Inside the Numbers

Baylor beat up Iowa State on Saturday in the rain at McLane Stadium. The Bears don't care much for convention. Art Briles teams don't rely on the age old laws of winning football games. Case in point ball possession. On Saturday the Bears were "out possessed" by nearly 10 minutes. A stat that would doom most teams, instead Baylor had the Cyclones right where they wanted them. 

The Law of Explosive Plays

Baylor can score and score quickly. Baylor's average possession time was 1:30. In those minuscule possessions Baylor found 45 points. The Bears create explosive plays and explosive series (series in which a team averages 10 yards or more per play) better than any team in the country. Contrary to popular belief the exhausting aspect of defending the Bears isn't the tempo, though that doesn't help, it's that the Bears offense is a one mistake sport. Miss a coverage, a tackle, a read and the athletes Baylor employs can take it to the house. Quickly.

Briles devised the system to create pressure points. Either in the box with a bruising offensive line or outside the box with a group of antelopes. Stretch the defense to the boundary, expose the zone and exploit man to man matches. 

The issue that might arise later, as competition level increases, is that if Baylor's offense isn't creating explosive plays, it isn't on the field long. Case in point, Saturday, in non-scoring possessions, Baylor possessed the ball on average 1:08. In the second half, Iowa State began to chip away, and while the game was never in doubt, the quick turnaround from Baylor's offense back to its defense seemed to have an effect.  

Just Keep Scoring

Art doesn't care about time of possession because he knows he has an offense capable of scoring and scoring quickly. The Bears ran 87 plays in a little more than 24 minutes of possession, or roughly a play every 17 seconds. That includes a second half in which the Bears seemed to be playing about as ball control of a game as they possibly can. 

When Baylor struggles, or most spread/tempo teams, is when they need to salt a game away by running and milk the clock. The offense has to abandon the principles that got it to where it is and instead try shrink the game. Wonder how TCU gave a way a 21 point 4th quarter lead or how Baylor lost the Cotton Bowl? It's because both got caught in the fog between conservatism and aggression. The opposition knows that the style of play will allow them more possessions as well. 

The solution for spread teams, as Briles has noted, is never take your foot off the accelerator. Keep scoring. 

Shorten the Game

Baylor's offense seeks to exploit several market inefficiencies. First and foremost that collegiate cornerbacks are not able to sustain coverage on elite athletes. Second that a defense will be forced to pick it's poison and eliminate defenders from the box, opening up run lanes. Further Art Briles knows that the more throws you get at the craps table the better the shot of hitting. Tempo, tempo, and more tempo. 

Iowa State and other Big 12 teams have a choice, either try to out tempo the tempo squad (or at least keep up) or shorten the game and take the dice out of Briles' hand. The former is banking on the idea that your athletes will be able to do to Baylor what Baylor wants to do to you, while scoring at least one more point. Out Bayloring, Baylor, that's risky.

The other option is to grind things out, keep Baylor's offense off the field. In theory this also limits a spread teams ability to get into a rhythm or dare we say tempo. This approach also gives your defense a chance to rest and adjust. 

If you'd like to play with Baylor, you might not want to get into a tempo competition with the Bears. They'll get more shots off in a shorter amount of time, with explosive results. 

Screw all that, we've got moving pictures. 

Posted on October 27, 2015 and filed under Southwest Round-Up.