Manny Diaz is a stats geek. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

That’s the impression I get from this lengthy interview at Longhorn (h/t Smart Football).  In it, Diaz makes some excellent points about what you can take out of statistics, given certain limitations.

… many people judged defenses by the number of yards allowed, a stat called “total defense.” But the problem with total defense is that it doesn’t tell the total story, Diaz said.

“At N.C. State in ’04, we led the nation in total defense and we won five games. So there had to be something more to it than yards allowed, because yards allowed can be very deceiving,” Diaz said. “It’s really kind of flawed.”

Picture a team up by 20 points late in the game. That team is likely playing prevent defense, allowing the opponent to pick up easier yards by keeping the ball in front of the defense and limiting big plays. The other team racks up yards, hurting the winning team’s total defense. And the opposite is also true: if a defense is the side behind by 20 points, the opponent runs the ball into the line, making for easier stops, and therefore a better total defense, even if it doesn’t affect the game’s outcome.

Then, there are the issues with sample size and scheduling.

“The problem with college football is it’s actually the worst sport statistically because it’s such a small sample size and then [you have] the wide disparity of conference games versus non-conference games,” Diaz said. “The stats in terms of who finishes first in the country in total offense or total defense, a lot of that really has to do with scheduling.”

So what does he look at?  Red zone touchdown efficiency, for one thing.  (“You can win a national championship by making people kick field goals in the red zone,” Diaz said.)  And for another, he pays attention to what some of those pajama-clad unshaven dudes are up to in their parents’ basements…

“I really think what’s happened, that is fantastic, is taking smart people plus computers plus too much free time,” Diaz said. “There are a lot of people doing outstanding work on the Internet.

“They’re taking the play-by-plays and adding more than just what the normal stats put out there,” Diaz said. “They’re not always on the right track, but sometimes they are. And that’s somewhat of a recent phenomenon.”

… specifically, “statistics like Slow Grind — the number of plays a defense forces an offense to take to score — and the S&P+ Ratings, a play-by-play success rate that factors for situation and competition.”

Grantham, by the way, comes off well and not so well when you look at some of these stats.  Georgia was abysmal in red zone TD efficiency last season (88th nationally), so you hope that’s something he’s taking a close look at.  Much better was Georgia’s 5th place ranking in S&P+, one slot behind Diaz’ Texas.  Slow Grind is a stat John Pennington came up with; it’s simply a ratio of defensive plays to TDs.  I ran last year’s numbers for the conference, subtracting out opponents’ TDs scored by punt and kickoff returns, and came up with these ratios:

  • Alabama – 72
  • LSU – 59.80
  • MSU – 34.64
  • USC – 32.12
  • Vandy – 26.39
  • UGA – 26.36
  • UF – 25.70
  • Arky – 25.33
  • UK – 23.69
  • UT – 23.50
  • Auburn – 20.13
  • Ole Miss – 16.45

Could be better, Georgia.



Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics

18 responses to “Manny Diaz is a stats geek. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

  1. NYC Dawg

    And here I thought this was going to be a story about the revolution in collegiate tennis statistics.


  2. hodgie

    “Slow grind”? Really? That’s a hilarious term to use for a defensive statistic.


  3. Cojones

    That’s interesting. So it takes every 26 plays vs our D for someone to score and 72 for Bama. Hmmmm. Break that into run vs pass and we have a big hunk for the D to chew on before taking the field in the Fall.

    The red zone stat is atrocious. This more than emphasizes the O and D responsibilities to be worked. What’s the red zone ratio of FGs vs TDs/pass or run?

    I think some of the people who wish to deify Grantham may come to earth and demand more this year. Hope so. Since they ignore Grantham’s honest words of contrition for the D showing in our last two games, maybe they will perk up and pay attention. They probably feel like they are in the castle and Monty Python just slung a dead cow into their midst.


    • Bevo

      One of the aspects of this story was misinterpretation of statistics.

      I’ll just say this: Irony is a five-letter word.


    • JasonC

      Not ever having taken a look at this stat on an annual basis, I am guessing that 72 is pretty rare.


  4. WFdawg

    I’m guessing field position contributes to that stat. And field position is influenced by special teams play.


  5. Mayor of Dawgtown

    “The stats in terms of who finishes first in the country in total offense or total defense, a lot of that really has to do with scheduling.” I said last year that UGA’s improvement in defensive statistics had a lot to do with who we were playing.


    • LostDawg

      I think most people understand the Dawgs success last season was based upon who they played. Getting those same people to come out and say it is an entirely different matter. The 2011 schedule saved Richt’s job. Not the players nor their development or lack there of.


    • Sagarin rated Georgia’s 2010 SOS 36th and its 2011 SOS 23rd.

      Even if you don’t take him as gospel, I fail to understand what was so much easier about last year’s schedule than the one from the year before.


      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        This is going to sound self-contradictory (it is) but have you ever compared the ’11 UGA schedule to the ’11 Bama schedule? They played almost the same teams with UGA having a more difficult OOC schedule. The main difference in the SEC games was that UGA played USCe (which Bama did not, but USCe beat Bama the year before so maybe that was a good thing for Bama), Bama played Arky but UGA did not and UGA got to play LSU once (and lost) while Bama got to play LSU twice (1 win and 1 loss). Granted Bama only lost 1 game to UGA’s 4 losses (2 of those UGA losses were to non-SEC teams that were among the best in the nation) but nobody ever bad-mouths Bama’s schedule. Both teams played 7 SEC games. UGA lost 2 of them and Bama lost 1. I will go to my grave believing that the ’11 UGA team actually was at worst the 3rd best team in the SEC despite its loss to USCe.


  6. Bevo

    Hook,em, Manny.


  7. AlphaDawg

    Manny is gonna be a good one, he was my 2nd choice for DC after Chavis. Young, driven, and thinks outside the box.