Category Archives: Stats Geek!

Looking back and hoping to move forward

It’s December, a time of reflection if you’re a college football blogger.  Bill Connelly looks back on the hits and misses from his preseason projections here.  The basic data was the subject of an earlier post I linked to, but Bill’s commentary is worth an added note.

Georgia, as we saw in the first piece, went through one of college football’s biggest drops in advanced stats, but wasn’t alone in that department.  Bill looks for some similarities among the underperformers and finds this:

You can find some themes here, too. Six of these teams (BGSU, Baylor, Georgia, Syracuse, Rutgers, Georgia Southern) were led by first-year coaches, as were Illinois (off by 26 spots), Virginia (26), and Maryland (25). Sometimes even good coaches just don’t get all the pieces in the right places in the first 12 or so games.

Another commonality: Most of these teams have had great seasons recently. Bowling Green won 28 games from 2013-15 before losing Dino Babers to Syracuse. Oregon was in the national title game in 2014. Georgia won 50 games from 2011-15 but decided that wasn’t good enough and made a change. Baylor won 50 from 2011-15 but headed into 2016 with an interim coach after Art Briles’ swift downfall. Marshall won 33 from 2013-15. Sometimes your slope for regression to the mean is pretty stark, especially if you also have a first-year coach.

One more correlation worth mentioning: Eight of these 18 teams were among the top 25 in 2016 recruiting, and nine were among the top 28 in two-year recruiting. There is a strong correlation between good recruiting and good play, but it’s scattershot. It doesn’t affect each team the same in the short-term, and for all the predictive value recruiting can have (the top six teams in two-year recruiting are among the top 11 in S&P+, as are seven of the top nine in five-year recruiting), there will be misses.

That goes for all projection factors. Recent history wasn’t helpful in projecting Oregon’s or Georgia’s S&P+ rating…

Advanced stats have expectations, too.

The interesting part is where he looks for correlations among the overachievers.

What do these teams have in common? First of all, 12-of-13 are from Group of 5 conferences. Colorado is the only exception.

Second, seven of the 13 are led by coaches in either their second or third seasons in charge. Three others are in their fourth. Only Memphis (under Mike Norvell) was led by a first-year guy, and only ODU was led by a guy who’s been around at least six years.

If you’re going to take a leap, your second or third season is probably when you’re going to do it.

The experience stuff seems pretty obvious.  And when you think about it, the non-P5 stuff does, too.  Those aren’t typically your heavy hitting programs when it comes to recruiting and that’s going to show up in Bill’s preseason projections.

What does that say about Mike Bobo, whose CSU program finished the regular season with the greatest improvement in S&P+ ratings this season and who cut his teeth recruiting well in the SEC wars?  It says to me that if he keeps it up, he’ll wind up treading the Jim McElwain path to bigger and better times.

There’s hope in that experience factor for Kirby Smart, of course, and, while there’s no guarantee, it certainly doesn’t hurt that at this early point he appears to be even more skilled in hauling talent to Athens than Bobo was.  But there’s also Bill’s final word to consider.

Of the current S&P+ top 10, nine were projected in the top 11 at the start of the season, and the only outsider (Louisville) was projected 18th. The current six best have spent exactly one week outside of the top 11. There was, and will always be, chaos and turmoil in the middle, but the top of college football fell into place mostly according to plan.

In other words, to be the best you… uh, gotta be the best.  Maintaining at the top seems to be easier than the climb to get there, at least in 2016.  Grab your backpacks, peeps.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

The meaning of “Bama ain’t played nobody”

Bill Connelly does a deep, advanced stats-driven dive into conference strength rankings and discovers that while the SEC may be down, it’s far from out.

With a decent bowl season, the SEC might end up with the top S&P+ average in the country. It would be the eighth straight year. The last time a conference other than the SEC ranked first was 2008, when the Big 12 did it. Back then, the ACC was barely better than the Mountain West. Fortunes change, but the SEC’s has stayed mostly the same.

Still, this is the worst SEC since probably 2005, and that’s with maybe the best Alabama team of Nick Saban’s tenure. The ACC could end up first.

But the real story of 2016 is conference parity. The top four conferences are closer together than they’ve been in quite a while.

The SEC is the best long-term conference in college football because it is the most consistently strong. It still holds that mantle, but the slippage of the last two seasons has been undeniable.

I’m not gonna argue with that.  But the SEC had best hope some of those new coaching hires and the young quarterbacks come in to their own sooner rather than later.

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Filed under SEC Football, Stats Geek!

Monday morning buffet

Get ‘yer feedbag on…

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Filed under Academics? Academics., ACC Football, General Idiocy, Georgia Football, Look For The Union Label, Recruiting, Stats Geek!, The NCAA

Pressure drop

This is reassuring.

Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason is growing, but he had issues when teams put pressure on him. When he was under duress this season, Eason completed just 27.1 percent of his passes with one touchdown to three interceptions. He was sacked 18 times and lost two fumbles. He threw for just four first downs and had a raw QBR of 1.7 under duress. Eason still has some issues reading defenses at times, but to really throw him off his game, you just have to get some pressure on him without having to blitz.

The response to that is to devise an offensive game plan that keeps Eason out of obvious passing situations.  Yeah, I know.

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

One of those years

I was going to write something about Georgia’s sizeable drop in Bill Connelly’s S&P+ over the course of the 2016 season, but an alert reader pointed out this post at Football Study Hall that’s worth a quick gander — in particular, check out which two schools are the biggest disappointment and most pleasant surprise, respectively.

There’s a glass half empty/half full approach you can take to this.  Either it’s a cause for despair that Georgia may have whiffed on the correct former Donnan player to hire, or a reason for hope that Smart can have success as he tracks the learning curve as head coach.  Stay tuned for which turns out to be right.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

Meaningless bowl games = meaningless stats

I mean, this is a nice effort and all, but the idea that an advanced stats comparison of Georgia and TCU is going to have a huge amount of relevance to the Liberty Bowl’s outcome ultimately isn’t as convincing as waiting to see at kick off which team shows up motivated to play.

Start with the reality that Kirby Smart is approaching bowl practice with something other than the usual priority of getting ready for the next opponent.

The extra practices, Smart said, provide an opportunity for younger players to get better.

“We’ve got a lot of them that gotta get reps,” said Smart, the former Alabama defensive coordinator gearing up for his first bowl game as head coach. “But I’ve also been around times where you feel like you lost it in practice. Some big bowls games and some big situations where you might could have done less and gotten more out of the players because they certainly have a long season.”

“The early practices are developmental practices where we want to get fundamentally better,” Smart said of his team that is 7-5. “We want to use them like spring practices but change it up for the players so they enjoy it.”

That means plenty of “good on good” when Smart said the GPS trackers show the best readings “and try to let those guys go after it.”

Of course, freshman quarterback Jacob Eason can use the extra practice reps, too.

“He needs as many as he can get,” Smart said. “Seeing coverages, seeing multiples, seeing different pressures, I think it’s really important for him and his growth. He gets that.”

Gary Patterson appears to be in much the same place.

“Saturday’s practice was probably the best practice we’ve had since two-a-days,” Patterson said. “For us it’s growing up as a football team and finding out how we need to play going into next season because we weren’t happy with this one.”

So, yeah, you might want to throw out the stats book for this one.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

The biggest thing that’s gotta get fixed

Georgia’s defensive stats declined pretty much across the board from 2015 to 2016, but the Dawgs still managed to finish a credible sixteenth nationally in total defense this season.  Unfortunately, where the rubber meets the road — scoring defense — the story isn’t as good, as Georgia ranks 39th, a major drop from 2015’s eighth place finish.

The blame for the tumble doesn’t lie with turnovers forced, where the defense improved from 22 (43rd nationally) in 2015 to 25, which was tenth best this season.  And some of it can be chalked up to a steady decline in field position efficiency.  Brian Fremeau’s FEI field position rankings over Georgia’s past three seasons are 4th, 31st and 53rd.  Special teams and offense are both contributors there, and it’s not hard to think of examples that made life harder for the defense throughout this season.

But that all pales by comparison with the biggest sore spot, red zone defense.  Georgia is next to last in the country in opponent’s red zone conversion percentage, but even that doesn’t give you the true flavor of how poorly things have gone this year.  Check out Georgia’s percentage over the past nine seasons:

  • 2008:  80.43%
  • 2009:  82.93%
  • 2010:  80.58%
  • 2011:  90.63%
  • 2012:  73.91%
  • 2013:  85.42%
  • 2014:  77.50%
  • 2015:  67.65%
  • 2016:  94.59%

That’s right.  As bad as you thought Willie Martinez was at the end of his run — and you weren’t wrong about that — and as bad as you thought Grantham’s defense was his last season in Athens, both of them were more competent at keeping the other team from scoring once inside Georgia’s twenty-yard line than Smart and Tucker have been capable of preventing this season.

It’s an understatement to say that has to be addressed if Georgia is going to be a better team next season.  I have no idea if the obscene drop from ’15 to ’16 was a product of scheme or personnel (both, most likely), but, then again, I’m not the guys being paid to figure that kind of stuff out.  What I do know is that going from first to last in the SEC in an important defensive stat like that ain’t gonna cut it over the long haul.

The tough thing is that it’s not reasonable to expect a complete reversal of fortune in one season.  That being said, a return to at least middle of the road respectability is close to a necessity if next year’s defense is going to be a factor in making the program competitive.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!