The most overrated statistic in college football

John Pennington chooses to put the Alabama conspiracy theorists at the heart of this post, but the real story there is that penalty yardage has no correlation with wins and losses.

Of the four teams with more than 30 wins over the last six seasons, three of them have been penalized the more yardage than anyone — LSU, Florida and Georgia.

Meanwhile, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Kentucky are among the least penalized programs in conference games.

Sure, feel free to gripe about that single, egregious call, but just remember that over the course of a season, penalties don’t have much impact on the bottom line.


Filed under SEC Football

15 responses to “The most overrated statistic in college football

  1. uglydawg

    Here’s the rest of the story….When the better teams build a lead against the weak sisters, they substitute and the less seasoned players, esp. on offense, make a lot of mistakes….(BTW, remember the game, against TN I believe where Georgia had something like 3rd and 75?). Also, I believe some refs see it as their job to “even things up” when a team is over-matched. I wouldn’t make a good ref, because if a team was getting pounded and I saw slight infractions late in the game, I’d probably ignore them…One other point..Navy and Army get very few penalties…factor that in somehow…but I think the military penchant for demanding attention to detail explains it in part.

    • uglydawg

      BTW..I admit I have no data to back that first point up..really just a thought.

    • Richt has said before that he doesn’t have a problem with penalties resulting from a team’s aggressiveness, as long as they’re not too over the top. I suspect that good defenses tend to generate more penalties than bad ones.

      That being said, I wonder about the impact of the new targeting rules on this.

      • IveyLeaguer

        It’ll have some effect.

        FWIW, I expect to be penalized less on defense than we were over the past 7 years or so, due to less stupid penalties, primarily on defense, but offense as well. The offense has already tightened up with Friend’s arrival, then this current OL.

        Richt has always said that about aggression, but he leaves out the other half – the bonehead personal fouls, late hits, etc., the discipline fouls. Those aren’t aggression penalties, rather they’re rooted in stupidity. And I think we’ll have less of those because of the type players we’ll have on the field, a bonus of the ‘addition by subtraction’ effect.

        It may not show in the stats because, as you astutely point out, they’ll be skewed by the new targeting rules.

  2. Scorpio Jones,III

    Unfortunately all we can do is wonder about the impact, at key points in a game, of the targeting rules. The numbers may show penalties don’t matter overall, but there is no way to count the importance of a penalty at a particularly important time in a game…to the accountants it becomes just another penalty…if it costs a crucial first down in a potentially game-winning drive, it is more than a number.

    I think if Bama does really have a discipline edge it is at these times in a game…they get penalties, they just don’t seem to get penalties that cost them points or games.

    FWIW, I don’t notice a whole lot of difference between Saban and Richt’s reaction to penalties on the sideline…just that Saban reacts that way to EVERY penalty.

    • Dawg19

      In Bama’s loss to A&M last year, the Tide jumped offsides on 4th down at the end of the game after forcing the Aggies to punt to seal the game for A&M. I couldn’t believe a Saban team would do something that stupid but it was proof of how they seemed to be sleep-walking that entire game.

  3. Macallanlover

    It is the timing of penalties that impact the results of games, not the actual yardage measurement. Some “five yard” penalties cost you 60-70 yards, or perhaps a score, or stop/allow a key drive. I hate the penalties that do not effect the play at all the most like shoves/swings after the whistle, or blocks away from the runner’s proximity.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      +1. Some penalties are situational and dramatically affect the outcome of the game. UGA has had to suffer through that in the past–and those calls were intentional IMHO, flags thrown by refs who had an ax to grind. See 2009 UGA- LSU game as an example.

  4. Joe

    I will say this; in the SECCG, Dial should have been penalized for the hit on AM. Had that happened, the INT is nullified and Bama most likely doesn’t kick a FG at the end of the first half. We may have kicked one instead and were set to receive at the beginning of the second half. What was the difference in the game? 3 pts.
    Now a lot of other things also occurred but that non-penalty (along with the no holding calls on many of their runs) sticks out.

    • Hit came after the pick, so the INT wouldn’t have been nullified. However, ‘Bama would have been backed up another fifteen yards w. a penalty, which might have made that FG drive a little tougher.

      • Macallanlover

        Wouldnt have happened in a game of that magnitude but we have all seen players ejected for far lesser incidents. That was a major league cheap shot and was only taken because he was the qb. Loss of Dial would have been a pitential game changer. I wasn’t sure we hadnt lost murray when I saw it.

        • Debby Balcer

          I did think Murray seemed shaken up and worried the entire halftime that he would not be back and who would be our quarterback. Dial should have been penalized.

          • Macallanlover

            Yes, any sign of wooziness would have brought about the concussion concerns and Richt would have had a very tough decision to make regarding mason’s redshirt. Murray has taken some vicious hits in his time in Athens, tough, gritty competitor.

    • uglydawg

      And it’s just so easy to say…”I just didn’t see it, Coach”.