Statistics on Predictability, Part 2

As a follow-up to last week's post on predictability of our offense, a couple of commenters mentioned that a better comparison might be to the best teams in the country rather than all teams (since we aspire to be one of the best and most years are). In this post we'll compare the behavior seen by VT with that of the top twenty offenses in the country as ranked at We could debate all day about whether these are the exact 20 best, but I don't think anyone will argue that those are pretty good offenses that move the ball well, and the rankings on the site are adjusted for opponent's defensive ability.

In the first part of Part 1 we saw how VT quickly abandons the run when down and turns to heavy run-use when up at any point in the game, and while that behavior is somewhat expected, we are much more extreme than others. Here is the same analysis, but only using the Top 20 offenses instead of all other teams:

Unfortunately the same pattern exists. It is true however, that the Top 20 offenses are a little more extreme than average, but not nearly as much as we are. The data would be painful to collect, but it would be interesting to see if teams with extreme behavior like ours are also less likely to come back from a deficit or hold a lead.

Next we saw that on third down, VT's behavior becomes much more predictable than others depending on the yardage and field position. We saw our odds of rushing vary from <20% to >80%, while the remainder of teams only exceeded those bounds in very extreme situations. When looking at the Top 20 offenses, we unfortunately see that they fit the mold of all teams and do not quickly become predictable like the Hokies:

For a minute though, let's forget about the situational stuff and just look at predictability more broadly. Suppose we looked at every play all year and used the same basic criteria to predict odds of rushing, and looked at the distribution of those odds. Obviously you want few plays in the extremes, and most plays towards the middle. Here are histograms of that analysis, with VT's plays on top and the Top 20 offenses on bottom:

VT runs way too many plays where the likelihood of running (or passing, which is saying the same thing) is to easy to guess. The most concerning are the extreme ends, where there is close to a 0% or 100% chance of the play being a run.

Finally, I diagramed all WR Screens to determine how many of them were a good call and how many were not and charted them:


I read the final statement before even looking at the graph, I wonder what this analysis will show. And now I laugh, mostly because i was gullable enough to believe that the WR screen might be a decent call sometimes.

Well done sir. I appreciate humor in statistics.

It's a great day to be a Hokie!

Good stuff!!

That last chart is good enough to be someone's avatar. Please mail that to the coaching staff while you're at it!


And a +1. Well done.

"...sticks and stones may break my bones but I'm gonna kick you repeatedly in the balls Gardoki!"

Still disagree. Screens won the UNC game last year, and were critical in several other games. Without good blocking (see Corey Fuller/Dyrell Roberts) it isn't a good call, but what play is a good call without blocking at the point of attack?

Now, if you want to criticize the diamond formation that basically identifies the play call and who is getting the ball before the snap, by all means tear them to pieces.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

If you can excute the screen I always think it's good (if used sparingly) to get the QB's confidence up. Something we saw in the Sugar Bowl as the first play in the game. Key word in this post is sparingly.

I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

Why? The WR screen is not only been successful .... VT, it's a key component to many of the top offenses in the country. If you block it correctly, it is a play that causes all kinds of defensive adjustments to stop.

Yep, this entire series about offensive predictability has been

....interesting, but the effect is lost with that last graph. It's really hard to pull a bunch of data together to present a factual analysis then show your agenda in a joke like that.

Secondly, I would prefer to see the Top 20 teams, not offenses. I'm not inspired to be Baylor, Fresno, Marshall or Houston.

Eh, it's a joke. I think that's pretty obvious to everyone, and honestly I laughed and it didn't affect my overall appreciation for his work.

When used properly, screens can be a very effective tool and some teams, both in NFL and college, make a living off of them. This season, we need to all but eliminate them. Last year Danny and D.J. Coles did a terrific job both running and blocking for them. The guys this season aren't aggressive or effective blockers, and O'Cain tips his hand too much.

Like French has said before, Tech has had success in previous seasons outside of the diamond running screens, but even if we used more successful formation, I don't think the personel at WR is there to execute.

just to be a smart ass

So you agree with O'cain that the players aren't executing the plays he is calling?

A new hope


It's not that WR screens are inherently bad, but we obviously are not capable of effectively executing on them this year. They are so slow to develop that we saw a Clemson player jump it too fast and run past the ball.

Would love to have you do a study of why we're failing at them since they are such a point of contention among the fanbase!

Great Posts

Thanks for the time and effort I have enjoyed them.

A new hope

Prediction of Odds of Rushing is Telling

The 2nd to last chart intrigues me, because I would have though there would be a spike at 0-2% bin for all teams, even the top 20. I would think, at some point, all teams would predictably need to pass. I guess this means these teams are not getting behind the sticks and not getting behind in games. The top 20 offenses are dictating the defenses, not the other way around.

Really nice stats. It's nice to see the actual facts to show what we already believe.

For VT to correct their tendencies, they must stay ahead of the sticks, get leads, and then continue to mix in the pass, especially on 3rd short.

🦃 🦃 🦃

I don't get why we don't run any running back screens. They'd slow down the pass rush and get JC Coleman into space. Even with David Wilson I didn't think we ran enough of those.

Rip his freaking head off!

Run vs Pass Stats misleading

This predictability is mostly about defensive coaches (and fans) being able to pick what will happen. The players on the field still have to watch the play unfold to decide what to do. There is a certain amount of predictability on every play with down and distance and score. Most of us can intuitively figure out if it might be a run or pass.

What we don't know, except for maybe VT, is what kind of play it might be, where it is headed, and who is getting the ball. To me predictability is knowing who is getting the ball and in what way. What pass routes are the receivers are running? What hole is the runner going to? I think VT is too predictable in how they execute rather than, "is it a run vs. pass?". I think the defensive players can see what is happening by watching for signs.

When I see a good offense execute I am often fooled by play fakes and misdirections (just like the camera operators). I see receivers adjust routes to get open and the QB on the same page as the receiver. I see running backs follow blockers and make cut backs to the open holes. I see the defense getting fooled.

I don't know if you can coach good execution or if it is a "football sense" or athleticism of good players. I do know you can plan and prepare a good scheme and techniques. What I see in terms of predictability is just poorly designed plays. They don't fool anyone and don't create confusion in the defense. The scheme is too easy to defend and we don't have a dominating O-line. The plays are slow developing because the offense is thinking too much about assignments.

The offense seems too scripted rather than spontaneous. Good coaches are able to sense the rythm and flow of the game to make the right play calls. I think Tech's coaches are not very good at that and are especially poor under pressure. The don't have good "football coaching sense".

#Let's Go - Hokies