Improvement, Sure, But How Much?

Dave Reginek

The two truisms of the offseason when discussing the MSU offense are:

A. Things can't really get worse

and,

B. It should improve to at least an average performance.

Are these statements true? Luckily, we can use recent history as a guide to set some reasonable preseason expectations.

Methodology

Basically, I want to find teams that came close to fitting MSU's unappealing 2012 offensive profile. As a start, I screened out non-BCS schools as they generally lack the resources, finances, and player bases to match up with BCS programs in these sorts of exercises.

Second, I need to pick a metric and set a upper limit that captures 2012 MSU and a comparable set of BCS teams. Rather than set it at say team's offensively ranking at 100th in the country or below, I set it to a statistical target (because nation-wide, years can be offense-biased or defense-biased overall). I ultimately decided to select yards per play like I did with other columns as an easy, but robust, way to compare team's offensive output while adjusting for pace, and with the reasoning that increased points generally follow increased yards, I decided to set the upper limit at 5 yards per play. So if you, like MSU (4.88) were a BCS team who averaged less than 5 yards a play, we're going to look at both whether and how much you improved or backslid the following season. As cfbstats.com goes back to 2007 and that conveniently happens to be the start date of the Dantonio tenure, we'll go back those six years.

Findings

From Bad... to OK? (YPP)

Team

Bad Year

Next Year

Improvement

2008 Washington

4.02

5.73

1.71

2007 Notre Dame

3.52

5.23

1.71

2008 Virginia Tech

4.54

6.2

1.66

2008 Auburn

4.48

6.14

1.66

2009 Virginia

4.18

5.64

1.46

2011 Ole Miss

4.36

5.73

1.37

2008 Michigan State

4.91

6.27

1.36

2011 Kansas State

4.89

6.21

1.32

2009 Kentucky

4.91

6.11

1.2

2008 Michigan

4.41

5.61

1.2

2008 Tennessee

4.49

5.69

1.2

2008 Wake Forest

4.53

5.72

1.19

2008 Mississippi State

4.24

5.39

1.15

2007 Iowa State

4.38

5.52

1.14

2010 UCLA

4.74

5.87

1.13

2009 North Carolina

4.73

5.86

1.13

2007 Iowa

4.66

5.77

1.11

2007 Stanford

4.45

5.43

0.98

2007 Baylor

4.91

5.86

0.95

2008 UCLA

4.18

5.12

0.94

2011 Pittsburgh

4.82

5.74

0.92

2009 Washington State

4.08

4.95

0.87

2008 Duke

4.4

5.26

0.86

2009 Maryland

4.73

5.58

0.85

2010 Washington State

4.95

5.77

0.82

2007 Oregon State

4.93

5.66

0.73

2010 South Florida

4.97

5.69

0.72

2011 Kentucky

4.08

4.78

0.7

2011 Indiana

4.97

5.67

0.7

2009 Colorado

4.43

5.09

0.66

2010 Vanderbilt

4.58

5.23

0.65

2010 Purdue

4.7

5.29

0.59

2011 Rutgers

4.71

5.21

0.5

2008 Boston College

4.64

5.12

0.48

2007 NC State

4.69

5.13

0.44

2008 Syracuse

4.69

5.12

0.43

2010 Wake Forest

4.77

5.19

0.42

2011 Boston College

4.71

5.13

0.42

2008 Kentucky

4.53

4.91

0.38

2009 Minnesota

4.89

5.26

0.37

2008 Vanderbilt

4.22

4.59

0.37

2011 NC State

4.9

5.26

0.36

2010 Kansas

4.32

4.65

0.33

2007 Pittsburgh

4.77

5.1

0.33

2010 Iowa State

4.6

4.92

0.32

2011 Kansas

4.65

4.96

0.31

2008 Washington State

3.86

4.08

0.22

2011 Iowa State

4.92

5.13

0.21

2007 Miami

4.85

5.06

0.21

2011 Connecticut

4.56

4.73

0.17

2008 Arizona State

4.86

5.03

0.17

2008 Northwestern

4.92

5.08

0.16

2010 Rutgers

4.6

4.71

0.11

2007 Duke

4.29

4.4

0.11

2007 Syracuse

4.62

4.69

0.07

2009 Vanderbilt

4.59

4.58

-0.01

2008 Minnesota

4.93

4.89

-0.04

2007 Virginia

4.68

4.62

-0.06

2010 Boston College

4.78

4.71

-0.07

2008 Colorado

4.53

4.43

-0.1

2007 Mississippi State

4.38

4.24

-0.14

2007 Virginia Tech

4.93

4.62

-0.31

2007 Auburn

4.85

4.48

-0.37

2010 Connecticut

4.94

4.56

-0.38

2008 Virginia

4.62

4.18

-0.44

2007 Vanderbilt

4.7

4.22

-0.48

2007 UCLA

4.73

4.18

-0.55

So, first we've got this idea that last year was as bad as it could really get. Not true (unfortunately)!

Can't get any worse?

Improved

Regressed

% of Total Teams Who Improved

# of teams

55

12

82.09%

Though you'd bet really heavily on MSU's offense improving, about 1 out of every 5.5 teams on the list regressed from their already low total the year before.

But if we're talking improvement, how much exactly?

Average Bad Year To Next (Yards Per Play)

Average Bad Year

Average Next Year

Average Improvement

4.6

5.18

0.58

That looks pretty good!

Any chance this is getting thrown off by some of those big improvements from particularily horrible teams at the top?

Median Bad Year to Next (YPP)

Median Bad Year

Median Next Year

Median Improvement

4.66

5.13

0.47

Maybe a little bit, but the team in the exact middle of this set is still seeing about a half a yard of improvement.

Now can some context as to where those type of improvements would put a team of MSU's offense last year? Well, if the team's average improvement would be about .58 yards, a reasonable guess would be that MSU's offense will get to somewhere around 5.46 yards per play this year.

Where would that put us in comparison to other teams? Well, historically speaking:

Hypothetical improvement would mean...

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

National Rank

78th

t-65th

t-67th

t-66th

t-56th

60th

B1G Rank

7th

t-6th

t-8th

t-7th

6th

10th

Right about near the national average, and right about near the Big Ten average as well.

It's also a little comforting to see that the leap the Spartans made between 2008 and 2009 was the 7th best improvement in the past six years out of this set of teams.

Conclusion

It's likely, at least based on recent historical data, that the rebuild of the MSU offense takes more than just one year to fully reverse the damages. But if like last year, it holds true that the Spartan defense and special teams are good enough to only require an average offense, well... all signs point to 'probably'!

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