Time of possession doesn’t mean much to the vast majority of collegiate teams, but for Rice Football controlling the clock is the gateway to offensive success.
The Owls’ new-look offense is predicated on winning in the trenches. As coach Mike Bloomgren says, the new Rice will impose their will on their opponent. That tenacity will be enforced by dominating in one somewhat inconspicuous statistic: time of possession.
The Owls averaged 29:37 in time of possession last season, the seventh-best mark in Conference USA and the 73rd best average in the nation. They were essentially right at the median. That portion of the range doesn’t tell much because the vast majority of teams tend to concentrate near the 30:00 possession mark. In fact, 68 percent of D1 teams fell within plus or minus two minutes of 30:00. That hammers home a somewhat intuitive truth — for most teams, time of possession doesn’t really matter.
Rice won’t be one of those teams because Stanford wasn’t one of those teams. Bloomgren’s five years as the offensive coordinator at Stanford paint a blueprint for what is in store for Rice football. From 2012 to 2016 Stanford ranked inside the top 30 in the nation in winning the battle with the clock. The Cardinal fell off a bit to 62nd in 2017, but still had the ball more often than they didn’t, averaging 30:16 in time of possession.
Each season the high end of the range includes power running teams like Navy, Army, Air Force and Georgia Tech. The next tier is where the Owls are aiming to reach. Wisconsin, LSU, Georgia and Michigan all operate an offense that is dependent of controlling the clock. When things are working well, that control of the clock translates into control of the game.
In this respect, the Owls will dare to be different. They’ll be one of a handful of teams that intentionally focus on winning the time of possession battle and the results could be tremendous.
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