Much ado about nothing

Once again, here’s a post that shows, contrary to the insistence of many who love to believe otherwise, that penalties committed have little to do with a team’s wins and losses.


Filed under SEC Football, Stats Geek!

34 responses to “Much ado about nothing

  1. It hasn’t seemed to be quite as much of an issue under Richt, but during the Donnan years, I decided it’s not how many penalties, it’s when you commit them that matters. It always seemed like whenever we committed a penalty it either negated a touchdown, first down conversion on third down, turnover, or some other big play that would have gone in our favor. The other team might have twice as many penalties as us, but ours always seemed to be in crucial situations.

    The only time that has seemed to really be the case over the years is under Richt. Get the ball down to the 2 yard line, commit a false start penalty, and end up having to kick a FG instead of getting a TD. That was pretty common for a while there.

    • That last paragraph is all sorts of jacked up. First sentence should say “The only time that has seemed to really be the case over the years under Richt is deep in the red zone.” My brain and fingers and apparently disconnected for a minute.

  2. pantslesspatdye

    Penn Wagers penalties do seem to universally affect the outcome of play. Perhaps this is the exception to the rule. Or, maybe, quality over quantity as the Reverend wrote.

    • James Johnson

      Or perhaps it has something to do with a “little extra something” if he makes the “right” penalty call.

  3. jack

    Yeah, tell that to the guys in Nashville last year.

    • MinnesotaDawg

      No kidding. You’ll need better evidence than ranking the post provides to conclude that officiating/penalties have little to do with wins and losses. Hard to make such a conclusion when you don’t have a baseline measurement for what a team’s record would be if not for a bad/questionable/controversial call one way or another. In terms of wins and losses, of course some teams are in a better position to overcome the cost of penalties, but there certainly is a tipping point. As jack notes, I know one less loss that Georgia would have had if not an unfortunate call.

      • One game – kinda small sample size, don’t you think?

        I’ve pointed to other statistical studies that find no correlation between penalties and won-loss records. And if you look at that list, there’s no correlation between penalties and program success, either.

        • MinnesotaDawg

          Unless those studies can show a team’s record absent penalties–which would provide a true measure of the impact of those penalties committed on wins and loses–I think my point remains valid.

          Of course there are far more significant factors in determining a program’s Ws and Ls than penalties (coaching and the skill level of the players chief among them, IMO). However, I tend to believe that in any game between two fairly even teams (in terms of those athletes and coaches), penalties can play a fairly substantial role in determining the winner–especially when those penalties are assessed (or not) at a critical juncture(s) or series of the game. Obviously, this observation is not as well-suited to confirmation by merely looking at less-nuanced “total penalties vis a vis team record” comparisons.

          • Well said. I agree. Penalties matter.

            Just because you sometimes get away with them, or overcome them, as all teams do from time-to-time, they can, just as often IMO, be the difference between winning and losing in a competitive game. I mean, after all, our memories still burn from such an experience.

            But it’s just a very difficult thing to quantify on paper, one way or the other.

  4. AthensHomerDawg

    Should Florida be the poster child for the abused and penalized SEC team. Let’s ask Arkansas shall we?

    There are legitimate penalties.
    Specious penalties.
    And– out– right– game changing “White Stripes and Assholes”, type penalties.

    I guess it depends on whose ox is getting gored.

  5. Debby Balcer

    It would be interesting to have independent refs review film and see how many penalties get called that should not have been called and how many penalties don’t get called that should have been. I imagine Alabama gets away with things because they are not looking for them. Georgia has the opposite issue.

    • Hank

      I agree 100%. Alabama has fewest penalties because the refs don’t throw the flag. The refs throw the flag at us at the request of the other coach, even if it didn’t come close to happening.

      • Bob

        Bama is far more disciplined than we are. Then again, I used to think it was against the SEC officiating rule book to ever throw a flag for holding against the Tide. I mean, what they routinely get away with is funny…unless you are the team playing them.

        • Cojones

          If you say penalties differences are the result of poor discipline at UGA, I have to disagree. A team’s discipline is measured from differing points and a good example would be an outright argument between a QB and his Center during a crucial set of downs in a championship game. Does that conjure up any memories?

