I know, I know. The offseason is supposed to be about optimism, especially for the Kansas football team and coach Turner Gill in year two.
There's a problem with hoping for great things from KU's offense in 2011: The Jayhawks were so bad in 2010, that it's probably unreasonable to expect anything but a modest improvement in 2011. http://www2.kusports.com/photos/galle...
Let's take a look back at KU's offensive stats in 2010 and what it might mean for the Jayhawks' offense in 2011.
For this blog, we will use the advanced statistical measure S&P+, developed by Bill Connelly of Football Outsiders.
Connelly makes it easier for us to compare teams with his S&P+ ratings, which take into account a team's schedule then sets the baseline at 100. Therefore, an NCAA average offense is 100, anything above is better than average and anything below is worse than average.
Here's how KU's offense ranked in the S&P+ rankings in the 2010 season:
Offensive S&P+ — 73.3 (117th out of 120 teams)
Connelly has been keeping the S&P+ statistics for the last six seasons, and only four schools from BCS conferences in those six seasons have had worse S&P+ offensive rankings than KU posted last year.
Most of those teams showed only mild improvements the next year — if they showed improvement at all.
As you can see, none of the teams above rebounded from their bad offensive seasons to have an NCAA average offense the next season.
It's a small sample size, but the four teams averaged an increase of 27 spots in their NCAA ranking.
If KU increased its ranking in S&P+ 27 spots like the teams above, it would rank 90th, which would have ranked 11th in the Big 12 last year (Texas was 98th; Iowa State was 67th).
The odds don't appear to be good that a BCS offense like Kansas' could make a huge leap after having such a poor season a year ago.
Here are the other S&P+ numbers for KU from 2010.
Rushing S&P+ — 81.9 (111th)
Passing S&P+ — 65.2 (120th)
Yep, that's right. After taking into account all the numbers and factoring in schedule strength, KU's passing offense was dead last out of 120 FBS teams. That means it was worse than 1-11 Akron, 1-11 Memphis, 1-12 San Jose State, 1-11 New Mexico, and yes, even 2-10 New Mexico State.
Here's a look at the six teams that finished last in passing S&P+ and how they fared the next season:
Some interesting things from above.
For one, this isn't the first time that KU coach Turner Gill will be leading an offense that finished dead-last in the NCAA in passing offense the year before. Though Gill didn't coach Buffalo to its last-place showing in 2005, he did take over as coach in 2006. The Bulls improved 15 spots in the pass ranking that next season.
Obviously, there is one team in the list above that did go on to have great success the year after having the worst passing offense in the nation, and that was 2007-08 Notre Dame.
That still shouldn't be much consolation for KU fans, as Notre Dame had an offensive guru as its coach (Charlie Weis) and a future second-round draft pick as its quarterback (Jimmy Clausen). After throwing for 1,254 yards in 2007, Clausen exploded for 3,172 yards in 2008.
The Jayhawks, at this point, don't have any quarterbacks that project as NFL players, much less high draft picks, so a Notre Dame-like turnaround shouldn't be expected.
Even if you include Notre Dame, the average last-place passing team improved only 24.4 spots in the passing game the next season. If KU was 96th instead of 120th last year, it would have ranked 11th in passing in the Big 12.
Take out the Notre Dame outlier, though, and the other four teams averaged a bump of only 9.3 spots. That would put KU's passing game at 111th next year, which would most likely make it the league's worst passing offense for the second straight season.
In addition to pass offense, KU also ranked last in the nation in two other S&P+ offensive categories.
The Jayhawks were 120th in S&P+ during the second quarter and also 120th in S&P+ on second downs.
We'll get more to what finishing last on second down might mean a little later in the blog.
We mentioned above that Gill already has experience with coaching a team the year after it registered the worst passing offense in the nation.
So what kind of passing numbers did Buffalo have under Gill? Let's take a look:
The above list shows that Buffalo did improve into an above-average passing team under Gill, but most of the improvement didn't take place until year three.
Keep in mind that KU's passing offense was worst in the nation last season, meaning if Gill took the same amount of time to make KU's passing offense above average, it would take place in his fourth season, not his third.
