NCAA FBS adjusted TFLs (pre-bowl)

Today we'll look at TFLs, but from the offense's perspective. Unless you're running the Hail Mary as your base offense, the key to moving the ball and scoring is getting 1st downs. And unless you're facing FSU with ACC Refs on your side, you'll need to get those 1st downs legitimately with positive yardage plays. Sounds simple enough. I provide a breakdown of TFLs into Sacks and Stuffs, and then calculate the percentage of plays that an offense incurred negative yardage on.

You could stay here, but I'd jump.

2011 (pre-bowl) adjusted TFL rates
Name TFL.a Sacks.a Stuffs.a Rush.adj Pass.adj TFL.rate Sack.rate Stuff.rate OSOS
Stanford 33 9 24 459 395 3.86% 2.28% 5.23% 69
Houston 51 16 35 388 629 5.01% 2.54% 9.02% 112
Penn State 43 12 31 459 361 5.24% 3.32% 6.75% 40
Army 44 11 33 729 108 5.26% 10.19% 4.53% 78
BYU 47 14 33 440 438 5.35% 3.20% 7.50% 71
Oklahoma 53 9 44 423 567 5.35% 1.59% 10.40% 23
Ball State 47 11 36 388 471 5.47% 2.34% 9.28% 76
Oklahoma State 52 11 41 366 564 5.59% 1.95% 11.20% 56
TCU 45 13 32 468 334 5.61% 3.89% 6.84% 117
Boise State 52 8 44 449 449 5.79% 1.78% 9.80% 101
Texas A&M 58 8 50 472 504 5.94% 1.59% 10.59% 37
Maryland 51 17 34 404 451 5.96% 3.77% 8.42% 43
Baylor 56 25 31 499 416 6.12% 6.01% 6.21% 17
San Jose State 52 17 35 346 496 6.18% 3.43% 10.12% 98
San Diego State 58 11 47 475 460 6.20% 2.39% 9.89% 100
USC 52 8 44 384 455 6.20% 1.76% 11.46% 44
UAB 53 19 34 383 459 6.29% 4.14% 8.88% 86
LSU 52 14 38 550 276 6.30% 5.07% 6.91% 15
Toledo 58 9 49 514 407 6.30% 2.21% 9.53% 90
Texas Tech 63 19 44 373 618 6.36% 3.07% 11.80% 32
Northern Illinois 59 9 50 551 375 6.37% 2.40% 9.07% 114
Tulsa 57 15 42 481 402 6.46% 3.73% 8.73% 67
Georgia Tech 53 13 40 648 165 6.52% 7.88% 6.17% 57
Notre Dame 55 13 42 385 451 6.58% 2.88% 10.91% 10
Air Force 56 9 47 659 191 6.59% 4.71% 7.13% 97
Iowa 52 26 26 390 393 6.64% 6.62% 6.67% 47
Troy 59 20 39 316 551 6.81% 3.63% 12.34% 113
Wisconsin 59 23 36 540 325 6.82% 7.08% 6.67% 12
Nevada 66 14 52 569 395 6.85% 3.54% 9.14% 74
Fresno State 61 20 41 419 468 6.88% 4.27% 9.79% 82
Southern Mississippi 66 15 51 498 462 6.88% 3.25% 10.24% 107
Nebraska 58 15 43 550 292 6.89% 5.14% 7.82% 46
South Florida 63 16 47 461 450 6.92% 3.56% 10.20% 24
Arkansas State 66 24 42 464 465 7.10% 5.16% 9.05% 87
California 61 22 39 426 429 7.13% 5.13% 9.15% 58
Middle Tennessee 67 10 57 421 517 7.14% 1.93% 13.54% 115
Central Michigan 57 17 40 316 475 7.21% 3.58% 12.66% 72
Florida International 59 13 46 437 371 7.30% 3.50% 10.53% 119
Oregon 70 10 60 579 372 7.36% 2.69% 10.36% 64
Utah State 68 18 50 605 308 7.45% 5.84% 8.26% 118
Western Michigan 65 21 44 347 517 7.52% 4.06% 12.68% 70
Syracuse 62 29 33 367 447 7.62% 6.49% 8.99% 8
Michigan State 66 16 50 444 416 7.67% 3.85% 11.26% 54
Northwestern 70 34 36 505 401 7.73% 8.48% 7.13% 27
North Texas 64 15 49 465 362 7.74% 4.14% 10.54% 96
Wyoming 71 12 59 473 442 7.76% 2.71% 12.47% 106
Texas 69 26 43 528 360 7.77% 7.22% 8.14% 48
Temple 65 21 44 615 219 7.79% 9.59% 7.15% 104
Arizona 71 23 48 308 600 7.82% 3.83% 15.58% 33
Tennessee 62 18 44 374 418 7.83% 4.31% 11.76% 5
South Carolina 64 26 38 487 326 7.87% 7.98% 7.80% 59
Alabama 63 15 48 458 338 7.91% 4.44% 10.48% 42
Buffalo 68 22 46 414 444 7.93% 4.95% 11.11% 79
Georgia 75 29 46 514 431 7.94% 6.73% 8.95% 29