  6. No assimilation of stats will ever convince me that self-inflicted penalties don’t hurt. Just thinking back to last year, you don’t even have to go past the first game. There were enough false start penalties against Clemson, that stalled otherwise productive drives, to have cost us the game.

    Tell me they don’t matter. Mental discipline is a key component of a champion, with rare exceptions.

    • No assimilation of stats will ever convince me…

      Then I guess we’re done here.😉

      • Oh, I’ll look. But the effort is futile.

        Stats like these cannot factor in everything. They can give you a glimpse sometimes, and sometimes they can lead to an accurate conclusion. For example, it’s no surprise that Alabama is the most disciplined team in the League. But they could be 2nd, or 3rd, or 5th, and still be the most disciplined team in the League.

        Surely it wouldn’t be hard to imagine Georgia being the most disciplined team, but only ranking in the top 5 because officials are “looking for” infractions (though I don’t think we ever will be that disciplined under Richt). And there are numerous other scenarios that don’t lend themselves to statistics.

        But you don’t even need that. Everybody has seen a penalty (penalties) cost a team a game. Case closed right there. And once again, for Georgia, we don’t have to go any further back than last year (even though it wasn’t self-inflicted).

        • I wasn’t arguing about a relationship between penalties and discipline.

          Kentucky is second on that list. The ‘Cats aren’t a powerhouse by any means. Most of the teams at the bottom of the list have made multiple appearances in the SECCG in the last five years. There’s no correlation between penalties and won/loss records to be found there.

    • AthensHomerDawg

      There were enough false start penalties against Clemson, that stalled otherwise productive drives, to have cost us the game.
      Show me where all those false starts on the O are.

      • Point taken. I’m going off top-of-the-head memory, and maybe I have the wrong game, or whatever. I just remember it that way, that our discipline was inconsistent in several games, and in some game false starts killed a number of good, hard-earned drives.

        I don’t care enough to go back and find it. But surely we’ve seen enough of that at Georgia in recent years to see that the point is valid.

        Unforced errors always hurt. And sometimes they can cost you a game.

        • AthensHomerDawg

          I have to say I’m surprised by your response. I mean to say that when you post stuff as someone that is fairly savvy we tend to follow your lead.NOT gospel but we want wanna trust your instincts. But here ya kind of just blow it all off… as bothersome and kinda fudge a bit. You’re a very good writer… but don’t bs to make a point that isn’t solid. Ya lose credibility. And that’s a shame. I enjoy the jousting you do with Bluto. Most of the time your up to the task. Just sayin’

          • But here ya kind of just blow it all off… as bothersome and kinda fudge a bit … but don’t bs to make a point that isn’t solid.

            That is not the intention, and the point is solid. I just don’t have time to go back and find the example I gave, where the false starts and/or unforced penalties hurt us. IIRC, there were other things that were enough in themselves to lose the game, that was just one. There’s been a lot of games like that in the last 5 years or so. I said it was just memory and that I might be wrong.

            If I was wrong about the example I gave, I was wrong. I always admit it when I’m wrong. I just don’t have the time now to dig it up. But that doesn’t make the point wrong, by any means.

            but don’t bs to make a point that isn’t solid. Ya lose credibility. And that’s a shame.

            I’ve never done that – EVER. And certainly wasn’t doing that in this case, even if it turns out the example was wrong. I’m sorry if I’ve lost credibility with you. I can’t research every detail of a thought I put in a post, if I seem to remember it. I’ve been posting a long time, and my accuracy is a matter of record.

            But my memory is, admittedly, not perfect. And even though it’s pretty good, I’ve always appreciated corrections. As far as credibility, my record speaks for itself. Sorry if I’ve lost you because of a supporting inaccuracy, if I do indeed have the example wrong.

            But the point has been overlooked. And that is, unforced mental mistakes matter. They hurt. And they can cost you games. And it has cost Georgia games, and we don’t have to go past last year to see examples.

            • AthensHomerDawg

              Goodness… “I’ve been posting a long time, and my accuracy is a matter of record.” Well, who else has challenged you?
              I appreciate you schedule. I got one myself.😉
              You’re a very good writer. Do your homework. Thaz all I got.

