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A slightly different, better way of looking at tempo

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Using run-pass rates and seconds per play, we can come up with a pretty effective way of gauging offensive tempo in college football. And yes, Baylor moves at a higher tempo than anybody else no matter what measure you're using.

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It's impossible to watch an Oregon game (or a Baylor game, or West Virginia, or TCU, or Washington State, or even BYU at this point) without hearing the T-word mentioned ad nauseum. The Ducks have one of the most up-tempo offenses in the country, and in last week's Rose Bowl, not even a month of preparation could help Florida State's defense figure out how to get off its collective heels once the Ducks knocked the Seminoles backwards.

For a while now, I've been using what I call Adjusted Pace to measure tempo. You can find updated ratings in the second table at the Off. S&P+ page (http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/ncaaoff2014). I have used the relationship between two numbers -- plays per game and run rate -- to create an expected plays measure. Run plays are likely to finish with a running clock because there are no incomplete passes, obviously, so teams that run a lot probably aren't inclined to finish with as many plays per game even if they're moving at a nuclear tempo.

Look at a team's run-pass ratio and compare its plays per game to the expected value, and voila: you have an adjusted pace number that looks at the difference between the two.

That approach has begun to irk me a bit, though. Using plays per game is alright, but it doesn't take into account the simple facts that a) good offenses tend to end up with more plays per game because they aren't going three-and-out as much, and b) big-play offenses might not need as many plays per game to score either.

So let's change things up a bit. Instead of plays per game, let's use the same approach for a different measure: seconds per play. I should have been doing this all along, but the overall approach is the same: create an expected value based on the relationship between seconds per play and run-pass ratios. Compare expected to actual, and boom, you've got a new, better Adjusted Pace measure.

The results aren't going to be THAT different, of course. Baylor's still the fastest in the world, and Oregon's still not far behind. But this grounded more in proper thought.

