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Scott Frost’s UCF Offense - A Look at Success Rates

BREAKING: UCF’s offense was more betterer than Nebraska’s

NCAA Football: Peach Bowl-Auburn vs Central Florida Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Success Rate measures how efficiently an offense uses the downs it has. The idea is that third down conversion rates are affected to what a team does on first and second down. The idea is that a team who executes successfully on first and second down will ALWAYS be in third and short situations.

A down is considered successful if the offense gains at least 50% of the to-go distance on first down, 70% on second down, and 100% of the to-go distance on third and fourth downs. @SBN_BillC at Football Study Hall has a good explanation of success rate and why it’s important.

I only considered rush and pass plays and ignored penalties.


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From a success rate / efficiency viewpoint Frost’s 2017 offense at UCF was better than Nebraska’s in nearly every possible way you can slice the data. I know. Shocking isn’t it?

Overall Success Rate

Overall, Nebraska was better on second and third downs in 2016 and equal to UCF on first downs. Both teams were decidedly average in 2016. The story is what changed (or didn’t change) in 2017. Nebraska held sway on second down and regressed a bit on first and third downs from its already average performance. UCF, on the other hand, improved dramatically on all three downs with the biggest improvement coming on third down. UCF improved from a mediocre 28% to an outstanding 44% on third down.

All Power Five Team Averages

In 2017, Nebraska was below the average for every P5 conference, and UCF was well above the average, and it’s success on third down is much higher than the P5 average.

Pass/Rush Differences

2016 was kind of a mixed bag for UCF. It had a lot more success by pass on first down than on third down and was almost equal on all three downs on the ground. Nebraska had more success on the ground in 2016 than UCF, and it’s most successful down/play combo was passing on first down too.

In 2017 Nebraska improved significantly on all three downs on the pass but its rushing was just plain bad, with it’s 28% success rate rushing on third down especially bad. UCF, on the other hand improved on every down, regardless of play type. It’s 61% success rate on first down set the offense up to be more successful on second and third downs. (70% of 4 yards to go is less than 70% of 5 yards to go because #math). I believe that UCF’s success on first down via the pass was a key to its #1 ranked offense.

All Power Five Team Averages

Across the board, teams in power five conferences had more success on first and second down via the pass, with the FBS average being 50% and 45% respectively. UCF’s performance on first down is 120% of the the FBS average for pass plays. UCF didn’t exceed the FBS average for rush plays by as much, but it was still well above the average for the P5.

Success Rate in Wins and Losses

This is an unequal comparison. UCF didn’t lose any games in 2017, so the data on losses is sparse.

In wins Nebraska and UCF were very similar on pass plays, with 59% and 61% being excellent success rates on first down. Much like above, UCF rushed the football more efficiently than Nebraska, holding a 43% to 33% advantage on third downs on the ground.

In losses, Nebraska was again just plain bad. With only 27% of first downs successful, Nebraska was playing catch up on second and third down all season.

All Power Five Team Averages

I feel like this is becoming a broken record...UCF exceed the Power Five average when you look at wins.

Looking Ahead to 2018 and 2019

As I wrote earlier this week, I think the media narrative of a 6-6 season for Nebraska next year was overly pessimistic. Nevertheless, Frost has his work cut out for him. His record suggests, however, than he is able to develop players and extract significantly higher performance from them in subsequent years. As long as Frost can achieve a success rate for pass plays in the mid to upper 40s and in the upper 30s to low 40s for rush plays Frost’s offense will be sufficient to win 70% of the games it plays, regardless of defensive performance. 70% is roughly 8-9 wins per year. The remaining 4-5 games will require the defense to help out.

Nebraska’s 2019 schedule sets up nicely for a strong run through the Big Ten. This, combined with Frost’s ability to improve efficiency on offense, should put Nebraska back in the spotlight.

I am willing to concede that using 2017 success rates to judge the 2019 schedule may be a stretch, but let’s do it anyway.

Only three teams on Nebraska’s 2019 schedule had success rates that approached UCF’s. Wisconsin, Colorado, and Ohio State. Ohio State’s success rate on the ground was the best in the nation in 2017 and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

2018 will be a growth and rebuild year for Nebraska, and the schedule is daunting to boot. But I look to 2019 as a break out for Nebraska.