Reason No. 23: MSU’s Offense Controls the Clock

There are many reasons to believe Mississippi State will equal or exceed last season’s success – 31 reasons, in fact. Here’s Reason No. 23.

When you think of the spread offense, does the term “ball control” come to mind? Probably not, but that’s an area in which Mississippi State excelled last season. The Bulldogs led the SEC in time of possession, holding onto the ball for an average of 31 minutes, 32 seconds per game – that’s 52.6 percent of the time.

Of course, you’ve got to actually do something with the ball, and MSU knows how to make good use of time. The rushing game, which was second in the league last season, ate clock while moving the chains. State ranked third in the SEC in third-down conversions (45.9 percent) and second in fourth-down conversions (78.9 percent).

Here are some numbers from last season to consider:

• Of MSU’s 59 scoring drives, 14 of them (23.7 percent) covered 80 or more yards, and not surprisingly, all were touchdown drives.

• Of the 45 scoring drives under 80 yards, 12 of them (26.7 percent) took 10 or more plays. Of all the scoring drives, 19 of them (32.2 percent) were 10 or more plays.

• 10 scoring drives (17 percent) took 5 minutes or longer off the clock.

Then there’s this, from stats analyst Brian Fremeau: 23 percent of MSU’s offensive drives started inside its own 20-yard line, which ranked 100th in the nation; but 19.7 percent of State’s drives began in plus-territory – that’s the 50-yard line and in – which ranked ninth in the nation. I’m not quite sure what that means, but it’s fascinating.

Perhaps this stat fits with the plus-territory figure: MSU had 14 scoring drives (28 percent) of 50 yards or less, and six of those drives ended in field goals. And five of those six drives started inside the 50.

Going back to that second bullet point, Fremeau has a metric called “methodical drive” which measures how many of the total offensive drives – scoring or not – lasted 10 or more plays. For MSU, it was 15.5 percent, which ranked 35th nationally.

All those stats point back to this old axiom: Control the ball, control the game.