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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Statistical Review: South Florida #93

The 2012 football season was probably the worst in the history of the program (the 2004 team had a slightly better record but was quite dismal as well). They won only one game in conference and lost nine of their last ten games, the last three by a combined 72 points. On the other hand, they were outscored on average by less than a touchdown. Their power ranking was 21 spots better than their hybrid ranking (72 versus 93) which means that they were a better team then their record suggests (better, not good).

The most substantial flaw of the 2012 squad was a painful in ability to force turnovers - no team benefited less from turnovers than the Bulls. They picked off two passes all season and were dead last nationally in picks per pass. They matched that by being 103rd nationally in forced fumbles per play. Offensively, they turned the ball over on 19.3% of possessions (119th nationally) - but this number is slightly inflated because South Florida averaged more plays per possession than most (more on this below), and therefore had more opportunities to turn the ball over.

The South Florida offense was not proficient - B.J. Daniels completed 57% of his passes and the leading rusher, Demetris Murray, averaged less than 4 yards per carry. But their 106th ranking in points per game is misleading. The Bulls played faster than most but averaged only 12 possessions per game (112th nationally). This disparity between tempo and possessions (usually teams that play at a higher tempo average more possessions per game) is a product of long drives, both by South Florida and their opponents. South Florida averaged 5.7 plays per possession and their opponents averaged 5.8. These long drives can be attributed to bad third down defense (opponents completed better than 68% of their passes) and relatively good third down offense, both of which extend drives, and terrible starting field position offensively - only one team in the country started drives closer to their own end zone on average.

A few more turnovers and a few more stops on third down, giving Daniels better field position to work with, and the long South Florida drives would have resulted in more touchdowns (they were 12th nationally in field goals per possession). South Florida lost 3 games by 4 or fewer points, the difference between a touchdown and a field goal. In short, 6-6, a bowl invite, and another season for Holtz Junior were more than feasible; but alas, 3-9 was their fate.

The Statistical Review breaks down teams along a number of performance categories, everything from red zone scoring to field goal percentage, and compares that performance against the rest of the FBS. All 124 teams will be reviewed from 124 to 1 by the hybrid rankings. You can find short descriptions of the stats used in the table below.

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