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3 Days Till Kickoff: Three Statistics That Will Make or Break The Miami Hurricanes Season

These Three Statistics Must be Great or Better For the Canes Season to Be a Success

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 14 Miami Spring Game Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Chants of ref you suck.

Yelling at the screen.

Off season hype coming to sweet culmination.


Most of us, if not all of us, didn’t think we would get here, let alone training camp. Watching the new and improved offense, led by HEISMAN contender, D’Eriq King, will become a reality Thursday night. Experiencing and feeling the aggression that the defensive line will exhibit on UAB will be palpable in less time than it takes Bubba Baxa to make 3 kicks.

I kid. Sort of.

Of course with the number being our feature, I bring you:

Three Statistics That Will Make Or Break The Miami Hurricanes Season

With the advanced level of number keeping in sports today, there are seemingly hundreds of statistics that point us in the direction of goo or bad in a so many perspectives. Old schoolers like it simple, scoring offense, scoring defense. Score more than the other guys. Gamers like player stats. Numbers that look good in a video game or fantasy football cheat sheet. The numbers I’d like to focus on are a modern take on the traditional score more than the other guys take.

Points Per Play

Points per play divides your total score by the amount of plays your offense runs in that same game. It speaks to the efficiency and quality of play. Back in July, I spoke to the fact that speed of play doesn’t matter if you don’t run quality plays. Coach Manny Diaz and Coach Rhett Lashlee spoke to this recently after the second scrimmage.

“Rhett has directed some of the most innovative offenses in college football in recent years,” Diaz said. “Offenses that attack quickly, creatively and efficiently.” Coach Lashlee, expounding on the efficiency trait of offense said, “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you’re huddling or not huddling, trying to go fast or not, you’ve got to execute,” Lashlee, 37, said. “If you’re going really fast, and you don’t execute, all you’re doing is going three and out really fast.

“The way you run over 80 plays a game consistently, the way you have a chance to stay on the field is by gaining first downs. We’ve got to get that initial first down, we’ve got to execute to stay on the field, otherwise we’re going to be running plays real fast and punting faster than we want to.”

Opponent First Downs

On the other side of the field, Miami’s 11 need to keep the opposing team as limited as possible in all aspects of the game. No better place to start that at the beginning. Miami must focus on keeping opposing offenses off the field, as well as themselves. This allows our offense to build leads, and allows the defense to force opponents into our strengths of attacking the pocket and giving our secondary opportunities to get takeaways. AS Coach Lashlee mentions, getting the initial first down is paramount to staying on the field. Controlling this stat will do everything to keep offenses off it.

Turnover Margin

The latter two stats are the perfect Segway into the third and final stat, the Turnover Margin. A big part of stay on the field and executing? Protecting the football.

  • A muffed punt by Miami and Jeff Thomas vs the Florida Gators led to a touchdown in a 4 point loss.
  • The Virginia Tech Hokies scored 21 points off turnovers to defeat Miami by one score.
  • 3 turnovers vs both the Florida International Panthers and the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs resulted in what essentially both count as one score losses, considering La Tech scored on the last drive of a game that was all but over.

On the other hand Miami must get back to creating turnovers on defense. After ranking 4th in takeaways in 2017, Miami fell to 30th in 2018, and 40th this past season. The Canes defense needs to quickly reverse this trend and head back in the other direction.

Three Levels of The Proof

Stating something is important is nice.

Proving it is twice as nice.

I brought together the Top 25 teams, conference best, and playoff teams of the 2019 college football season to help prove out my theory that these three stats are supremely important to success.

Gamechangers - 2019: Miami vs. The Top 25

Rk Top 25 Points Per Play PPP Rank Opponent First Down OFD Rank Turnover Margin TOM Rank
Rk Top 25 Points Per Play PPP Rank Opponent First Down OFD Rank Turnover Margin TOM Rank
NR Miami 0.33 94 18 23 0.2 46
1 LSU(62) 0.636 2 19.1 33 0.8 14
2 Clemson 0.584 4 14.9 1 0.9 9
3 Ohio State 0.596 3 15.5 4 0.6 22
4 Georgia 0.416 50 16.2 7 0.2 42
5 Oregon 0.514 12 19.6 36 1.2 5
6 Florida 0.465 22 17.1 13 0.1 50
7 Oklahoma 0.578 5 19.9 45 -0.08 119
8 Alabama 0.688 1 19.7 37 1.2 4
9 Penn State 0.465 24 20.1 48 0.7 20
10 Minnesota 0.49 14 17.2 14 0.2 40
11 Wisconsin 0.489 16 16.2 8 0 55
12 Notre Dame 0.529 10 18.1 24 1.3 3
13 Baylor 0.456 30 20.8 64 0.8 10
14 Auburn 0.434 39 19.8 40 0.2 49
15 Iowa 0.376 70 16.7 9 0.7 18
16 Utah 0.479 19 15.3 2 0.7 17
17 Memphis 0.539 7 20.6 60 0 55
18 Michigan 0.445 34 17.4 16 0 55
19 Appalachian State 0.545 6 18.5 26 1.1 7
20 Navy 0.538 8 15.4 3 0.5 25
21 Cincinnati 0.404 56 19.9 46 0.4 33
22 Air Force 0.483 18 17.1 12 -2 84
23 Boise State 0.464 25 18.7 28 0.1 50
24 UCF 0.531 9 21.2 66 0.5 29
25 Texas 0.465 21 22.5 93 0.4 36

