Category Archives: Stats Geek!

One last time: Aaron Murray was a pretty good quarterback.

David Wunderlich:

Simply hitting a passing efficiency of 160 is a difficult thing that most quarterbacks never accomplish. Doing it more than once is truly remarkable.

Georgia had someone who came oh, so close.

Meanwhile we got to see some great examples of why it’s so tough to hit 160 multiple times. Aaron Murray got there in 2012 with a 174.82, but an injury plague around him in the offensive unit helped limit him to 158.82 in 2013. That he still almost got there is impressive, but things outside his control hampered him.

If you look at Murray’s game log from the 2013 season, you can see exactly what David’s describing.  His three lowest numbers came against Tennessee (129.61), Missouri (122.80) and Vanderbilt (84.20), when his supporting cast dwindled to what seemed like nothing but walk-ons and true freshmen.  Give him his full allotment of skill position talent for even one of those games – hell, just give him Todd Gurley –  and he would have crossed the 160 threshold with ease.

Admittedly, that’s not as revealing as G-Day QBR numbers, but it’s not nothing, either.

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Wednesday morning buffet

Get you some.

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A little more on stopping the run as a means of generating turnovers

I brought up Manny Diaz’ philosophy last week and a couple of bloggers of a more statistical bent than I explored the topic as well.

At Football Study Hall, Chad Peltier did a little regression analysis on the subject and found that Diaz wasn’t full of shit.

There’s enough evidence to reject the null hypothesis that there isn’t a relationship between defensive rushing S&P+ and turnovers gained. Rush defense doesn’t explain the whole variation in the data on turnovers gained (r squared is .14), but the two variables do seem to be related in a non-random way (at the 95% confidence level).

In short, the stats do seem to support Diaz’s argument that a defense should work on stopping the run first and foremost for more turnovers.

And today at Team Speed Kills, David Wunderlich does a little statistical exploration, finds some correlation, but wonders if there’s more to it than what Diaz suggests.

But wait a second. Let’s apply a different truism, this one from Football Outsiders: “You run when you win, not win when you run.” As Aaron Schatz explained it:

There are exceptions, usually when the opponent is strong in every area except run defense… [h]owever, in general, winning teams have a lot of carries because their running backs are running out the clock at the end of wins, not because they are running wild early in games.

Apply this to a defensive context, and winning teams will defend more passes than runs. Certainly it’s possible to have a great defense that doesn’t win a lot of games—see Auburn and Tennessee in 2008, or Florida in 2013—and it’s possible to win a lot of games with a terrible defense—see 2011 Baylor, which won 10 games despite being 113th in scoring defense. There are always exceptions, and that’s why these correlations are in the +/- 0.300 to 0.400 range rather than, say, the +/- 0.700 to 0.800 range.

Still, teams that win a lot of games usually have good defenses. We should also expect that good defenses will force a lot of turnovers. We’re now stuck in the correlation vs. causation trap. Does strength at stopping the run cause a team to generate more turnovers? Or does simply being a good defense cause that unit to both stop the run and generate more turnovers?

I’ve always believed that context matters, so I would be stupid to dismiss David’s qualifiers there.  But it’s worth mentioning that Louisiana Tech, while leading the nation in turnovers last season, finished 9-5.  Take that for what it’s worth.

In the meantime, let’s see what Diaz does in his second tour of duty at Mississippi State.  As David concludes,

One thing I can say for sure is this: when you share a division with Nick Saban, Bret Bielema, Gus Malzahn, and Les Miles, focusing on stopping the run isn’t a bad plan.

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Which offensive line coaches have best protected their quarterbacks?

Over at coachingsearch.com, they’ve taken the time to look at which offenses over the past three seasons have generated the best ratio of passes attempted per sack allowed.  Now, while I think the question in my header, which is posed in the post, is a bit over broad in assessing the cause/reason, it’s still interesting to look at sack rates, particularly in Georgia’s case.

