Pace is the new spread.

Yesterday we learned that Georgia’s offense belongs in the SEC’s balls-out group“In the SEC East, Kentucky and Tennessee join Missouri and Georgia as teams that are going to go as fast as possible.”

So you know what you’re gonna hear today, right?  Yep – Georgia was one of the fifteen slowest AQ teams in the country last year.

Now as it happens, if I have to choose definitions between those two, I prefer the latter, simply because it’s based on plays per game instead of total plays run in a season.  But even that still paints with too broad a brush for me.  For one thing, it doesn’t take into account starting field position.  It also ought to exclude garbage time stats, as most teams with big leads late are going to slow things down to run out the clock.

But the other thing I’m wondering, and I seriously doubt I’m the first one to think of this, is why doesn’t somebody break this stat down to an even smaller increment, by taking plays run and dividing those into time of possession to get an average time per play?  For example, last season Georgia averaged 66 plays per game and its average time of possession was 28:07.29.  That works out to an average time per play of 25.57 seconds.

For comparison’s sake, here are some other 2012 per play averages:  Texas A&M, 21.41 spp; Ole Miss, 22.75 spp; Clemson 22.77 spp; Georgia Tech, 27.64 spp; Alabama, 30.19 spp; Florida 30.60 spp.  (By that measure, Georgia looks pretty middle of the pack.)  This isn’t perfect either, as it doesn’t peel off garbage time play, but at least it takes field position out of the equation.  There’s one more thing that bugs me, though.  If we’re attempting to measure pace, that is, how quickly an offense can run its plays in a game, shouldn’t we take the time it takes to run each play out of the math?  That is something far beyond my meager analytical skills to attempt, but I do think it’s relevant.

Does this make any sense to anybody else?  And how much should we care about it anyway?


Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

16 responses to “Pace is the new spread.

  1. DawgPhan

    that is definitely a question for the CFB charting project folks. backing out the time of the play might not be worth the effort though. I have no idea what the standard dev is on play times, but I can imagine that the spread is that great.

    Sure a 3 yard run into the pile is going to be less than then 99yard TD run, but how much longer? 1-2 seconds?


  2. ZachDawg

    Great post Senator. Makes perfect sense. I would love to see the numbers with the actual time of the play taken out of the equation.


  3. Macallanlover

    None of that makes any sense to me because there are so many factors that go into how you calculate it, and the circumstances surrounding the plays (as you point out in your post so well.)

    As to your 2nd question, no, I don’t care. I only wany my team to be able to go fast, successfully, when they need to and run the clock down by dragging their feet when that is what is best for us. I really prefer to be a “tail dragger” mostly, but only because it indicates we are where we want to be on the scoreboard.


    • Cojones

      Exactly! This retrograde, uninteresting stat with every variable imaginable will never be reduced to a usable status. It’s just a matter of massaging from whatever subjective viewpoint one has in order to get the answer you want from this info. Meh.

      Love stats that are amenable to objective reasoning, but this one doesn’t project reasoning that can pass the confidence level needed to make it useful. Nice try, Senator. Keep’em coming.


  4. gastr1

    We should only care about it as much as it potentially affects our offense when the NCAA finally buys in to Nick’s and Les’s argument re: player safety (which they will implement only as a token gesture to point to as evidence in the lawsuit defending themselves versus concussions)…LOL.


  5. paul

    It makes sense. I think it can matter though it doesn’t necessarily have to. If you are the kind of team that can consistently line up quick enough to keep your opponent from substituting and if doing so gives you match ups that you can exploit successfully then it matters. If all you’re doing is running a whole lot more plays than the other team then all you’ve proved is that your guys are in pretty good shape. It might get your S&C coach a raise or a better job.


  6. AusDawg85

    It’s not clear what is trying to be answered here. Fast or slow…So what? If it is offensive efficiency you are trying to measure then we are on to something. Is the Oregon fast past better than Bama’s plodding? You probably need an equation that looks at TOP, # of plays per drive, YPP, scoring, etc. Too many geek stats for me to think through the complete metric, but its in there somewhere. Sort of a “Moneyball” approach to developing an offensive play-calling scheme.


  7. mdcgtp

    All very relevant points Senator. I am not sure what the value in getting a play off every 21.4 seconds vs. every 23.2. I don’t know how much of the difference can be explained by differences in officiating crews. While I tend to focus on the efficiency measures of yards per play, yards per attempt passing, TD % and INT % of QBs, there is no one measure that illustrates things perfectly, I think the relevant measure is offensive points per possession that is somehow adjusted for starting field position. We know what the “average expected points” are by starting field position. I would want to know is for a given starting field positions, how did my offense do?

