Most teams try to employ balance in their play calling. Without it, a team can become one dimensional. Keeping some semblance of balance forces a defense to be honest and not play the run or the pass too aggressively. In box scores and television broadcasts, you will sometimes see information that describes the frequency of a team’s rushing vs. passing plays, but rarely (if ever) is focus directed to how the run/pass ratio changes as a function of field position. Do certain teams run or pass more near the goal line, or in the middle of the field? What about when a team is backed up against its own goal line? This article illustrates the run/pass ratios for every Pac-12 team as a function of field position. The figure below corresponds to each of the team plots. For all charts in this article, the offensive plays are on the left and the defensive plays are on the right.
Each team chart shows every offensive (left) and defensive (right) play of the 2013-2014 season. Plays are tallied in 5-yard bins based on the location on the field where the ball was snapped. Plays are colored differently whether they are passing (red), rushing (grey), or white (field goals). Charts on the left represent the plays called by the listed team, whereas the defensive charts on the right illustrate the ratio of run/pass plays called by the team’s opponents.
A few fun observations:
- It is clear to see the teams who had kickers who could boot the ball out of the back of the endzone: Their defense charts will have a large peak at the point marked 80 (the opponent’s 20 yard line, or in other words, 80 yards to score). Take a look at UCLA, and Stanford as an example. Ka’imi Fairburn (UCLA) and Jordan Williamson (Stanford) led the Pac-12 in kickoff touchback % last year, and it shows in the charts.
- Speaking of balance (or lack thereof), look at Washington State’s offensive chart. Obviously WSU likes to pass, but this chart kind of puts it in perspective. WSU even passed the ball more than half of their plays within the 10 (and 5) yard line, significantly higher than any team listed.
- Take a look at Oregon’s offensive chart. It shows a significantly different shape than almost any other team . Because of Oregon’s explosive offense, they spend a similar amount of time at almost every spot on the field. Other teams have a much larger peak near their own 20 yard line.
Take a look at the charts below (there is a lot to digest there), and please note any other interesting observations or trends you identify in the comments below the article. And please follow @Light_The_U on twitter for updates and new content.