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The Red Zone Was LSU's Danger Zone

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Looking at one of the offense's biggest issues: scoring in the red zone

One of the many, many red zone failures
One of the many, many red zone failures
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Of the many issues which plagued the LSU offense last season, one of the largest was the team's complete and utter failure in the red zone. Believe it or not, LSU's offense was actually a little better than it appeared, due to the large number of points it left on the field by its constant failures in the red zone.

While a great offense will likely be better in the red zone for the simple reason that it is a great offense, red zone efficiency is largely random. Let's put it like this, Florida had one of the best red zone offenses in the country last season, and no one confused them for a good offense.

To give you an idea of how random red zone efficiency is, here are the 2014 rankings of the top 5 in the stat in 2013: 8, 56, 76, 49, and 18. You get the idea. The stat has a high degree of variance from season to season, and it's not entirely tied to an offense's overall quality.

This is how the SEC offenses performed in the red zone last season in conference games:

Off Red Zone

Attempts

Scores

Score %

TD

TD %

FG

FG %

Missouri

25

24

96

16

64

8

32

Florida

29

27

93.1

17

58.62

10

34.48

Tennessee

28

26

92.86

15

53.57

11

39.29

Georgia

39

35

89.74

28

71.79

7

17.95

Alabama

32

28

87.5

24

75

4

12.5

Kentucky

22

19

86.36

12

54.55

7

31.82

Mississippi State

40

34

85

26

65

8

20

South Carolina

31

26

83.87

21

67.74

5

16.13

Auburn

36

30

83.33

22

61.11

8

22.22

Texas A&M

26

21

80.77

15

57.69

6

23.08

Vanderbilt

14

11

78.57

6

42.86

5

35.71

Mississippi

26

20

76.92

16

61.54

4

15.38

Arkansas

28

20

71.43

15

53.57

5

17.86

LSU

28

20

71.43

11

39.29

9

32.14

TOTAL

404

341

84.41

244

60.40

97

24.01

Ouch.

LSU only scored in only 71.43% of its red zone trips, well below the league average of 84.41%. That would be bad enough, but look at just how few touchdowns LSU scored. LSU only had a 39.29% TD rate, a good twenty percent below the SEC average and ranking behind Vandy.... VANDY!

This isn't just a matter of settling for field goals, this is a team that repeatedly walked away from the red zone with zero points. In fact, LSU was almost as likely to score nothing when it was inside the twenty as it was to score a touchdown. By outcome, LSU's red zone outcome was 11 TD's, 9 FG's, and 8 failures to score. That's almost off the charts terrible.

How many points did this cost LSU? Well, let's assume the PAT on all touchdowns, a dangerous proposition I know, but the PAT rate is high enough to make that assumption for this exercise. We multiply the TD's by 7, the FG's by 3, and then divide the result by number of total trips. Then we have points per red zone opportunity, a measure of the red zone offense in terms of points.

Points/Red Zone

Attempts

TD

FG

Pts

Pts/RZ

Alabama

32

24

4

180

5.63

Georgia

39

28

7

217

5.56

Missouri

25

16

8

136

5.44

South Carolina

31

21

5

162

5.23

Mississippi State

40

26

8

206

5.15

Florida

29

17

10

149

5.14

Auburn

36

22

8

178

4.94

Tennessee

28

15

11

138

4.93

Kentucky

22

12

7

105

4.77

Mississippi

26

16

4

124

4.77

Texas A&M

26

15

6

123

4.73

Arkansas

28

15

5

120

4.29

Vanderbilt

14

6

5

57

4.07

LSU

28

11

9

104

3.71

TOTAL

404

244

97

1999

4.95

There's LSU, miles behind the pack. Had LSU just had an average red zone offense, the team would have scored an extra 1.24 points/game. Think the team could have used those extra points? Particularly in the Alabama game? Or that 0-for-2 rate in the Arkansas game?

Even in games LSU won, the offense left too many points on the field due to its red zone inefficiency. Against Ole Miss, LSU had four red zone opportunities, and walked away with just 10 points. Against A&M, LSU had SIX trips to the red zone, and only scored 16 points, less than a field goal per red zone opportunity.

LSU turned games that should have been blowouts into one-score games due to its red zone inefficiency. As bad as the passing game was last season, the offense might have had an even bigger issue with not picking up points on the field.

That's the bad news. The good news is that this is literally one of the easiest things to fix from season to season. Red zone efficiency does not really carry over from season to season, which means it is not just possible but incredibly likely that LSU will improve, even without improving on offense. The offense will drift towards league average by literally doing nothing to improve.

One of the biggest issues with last year's offense will most likely solve itself. If only the same thing could be said for the quarterbacks.