Just for fun, here are KU's S&P+ pass rankings from the last six years:
For help analyzing exactly what all KU's 2010 advanced statistics mean, I went to the numbers wizard himself: Bill Connelly.
I asked Connelly five questions about KU's 2010 advanced statistics and what they might indicate for 2011. His responses are below.
Jesse Newell: KU's offensive S&P+ in 2010 was 73.3 (117th), while the next lowest BCS school was Purdue at 82.8 (107th). Can you give some perspective on KU's offense from what you see in the numbers?
Bill Connelly: This really was an incredibly bad offense. It was so bad that it is hard to figure out where to locate fault. In general, I tend to overlook anything that happens in a coach's (or coaching staff's) first year on the job. Sometimes it takes you a while to install your own culture and figure out what you've got. I can't imagine that it took Turner Gill and his offensive co-coordinators long to realize that they just didn't have much.
James Sims showed flashes, and as a freshman he's got plenty of time to improve, but I expected much more out of Daymond Patterson (who looked phenomenal against Georgia Tech) and Bradley McDougald.
Gill and offensive coordinator Chuck Long better hope that some of the incoming talent — Brock Berglund, Darrian Miller, JaCorey Shepherd — is ready to contribute from day one because there was almost no playmaking ability on this offense.
JN: In your S&P+ rankings, KU finished last in the nation in second down offense. What does KU finishing last in that particular stat indicate to you?
BC: There is something mystical about second downs that I have yet to figure out. So many teams are great on first and third downs but terrible on second, or vice versa, and it just makes no sense to me. Kansas was actually semi-mediocre on third downs (79th) but brutal on first (101st) and second (120th).
JN: KU was dead-last in your pass offense ratings. Can you put that in perspective?
BC: It really does take a group effort to finish dead last in a major category as a major-conference team. You must have bad/young quarterbacking, bad pass blocking, bad play-calling and a bad receiving corps. Teams turn things around rather quickly sometimes, especially in a coach's second year, but I think it's safe to say it's going to take a while for KU to work back up toward the middle of the pack in the passing game. If Sims and the young runners continue to improve, that will take pressure off of the quarterbacks, but still.
JN: KU's offensive S&P+ was 110.0 in the 2009 season (31st). Since you've been keeping your offensive stats, is this about the furthest drop (110 to 73.3, or 31st to 117th) in one season?
BC: KU's Off. S&P+ fell 33.4% in 2010, which is impressive, but is not the biggest drop since 2005. Notre Dame fell 40.3% from 2006 to 2007, Central Florida fell 39.9% from 2007 to 2008, Rice fell 39.7% from 2008 to 2009, Washington State fell 38.2% from 2007 to 2008, New Mexico State fell 34.4% from 2008 to 2009 (my personal favorite, since they were bad in 2008 too), and Washington fell 33.4% from 2007 to 2008. The 33.4% figure means they'll tie for sixth out of the 700+ teams that have played since 2005.
JN: A lot of folks are making the argument that KU struggled because it didn't have talent offensively. Because your S&P+ rankings take into account schedule strength, etc., would you say the S&P+ numbers suggest that KU's offensive coaches didn't make the best of the talent they had? Even a team like Akron finished better in offensive S&P+, and I can't imagine there's more talent there.
BC: Recruiting rankings suggested that the "talent" on Kansas' roster was far too good to finish so poorly on offense, that's for sure. I think when there's this much of a failure, some of it has to be pinned on the coaches ... just because there's more than enough blame to go around. Playing that poorly on standard downs (all first downs, second-and-7 or less, third- or fourth-and-4 or less) suggests that the coaches had no idea what plays to call; playing that poorly on passing downs (downs that are second-and-8 or more or third- or fourth-and 5 or more) suggests that there was no play-making talent whatsoever. Playing so poorly in the first quarter suggests that the gameplans weren't very good, while playing that poorly down the stretch of games suggests that gameplans weren't the whole problem — again, the talent just wasn't there.
I do think Sims and the runners are the key for 2011.
The passing game was so hopeless that improvement simply isn't going to happen unless the running game is so good that opponents have to account for it.