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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Statistical Review: Arizona #39

Pop quiz: How often did Arizona throw the ball in 2012?

If you said anything less than 50% you're wrong. I might be the only one surprised by this, but I'll publicly admit that I was surprised. Arizona was more likely to attempt a pass than Oklahoma State and Baylor, a team coached by Kevin Sumlin, and Clemson, Syracuse and Florida State with their NFL-caliber quarterbacks. And the investment paid dividends: Arizona had the nation's 20th most efficient passing game and Matt Scott was the 12th most productive quarterback (schedule adjusted) in college football.

All together, the offense worked fast and was efficient. The Wildcats averaged 6.3 plays per possession yet averaged less than two minutes per possession. That's fast. Only Louisiana Tech averaged more plays in less time. They averaged 39.3 yards per possession, more than Oregon, Clemson, Oklahoma State and Alabama and reached the red zone 43% of the time. Unfortunately, the goal is to reach the end zone, not the red zone. Arizona was mediocre inside the 20 yard line - an area Rich Rod should excel (see Oregon) - and the field goal unit was poor.

The bigger problem for Arizona is that they had to share the football, and things went less well when the defense was on the field. Their opponents averaged a whopping 6.2 plays and 35 yards per possession, almost matching Arizona's numbers. Arizona was terrible defending 3rd downs, 1st downs and 2nd downs, but they did force opponents to move the ball down the field one play at a time. In fact, Opponents ran a play in the red zone 34% of the time, and scored touchdowns on 67% of those possessions. That's not good. What Arizona did do very well on defense, something that should yield big dividends in the Pac-12, is prevent explosive run plays; team's gained 25+ yards on only 1.5% of run plays against the Wildcats.

Arizona made big steps forward in 2012. The defense will be a year older and should continue to improve in 2013, but, as I like to say, returning mediocrity is still mediocrity. The offense will be missing a few key pieces, but as long as Carey is running the ball (he was the nation's 4th most productive running back), which is by no means certain, Rich Rod should be able to move the ball again. Assuming a few pieces fall in place, Arizona could improve on its eight wins in 2013.
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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