When stats kill

One of my favorite blogs, Sunday Morning Quarterback, has done what I thought was impossible – taken a sensible look at college football statistics to find a correlation between certain of them and winning.

He draws a number of interesting conclusions with his analysis:

  • Penalty yardage, over the course of an entire season, had no discernible effects on winning and losing.
  • What’s more interesting is that offensive categories in general come out looking far more important in the relative measure…
  • More than any other number, very good fourth down percentage equated to a very good team (though not necessarily vice versa).
  • Extrapolating: want to be good? Play good defense. Want to be very good? Convert fourth downs. Want to not completely suck? Move the ball and convert a few third downs. Penalties? In the end, irrelevant.

Applying some of this to Georgia, SEC stats show the Dawgs this year are (1) third in fourth down conversion rate, at 61.5% (Auburn and LSU led and were both over the 70% mark); (2) seventh in third down conversion rate, at 40.7% (LSU and UT are the leaders); and (3) tenth in total offense, at 321.1 yards per game (LSU leads, at 400+ yards per game).

SMQ’s analysis tells me two things here: why Georgia’s record is somewhat mediocre this year and why Jimbo Fisher is in demand right now.

And as for his point on penalties, Daniel Inman, all is forgiven, dude. Well, maybe not all.

Anyway, one other thing I looked at was a national match-up between Georgia and Virginia Tech in these categories. What I find is that Georgia has a marked advantage in fourth down conversion percentage (61.5% vs. 22.2%; VT ranks 115th nationally, a whopping 89 spots lower than Georgia), an advantage in third down conversion percentage (40.7% vs. 36.9%; VT is 29 spots lower than UGA nationally) and an advantage in total offense, as well (321.08 yards vs. 304 yards, a difference of 18 places nationally) . And the Dawgs did this against a tougher schedule.

What that could mean in the CFA Bowl is that with both teams playing tough defense, Georgia may have a marginal advantage in stringing together a drive to control the clock and score. (Of course, turnovers and special teams play would have an effect on this admittedly superficial analysis of mine as well.)

It’s certainly food for thought, though. SMQ promises a further look at this stuff. I look forward to reading it.

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One response to “When stats kill

  1. Pingback: Georgia and the SEC, statistically speaking « Get The Picture