2 (only allowed 9 completions out of 25 attempts), 3.6, 3.4, 5.0, 11.8 (Oregon), and 6.5 (against ASU which averages 8.0).

If Washington’s three straight losses gave you hope, you may want to temper it a little. They lost to Stanford and Oregon because those teams are really good. They lost to Arizona State because Arizona State rushed for 314 yards on 51 carries. I don’t see the Beavers bringing that to the table. A loss is not a foregone conclusion, but it’s possible Washington could present a greater challenge to the Beavers’ offense than any other team the Beavers play this year.

It’s certainly no secret that Oregon State’s schedule is back loaded. Folks have been talking about it since before the season even began. However, this shows just what kind of challenges Oregon State’s one-dimensional attack will face going forward. One of its biggest challenges comes this Saturday when Stanford comes to town.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of SB Nation or the Building the Dam staff. FanPost opinions are valued expressions of opinion by passionate and knowledgeable Oregon State fans.

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