The SEC and yards per play, 2016 edition

Let’s welcome back our old friend, regression to the mean!  Matt Melton returns with his annual conference yards per play analysis.

… Since 2005, I have collected YPP data for every conference. I use conference games only because teams play such divergent non-conference schedules and the teams within a conference tend to be of similar quality. By running a regression analysis between a team’s Net YPP (the difference between their Yards Per Play and Yards Per Play Allowed) and their conference winning percentage, we can see if Net YPP is a decent predictor of a team’s record. Spoiler alert. It is. For the statistically inclined, the correlation coefficient between a team’s Net YPP in conference play and their conference record is around .66. Since Net YPP is a solid predictor of a team’s conference record, we can use it to identify which teams had a significant disparity between their conference record as predicted by Net YPP and their actual conference record. I used a difference of .200 between predicted and actual winning percentage as the threshold for ‘significant’. Why .200? It is a little arbitrary, but .200 corresponds to a difference of 1.6 games over an eight game conference schedule and 1.8 games over a nine game one. Over or under-performing by more than a game and a half in a small sample seems significant to me. In the 2016 season, which teams in the SEC met this threshold? Here are SEC teams sorted by performance over what would be expected from their Net YPP numbers.


I’d like to get excited about some of this, namely the part about Florida overachieving, but looking back on last year’s analysis,


… the depressing truth may simply be that Jim McElwain is a good coach.  Of course, maybe it just means the Gators are overdue to come back to earth.

On the other hand, those stats certainly give every indication that Bret Bielema may be the SEC’s most underrated coach.  Take that for what it’s worth.

In any event, keeping Matt’s caution about the significance of over or under-performing by more than a game and a half in a small sample in mind, what’s particularly striking about the 2016 numbers is that a majority of conference schools posted variations under .100, and half were under .050.  If I didn’t know any better, that looks to me like conference YPP was a pretty good measuring stick.


Filed under SEC Football, Stats Geek!

5 responses to “The SEC and yards per play, 2016 edition

  1. W Cobb Dawg

    Perhaps Dan Enos is the most underrated coach. If only Kirby could’ve landed his first choice Enos, instead of Chaney.


    • Could be. Read what Matt wrote about Arky:

      Arkansas was the lone SEC team to significantly over-perform relative to their expected record. Arkansas was not particularly lucky in terms of one-score games (1-1) or turnover margin (-6) in SEC play. No, the Hogs had the profile of a one win conference team thanks to an abysmal defense. The Hogs allowed nearly eight yards per play to SEC opponents and really had only one good defensive showing. They held a limited Florida offense to ten points and under five yards per play. If we remove that game, the Hogs allowed over 8.2 yards per play to their other seven conference opponents. Two teams averaged north of ten yards per play against Arkansas and six conference opponents averaged more than seven yards per play against them.


      • Thanks for the linkage as always. I noticed my traffic was up to more than 3 or 4 folks this AM.
        By my math, its only about 17 more weeks til college football resumes. I think we can make it.


    • Sherlock

      Kirby’s #1 choice was actually Clay Helton. Had USC not removed the “interim” from his title when they did, Helton would have been in Athens last season. I don’t know if Enos was his second choice, but the timing between Helton getting the USC gig and the “no-compete clause” news with Enos was very short. There was actually time (6 days) between the Enos and Chaney news for Kirby to go after a third, yet unknown, person. If anyone has any news on that, please spill the beans.


      • W Cobb Dawg

        Thanks for sharing that. There’s one helluva gap between Helton/Enos and Chaney. Makes me wonder if Kirby whiffed on his first 25 or so OC candidates before landing on Chaney.