Much has been made so far on the young season about Maxwell Smith and Kentucky’s improved passing attack. In comparison to last year’s ranking of 120th out of 120 in passing efficiency, it’s an absolute blessing to see the ball being tossed around the field. As it currently stands, the Wildcat offense is ranked 13th nationally in pass yards per game, and 30th in completion percentage, which would appear to indicate that our pass offense is great in comparison to the nation. But, unfortunately if we delve a bit deeper we’ll see that the elite level numbers are more flawed than we perceive. I wrote this summer on how pass yards per game are largely an irrelevant stat in College Football due to the fact a vast majority of teams rush more than they throw, a much more significant statistic is Yards per Attempt which Kentucky ranks 88th nationally. While that number is very revealing about the truth in Kentucky’s passing game, something to solidify it further would be percentage of plays where gains exceed 10 yards. So in order to give more insight on UK’s passing game I researched what percentage of plays go for big gains in comparison to the rest of the nation. Below is a table containing Kentucky’s percentages, national rank, and national average.
A brief explanation of what you see above, Percent of Passes Thrown simply tell you how many times (in percentage) Kentucky busts a pass play for 10+, 20+, or 30+ yards. Raw numbers would show bias to teams like Kentucky who throw the ball more than the average FBS team, so percentage is used to eliminate that. As you can see, our pass offense is not the model of efficiency like some have come to believe. Despite what passing yards per game say, Kentucky is not a very efficient passing team. The above data does nothing but reinforce Kentucky’s 88th ranked Yard per Passing Attempt numbers which correlate much higher to winning football games than do yards per game.
It’s certainly discouraging to know that the offense isn’t what we think it is, but even more depressing is knowing that the problem has potential to get much worse. It’s no secret that our schedule has been relatively easy thus far (despite what our 1-2 record says), that changes this weekend as the Wildcats travel to Gainesville to battle Will Muschamp’s defensive minded Gator squad. On the season, Florida has only surrendered a pass that goes for 10+ yards on 18.8% of attempts, 20+ yards on 7.1% of attempts, and 30+ on .7% of attempts, so our already inefficient pass game is in trouble come Saturday.
While our offense rates high nationally in basic passing numbers, it’s actually fools gold. Once more advanced numbers like Yards per Attempt or percentage of big plays earned are used we get a much more telling picture of our team’s ability to move the ball through the air. And that picture shows a Kentucky team that has no real deep threat. Once SEC play starts this weekend we’ll start to see teams take advantage of this and load the box taking away our short passes and rushes forcing a slightly improved offense near last year’s status. So while on the surface our passing game is golden, once we take it in to sell, the Pawn Shop owner gives the same reaction that Joe Dirt got when he tried to sell his meteor.