Going through the teams, it becomes apparently quickly how important it is to be efficient on offense, regardless of how many plays you run. Only Iowa (87th), Cincinnati (56th) and Georgia (50th) ranked outside of the top 40 in Plays Per Play.

Miami? Ninety-FOURTH. Yikes.

The same was blatant to see for the Opponents First Downs per game stat. Only Texas (93rd), UCF (66th), Baylor (64th) and Memphis (60th) were outside of the top 50. With the way college football has gone recently with spread offenses and getting more points on the board faster, the top 50 in the NCAA is a strong accomplishment.

Also noticeable? More teams ranked in the top 10 of Points Per Play also ranked in the Top Ten of Opp. First Downs, than teams that didn’t. This does well to disprove the notion that more plays on offense means more points given up on defense, as I discussed recently in my Season Preview for the Defense.

Miami excelled here, ranking 23rd nationally.

55th seemed to be the average mark for turnover margin, as a lot of teams don’t give away the ball or take it away. Most teams were 55th or better, though Oklahoma was a MAJOR outlier at 119th, while Miami was a modest 46th, due to the decrease in takeaways.

2019 Top 25 Teams

Top Ranked Points Per Play PPP Rank Opponent First Down OFD Rank Turnover Margin TOM Rank
Top Ranked Points Per Play PPP Rank Opponent First Down OFD Rank Turnover Margin TOM Rank
Top 25 0.5 20.2 18.3 29.4 0.42 34.04
Top 15 0.51 20.13 18.06 25.53 0.59 30.67
Top 10 0.54 13.7 17.93 23.8 0.58 32.5
Top 5 0.55 14.2 17.06 16.2 0.74 18.4

As one might assume, as we climb the charts from 25, to 15, to 10 and 5, the points per play increases gradually and opponent first downs decreases at a similar pace. It is here that the Turnover Margin gains the spotlight. As the quality of teams increase, the turnover margin jumps sharply. If not for Oklahoma and its major outlier number here, the top 10 would be in the .65 range.

2019 Conference Leaders

Conference Level (P5) Points Per Play PPP Rank Opponent First Down OFD Rank Turnover Margin TOM Rank
Conference Level (P5) Points Per Play PPP Rank Opponent First Down OFD Rank Turnover Margin TOM Rank
Conference Top 2 0.53 15.67 17.5 22.22 0.57 32.56
Conference Winners 0.58 5.2 17.8 23.8 0.68 33.8
Conference Runner Up 0.46 28.75 17.13 20.25 0.43 31

Looking at the conference level, we really see what it takes for Miami to be competitive. To just be in the argument, Miami has to be at least at .46 points, per play, 17 opposing first downs per game, and a .43 turnover margin. Both Lashlee’s Southern Methodists Mustangs in 2019 and D’Eriq King’s Houston Cougars were above .51 points per play. Their respective teams both had .3 turnover Margins. This is an area that the duo needs to improve upon to cement a successful season in Coral Gables.

2019 Playoff Contenders

Playoff Level Points Per Play PPP Rank Opponent First Down OFD Rank Turnover Margin TOM Rank
Playoff Level Points Per Play PPP Rank Opponent First Down OFD Rank Turnover Margin TOM Rank
Semifinalists 0.6 3.5 17.35 20.75 0.56 41
Finalists 0.61 3 17 17 0.85 11.5

This is were the hopes that bringing the talent in Miami together with the proper coordinator and the right quarterback needs to show merit. This is not to say that jump to .52 points per play isn’t an massive increase. It IS. That would be SIXTY-THREE percent INCREASE in the area for Miami. The hope is that having ACC level talent around them will help to push these numbers up by 7-10%, putting us in the arena to challenge for the playoffs. NOT A PREDICTION - BUT THE STANDARD THAT IS MIAMI.

What shouldn’t be surprising, is that through this entire exercise, the DEFENSE has been right at the mark for every level. This only increases the pressure on the offense to finally catch up to the defense, which has been carrying Miami since Manny Diaz showed up on our doorstep.

Three days from now, the race begins.

Go Canes.