Misunderstood metric

Michael Felder has this to say about time of possession:

I hate when people argue about time of possession. They’re insulting their own team and insulting my intelligence. “Well my team had the ball longer so that’s why we win,” is a talking point for scared people.

Scared money don’t make money.

If you have the ball a long time it is a combination of 3 things; you’re scared for the other team to have the ball, you are not an explosive offense or you’re really good up front and can do whatever you want. Football ain’t hot potato, if it takes 12 play drives to score all the time are you actually good and if you are good, why are you playing with your food…

Well, yes and no.  It is silly to tie TOP to winning and losing as a matter of simple causation.  But if you’re, say, a triple option team that isn’t among the national leaders in time of possession, that’s a good indication you’re doing something very, very wrong.

Something similar can be said for offenses that are very efficient, but not very explosive — you know, like Michigan (currently #3 in TOP) or Georgia (currently #6 in TOP).  Teams like those aren’t playing with their food so much as playing to their strengths.

Kentucky, on the other hand…


Filed under Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics

24 responses to “Misunderstood metric

  1. valdawgsta

    I feel like most football fans are a lot wiser on Time of Possession than say 15 years ago. Obviously TOP numbers are heavily dependent on style of play as you mentioned and also to the extent that it does tell you something about a team’s success it’s WAY more of a dependent variable than an independent variable.

    On a related note, one of my most hated stat things is when people say stuff like “Georgia is 25-1 when a rusher has more than 160 yards” or whatever. Gee, it’s almost like you’re saying teams tend to go run heavy in the second half when they’re leading the game.


  2. spur21

    I think the best thing about winning TP is allowing your defense to rest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek

      Yeah but how do you lose 38-63 at South Carolina if you worry about defense? Tennessee ran two more plays than South Carolina on a mere 21 minutes of possession. Josh Heupel gets “it.”


      • spur21

        Yeah, he gets it – and he lost. Time will tell but I think Heupel is a flash in the pan.

        Liked by 1 person

        • fisheriesdawg

          He is 21st century Hal Mumme. Fun to watch and frustrating for most of your opponents to defend but a glass jaw when he runs up against defenses with the athletes that can blow up a scheme.

          Liked by 4 people

          • stoopnagle

            I’m reading “The Perfect Pass” – basically a history of Mumme/Leach developing the Air Raid – and all I’m thinking about is how so many teams are using the principles they were experimenting with at Iowa Wesleyan back in the 80s & we act like today all this “go fast” “use the whole field” shit is new. It also helps you realize how Cro-Magnon Kirby can be sometimes.

            The author overstates things sometimes, but he does make it clear: nothing in football is new and everything is copied.

            Liked by 2 people

        • Definitely. He’s the Paul Johnson of the SEC. Peaking right now. Once everyone has repped the speed a few years, back to the middle of the pack. He’s shown zero ability to make adjustments.


  3. uga97

    Our pts oer game has dropped by 12 this month vs last. (41 pts/game in Oct, 29 so far in Nov).

    This raises questions about us:

    Is this big point drop just a combo of our staff doing the three (3) aforementioned things above? Or is it 2 of the 3? Or 1 of the 3?


    • Derek

      The competition improved did it not?


    • D.N. Nation

      Georgia’s played three games in November. One was a game where they scored 45 points. One was a game when they had 24 at the half and grinded the rest of the game out in the rain because they could. And one was last Saturday, which, blech.

      Not ready to sound alarm bells yet. If they don’t push Trek around, then I’ll do it.


    • We had a lead and the weather was less than ideal in at least 2 of those games. Why take an unnecessary chance for no real purpose?

      Liked by 1 person

    • stoopnagle

      Well, this was the stretch of more competitive games, right? We kind of knew November was going to be the stretch. Hopefully we can move the mean back to the norm this weekend.


  4. 69Dawg

    Far be it for me to second guess Kirby but the 99 yard drive KU put on our Defense should be a wake up call. Sometimes your defense is not going to stop the other team. Either we get more creative on the goal or we kick the FG and take the points. Stop with the manball crap, speed has been our best weapon on offense and defense.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. 79dawg

    At the end of the game, there is only one “statistic” that matters when objectively determining whether a team won or lost.
    Focusing on a single metric in a multi-variable game, to the exclusion of others, is pretty myopic – anyone with half a lick of sense knows this….
    Lies, damn lies, and statistics…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Early ‘80’s: GTP (via smoke signals) was about what can Herschel do next?

    2021: Stetson sucks, but that D!

    2022: We’re undefeated, but…meh.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. fisheriesdawg

    Mentioned to a friend at halftime that Kentucky looked like they were playing to cover and hoped they might get lucky at the end if they kept it tight. That’s about how it played out, hitting on several low percentage bombs combined with some weird penalties, but the missed field goal buried them.


  8. Time of possession is interesting but not indicative of game control. Hell, I don’t even think it’s interesting in today’s game anymore.

    Case in point:

    Team A TOP: 33:08
    Team B TOP: 26:52

    Final score: Team B 45, Team A 0.

    Location: Historic Richt-Smart Field at Vince Dooley Stadium, Atlanta, GA

    Liked by 2 people

  9. practicaldawg

    We saw a lot of very scared and freezing cold money in Lexington


  10. NotMyCrossToBear

    Think all these talking heads want everyone to run the air raid or some shit like that because it is “more fun.”


  11. otto1980

    Back when Bobo was calling plays this was brought up to counter arguments about 3 and out and explosive plays. I think TOP in and of itself means little. Just as average points scored a game means little if you get stone walled by rivals.

    How long did you hold the ball? What percentage of drives did you score? How many 3 and outs.

    A good coaching staff knows when they need to hurry up and when the need to slow it down, to give the D a breather to catch their breath or their coaches implement adjustments, or may just burn the clock to get out of the half. Naturally executing this isn’t so easy. Monken is as good as there has been in the past 20 years in all of CFB.

    Liked by 1 person

    • otto1980

      How long did you hold the ball?

      Just to clarify, per possession. Was it 3 and out in 1:30, 65 yard drive in 4 minutes? I’d be curious if Vegas using anything more advanced in this realm.


  12. The more the good guys have it…the less the bad guys do. End of story.


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