Signs of success

Sunday Morning Quarterback dives back into the stat pool to tell us what statistics best correlate (not cause) with winning and losing in 2007.

Much as last year, he finds that what matters most is playing good defense – stopping the run is foremost – and being efficient on offense.

… the best teams in the three major non-scoring defensive categories not only won more than teams excelling in any other category, but the worst defensive teams lost more, too. Among the top 20 teams, this is exactly the same result as last year and in the much smaller look the year before that.

Offensively, we see that the best teams were far more efficient that they were necessarily explosive: turnover margin, passing efficiency and third down percentage correlated to better records at the top and worse records at the bottom than even total offense, and to much better/worse results at the poles than rushing or passing yards per game…

I was a bit curious to see where Georgia stacked up based on his analysis. I took the eight categories that SMQ found the highest correlation with wins and losses and checked them against Georgia’s national rankings at the NCAA stats site. To get some idea of their relevancy, I did the same with four other teams – two schools in the SEC (LSU and Florida), West Virginia (because of the way the Mountaineers stood out when I did this rather crude analysis) and Southern California (the other “hot team” besides Georgia in the national media’s mind at season’s end).

Here’s how it all shook out:

SCHOOL RUSH DEF. PASS EFFIC. DEF. TOTAL DEF. 3RD DOWN OFF. T/O MARGIN PASS. EFFIC. OFF. TOTAL OFF. 3RD DOWN DEF.
LSU 12 3 3 14 2 37 26 29
GEORGIA 16 36 14 24 18 61 74 23
FLORIDA 10 71 41 1 32 2 14 75
W. VIR. 18 28 7 8 9 11 15 36
S. CAL. 4 6 2 28 41 36 8 29

What can we tell from this? First off, if winning programs excelled in these eight categories last season, it’s apparent why LSU wound up as national champs. These numbers also give a pretty clear indication why Florida’s season went the way it did.

Georgia’s numbers, to be honest, are meh for the most part. The Dawgs did lead in one category, 3rd down defense, but it’s the eighth most important stat on the list and it’s the only category in which none of the five schools finished in the national top ten. On the other hand, Georgia finished last in two stats and in both cases they were bad lasts.

Still, the numbers show that Georgia did a fine job stopping the run and playing good defense and that while Bobo’s charges weren’t too great on the passing efficiency front and gaining yardage, they were good at moving the chains on third down. I still think there’s more to this story, though.

In any event, if you’re a believer in room for improvement, it’s a good thing that there are some areas where Georgia can step up next year. You have to think that if Stafford grows into the job even more, this team has a chance to be very good in ’08.

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6 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

6 responses to “Signs of success

  1. peacedog

    Gang of 6, we hardly knew ye.

  2. HP’s been quiet on that front lately.

    I think Florida in ’06 and Florida in ’07 is a pretty eloquent rebuttal to his G6 theory.

  3. HP was really all over the map toward the end of the ’07 season. He was still riding the Gang Of Six w/r/t Tebow’s Heisman campaign, but went ga-ga on Georgia (decidedly NOT a G6 member)…going as far as to rank Georgia the #1 team in the country after WVU/Mizzou went down. He’s got the Dawgs as his preseason #1.

    And yeah. Difference between Florida ’06 and Florida ’07? One played stellar D. One did not. Easy enough. Also, getting the spread’s top three QB practitioners (Tebow, Dixon, White) hurt in the same season didn’t help the paradigm. Neither did beloved Boise dropping games against the likes of Washington and East Carolina.

    I think the NFL success of those three QBs will loom over the spread’s future in the college ranks. If the best a spread QB can muster out of a pro career is another Alex Smith, then you’re gonna see QBs staying away from schools that operate primarily with the system.

  4. peacedog

    OTOH, you’ll see QBs who might not normally have a shot because they fail to do certain “traditional” things well go to these schools and thrive. Pat White doesn’t appea to have an NFL future as a signal caller. He’s not particularly remarkable when I compare him to other noteable option QBs in the past few decades. He’s good, don’t get me wrong. But not better than Frazier or necessarily someone like Frost. And not in a league with Vince Young that I can tell.

    That’s not a knock on White, who is a terrific qb in the spread (and presumably would be in any option like system), and is decent throwing the ball. He’s fun to watch. The spread is simply the latest home for guys like this. What’s interesting is how the spread can emphasize the pass more over it’s ancestors, giving it flexibility but perhaps making finding that uber QB harder (since chances are you’ll compete with “traditional” or at least different system schools as well). The spread is the combination of the natural evolutionary thinking that goes into scheming and, IMO, the quest to find and use talent undervalued in the market. Mike at B&B was the first to comment on this stuff in the Moneyball vein, I think, and I don’t want to steal credit. But it was an apt point, I think.

    But by that same token, it was never going to take over college football. Too many people adopt the spread (and running with it in particular) and it might be easier for a smaller school to get a quality “pocket” guy, and suddenly one of those smaller schools springs forward, doing things differently than the guys around them. Success breeds familiarity, and then the pendulum swings back.

  5. Too many people adopt the spread (and running with it in particular) and it might be easier for a smaller school to get a quality “pocket” guy, and suddenly one of those smaller schools springs forward, doing things differently than the guys around them. Success breeds familiarity, and then the pendulum swings back.

    It’s not just that. If more and more schools adopt some variation of the spread, that forces defensive coordinators to adapt schemes and personnel to counter that. At some point in time, it becomes difficult to use those schemes and defenders to play against a (less prevalent) power offense running out of the I.

    You also wonder how physically tough a defense that practices against a spread attack daily will be. I’m not necessarily saying that’s what caused Florida’s dropoff this year, but I’m curious if it had any effect. I’ll be watching Auburn’s defense for similar clues this coming season.

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