Saturday, July 14, 2012

2012 ACC Preview

Its that time of year again. We are T-minus 47 days until the beginning of the 2012 college football season. So its time to get started with the annual conference previews here at Statistically Speaking. We'll begin our conference preview with the ACC, a conference that has its best shot at producing a national championship contender since the early part of the last decade. To relive last year's ACC preview (which accurately predicted Clemson to take the Atlantic Division), click here. Check back every three or four days as new previews are posted. Enjoy!

Atlantic Division

Coastal Division

Can a Tiger Change His Stripes?
Not much was expected of Clemson heading into the 2011 season. The Tigers were coming off their first losing season since 1998, breaking in a new starting quarterback, and installing a new offense. The offense of first year coordinator Chad Morris exploded onto the national scene and crushed all preseason expectations. Speeding up the pace and finding a freshman playmaker in receiver Sammy Watkins, the Tigers scored the most touchdowns and gained the most yards in ACC play one season after finishing 10th (of 12 teams) in both categories. The drastically improved offense helped the Tigers claim their first ACC crown since 1991 and saw them climb as high as number six in the AP Poll. To get an idea of how much faster the Tigers played in 2011, I looked at home many plays they ran per conference games in each of the past four seasons. The results are summarized in the following table.
Clemson ran a little more than eight more plays per game in 2011 than they did in 2010 and about twelve more than they did in 2008. That may not seem like a huge difference, but running eight more plays is an increase of nearly 12% over the 2010 numbers and 19% over 2008. While digging through the Tigers' offensive numbers I noticed another change in addition to the increase in total number of plays. In 2011, the Tigers tilted their offensive styling to favor the pass. The table below lists Clemson's run/pass ratio in ACC play since 2008.
A run/pass ratio of 1.00 means a team runs the ball just as often as it throws it. A ratio greater than one indicates the team runs more often. A ratio less than one indicates they throw more often. As you can see, Clemson was especially geared to the run in the two seasons preceding 2011, running roughly 25% more often than they passed in 2009 and 13% more often in 2010. Now this may be a function of personnel as Chad Morris had a stud freshman receiver in Sammy Watkins, perhaps making him more inclined to rely on the forward pass. Similarly, the 2009 team had CJ Spiller at running back and an inexperienced quarterback in Kyle Parker under center so Billy Napier probably felt more comfortable handing the ball off. Still, the change in balance is quite large so perhaps Clemson fans should get used to the team chucking the ball more often.

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