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Wisconsin Football: Inside Phil Longo’s Offensive Philosophy



Phil Longo, Wisconsin Badgers Football offensive coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach
Apr 11, 2023; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Phil Longo is shown during practice Tuesday, April 11, 2023 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. Mandatory Credit: Mark Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Madison, Wis. – Spring football is in full swing, and I wanted to rehash an analysis I did in December on Phil Longo’s Offensive Philosophy and what he brings to Wisconsin Football.

You’re not alone if you still need to become more familiar with Phil Longo. While we’ve seen some interviews and videos highlighting his rather exciting personality. There is a lot more to learn, and I want to give you a look into his impressive track record at Sam Houston State, Ole Miss, and UNC, where Longo became known for his innovative offensive strategies and for producing high-scoring offenses.

So, let’s dive back into the data and see what Longo brings to the table for the Wisconsin Football Program in the upcoming season.

Phil Longo Offenses vs. Badger Offenses (2017-2022):

This first chart is “supposedly” telling us the ACC (where Longo spent the last 4 Seasons as the UNC OC/QBs) is not very good—especially their Passing Defenses. More on why I say “supposedly” shortly.

My second chart breaks down the amount of PA/RPO utilized as a % of all Passing ATTs. From 2017-2022 Longo’s Offenses doubled the usage of PA/RPO in their scheme when compared to Wisconsin Football at 42% vs. 21%. We’ll see why that’s very important a little later on!

The third here chart gives a breakdown of Longo’s Offenses vs. the Badgers’ Offenses in Pass Yards per Attempt (YPA), Rush YPA, and Total Offense YPA. As you can see, Longo’s Offenses outperformed the Badgers in every category, EVEN IN THE RUN GAME!

This fourth chart fills you in on a stat you probably were aware of already. That being, even though Longo is an ‘Air Raid’ disciple of Mike Leach who had a particular distrust for “balance” offensively, Longo does not as he was perfectly “balanced” run vs. pass with a near even 50% split between the two from 2017-2022.

Lastly, when looking at Yards/Game, you can begin to see that while Longo is balanced, a majority of the Yards “gained” are done so through the Passing Game. His offenses gained, on average, 89 more yards per game in 2017-2022!

Why “Rankings” don’t matter when comparing Defenses Longo faced to Defenses Wisconsin Football faced:

Many people have called out the “Rankings” a seemingly fair critique because the ACC does have poor Pass Defense “Ranks”. But should we discount how that production will translate to Wisconsin? No and here’s why:

This is a Histogram of NCAA Pass Defenses and their Yards/Allowed.

But what is this telling me?!?!?

This data shows you that College Defenses are extremely clumped in the middle parts of the distributions, meaning if you’re going against a PASS DEF that’s ranked 85, they could only be allowing potentially 25 more Yards/G than a DEF ranked 50th. So on and So forth.

Let’s make this applicable to the actual data for UW vs. Longo:

AVG Pass DEF Phil Longo has faced: #69 | Pass Yards Allowed/Game ~224.8

AVG Pass DEF UW has faced: #47 | Pass Yards Allowed/Game ~212.1

So when some BOZO comes and says: “UW has faced much tougher passing defenses! Look at the Rankings of Defenses his teams have played. You have to discount Longo’s Offense!” Calmly tell them that the ranking differential between the B1G and ACC only equates to an average of ~12 Yards less in expected Pass Yards Per Game, and Longo’s Offenses have averaged 121 more yards through the air than UW has in his time as an OC. So even if you take the 12-yard haircut, Longo’s offenses would still outgain UW’s by 100 yards through the air!!!

If you slice this data by looking at Tough Opponents | AVG Opponents | Poor Opponents, the data tells nearly an identical story for each.

  • Longo runs nearly 2x the PA/RPO
  • Outgains UW on a YPA basis
  • Has a near-perfect 50/50 Run/Pass Balance
  • Because of the YPA Gap, Longo Offenses massively outgains Badger Offenses

Key Tenent of Longo Offenses and the Impact for Wisconsin Football:


Over the course of the 2022 Badger Football Season, I talked a lot about PA/RPO and its impact on Pass YPA. Why is Pass YPA such an important statistic? Well Pass YPA is the most correlating statistic to Scoring Margin! So for me, it’s the most crucial measure when I’m looking (on paper) whether an Offense is Good or Bad.

Let’s look at a chart that compares the PA/RPO % of Longo and UW Under Paul Chryst:

We’ll be getting A TON more PA/RPO passing concepts out of Phil Longo. About 20% more, to be more exact!

Let’s look at Longo vs. UW on this Metric:

Longo has a healthy dose of PA/RPO and lives in the 30%-60% range of Pass ATTs being PA/RPO.

Wisconsin Football was significantly lower than Longo lead offenses on PA/RPO as a % of Pass ATTs. They usually fall from 10%-30%! For comparison, Longo has only been below 20% 3 TIMES in his 71 Games as OC that I have advanced data for!!! HUGE CONTRAST!!

But what does this all matter? And what the heck is that Red Bar?!? Well, think back to something I just said a bit ago Passing Yards per Attempt is the most correlating Statistic in Football to Scoring Margin. Even though our calling card is Ground & Pound Football, we aren’t immune to this at Wisconsin:

So you’ll notice that when we break the barrier of 7.5 Pass Yards/ATT, we have never lost a game from 2017-2022! WOW.