Navy 66 14 52 680 149 7.96% 9.40% 7.65% 51
North Carolina State 68 31 37 389 464 7.97% 6.68% 9.51% 55
Tulane 71 22 49 407 483 7.98% 4.55% 12.04% 120
Miami (Florida) 59 19 40 379 358 8.01% 5.31% 10.55% 16
New Mexico State 72 34 38 412 485 8.03% 7.01% 9.22% 95
Duke 69 18 51 347 511 8.04% 3.52% 14.70% 45
Oregon State 66 27 39 291 530 8.04% 5.09% 13.40% 53
Minnesota 60 21 39 449 295 8.06% 7.12% 8.69% 34
Louisiana Tech 74 24 50 459 458 8.07% 5.24% 10.89% 80
Clemson 80 30 50 473 508 8.15% 5.91% 10.57% 30
Arizona State 72 24 48 378 504 8.16% 4.76% 12.70% 49
Iowa State 78 22 56 486 467 8.18% 4.71% 11.52% 9
UCF 67 25 42 441 371 8.25% 6.74% 9.52% 103
SMU 64 26 38 298 476 8.27% 5.46% 12.75% 92
Ohio 85 24 61 576 451 8.28% 5.32% 10.59% 77
Virginia 72 15 57 451 417 8.29% 3.60% 12.64% 62
UCLA 70 24 46 498 341 8.34% 7.04% 9.24% 20
Idaho 68 28 40 363 447 8.40% 6.26% 11.02% 94
Western Kentucky 71 21 50 523 322 8.40% 6.52% 9.56% 88
East Carolina 78 30 48 367 554 8.47% 5.42% 13.08% 63
Washington State 75 37 38 353 529 8.50% 6.99% 10.76% 61
West Virginia 75 26 49 348 522 8.62% 4.98% 14.08% 3
Boston College 66 24 42 413 348 8.67% 6.90% 10.17% 60
Louisiana-Monroe 82 35 46 431 508 8.68% 6.89% 10.79% 105
Michigan 69 15 54 515 277 8.71% 5.42% 10.49% 39
Louisiana-Lafayette 78 25 53 431 462 8.73% 5.41% 12.30% 89
Colorado 75 31 44 370 481 8.81% 6.44% 11.89% 41
New Mexico 67 30 37 375 385 8.82% 7.79% 9.87% 109
Missouri 80 18 62 524 376 8.89% 4.79% 11.83% 35
Bowling Green 74 23 51 379 451 8.92% 5.10% 13.46% 111
Arkansas 74 25 49 357 465 9.00% 5.38% 13.73% 18
Virginia Tech 83 15 68 527 392 9.03% 3.83% 12.90% 68
North Carolina 68 26 42 397 355 9.04% 7.32% 10.58% 50
Hawai'i 82 41 41 262 639 9.10% 6.42% 15.65% 116
Rutgers 81 30 51 389 481 9.31% 6.24% 13.11% 38
Illinois 78 35 43 472 364 9.33% 9.62% 9.11% 66
Kent State 73 30 43 402 378 9.36% 7.94% 10.70% 83
UTEP 76 33 43 377 432 9.39% 7.64% 11.41% 84
Cincinnati 77 19 58 437 382 9.40% 4.97% 13.27% 7
Marshall 74 26 48 390 394 9.44% 6.60% 12.31% 73
Washington 74 34 40 381 403 9.44% 8.44% 10.50% 52
Miami (Ohio) 80 47 33 328 506 9.59% 9.29% 10.06% 99
Purdue 82 26 56 453 396 9.66% 6.57% 12.36% 21
Florida State 76 35 41 373 387 10.00% 9.04% 10.99% 65
Wake Forest 85 29 56 397 438 10.18% 6.62% 14.11% 31
Kansas 86 31 55 512 332 10.19% 9.34% 10.74% 26
Mississippi State 82 24 58 450 353 10.21% 6.80% 12.89% 11
Rice 87 21 66 446 405 10.22% 5.19% 14.80% 91
Indiana 90 31 59 461 409 10.34% 7.58% 12.80% 22
Connecticut 86 41 45 425 400 10.42% 10.25% 10.59% 14
Ohio State 78 40 38 485 262 10.44% 15.27% 7.84% 28
Utah 78 31 47 409 333 10.51% 9.31% 11.49% 85
Akron 83 37 46 376 413 10.52% 8.96% 12.23% 81
Colorado State 85 35 50 418 379 10.66% 9.23% 11.96% 110
UNLV 82 35 47 465 304 10.66% 11.51% 10.11% 102
Memphis 84 27 57 351 435 10.69% 6.21% 16.24% 108
Eastern Michigan 85 18 67 557 220 10.94% 8.18% 12.03% 75
Florida Atlantic 81 34 47 353 385 10.98% 8.83% 13.31% 93
Kansas State 91 36 55 530 296 11.02% 12.16% 10.38% 36
Louisville 85 36 49 395 374 11.05% 9.63% 12.41% 4
Pittsburgh 101 56 45 432 450 11.45% 12.44% 10.42% 1
Vanderbilt 89 26 63 435 338 11.51% 7.69% 14.48% 19
Kentucky 89 35 54 393 371 11.65% 9.43% 13.74% 13
Auburn 91 31 60 461 300 11.96% 10.33% 13.02% 6
Florida 93 23 70 408 327 12.65% 7.03% 17.16% 2
Mississippi 108 31 77 430 343 13.97% 9.04% 17.91% 25