Offense Seconds per play Rk % Run Exp. seconds per play Difference Rk
Baylor 18.0 1 52.3% 23.8 -5.8 1
Arizona 18.3 2 47.1% 23.2 -4.9 2
Oregon 19.5 6 55.8% 24.3 -4.8 3
Bowling Green 18.6 3 47.8% 23.3 -4.7 4
BYU 19.3 5 50.7% 23.7 -4.4 5
North Carolina 18.8 4 46.6% 23.2 -4.4 6
West Virginia 19.5 6 48.6% 23.4 -3.9 7
Air Force 23.1 49 78.2% 27.0 -3.9 8
Memphis 20.6 10 57.2% 24.4 -3.8 9
Northern Illinois 21.9 29 63.8% 25.2 -3.3 10
Arkansas State 20.8 14 53.8% 24.0 -3.2 11
UAB 21.9 29 62.2% 25.0 -3.1 12
Texas State 21.2 21 55.9% 24.3 -3.1 13
Mississippi State 21.3 22 55.4% 24.2 -2.9 14
Marshall 21.0 18 52.1% 23.8 -2.8 15
New Mexico State 20.8 14 49.8% 23.6 -2.8 16
TCU 20.7 12 47.3% 23.2 -2.5 17
Fresno State 21.0 18 48.1% 23.3 -2.3 18
Texas Tech 19.8 8 37.4% 22.1 -2.3 19
Washington 22.4 36 57.7% 24.5 -2.1 20
Indiana 22.7 42 60.2% 24.8 -2.1 21
Arizona State 21.3 22 48.3% 23.4 -2.1 22
UCLA 21.8 27 52.2% 23.8 -2.0 23
Western Kentucky 20.6 10 41.6% 22.6 -2.0 24
California 20.7 12 42.4% 22.6 -1.9 25
Offense Seconds per play Rk % Run Exp. seconds per play Difference Rk
UNLV 21.0 18 44.4% 22.9 -1.9 26
Texas A&M 20.8 14 42.4% 22.7 -1.9 27
East Carolina 20.3 9 37.4% 22.1 -1.8 28
Auburn 23.4 55 63.0% 25.2 -1.8 29
Northwestern 21.6 24 48.0% 23.3 -1.7 30
Massachusetts 20.8 14 40.8% 22.5 -1.7 31
Hawaii 21.8 27 48.6% 23.4 -1.6 32
Utah 22.8 46 56.6% 24.4 -1.6 33
Duke 22.2 32 49.9% 23.6 -1.4 34
Nebraska 23.4 55 59.7% 24.8 -1.4 35
Tennessee 22.2 32 49.4% 23.5 -1.3 36
Middle Tennessee 23.3 53 57.9% 24.5 -1.2 37
Oklahoma State 22.6 40 51.4% 23.7 -1.1 38
Cincinnati 22.0 31 46.2% 23.1 -1.1 39
Georgia 23.9 67 61.5% 25.0 -1.1 40
Syracuse 22.5 37 49.6% 23.5 -1.0 41
Florida 23.8 65 59.5% 24.7 -0.9 42
Kentucky 22.5 37 48.2% 23.4 -0.9 43
Iowa State 21.6 24 40.7% 22.5 -0.9 44
Ole Miss 22.7 42 49.0% 23.5 -0.8 45
Houston 22.7 42 48.9% 23.4 -0.7 46
Idaho 22.3 34 45.3% 23.0 -0.7 47
Clemson 23.1 49 51.9% 23.8 -0.7 48
Appalachian State 24.1 72 60.1% 24.8 -0.7 49
Toledo 23.7 62 56.8% 24.4 -0.7 50
Offense Seconds per play Rk % Run Exp. seconds per play Difference Rk
Navy 26.8 110 82.4% 27.5 -0.7 51
Oklahoma 23.9 67 58.2% 24.6 -0.7 52
USC 23.0 48 50.0% 23.6 -0.6 53
Ohio State 24.2 76 59.3% 24.7 -0.5 54
South Alabama 23.5 58 53.3% 24.0 -0.5 55
Boise State 23.7 62 54.8% 24.2 -0.5 56
Colorado 22.3 34 43.1% 22.7 -0.4 57
Tulsa 22.8 46 47.2% 23.2 -0.4 58
Ball State 23.5 58 51.0% 23.7 -0.2 59
Nevada 24.2 76 56.0% 24.3 -0.1 60
N.C. State 24.0 69 54.2% 24.1 -0.1 61
Missouri 24.0 69 54.1% 24.1 -0.1 62
Notre Dame 23.3 53 48.2% 23.3 0.0 63
Maryland 23.1 49 46.2% 23.1 0.0 64
Eastern Michigan 24.1 72 54.4% 24.1 0.0 65
Old Dominion 22.5 37 40.9% 22.5 0.0 66
Temple 23.2 52 45.3% 23.0 0.2 67
Troy 24.4 80 53.5% 24.0 0.4 68
Akron 22.6 40 38.2% 22.1 0.5 69
Ohio 24.4 80 52.9% 23.9 0.5 70
Georgia Tech 27.5 115 78.4% 27.0 0.5 71
North Texas 24.8 86 56.0% 24.3 0.5 72
San Jose State 23.8 65 47.6% 23.3 0.5 73
Georgia Southern 27.8 117 80.0% 27.2 0.6 74
Virginia Tech 24.1 72 49.4% 23.5 0.6 75
Offense Seconds per play Rk % Run Exp. seconds per play Difference Rk
Georgia State 23.4 55 43.1% 22.7 0.7 76
Florida State 23.6 60 44.4% 22.9 0.7 77
