Earlier this season, NDTex wrote a fantastic piece that examined the 2012 team and the concept of offensive efficiency. Now that we are much further into the season, and our offense has been under quite a bit of scrutiny (mainly because Oregon and Kansas State are offensive teams) I wanted to look at the Irish offense and see how we are progressing.
For a reminder, here is a little background on offensive efficiency and how it is calculated:
For this exercise, I focused on something that came up in one of Brian Kelly’s pressers last season. In it, he mentioned that gaining loads of yards was worthless if you didn’t have any points to show for it, citing the goal should be a TD every 80 or so yards gained. Using this metric, I took a look at the first three games from the last time we started 3-0 (2002), our last two BCS seasons (2005 and 2006), and last season in comparison to the start we’ve seen thus far in 2012.
Using Kelly’s baseline of wanting a TD every 80 yards, I took each game from the aforementioned years, and applied a simple formula:
[Points Scored on Offense] / [Number of Yards Gained] = Offensive Efficiency
And to clarify, “points scored on offense” includes only TDs scored by the offense (no kick/punt returns or defensive TDs) and FGs (as it is the end result of an offensive drive). So if we use Kelly’s baseline, for every 80 yards, we should see 7 points, leading to an offensive efficiency of 0.0875. Now that mark would be the “perfect game” of sorts, so if we were looking for a “par” score in this area, that would be a FG every 80 yards or a 0.0375 efficiency.
So within the range of 0.0375 – 0.0875, you have an offense that is actually functioning as expected. Fall below that range, and there are serious issues. Going above that means some very beneficial field position via turnovers and/or special teams play.
Here are the raw 2012 numbers:
…and here’s what they look like when you plot them out:
There are several things I took away from this information. First, it is obvious that we are slowly trending downward when it comes to offensive efficiency — 4 of our 5 most efficient offensive games were in the first five games played. Additionally, we see that offense (no surprise) is the main culprit for our home struggles — in fact, our defense is playing even better (yardage-wise) at home than on the road.
Also, while Tex is correct that an offense is functioning correctly when scoring between .0375 and .0875 in offensive efficiency rating, Coach Kelly named .0875 as an indicator of where he wants and needs the offense to be in order for him to be happy — not as a mark for ultimate success. It is very possible to have a rating over .0875, particularly when your defense sets you up with good field position regularly. Bottom line, the fact that the offense is averaging out at .0633 indicates that they are not meeting Coach’s expectations.
Out of curiosity, I decided to look at our opponents on the year and see how their points allowed per game would compare on a similar line graph:
Sadly, this didn’t reveal anything except exactly what we already know: Notre Dame’s offensive is remarkably inconsistent when it comes to scoring points. While the Irish handled Miami exactly as they should have (and conversely, struggled against BYU, the best defense they faced), games vs. Purdue and Boston College should have been a field day for the offense, while Navy and Oklahoma should have provided decent tests — none of those things happened. It is mind-boggling to see the ups and downs that the offense is having.
One of the things that goes without saying is that turnovers are an absolute killer to this efficiency rating, and fumbling twice in a game like Boston College hinders what progress the offense could be making. But signs of progress can be found — Everett Golson is working on his footwork and has even noticed that he has an All-American tight end at his disposal.
There’s two weeks left, and the Irish need to showcase a higher-powered offense if they want to turn some heads in the human polls. There’s one thing that this offense has shown so far this year, and that’s that we truly have no idea what we are going to get.