Now let’s smash those two charts together and see what it looks like:

UW % Above 7.50 Pass YPA: 31 Games Above | 72 Total Games | 43%

Longo % Above 7.50 Pass YPA: 48 Games Above | 71 Total Games | 68%

Let’s Project what the increased PA/RPO might look like for Wisconsin Football:

Now, this only tells part of the story, so this is a HUGE caveat to what I’m about to present to you next, but I think it’s a good thought exercise!

Let’s take UW’s YPA & Regress that over their Total Points Scored & do the same with Phil Longo’s Teams & Points Scored. This gives us the next chart:

So what is this telling us? Well, it’s saying that for every yard you can increase your Pass YPA it would equate to about ~3.71 more Points per Game (PPG) offensively. It’s almost dead, even as a predictor for both teams!

The R-squared values aren’t very strong because many other factors go into the scoring points (OBVIOUSLY). Still, it’s explaining ~49% of the variance, so it works for this demonstration, which isn’t substantive by any stretch of the imagination but is a very interesting thought exercise

Taking this Formula and plugging it into that regression model you would expect to score an average of 33.04 PPG.

Taking that Average PPG and applying it to UWs Actual Score results, we would have gone 62-10 vs. UW’s Record of 49-23. This is vs. ALL FBS OPPONENTS

The margin of defeat in those 10 Losses:

Using Longo Average Points! -56 | Actual Margin of defeat -170!!

This is using averages to look over game-to-game results, and I’m not saying this is anywhere close to an apples-to-apples comparison. However, in UW’s Losses over the past five seasons, they have only given up an average of 28 Points in those defeats. In their losses, they’ve averaged a revolting 14.85 PPG. It’s evident to anyone that they need a total revamp of their scheme to improve their ability to win any games, specifically against the TOP TEAMS (OSU, Michigan, PSU, ND, and now USC/UCLA) to compete for B1G titles! Phil Longo and his offensive philosophy IS THAT REVAMP!

Let’s dive deeper into how this plays out vs. these “Top Teams”:

Vs. Top Defenses UW over the past five seasons have a distinct dichotomy at the 7.5 Yards/ATT marker. They have only achieved that 6/24 times (25%) they’ve faced a top DEF Opponent. They are a perfect 6-0 when they do and 6-12 when they don’t.

How does Phil Longo compare?

Longo is 7/14 (50% or 2x UW) in achieving the 7.50 Yards/ATT barrier. In those 7 games, his average PA/RPO % was 43%! When he was unable to achieve that mark, his PA/RPO % was 39%. Not a huge difference, but I’d rather lose those games on the right side of that chart than the ones on the left!

This is all about the Future of College Football and Wisconsin Football:

PA/RPO is the future of College/NFL Football for the foreseeable future!

Longo’s 2022 offense ran the 14th most PA/RPO Pass ATTs of any Power 5 Team! While UW/Graham came in at 44/47 on this list!! I believe (and think the data supports this) that running a significant % of your passes as PA/RPO improves your Pass YPA & overall YPA. Just take a look at this Graph:

Pass YPA Average by % PA/RPO:

<25% PA/RPO | Pass YPA Avg. 6.53 YPA | Blue Dots

25%-35% PA/RPO | Pass YPA Avg. 7.12 YPA | Orange Dots

35% PA/RPO | Pass YPA Avg. 7.81 YPA | Grey Dots


PHIL LONGO PA/RPO: 42% | Pass YPA Avg. 8.80 YPA

UW PA/RPO: 21% | Pass YPA Avg. 7.29


Here’s a chart that proves this point!!:

Longo will allow a lot more shot’s down the field to be a part of this offense! What I like the most about this graphic is the reduction in short passes being a significant part of the Offense. I believe those throws in the absence of PA/RPO don’t challenge the defense. Especially the top defenses we play against who are up in our face in press man (OSU/PSU/Michigan/Iowa). All of those teams are challenging us to beat them with Deep and Intermediate routes. It also looks like Longo will have a lot more BLOS throws to get the ball into space quickly, HOPEFULLY eliminating heavy boxes to run the ball against!

Recruitment of Skill Position Players (QBs/RBs/WRs/TEs) goes to another level:

It should baffle every UW Football fan that we have been unable to get highly touted skill position players to come to UW. We really haven’t signed a high-caliber running back from a 4-5 Star perspective in the last 10 Years out of high school besides Jalen Berger! How does that happen when you have Danye, Ball, Gordon, and Taylor winning 5 of the last 24 Doak Walker Awards?!?

Could it be that elite RBs don’t feel like smashing into 8-Man Boxes 25-35 times a game when they see Braelon Allen, an absolute TANK, getting beat up?!? Couple that with the fact they’d like to get significantly more touches in the passing game because that translates to the NFL?!? I’m going to go with YES!

Reducing our Run/Pass % from ~63/37 → ~50/50 says all it needs to about our ability to recruit QB/WR/TE players of an Above Avg. → ELITE caliber!

Just to name a few.

Things have seemed positive coming out of Spring Ball news so far. I’m excited to see “The Launch” and when the lights officially go bright on Sep. 2nd vs. Buffalo.

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Gard Your Fickell is a leading authority on Wisconsin Badgers analytics, specializing in dissecting the intricate data behind football and basketball. With a deep passion for the game and an analytical mindset, Gard Your Fickell offers readers a unique perspective on the Badgers performance.