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  1. #1

    Leach Defense Narrative

    There is a narrative floating around that Mike Leachís offense puts his defenses in bad spots by forcing them to be on the field for 80+ plays every game. Not sure why this idea exists, but there is zero statistical backing that supports it.

    Since 2015, here are the average plays per game defended by Washington State and by MSU.

    2015 - State: 73.4 WSU: 72.1
    2016 - State: 73.5 WSU: 67
    2017 - State: 58.7 WSU: 62.9 (Remember State led the country in 3 & outs in 2017)
    2018 - State: 63.7 WSU: 64.4
    2019 - State: 63.2 WSU: 68.1

    That is an average five year difference in plays defensed between State and WSU of less than 0.5 plays per game. Again, 65 some odd games of data for each team and there is practically zero difference between what our defense has been on the field for and what Leachís defense has been on the field for.

    Only once in the last five seasons has Leachís defense been on the field for more than 70 plays per game. This talking point that we are going to have to routinely defend 15-20 more plays per game is a narrative based on nothing more than perception. In the last five years WSU has never had to defend more than 4.9 plays per game that State in any given season. And in two of the five seasons their defense has been on the field less than ours.

    The only way I could see our defense playing significantly more snaps next year is if the passing offense is highly inefficient and a high number of incomplete passes keep the offense from moving the ball. That is a possibility in year 1, but this offense does not inherently put its defense in a bad position.


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  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by messageboardsuperhero View Post
    There is a narrative floating around that Mike Leachís offense puts his defenses in bad spots by forcing them to be on the field for 80+ plays every game. Not sure why this idea exists, but there is zero statistical backing that supports it.

    Since 2015, here are the average plays per game defended by Washington State and by MSU.

    2015 - State: 73.4 WSU: 72.1
    2016 - State: 73.5 WSU: 67
    2017 - State: 58.7 WSU: 62.9 (Remember State led the country in 3 & outs in 2017)
    2018 - State: 63.7 WSU: 64.4
    2019 - State: 63.2 WSU: 68.1

    That is an average five year difference in plays defensed between State and WSU of less than 0.5 plays per game. Again, 65 some odd games of data for each team and there is practically zero difference between what our defense has been on the field for and what Leachís defense has been on the field for.

    Only once in the last five seasons has Leachís defense been on the field for more than 70 plays per game. This talking point that we are going to have to routinely defend 15-20 more plays per game is a narrative based on nothing more than perception. In the last five years WSU has never had to defend more than 4.9 plays per game that State in any given season. And in two of the five seasons their defense has been on the field less than ours.

    The only way I could see our defense playing significantly more snaps next year is if the passing offense is highly inefficient and a high number of incomplete passes keep the offense from moving the ball. That is a possibility in year 1, but this offense does not inherently put its defense in a bad position.

    Good stuff


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  3. #3
    Yep. Unfortunately some people, once they come to the narrative on a certain issue, they refuse to acknowledge actual facts or use logic to why things have a good chance of being different due to demographics.

    I'm thinking of several fans who are toting the "we have to run the football at MState" mantra and would rather have Leach fail and them be right than his offense work. It just drives them crazy that football isn't 3 yards and a cloud of dust anymore.


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  4. #4
    2018 - State: 63.7 WSU: 64.4
    2019 - State: 63.2 WSU: 68.1
    And you thought that the delay of game on the first play of the game and the look to the sidelines until 2 seconds on the play clock didn't have a point**


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  5. #5
    The Leach offense is not a "quick strike" offense. Too many times "air raid" is confused with "quick strike". Leach's offense is a ball control offense designed to get his playmakers the ball in space. He's said it's based on fundamentals of the wishbone offense.

    Where is offense can come off the rails is if his QB isn't accurate, or if he's playing against an elite defense that can lock up receivers man-to-man.


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  6. #6

    The biggest upside with Leach to me is being able to beat teams that are better

    than us on occassion. Mullen nor Joe could do it with any consistency, I think Leach can or at least make the games competitive and fun.
    I don't always drink but when I do I become a message board genius**


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  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by messageboardsuperhero View Post
    There is a narrative floating around that Mike Leachís offense puts his defenses in bad spots by forcing them to be on the field for 80+ plays every game. Not sure why this idea exists, but there is zero statistical backing that supports it.

    Since 2015, here are the average plays per game defended by Washington State and by MSU.

    2015 - State: 73.4 WSU: 72.1
    2016 - State: 73.5 WSU: 67
    2017 - State: 58.7 WSU: 62.9 (Remember State led the country in 3 & outs in 2017)
    2018 - State: 63.7 WSU: 64.4
    2019 - State: 63.2 WSU: 68.1

    That is an average five year difference in plays defensed between State and WSU of less than 0.5 plays per game. Again, 65 some odd games of data for each team and there is practically zero difference between what our defense has been on the field for and what Leachís defense has been on the field for.

    Only once in the last five seasons has Leachís defense been on the field for more than 70 plays per game. This talking point that we are going to have to routinely defend 15-20 more plays per game is a narrative based on nothing more than perception. In the last five years WSU has never had to defend more than 4.9 plays per game that State in any given season. And in two of the five seasons their defense has been on the field less than ours.