    Ultimately, I am a broken record here, but I view all of these offensive “innovations” ranging from pace to run based spread to air raid based shotgun as David/Goliath strategies aimed at equalizing talent. Obviously, many of its practitioners are highly thoughtful, creative, and innovative guys, but I tend to think they take shortcuts. Contrast that with Jim Harbaugh and what he chose to do at Stanford, and its night and day. I don’t think Stanford would hold up against SEC teams because of lack of overall team speed, but they would not get “worn down” like I would expect and Oregon or Okie state. That said, I firmly believe that what we do schematically (which is essentially pro style air coryell combo of power running/vertical passing) is far more “sound” and “durable” than an offense based on one running play (the zone read) OR a bunch of short passes. further, it seems like our coaching staff’s decision to increase or decrease our tempo is a function of matchups and rhythm, which makes intuitive sense.


    • Cojones

      Well stated post. Each day we get insights to each other that can be stuffed into large categories that account for impressions of that person. Your reasonable category will now need a larger or stretchable file. The Senator has to be proud of many of the contributors for the added brainpower. I know that I’m proud to still be allowed here with you fans .



    I’ll take points scored vs points allowed all day. All these crazy metrics are just that, crazy metrics. Score and stop people, it’s how you win.


  9. Will Trane

    Think coaches move the “pace” of a game based on score, field position, quarter, clock, status of personnel, etc, They know when they want to back off the pedal and when to put it down…they know and so do the players how a game feels and where the push comes. SECCG…last drive to me was a push pace and nearly nailed Bama. Think Dawgs had come to a point in the game where they really understood how to attack Bama in the passing game.


  10. Here’s the issue: You game plan for each game. If you are going up against another face-paced offense, why on earth would you try to score as fast as possible yourself? I slow the game down for them, keep them cold on the sideline, and wear their d-line out with runs up the middle. If they can’t stop it, then I start letting as much time as I want elapse between snaps. Then, their fast scoring offense gets far less chances to go to work and score. Also, their defense is worn out by the end of the first half because they are on the field so much. If you play a team that likes to run a lot as mentioned, then your plan shouldn’t be to score as fast as possible, but to try to take control out of their hands by controlling it yourself. It’s a fine balance and a chess match. That’s why it’s fun to talk about it…until a couple turnovers occur and then everything goes out the window. Desperation mode is an ugly thing.


    • mdcgtp

      ” If you are going up against another face-paced offense, why on earth would you try to score as fast as possible yourself?”

      A fast score is a function of one of two things either a long TD play or a series of successful plays strung together quickly, Ultimately, if Clemson’s DB are going to blow coverages and AM and the WRs can beat them deep, I am all for putting the defense back out on the field with 7 more points of cushion.

      That said, of course your scenario is correct, which is the cumulative effect of a bunch of 7 yard runs while maintaining possession of the football is beneficial particularly late in a game in September. That said, we don’t always know how teams will try to defend us. Kentucky and Ga Southern were determined NOT to let Gurley/Marshall beat them and Aaron had a field day. Ole Miss was going to try to blitz us and gave up a ton of big plays.

      Clemson did not defend the run well in 2012 and gave up a slew of long TDs in the air. I think they think their front 7 is likely to better in 2013 so my guess is they will try to protect the secondary from giving up big plays but who knows….

      the more i dig into this one…the less worried I am about it. SC is the worry for all the obvious reasons.


  11. Bryant Denny

    I admire the teams that can truly run the “no-huddle” offense. There’s something special about a player calling the plays and rushing his team down the field.

    But today’s hurry up / no huddle offenses are basically cheating. There is no honor in running to the line of scrimmage just so your opponent can’t substitute – especially when the offense can then get set, and then un-set, as all 11 players look back to the sideline for the play call.

    Yes, Gus, the defense can call timeout, but the offense has always had certain built-in advantages because of shifting and players being able to go in motion.

    It’ll be fun to see what Saban and other defensive type coaches employ to stop this type of O.


    On another note, I think these type offenses will engender a lack of sportsmanship in the future. You will need to absolutely keep the gas pedal down to prevent these HUNH offenses from coming back to beat you. That means it’ll get ugly for some folks.


  12. NRBQ

    Right. I have a feeling if your overlord Nick favored the hurry-up, you’d be singing a completely different tune.