It’s time for another edition of Stats Geek! – where somebody else does the statistical heavy lifting so I don’t have to.
Once again, this installment comes from Matt Melton’s excellent blog, Statistically Speaking. This time he takes a look at last year’s stats to see which teams were above and below the norm on third down performance (both offensively and defensively).
Here’s his methodology:
For a quick and dirty measure, I’m going to use quarterback rating on third down as a percentage of cumulative quarterback rating. Since teams as a whole pass more often than they run on third down, this measure will give us a general idea of which teams played a little over their heads and which under-performed on third down last year and thus may see their performance suffer or improve this season as their third down performance trends toward their general performance.
In 2006, Georgia was fifth best in the nation on offense using this measurement (meaning that its quarterback rating) was 14% better than the team average for all downs) . The Dawgs’ defensive performance using this measurement was even more impressive, as Georgia finished first in the country with an astounding -54% (meaning Georgia limited opponents to a quarterback rating 54% worse on third down than all other combined downs).
Specifically, as Matt describes it…
On third down, Georgia held opponents to a quarterback rating of 46.3. Overall, Georgia’s opponents had a quarterback rating of 100.6.
See what playing Reggie Ball can do for a defense’s stats?
Seriously, Matt argues that such an outstanding number doesn’t bode well for Georgia this season, as it’s likely that the defense will regress somewhat towards the mean. What I’m more intrigued by with his exercise is how meaningful the final data turns out to be.
Look at some of the results. Texas Tech winds up with the fourth worst number on third down offense; Virginia Tech winds up with the tenth worst number on third down defense. Any way you would have guessed that to be the case for either? And any time I’m seeing a “best offense” list that includes schools like Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana-Lafayette – and doesn’t include a Southern Cal, West Virginia or Louisville – I’ve got to wonder how relevant the data really is.
That being said, Sunday Morning Quarterback did find third down efficiency to be a statistically significant indicator of a team’s wins and losses, so there must be something to this.