Here's a rundown of the above table: TFL.a is tackles-for-loss allowed by a team's offense; Sacks.a is sacks allowed; Stuffs.a is stuffs allowed; Rush.adj is offensive rushes with sacks removed; Pass.adj is offensive pass attempts plus sacks; TFL.rate is the percentage of total offensive plays that ended in a TFL; Sack.rate is the percentage of adjusted pass attempts that ended in a sack; Stuff.rate is the percentage of adjusted rushing attempts that ended in a stuff; and OSOS (FEI/Brian Fremeau/FootballOutsiders.com) reflects the overall quality of defenses, where a lower number indicates a better set of defenses faced. Baseline stats are from CFBStats.com.

I'm mostly providing these stats for your perusal, but below are some of my thoughts. Note that you can click on the column heading to sort by ascending/descending order within the table. We're cool like that here at TN.

Tackles-for-Loss (TFL.rate)

The percentages range from 3.86% (Stanford) to 13.97% (Mississippi). This seems already to be a pretty good indicator of great and abysmal offenses, respectively. Think about those percentages for a second. If we assume a pace of 60 offensive snaps per game, Stanford averages about 2.3 TFLs against per game. Mississippi? 8.4 TFLs against. However, note the difference in qualities of defense (OSOS) faced: Stanford - 69th, Mississippi - 25th.