Louisiana Tech 24.3 79 49.6% 23.5 0.8 78
Kansas 24.6 84 52.1% 23.8 0.8 79
South Carolina 24.1 72 47.7% 23.3 0.8 80
Alabama 24.9 87 54.1% 24.1 0.8 81
UL-Monroe 22.7 42 35.8% 21.9 0.8 82
Virginia 24.4 80 49.3% 23.5 0.9 83
Illinois 23.6 60 42.6% 22.7 0.9 84
Florida Atlantic 24.9 87 52.2% 23.8 1.1 85
Iowa 25.0 89 51.7% 23.8 1.2 86
Florida International 25.5 96 55.5% 24.2 1.3 87
Colorado State 24.4 80 46.3% 23.1 1.3 88
Central Florida 25.2 93 52.9% 23.9 1.3 89
Army 29.0 127 84.3% 27.7 1.3 90
Penn State 24.0 69 42.9% 22.7 1.3 91
Southern Miss 23.7 62 39.8% 22.3 1.4 92
Texas 25.0 89 50.2% 23.6 1.4 93
Michigan State 26.1 104 58.7% 24.6 1.5 94
UL-Lafayette 25.9 100 57.0% 24.4 1.5 95
Buffalo 25.5 96 52.7% 23.9 1.6 96
Washington State 21.6 24 20.4% 20.0 1.6 97
LSU 27.2 111 66.4% 25.6 1.6 98
New Mexico 28.6 125 78.0% 27.0 1.6 99
Tulane 24.7 85 45.7% 23.1 1.6 100
Offense Seconds per play Rk % Run Exp. seconds per play Difference Rk
Minnesota 27.4 113 67.9% 25.7 1.7 101
UTSA 25.5 96 51.6% 23.8 1.7 102
Utah State 25.9 100 53.7% 24.0 1.9 103
Wisconsin 27.4 113 65.6% 25.5 1.9 104
Purdue 25.0 89 45.2% 23.0 2.0 105
Miami (Ohio)
24.2 76 38.1% 22.1 2.1 106
Boston College 28.2 123 69.9% 26.0 2.2 107
Rutgers 26.5 105 55.9% 24.3 2.2 108
San Diego State 26.7 106 57.2% 24.4 2.3 109
Louisville 25.9 100 50.1% 23.6 2.3 110
Miami
26.0 103 50.8% 23.7 2.3 111
Pittsburgh 27.8 117 64.2% 25.3 2.5 112
Rice 27.2 111 58.8% 24.6 2.6 113
Wake Forest 25.4 95 43.7% 22.8 2.6 114
SMU 25.1 92 40.1% 22.4 2.7 115
Arkansas 27.8 117 59.4% 24.7 3.1 116
Kansas State 26.7 106 50.1% 23.6 3.1 117
Connecticut 26.7 106 49.7% 23.5 3.2 118
Oregon State 25.7 99 40.1% 22.4 3.3 119
Kent State 25.3 94 36.4% 21.9 3.4 120
South Florida 26.7 106 47.9% 23.3 3.4 121
Western Michigan 27.8 117 54.9% 24.2 3.6 122
Stanford 27.8 117 53.2% 24.0 3.8 123
Central Michigan 27.9 122 53.7% 24.0 3.9 124
Wyoming 27.5 115 49.5% 23.5 4.0 125
Michigan 28.7 126 53.1% 24.0 4.7 126
Vanderbilt 28.3 124 49.1% 23.5 4.8 127
UTEP 30.5 128 65.0% 25.4 5.1 128

Barring any particularly awful, "you're missing something super-obvious here" feedback, I'll replace the current pace figures on the Off. S&P+ page with these next week when I post the final, post-championship ratings.

One interesting thing here: there is a slight correlation (0.217) between higher tempo and higher quality as measured by Off. F/+. The gut reaction to that is that higher tempo = good. But after some further thought, I think it's probably the other way around.

If you have a young quarterback, for instance, you might be inclined to slow the game down a bit for him, even if you are otherwise a tempo-happy coach. You've got to have the personnel to move quickly, otherwise you're just going three-and-out in record time.

And hey, some teams go fast no matter what; in Dino Babers' first year at Bowling Green, his Falcons ranked fourth in this tempo list but 97th in Off. F/+. Texas State was 13th and 101st, respectively, and New Mexico State was 16th and 105th. A lack of quality or quarterback experience might scare you into slowing down, but it isn't a guarantee, I guess.