              • Well, who else has challenged you?

                LOL, plenty of people.

                And I don’t mind you challenging me, though I think you’re picking a little bit. And you are wrong to use words like “bs” and “fudging”. Those words suggest deceit, and I am never deceitful. At worst, I may have made a mistake in my recollection of a detail.

                I may have had the wrong game in mind, IDK. But regardless, I know it’s happened, and in the recent past. I don’t mind being corrected about something, no matter how detail, and even when it’s not critical to the point. And I certainly don’t mind anybody pointing it out when I’m wrong. That goes with the territory.

                But just for the record, let me ask you, since we’ve done all this. Do you agree or disagree with the point I was making? Do you think unforced penalties matter? Should they be a legitimate concern for a coach? Or does the stat chart show that they don’t?

                Because that is the issue. Not whether or not I made a mistake in recalling a game.

                • AthensHomerDawg

                  Gee Ivey…Thaz a pretty slippery rebuttal. And it’s smart to do it.
                  Just sayin’

                  • Slippery? Again, you’ll find that I’m not disposed to guile or deceit. But I’d really like to know what you think, since you called me out.

                    Do you agree with the point I was making? Do unforced penalties matter? Do they sometimes determine games? Do the best coaches around the country beat their brains out trying to eliminate them for nothing, since at the end of the day it all washes out?

                    Anyway, you don’t have to answer, it’s not important. I guess nothing in this whole dialogue is, really.

  7. uglydawg

    I don’t need a study to tell me Georgia get’s screwed by the SEC refs. As far as the amount or frequency of penalties..I’ve made this call a few times…Georgia gets penalties called at horrible times (really almost anytime is a horrible time in a football game) and gets a lot of calls against them while the other team skates…then, late in the game when it’s pretty much decided, the refs start making “make-up” calls against the other team so it will look even on the stats sheet. It’s not what’s called that bothers’s what’s NOT called and when it does or doesn’t happen If you haven’t noticed, I hate the SEC offciating crews. I beieve they cheat…plain and simple..And I don’t think Georgia is their only patsy..there are a couple of other schools they seem to screw as well.

  8. uglydawg

    I don’t deny that some teams are better disciplined than others. This is all partially true, but it certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. If PW had never done a UGA game, Georgia would probably be at the top of that list and have a MNC…
    I’ll give Saban this…his reserves come in and don’t screw it up. And his teams are in mid-season form from the first snap…so of course some of the hypothesis of this chart is valid.

  9. Mark

    Senator, I would like to see a more refined statistical analysis. Certain kinds of penalties impact games more than others. So does the timing of the penalties. Good teams will often be penalized a lot. But the timing and type of penalty may be different than the teams that lose a lot. Stats I would like to see in no particular order…. 1. How many penalties do teams get in the 4th quarter? 2. How many penalties come against the offense? The defense? 3. How many penalties are aggression penalties (i.e. personal fouls, defensive off sides, etc.) 4. How many penalties are frustration penalties (i.e. losing bad in the 4th quarter so you hit a little differently) 5. How many false start, illegal procedure, too many men on the line or not enough, etc. penalties does a team have?

    Some of those stats will reveal coaching issue (procedure, false starts, line up issues, etc.) penalties while others will reveal personality type issues (roughing penalties).

    My guess is that the good teams will have more aggressive penalties and less mental penalties. Could be wrong. But I sure would like to see a study that did more than just looked at total penalties.

    And I would expect fewer penalties in the 4th quarter from a good, well conditioned team than a bad team with poor conditioning.

    • Can’t help you there. But in my early blogging days, I referenced some posts at Matt Hinton’s late, lamented Sunday Morning Quarterback blog, where he ran detailed analysis on what stats correlated most strongly with won/loss records. Penalties consistently showed little correlation.

      I know the romantic in us wants to insist otherwise. And it’s easy to remember that one game where penalties made the difference. But over the long haul, there’s no statistical evidence that shows teams with fewer penalties win more games than their more penalized brethren.

  10. Bulldog Joe

    A better correlation would be the effectiveness zero-tolerance punishment policy has on the overall discipline of Georgia’s play.

    Clearly, the zero-tolerance punishment policy continues to be a complete failure here.