Will Friend didn’t make the list of top fifteen.  Here’s a breakdown of the numbers from 2012-4:

  • 2014:  17 sacks allowed; 322 passing attempts; 18.9 pps
  • 2013:  22 sacks allowed; 459 passing attempts; 20.9 pps
  • 2012:  27 sacks allowed; 399 passing attempts; 14.8 pps

A couple of things there worth noting.  One, while so many of us have harped on Aaron Murray’s turnovers over his career, we seemed to have missed out on the insane level of improvement in sack avoidance he made in his last season.  (And, remember, that was with right tackle play that was inconsistent, to say the least.)  Two, while Mason was very good in the turnover department, there was a drop off in the pass per sack rate last season.  And that was with a much bigger reliance on the running game and a far more stable offensive line that what Georgia had in Murray’s last season.

The overall three-year numbers?  66 sacks allowed in 1180 passing attempts, leading to a 17.9 pps ratio.  Again, not that close to the numbers on the chart posted at the link.  It’ll be interesting to see where that goes this season, with a new QB, offensive coordinator and line coach.

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The further adventures of run the damned ball, Bobo.

Some really solid stuff from Ian Boyd here about what sort of offenses force teams to make solo tackles more than others.

As you might suspect, teams that deploy spread attacks tend to force more solo tackles than others.  But check out this chart of the ten most efficient offenses in 2014:

S&P Rank Team % Solo Tackles Solo Tackle % Rank
1 Ohio State 72.5% 84
2 Alabama 72.9% 82
3 Oregon 72.4% 86
4 Georgia Tech 80.5% 22
5 Auburn 75% 66
6 Mississippi State 67.8% 11
7 Oklahoma 73.3% 76
8 Georgia 69.4% 105
9 Baylor 83.1% 12
10 Michigan State 70.7% 100

Two out of ten were really good at forcing solo tackles, and Georgia Tech was above average in that regard.  The rest were anywhere from subpar to genuinely poor at it.

Now ask yourself why that’s the case.  Well, actually, Boyd’s gone ahead and answered that question.

Well this puzzle is simple enough to solve, there are more defenders around the line of scrimmage then there are in the flats or downfield. If there are more defenders around on a running play then it’s going to be easier for the defense to get multiple people to the ball carrier to help bring him down.

Why are their more defenders there? Because defensive coordinators look at the S&P rankings and determine that the teams that can run the ball effectively are often the most difficult to defend. So they always ensure that there are players around the box that can limit damage from the run game. You’ll notice that the efficient running teams that rank high in S&P were also generally good at punishing this defensive response with the passing game.

Everyone wants their passing game to revolve around getting their athletes in one-on-one match-ups in space where they become hard to tackle, whether you are a pro-style power run team or a four-wide Air Raid spread squad. However, the teams that are killing are the ones that set this up with the run.

As a general rule, solo tackles occur most frequently from the passing game or from bad running attacks that put the running back in positions where he can’t evade a single tackler and is brought down before he can get up to speed.

Georgia is the most extreme case on that list:  5th in rushing S&P+; 105th in solo tackle percentage.  Teams were doing exactly what so many defensive geniuses on the Internet advocate – loading up the box to force Georgia to beat them throwing the ball – and were still getting killed on the ground in spite of this tactic.

Which should tell you a couple of things about the Dawgs’ offense.  First, Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb are a couple of ridiculously talented running backs.  Second,  deploying the play action pass should be like taking candy from a baby. There’s always going to be at least one receiver running around with single coverage.  Georgia just needs to find the quarterback best suited to take advantage of that.

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Thursday morning buffet

The chafing dishes are steaming.

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“Well, Georgia being third is surprising.”

Even Bill Connelly has to blink at what his advanced stats are telling him.  The rest of it:

… I included each set of rankings so you could understand what the numbers see. Georgia has been one of the most consistently awesome teams in the country (fourth in weighted five-year history) and benefits from that here.

It’s not really a puzzle.  It’s just that Bill hasn’t figured out a way to quantify brain farts.

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