Sunday, October 8

New statistic: yards per point

There's a great college football preview magazine out there by Phil Steele... most accurate predictions in the country over the last five years or so. It's full of more information than anyone but the most diehard fan could ever want, and one of Phil's statistics is Yards Per Point (ypp).

The idea is that an offense is efficient if their ypp is low, meaning they're turning yards gained into points scored. Likewise, a good defense doesn't let you turn yards into TDs, so a good defense will have a high ypp. Winning the field position battle also creates a favorable ypp statistic. Let's look at two examples:

1. The Texas Longhorns. The defining games of the season for the Horns so far have been Ohio State and Oklahoma. Against the Buckeyes, Texas gained 340 yards and gave up 368, but the score was a 24-7 loss. Why? A turnover on the two yard line killed a likely TD drive, and an interception to start the second half allowed OSU to score a field goal without having to move the ball. A missed field goal also negated a long drive by the Horns, though this also happened to the Bucks on their first drive.
In the Red River shootout, Texas consistently had good field position, and their first two offensive touchdowns needed only 62 and 52 yards. This and the fact that they had no turnovers allowed the Horns to score 21 offensive points despite just gaining 265 yards. OU on the other hand gained 380 total yards but scored just ten points. Five turnovers had a lot to do with that.

2. The Oregon Ducks. The defining games of the season for the Ducks so far have been the Oklahoma and California games. Against the Sooners, UO outgained OU 533 yards to 402, but they trailed 33-20 late in the 4th quarter. The reason? UO turned the ball over four times and forced just one Sooner TO. A -10 yard average punt deficit swung the field position battle, and the kickoff coverage team gave up 123 yards on just 4 returns. On top of that, the Ducks missed a 51-yard FG to wipe out a long drive in the second quarter. So what should have been a comfortable win by the yardage numbers ended up being one of the craziest finishes of the season.
Against Cal, the turnover battle was once again lost by a count of 4 to 1. The Ducks gave up a punt return TD and again had an average punt of under 40 yards. So in this game, the yardage totals were 428 for Cal and 374 for Oregon, but the score was 45-24.

Steele uses this to predict the next year's success - interestingly, with the premise that the law of averages means that team with very good ypp rankings won't have the same luck next season, and a team the poor ypp can only move up.

But how about how the top 25 teams are performing this season? By my rankings:

1. Ohio State: Offense 11.78 ypp, Defense 32.33 ypp
2. Florida: Offense 14.25 ypp, Defense 27.34 ypp
3. Michigan: Offense 11.43 ypp, Defense 17.64 ypp
4. Louisville: Offense 11.90 ypp, Defense 22.91 ypp
5. West Virginia: 10.74 ypp, Defense 23.98 ypp
6. USC: Offense 13.60 ypp, Defense 21.00 ypp
7. Texas: Offense 9.83 ypp, Defense 22.52 ypp
8. Tennessee: Offense 11.97 ypp, Defense 15.04 ypp
9. Auburn: Offense 12.99 ypp, Defense 24.47 ypp
10. California: Offense 11.33 ypp, Defense 17.55
11. Clemson: Offense 10.87 ypp, Defense 16.87 ypp
12. Georgia: Offense 11.22 ypp, Defense 18.19 ypp
13. Iowa: Offense 13.63 ypp, Defense 19.38 ypp
14. Notre Dame: Offense 12.55 ypp, Defense 14.67 ypp
15. Georgia Tech: Offense 12.33 ypp, Defense 17.02 ypp
16. LSU: Offense 11.9 ypp, Defense 20.92 ypp
17. Oregon: Offense 12.68 ypp, Defense 13.28 ypp
18. Missouri: Offense 12.39 ypp. Defense 21.61 ypp
19. Arkansas: Offense 16.73 ypp, Defense 16.26 ypp
20. Nebraska: Offense 11.68 ypp, Defense 21.05 ypp
21. Boise State: Offense 10.52 ypp, Defense 20.72 ypp
22. Oklahoma: Offense 12.26 ypp, Defense 15.31 ypp
23. Va Tech: Offense 10.53 ypp, Defense 19.98 ypp
24. Rutgers: Offense 10.62 ypp, Defense 23.34 ypp
25. Wisconsin: Offense 12.40 ypp, Defense 19.27 ypp

So what does that mean? Well I look for two things:

1) High ypp offense or low ypp defense. These are the teams who aren't playing very efficiently, and that may lead to losses in the future.
* Florida 14.25 ypp offense. They've throw 6 INTs and missed numerous field goals.
* Arkansas 16.73 ypp offense. Averaging 21.2 points on 354.6 yards. That is not nearly enough point production to defeat a team like Tennessee, and yards will be hard to come by against LSU.
* Tennessee 15.04 ypp defense. Opponents are scoring way too easily.
* Notre Dame 14.67 ypp defense. Then again, we already knew UND's defense was weak.
* Oregon 13.28 ypp defense. Good lord. Some of the top offenses aren't averaging the kind of efficiency they're giving up every week.
* Oklahoma 15.31 ypp defense. The big play is killing them; they've got to turn some of these long TDs at least into long plays into the red zone (if not just stopping them altogether), where they have the chance to force a turnover or field goal.

2) Extremely low ypp offense or extremely high ypp defense. The idea here is that they're playing extrememly efficiently, but that might not last all season.
* Texas 9.83 ypp offense. The Horns aren't moving the ball that well, but defense and special teams are helping. How long will that last? Even the 05 Texas and USC offenses weren't this efficient.
* WVA, Boise State, Va Tech, Rutgers < 11 ypp offense. What this really says is that most of their opposition is just too weak to stop a drive.
* Ohio State 32.33 ypp. They're relying a little too heavily on the other team turning the ball over and missing FGs. I don't know that I've ever seen a team finish with a ypp over 30.

Of course, with the teams just starting to get into the meat of their schedules, these numbers aren't as telling as they will be in a few weeks. Just something to keep in mind...