5. Third down conversion percentage – offense
I mentioned how Illinois’ defense needs to improve during the bye week on allowing third downs to be converted. Likewise, I think the Illini offense needs to work on converting third downs.
Illinois managed to have one of the best third down conversion days of the season against Wisconsin. We converted 7-of-16 on third downs, which comes out to 43.8% That isn’t a terrible day by any means.
For the season, Illinois is only converting 37.21% of third downs. This is bad enough to rank No. 81 out of 133 FBS programs. We are near the bottom one-third of all football teams.
Earlier in the season, I had been calling for Illinois to run the ball on third and short or just short-yardage situations more often. This seemed like the logical move. I think both the pass and run can work together, though.
Illinois’ first two touchdowns against Wisconsin were snapped inside the five yard line. They both were play-action passes to our tight ends. I would like for Illinois to implement more play-action tight end plays on short-yardage situations this week.
Opposing teams are going to be honing in on the fact we like to run right up the middle on third and short, so why not throw a wrinkle in there? Do a hard play-action to Kaden Feagin and roll Luke Altmyer out in space. This would give him the option to either run for the first down or dump it off to the tight end.
Let’s get more creative with our third and short situations. I was wrong earlier this season. Let’s stop running it into the line of scrimmage. This bye week should be about developing third and short plays so we can get the conversion percentage up.