    The only way I could see our defense playing significantly more snaps next year is if the passing offense is highly inefficient and a high number of incomplete passes keep the offense from moving the ball. That is a possibility in year 1, but this offense does not inherently put its defense in a bad position.
    There seems to be an idea that Leach's offense must be a hurry up. It really isn't. WSU's time of possession stats really weren't all that unbalanced either.


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  8. #8
    Message Board Hero 8dog's Avatar
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    Additionally, many more teams are trying to run a ton of plays and score fast. Its just the game now.


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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Drebin View Post
    Where is offense can come off the rails is if his QB isn't accurate, or if he's playing against an elite defense that can lock up receivers man-to-man.
    We definitely need a QB who is accurate and makes the right read. Shrader is hopefully the answer. If not, go get a grad transfer to bridge the gap to Rogers.

    As for performance against elite defenses, we probably play three in any given year, depending on who we draw from the East and how good Auburn and A&M are. Four at the most. And when have we ever been effective against elite defenses? Seriously, his offense will definitely not be as good against elite defenses but neither was Mullenís. People forget that Mullen never did shit against Bama or any other top tier defense. No need to even talk about Moorhead. His offense against any marginal defense was horrid- and we never broke 7 points against an elite defense in his two seasons.

    ETA: Leach will not ultimately be judged by how her performs against those defenses. His offense just needs to be effective enough to regularly beat our non conference opponents, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Arkansas, the other East team we play (assuming itís not UGA or Florida) A&M/Auburn about 40% of the time, and then upset a big boy every now and then.

    Donít forget that Mullen only averaged about 7.7 wins per year here, and we all considered that a great job. If Leach can just consistently be 8-5 and 9-4, with the occasional step back and step up year, everyone will be happy.
    Last edited by messageboardsuperhero; 01-16-2020 at 11:01 AM.


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  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by messageboardsuperhero View Post
    We definitely need a QB who is accurate and makes the right read. Shrader is hopefully the answer. If not, go get a grad transfer to bridge the gap to Rogers.

    As for performance against elite defenses, we probably play three in any given year, depending on who we draw from the East and how good Auburn and A&M are. Four at the most. And when have we ever been effective against elite defenses? Seriously, his offense will definitely not be as good against elite defenses but neither was Mullenís. People forget that Mullen never did shit against Bama or any other top tier defense. No need to even talk about Moorhead. His offense against any marginal defense was horrid- and we never broke 7 points against an elite defense in his two seasons.
    It's common sense that we've struggled against elite defenses. Those programs have just had better players on that side of the ball, and our offensive style under Mullen was to try to outphysical everyone we played. But one of the arguments for Leach's offense is that it levels the playing field and allows us to compete offensively against better talent. I'm just making the point that this won't be the case when we play against teams that can out-physical and guard our receivers man-to-man. It could get especially ugly.


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  11. #11

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    Those numbers are interesting for State in general, and I don't understand what was going on. If we led the country in 3 and outs in 2017, I would have thought our plays defended would be through the roof, and yet it is 15 plays less than 2016 - WTF? I guess we were just running the ball like crazy that year and eating up clock? Did you have a link to the State data, I'm interested in the ratio of offensive to defensive plays across those years. Good stuff.


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  12. #12
    Facts! How dare you bring facts to a message board!


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  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Drebin View Post
    The Leach offense is not a "quick strike" offense. Too many times "air raid" is confused with "quick strike". Leach's offense is a ball control offense designed to get his playmakers the ball in space. He's said it's based on fundamentals of the wishbone offense.

    Where is offense can come off the rails is if his QB isn't accurate, or if he's playing against an elite defense that can lock up receivers man-to-man.
    Agreed. Watching that film of the WSU-Oregon game from 2 years ago, you could see the play clock go under 5 seconds many times.

    Does anyone have time of possession for Leachís teams? That might tell you more.


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  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Drebin View Post
    It's common sense that we've struggled against elite defenses. Those programs have just had better players on that side of the ball, and our offensive style under Mullen was to try to outphysical everyone we played. But one of the arguments for Leach's offense is that it levels the playing field and allows us to compete offensively against better talent. I'm just making the point that this won't be the case when we play against teams that can out-physical and guard our receivers man-to-man. It could get especially ugly.
    No doubt. He will have some bad losses to Bama and LSU at times, especially if he canít get his personnel. Just pointing out that Mullen has some absolute shit performances against Bama too and no one holds those against him now. Here are the points scored on Bama in each of Mullenís games against Saban.

    2009- 3
    2010- 10 (Thanks to a garbage time TD)
    2011- 7
    2012- 7
    2013- 7
    2014- 20
    2015- 6
    2016- 3
    2017- 24 (should have won this one)

    We will always struggle against the elite defenses, but that is not how Leachís tenure will be judged.


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  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by messageboardsuperhero View Post
    We definitely need a QB who is accurate and makes the right read. Shrader is hopefully the answer. If not, go get a grad transfer to bridge the gap to Rogers.

