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Debates on Greentree: Miami Hurricanes - Why Plays Per Game Don’t Matter

Miami v Florida International Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Hey Canes Faithful!

Welcome back to the latest edition of Debates on Greentree. Hope we are all enjoying the Palmetto News, recent commits from the likes of Kam Kinchens and Jabari Ishmael, and the return of both Major League Baseball games and NBA Basketball!!! Real sports y’all!!

Our topic tonight centers around a kind of misconception about the changes expected on offense.

Plays Per Game.

It’s often said that with Miami, now with new Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee, Miami will have the benefit of playing at light speed, tiring the defense and scoring a ton of points because of it. I myself am guilty of that. Back in February I did a basic look at what having a good QB, in Lashlee’s system, would look like for all the players we have on the roster. The numbers broken out were basically adding more plays to averages and projections.

The issue with that is, running a ton of plays DOES NOT equal a TON of points. More plays can equal a lot of things on the surface. More plays can mean that we just go three and out more, leading to a worse 3rd down percentage, that we give UP more plays and points, ruining our scoring defense, or even simply more yards, for the simple fact we are on the field more.

Sticking with offensive production, one only has to look as far as the top ten lists, from 2019, for Plays per Game, and Points Per Game.

2019 NCAA Leaders In Plays Per Game

Plays Per Game Rank School Plays Per Game Points Per Game Points Per Game Rank
Plays Per Game Rank School Plays Per Game Points Per Game Points Per Game Rank
1 Wake Forest 82.9 30.4 45
2 Tulsa 82.2 26.4 74
3 S Methodist 80.9 41.8 5
4 Syracuse 80.5 27.1 69
5 UCLA 79.3 26.7 72
6 Central FL 78.8 41.8 6
7 Ohio State 78.6 46.9 2
8 N Carolina 78.3 31.2 39
9 Ball State 77.7 32.8 26
10 Texas Tech 77.7 29.2 56
--------------- ------------------ ------------------- ------------- ------------
79.69 33.43 39.4

Thats a lot of plays folks. Wake Forest was king at 82.9 plays per game, nearly 14 plays more than Miami. That is a whopping 20% more plays per game. They also scored 8 more points a game than Miami, which definitely would have bought us some wins. However, Tulsa, UCLA and Syracuse were more than 12 plays better than the Canes but only averaged about 4 more points a game. That doesn’t account for much when you imagine opposing teams would have more opportunity as well. Also, do we think that giving Dan Enos 14 more plays last year would have amounted to much else?

Didn’t think so.

So lets flip this argument on its head. Lets take a look at the top ten SCORING teams, and see how many plays THEY ran.

2019 NCAA Points Per Game Leaders

Points Per Game Rank School Points Per Game Plays Per Game Plays Per Game Rank
Points Per Game Rank School Points Per Game Plays Per Game Plays Per Game Rank
1 LSU 47.2 74.3 25
2 Ohio State 46.9 78.6 7
3 Alabama 45.7 66.3 113
4 Clemson 42.9 73.4 40
5 S Methodist 41.8 80.9 3
6 Central FL 41.8 78.8 6
7 Oklahoma 40 69.2 81
8 Memphis 39.3 72.9 47
9 App State 38.5 70.7 68
10 Notre Dame 36.8 69.5 78
------------- -------------------- -------------- ------------- -------------
Average 42.09 73.46 46.8

This paints a much different picture.

It should be assumed that a top ten offense has:

  • Good QB Play
  • A Competent Offensive Coordinator
  • A Good Amount of Offensive Talent

LSU is the “DUH!” of the group. The historically elite offense had all of the above in droves with Joe Burrow, now of the Cincinnati Bengals, TWO very good coordinators, including Joe Brady who now is in the same position with the Carolina Panthers, and offensive talent at every level. They were 25th in plays per game. Above average, more than the Canes, but only by 7 plays.

It gets more interesting when you take into account Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Memphis, Appalachian St and Notre Dame.

Bama, and Clemson have elite talent and play calling. However, Alabama ran LESS plays than Miami by 2 and Clemson was only 6 plays better.

Memphis and App St. are not on our level talent wise. We know that. Yet they are in the top ten scoring offenses, hitting more than 2 touchdowns ahead of Miami.

Oklahoma and Notre Dame are the closest to our talent level on offense, in my opinion. The two ran nearly the same amount of plays as us, yet score EIGHTEEN more points.


Miami goes undefeated last year adding those points to our spreads.

SO, this brings me to what we REALLY need to focus on: QUALITY over QUANTITY.

Yes Quality over Quality. And as I mentioned at the end, Rhett Brings BOTH in droves.

Of the two lists above, who was the only team in the top 5 of both points per game AND plays? Southern Methodist. Unless you have been living under a rock, that’s our guy, Rhett Lashlee. He understands what it takes to bring “quality” quantity. Say that five times fast. SMU and Rhett were 11th in points per play, and THAT is the number that we should focus on when think, spread, speed and pace. Those things don’t matter if they don’t lead to points.

On a day we remember the beloved Robin Williams, a blurb describing his comedy hits home about quality and quantity.

Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton interviewing the Late Robin Williams - Lipton says: “How do you explain the mental reflexes that you deploy with such awesome speed? Are you thinking faster than the rest of us? What the hell is going on?” Williams first makes a goggle-eyed face, but then he falls over sideways, like an embarrassed kid, curling up and cackling. And then, of course, he does precisely the thing Lipton is asking about: a flurry of movements, voices, bits, fragments of thoughts flying by — fragments riffing on his own thinking. Even when he was cringing at being called out on it, he couldn’t not do it.

That cackle, too, is so much a part of him. The man had a great, percussive laugh; a ha-ha-ha you hear most clearly in the film when his mother pulls a rubber band out of her nose.

Williams was known for his breakneck comedy, but the delivery of it is what made him a legend.

So when a topic of plays per game comes up, remind whoever you are debating with, quantity means nothing without the right amount of Quality.

Go Canes.