Charting the Bubble Screens

We charted each and every bubble screen that both Syracuse and Notre Dame ran in Saturday night's matchup. There were some interested trends that could speak to the play's success.

Throughout the first four games of Syracuse’s 2014 season, there has been a lot of discussion regarding the use of bubble screens within the offense. Many fans have said it is too large of a part of the offensive system. That thought may be more myth than reality.

In Saturday night’s loss to Notre Dame, Syracuse only ran three bubble screens. Notre Dame, on the other hand, ran 16 of them. Syracuse had little success with their attempts while the Irish turned many of theirs into productive plays.

The other interesting thing to note when comparing the use of the bubble screen is the speed of the play. Charted below are every bubble screen run by each team. From the time of snap to the time the ball reached the receiver, the Irish averaged 2.07 seconds. Syracuse averaged 2.32 seconds. The difference is 0.25 seconds, or 12% longer from the Orange to get the ball to the intended target.

That may not seem like a lot at first glance. But in a game where inches and fractions of a second mean so much in terms of player position on the field, that variance could mean the difference between a one or two yard gain and an eight to ten yard pickup.

Syracuse Bubbles

Play Time Yards Quarter
1 2.48 seconds 0 1
2 2.11 seconds 3 1
3 2.38 seconds 1 2
AVG. 2.32 seconds 1.33

Notre Dame Bubbles

Play Time Yards Quarter
1 2.21 seconds 6 1
2 2.23 seconds 13 1
3 2.10 seconds 3 1
4 2.35 seconds 3 2
5 1.63 seconds 7 2
6 2.15 seconds 10 2
7 2.12 seconds 8 2
8 1.92 seconds 10 2
9 1.47 seconds 23 (TD) 2
10 2.16 seconds 5 2
11 2.18 seconds 3 2
12 2.14 seconds 8 3
13 2.38 seconds 9 4
14 2.31 seconds 0 4
15 1.73 seconds 1 4
16 2.02 seconds 7 4
AVG. 2.07 seconds 7.25

Additional Factor

There was also another major difference between the Syracuse bubble screens and Notre Dame’s. Because of the pressure packages that the Orange like to utilize, the Irish bubbles were often with three receivers to one side of the formation. Two receivers would block with the third being the intended target. Syracuse frequently only had two defensive backs out there, and relied on a linebacker to recognize the play after the snap to get out towards the ball carrier. Two blockers to block two defensive backs gave the Irish receivers more room to work with.

That is in stark contrast to when Syracuse ran their bubble screens. In each scenario, the Irish had three defensive backs matched up with the three Syracuse receivers. Two receivers block two Irish defenders, with the third having a one-on-one opportunity with the Orange ball carrier. That gives the defense an advantage in number as opposed to the offense having the numbers advantage when Notre Dame ran the bubble screen.

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