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Tempo and Oregon's opponents

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Do most teams try to slow their tempo versus Oregon in order to keep the Ducks' offense off the field?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Not many expected Arizona’s upset of Oregon last Saturday. Mariota’s first two interceptions of the season contributed greatly, but ESPN’s Ted Miller suggests another reason:

The Wildcats (7-4, 4-3 Pac-12) turned the tables on the fast-paced Ducks, eschewing the normal slow-it-down routine most teams play against them by keeping their foot on the throttle.

I wanted to see whether Miller’s argument was true: do most teams try to slow their tempo versus the Ducks in order to keep the Oregon offense off the field?

I used OKC_Dave’s method for calculating tempo, dividing Oregon’s opponents’ plays by their total minutes of possession. I did this for the last three years, converting all time of possession into minutes of possession to better calculate plays per minute of possession.

Below are the results, organized from fastest to slowest pace (click for larger version):

  • Arizona did have the fastest pace - in 2012. 2013 Arizona was slightly faster than the average tempo against Oregon, with 2.45 plays per minute of possession. Arizona may have certainly sped things up for Oregon, but it did not do so significantly more or less than the average team to play Oregon.
  • There doesn’t appear to be much much significant variation over the last three years, though you can absolutely see that Washington State has operated a quicker pace against Oregon since hiring Mike Leach.
  • The average plays per minute of possession against Oregon is 2.32 with a range of 1.72 to 3.18. The NCAA average pace in 2012 was 2.31 plays per minute of possession.

So are teams more or less successful by varying their tempo against Oregon? Below is a chart of the five teams to beat Oregon over the last three years, including a column with the opponent plays divided by minutes of possession variable standardized:

Year Opponent Opp Plays/Min of Poss Std Opp Plays/Min of Poss
2011 LSU 2.12 -1.27
2011 USC 1.98 -0.95
2012 Stanford 2.21 -0.31
2013 Stanford 1.86 -1.28
2013 Arizona 2.45 0.35

As a disclaimer, this analysis is exploratory - we’re intentionally selecting on the dependent variable (winning/losing) and only have five instances of Oregon losing to examine anyway.

However, Arizona was the only team to beat Oregon with a faster than average tempo, while LSU and Stanford (2013) adopted an intentionally different strategy. None of the five losses were more than 1.28 standard deviations away from the mean pace for Oregon’s opponents.