    As for performance against elite defenses, we probably play three in any given year, depending on who we draw from the East and how good Auburn and A&M are. Four at the most. And when have we ever been effective against elite defenses? Seriously, his offense will definitely not be as good against elite defenses but neither was Mullenís. People forget that Mullen never did shit against Bama or any other top tier defense. No need to even talk about Moorhead. His offense against any marginal defense was horrid- and we never broke 7 points against an elite defense in his two seasons.

    ETA: Leach will not ultimately be judged by how her performs against those defenses. His offense just needs to be effective enough to regularly beat our non conference opponents, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Arkansas, the other East team we play (assuming itís not UGA or Florida) A&M/Auburn about 40% of the time, and then upset a big boy every now and then.

    Donít forget that Mullen only averaged about 7.7 wins per year here, and we all considered that a great job. If Leach can just consistently be 8-5 and 9-4, with the occasional step back and step up year, everyone will be happy.
    well we should have beaten Bama when Fitz aND a-TRAIN were running on them. Refs let a Bama wr run out of bounds and come back in for a TD and then Mullen went pussified and was playing for over time.


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  16. #16
    Another common talking point is, "Well his teams don't play defense." Like Leach is somehow against having a good defense. It is true his teams have not been good defensively, but look at the conferences they played in? Big 12 and Pac 12. Lots of teams in those conferences struggle on defense.

    You can recruit defense to Mississippi State. I think we will see defenses at the minimum in line with what we have done historically.


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  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Crazy Cotton View Post
    Those numbers are interesting for State in general, and I don't understand what was going on. If we led the country in 3 and outs in 2017, I would have thought our plays defended would be through the roof, and yet it is 15 plays less than 2016 - WTF? I guess we were just running the ball like crazy that year and eating up clock? Did you have a link to the State data, I'm interested in the ratio of offensive to defensive plays across those years. Good stuff.
    Our defense led the country in 3 and outs, not our offense. Our defense either feasted and got a 3 and out or got burned and gave up big plays. Either way, we stayed off the field and our running game controlled the ball for us offensively.


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  18. #18
    Iíve never considered Leachís offense putting the D in a bad spot bc of play count.

    To me, defense just isnít a priority. Which is why the DC hire is extremely important


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  19. #19
    Iím pretty sure he meant that we led the country defensively in 3 and outs. Meaning the other team only had 3 plays for those possessions rather than 5 or 6.


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  20. #20
    Yes. We had the game in hand in 2017, but Mullen was busy talking to his agents about getting out of Starkville in the 2nd half of that game and quit running his offense. THAT LOSS STILL PISSES ME OFF!

    In 2014, he didn't even bother coaching in that game. We should have run Bama out of their own stadium. I suspect he was busy trying to get out of Starkville then too after getting the team to a Number 1 ranking. Pissed about that one too.


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  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Shooter McGavin View Post
    Another common talking point is, "Well his teams don't play defense." Like Leach is somehow against having a good defense. It is true his teams have not been good defensively, but look at the conferences they played in? Big 12 and Pac 12. Lots of teams in those conferences struggle on defense.

    You can recruit defense to Mississippi State. I think we will see defenses at the minimum in line with what we have done historically.
    Quote Originally Posted by LonesomeDog View Post
    I’ve never considered Leach’s offense putting the D in a bad spot bc of play count.

    To me, defense just isn’t a priority. Which is why the DC hire is extremely important
    I posted this last night elsewhere, but it's relevant to this discussion as well:

    Partial list of Texas Tech's national rankings in SP+ and FEI defense under Leach (partial because those rankings started in '05 and '07, respectively):

    2005: 17th
    2006: 44th
    2007: 43rd / 59th

    - DC resigns mid-season in 2007; Ruffin McNeill promoted to DC --

    2008: 66th / 52nd
    2009: 14th / 21st

    And now for Washington St.:

    - two years before Leach -

    2010: 102nd / 114th (Yikes . . . .)
    2011: 84th / 92nd

    - Leach hired -

    2012: 70th / 78th
    2013: 62nd / 67th
    2014: 97th / 107th (Yikes . . . .)

    - fired DC, hired Alex Grinch -

    2015: 77th / 38th
    2016: 60th / 42nd
    2017: 30th / 13th

    - Grinch goes to Ohio St. -

    2018: 59th / 79th
    2019: 94th / 107th (Yikes . . . .)

    - DC resigned mid-season in 2019 after debacle of biblical proportions against UCLA -

    Traditional stats tell mostly the same story. In 2009, Leach's Texas Tech D was in the top half of the Big 12 in total D, scoring D, 3rd down d, red zone D, sacks, and TFLs (and in the top 3 in a few of those categories). And under Grinch, WSU's D was mediocre to solid among its PAC 12 peers in most of the same categories. (Top 5 in scoring D in conference games all three years, for example.)

    So it looks like's dude's offense is capable of co-existing with a solid (or even a really, really good) defense. This also shows that he's not going to put up with a terrible defenses too long. He canned a dude at Texas Tech and two years later had a Top-25-caliber defense. He canned his DC at WSU and three years later had a Top-25-caliber defense. And after a year-and-a-half of massive regression following Alex Grinch's departure, he canned the dude responsible.

    So yeah, this is a big hire.


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