I ran a simple linear regression of the TFL.rate % on OSOS, trying to see if (and how much) the quality of defense faced determined a given offense's tendency to go backwards. The result was a significant negative relationship, but explained little variance of offense's TFL.rate (R-squared of 6%). This shows us that the strength of defenses faced was important but not at all dominant in describing an offense's anti-"splash play" rate.

Look at the bottom 5 teams - all SEC teams (boy, Florida's offense was pathetic this year). I don't do it here, but if we grouped the individual teams into groups by conference membership, I'm fairly certain we'd see that the R-squared would rise explain more variance seen - for instance - in the SEC.

Sacks (Sack.rate)


Oklahoma's offense is the benchmark, incurring sacks on only 1.59% of all passing plays. At a 60-snap per game pace, that comes out to just under 1 sack allowed per game; and that coming against some better defenses (23rd). Ohio State's offense incurred a sack on an astonishing 15.27% of all passing plays. At a 30-pass per game offensive pace, that comes out to 4.5 sacks per game. That is an ugly number, allowing 40 sacks on 262 passing plays against the 28th OSOS. At least Pitt's 56 on 450 (12.44%) came against the #1 set of defenses faced nationally. Note that the Sack.rate could be an indicator of offensive line fail, but sacks also happen when you're receivers are covered well or can't get open. A dumb QB can also work himself into a sack by holding too long or escaping the pocket too quickly.

The R-squared value from a regression model of Sack.rate upon OSOS is even smaller than the TFL.rate/OSOS relationship (4.3%) described above. Though statistically significant, it again shows that OSOS doesn't explain the TFL.rate of a given offense. Thusly, I contend we're seeing the fail rate of offenses moreso than the success rate of defenses captured in these TFL derivatives.

Stuffs (Stuff.rate)

I've probably been conducting the "Stuff" train a bit too long but it's fun to see who is overwhelming the point of attack, whether through scheming via run blitzes, winning 1-on-1's, or some combination of the two.

The #1 and #3 offenses incurring the lowest Stuff.rate are your traditional triple-option teams in Army and Georgia Tech, allowing 2.7 and 3.7 Stuffs on average for a 60-rush pace. This makes sense; they use play-action to pass and often don't even dropback passblock unless they're down by multiple scores (note how poor Army is at incurring sacks when passing - Georgia Tech is at least respectable). Sandwiched between them is Stanford. Damn if Jim Harbaugh didn't build up one of the best offensive lines in football. Where the offensive line goes...

Florida and Mississippi bring up the rear with a Stuff.rate of 17.16% and 17.91%, respectively. At a 30-rush per game pace, that comes out to 5.1 and 5.4 Stuffs per game average. That is horrendous. No wonder Weis went 'Jeff Bowden swing pass to the RBs' as a base offense. While both teams Sack.rate percentages aren't horrible, their overwhelmingly atrocious ability to run the ball explains their overall TFL.rate rankings. Interestingly, the Stuff.rate/OSOS linear relationship is not statistically significant.

All this talk about a linear relationship between TFL/Sack/Stuff.rate and OSOS is really just meant to serve as a caveat. What I mean is this: On any given play, the result is some mixture of offensive/defensive execution and failure. What I'm showing with these statistics may be an indictment of offensive ability (rather than defensive). The linear models help to extract the seasonal trend related to quality of defenses faced. However, since the R-squared values are so low we are led to think that the story is more about offensive failure (high TFL.rates) than defensive success.

How does FSU look?

Bad. FSU is very close to the bottom of the conference, careening neck-and-neck with Wake Forest toward the basement with a TFL.rate of 10.99% (Wake Forest - 10.18%). At a 60-snap pace, FSU's offense would incur about 6.6 TFLs.

We can break apart the TFL.rate statistic into Sack.rate and Stuff.rate. In Sack.rate, FSU is in fact the bottom-dweller of the ACC at incurring a sack on 9.04% of all pass attempts. At a 30 pass attempt pace, FSU's offense incurs about 2.7 sacks. In Stuff.rate, FSU is at least closer to the conference median at 8th with 10.99% of all rushing plays ending in a Stuff. Assuming 30 rushing attempts per game, this comes out to about 3.3 stuffs incurred per game.

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