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Mizzou’s Offense Goes Fast, But Not As Fast As It Used To

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OR DOES IT?!?!?!

Missouri v Purdue
I’m onto you, Lock...
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Everything you’ve ever been told is wrong.

Well, maybe not everything ever. But all those well-intentioned-yet-hastily-prepared Missouri game broadcast analysts and a certain Tigers football watcher/former beat writer/part-time stalker (you know...me) have been misleading you when they say that the Missouri offense is still going fast under new coordinator Derek Dooley, but not as fast as it used to.

Well...kind of misleading you.

Let me backtrack a moment.

I showed up for the night shift in the spreadsheet factory the other day, bid Smitty a fond farewell as he headed home for the evening — Smitty’s been going through it a little bit lately...but we’ll get to that later — punched in and sat down at my cubicle.

I went to finish up my RockMNation post examining Missouri’s offensive pace this year when compared to under Josh Heupel last year. I highlighted all the data I was going to use and pressed the “DO MATH” button (because that’s how I produce these posts, you know), and what do you think came out?

Through the first three games of the season, the Tigers are running 2.61 plays per minute. That’s a 6-percent decrease from the 2.78 play-per-minute rate last year.

Not exactly monocle-dislodging stuff yet, I know, and confirming what we’re being told in the season’s early going.

When you slice the numbers a little bit, though, you start to see a different picture.

Peep this: In 2017, Missouri ran 2.51 plays per minute when it was in the lead. This year: 2.57.

In 2017, when the score was tied, the Tigers ran 2.97 plays per minute. This year: 2.88, only about 3 percent slower.

Using stat god Bill Connelly’s definition of garbage time — when teams are separated by 25 points or more in the second quarter, 22 or more in the third and 17 or more in the fourth — Missouri ran 2.91 plays per minute in non-garbage time in 2017. This year: 2.84 plays per minute, only about 2.5 percent slower.

So, a more accurate oft-repeated phrase would be: “Missouri’s offense, in situations that matter the most, is going just as fast as it did last year.”

The biggest difference between the two years comes when the Tigers are losing, and that metric is a victim of small sample size.

Missouri ran 463 plays in 156:04 time of possession trailing last year, or 2.97 plays a minute. This year, the Tigers have run eight plays in 3:33 trailing in the first quarter against Purdue, or 2.25 plays a minute (24 percent slower).

And that’s it. Missouri will trail more often as the season goes on, and we’ll get a more reliable measure then. And, if the Tigers only end up running offense during 3:33 of clock time trailing all season...then we probably won’t care all that much about offensive pace, will we?

Let’s cut up the pace numbers a little bit and look at them from year to year.

By Quarter

2018 (% Difference from 2017)
1Q: 2.79 (-2.68)
2Q: 3.20 (5.83)
3Q: 2.39 (-21.9)
4Q: 2.12 (-6.02)

2017
1Q: 2.87
2Q: 3.03
3Q: 3.05
4Q: 2.25

Interesting that this year’s Tigers go into the half faster than last year’s, but that number could be skewed a little by Missouri’s two-minute drill drives in two of three games so far. Last year’s Tigers also came out of the half a lot faster than this year’s.

By Game Relevance

2018 (% Difference from 2017)
Non-Garbage Time: 2.84 (-2.55)
Garbage Time: 2.00 (-20.0)

2017
Non-Garbage Time: 2.91
Garbage Time: 2.50

Missouri is taking its foot wayyyy off the pedal in garbage time this year. But all of it has been good garbage so far for the Tigers, whereas last year, they were just about likely to be out of the game losing as they were to be too far ahead to catch. So, logically, you’re still probably wanting to push the pace a little when you’re woefully behind.

By Margin

2018 (% Difference from 2017)
Ahead: 2.57 (2.33)
Tied: 2.88 (-3.24)
Behind: 2.25 (-24.0)

2017
Ahead: 2.51
Tied: 2.97
Behind: 2.97

Missouri trailed 47 percent of its time of offensive possession last year, so there’s a lot more of that to go on. This year, the Tigers have trailed for 3.56 percent of their offensive possession.

Look at the pace when the Tigers were tied or ahead last year and this year, though:
2018: 2.62
2017: 2.61

:-o

I was just as susceptible as anyone to push this narrative of more selective pace, and being smarter about when to go warp speed and when to back off a little.

But let’s pump the brakes (pun DEFINITELY intended) a little on this narrative for now.

Because the stats just don’t bear it out.

Oh, and Smitty? Yeah, he’s imaginary.

Also: the pace numbers look a little different from the ones I tweeted about the other day, but that’s because I measured time of possession by Missouri’s by-quarter possession in each game book rather than the overall time of possession that’s on the cumulative stats.

The by-quarter method is more accurate and came up with slightly different figures.

Also also: you might notice this year’s team with two more plays than are on the official stats. That’s because the cumulative stats aren’t counting two kneels at the end of the UT Martin game.

You thought I wouldn’t notice BUT I DID godiliveashallowpettyexistence.

I plan the petition the NCAA to open a formal inquiry. Until then, here are the pace worksheets for your perusal.