2008 Pass Defense

PB's recent post on Texas' statistical numbers created some spirited comments about the Texas pass defense.  People were saying we are worse than Washington and Washington St. while others were defending Will Muschamp and this young secondary as a good yet not great pass defense.  Most of the conversation was based on the simple statistic of pass defense which measures the amount of pass yardage given up by a team.  This statistic can be extremely misleading as it takes no account into what kind of opponents a team plays.  Some offenses only throw the ball 20 times a game while others (most in the Big 12) can throw the ball between 30-60 times a game.  This skews most Big 12 pass defensive statistics into making it look like no one even plays pass defense in this conference.  We have actually watched the games this season and know that this is not the case.  I remember reading an interview with Muschamp from earlier in the season in which he was quoted as saying that he didn't care how many yards we game up passing as long as our yards given up per attempt was around 5.  This is the statistic we should all be looking at to show us how good/not good our pass defense has been this year.  YPA shows you how well a team defends each individual pass regardless of how liitle or much a team throws the ball on offense.  I took a look at these statistics and they matched up pretty well with what you see when you watch Texas and other top teams on defense this year.

At the top of the list you will find some of the names you would expect to see:  #1 USC - 4.3 (probably the best defense I've watched on TV this year regardless of how inferior their opponents tend to be), #2 Ohio St. - 5.1, #4 Alabama - 5.3, #8 Florida - 5.6, and tied for #13 Penn St. and South Carolina - 5.7 a piece.  From watching several games from each of teams I can see that their defenses are extremely good.  In fact Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are ranked #39 & #47 respectively.  Take a look at these teams ranks in YPA vs. Pass Def.  

Team/YPA/Pass Def.:  USC/1/1, Ohio St./2/8, Alabama/4/31, Florida/8/17, Penn St./13/10, SC/13/4, OU/39/92, OKST/47/111. 

From these numbers you can see how playing good offenses that throw the ball with regularity can really make you look bad in pass defense as evidenced by OU and OKSt.  However, if you look at the yards given up per attempt, you can clearly see that OU and OKST's pass defenses are not THAT much worse than the top pass defenses in the nation.  In case you were wondering Texas' line would look like this: Texas/71/110.  These numbers show me that although many around the country think our pass defense is non-existent we are only slightly below average in YPA at 7.0.  I wouldn't classify that as good by any means.  Muschamp wants us to be around 5 and we're not even close so I'm sure he is not at all pleased with our pass coverage.  In the earlier conversations someone was trying to make the point that our pass defense was worse than Washington and Washington St.  This is not so.  It might look like it if you take only pass defense ratings (UW - 87, WSU - 33, TEX - 110), but if you look at YPA you will see that (as their records indicate) both UW and WSU are terrible in pass coverage (TEX - 71, WSU - 97, UW - 117).

Now some will say, "We've played some of the best offenses ever in the history of college football" and that has to be taken into account.  So for this I looked at YPA for each defense against only teams they played with winning records.  Our numbers move up from 7.0 YPA to 8.0 YPA.  Texas' line looks worse for the wear as you would expect, but our rankings don't change that much: Texas/77/114.  Let's look at some of the other teams we looked at earlier.

Washington and Washington St. still stink as their lines look like this against opponents with a winning record: WU/108/83, WSU/103/35.  You might hear some "experts" say "They don't even play defense in the Big 12.  Now take a look at Washington St.  They know how to play pass defense.  Look they're ranked 35th in the nation in pass defense against teams with winning records."  Your rebuttle, "Wow (with extra sarcasm), I see they also give up 9 yards every time another team even attempts a pass against them.  I really wish my team knew how to play defense like them."

What about the top teams?  Are they just posers as well?  Well let's take a look:  USC was tops in both catagories against everyone, but how do they fare against better competition?  Their new line against opponents with winning record still shows they are very good against the pass: USC/1/5.  Here are the other team's lines (again using the standard TEAM/YPA/YPG passing): Ohio St./6/22, Alabama/14/70, Florida/9/16, SC/9/12, Penn St./36/61, OU/36/92, OKST/53/119. 

If you take the time to really digest those numbers you realize that YPG given up passing really means nothing as a barometer as to how good a pass defense is.  Does anybody really think that OKST has the WORST pass defense in the nation?  According to YPG against teams with a winning opponent they are.  Now I'm not trying to say they are great at pass defense, but they certainly aren't the worst I've seen this year.  I've seen all of these teams play a few games a piece (some more, some less).  After watching USC, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, and Penn St. play, I thought they had pretty good if not great defenses and the YPA stat backs up my peepers.  I also thought after watching OU, OKST, and Texas play, that their pass defenses were prone to the occasional big play, but adequate (certainly not crappy).  I've also seen Washington and Washington St. play a few games and thought their defenses were crappy.  Possibly lower than crap if there could be such a thing.  And the YPA stat backed me up on that too. 

5.0 YPA seems to be the gold standard as only USC at 4.3 (against all opponents) and 4.6 (against opponents with winning records) bests that mark.  Texas has a long way to go to beat that mark, but with a few more years of seasoning maybe we'll get there.  If it doesn't look like our coverage has improved that much since 2006 it's because our numbers are basically the save in the YPA catergory:  2006 - #86 7.5 YPA, 2007 - #67 7.0 YPA, 2008 - #71 7.0 YPA.  Our rank has moved around a little bit, and we have improved slightly over 2006, but our YPA remains at 7.  There may be hope though.  In 2007 we gave up 7 YPA with mainly upperclassmen in the secondary.  This year our number hasn't changed, but we are playing people with about the same experience level as those upperclassmen of a year ago, but with years to grow and mature.  I hope this has been enjoyable to read and easy to understand.  All stats were pulled from


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