April 23, 2014

Numerical View of CFB + Turnover Report

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We are now about 30% (based on the number of games) into the college football season and have a fairly representative sample size for the statistics and charts below.

An interesting move this week as the “Winning Team Covers” stat took a nose dive. In 2011 over 75% of the times a team won it covered the spread and that trend continued within a point or two into the first several weeks of 2012. This week it took a nose dive to just under 70%.


2012 Summary5
The other drop we often see as conference play begins is a drop in the “Home Team Wins” category. For the most part the cupcakes have been feasted upon and the home vs. away stat winning stat becomes much closer for the rest of the season.

The two stats that continue to amaze me (in relation to 2011) are penalties and turnovers. There was a slight uptick in teams with less penalty yards winning in week 5, but the number is still well below 50% and almost 9 percentage points behind 2011s number. Turnovers are by far the most changed category from last year.

Turnovers have been much more important in 2012 than in 2011 in terms of winning and losing. I have no idea why that is, but at this point it’s hard to imagine this stat reverting back to the 2011 number over the course of the season. With that in mind, I thought it would be a great time to do our “Turnover Report”, which shows the winning percentage for the number of turnovers a team has (independent of any other stats). Notice the precipitous drop when a team goes from 1 turnover to 2. That’s the point your odds of winning drop below 50%.

Turnover Report12

So when your team takes the field today, don’t be disturbed by the early turnover – be disturbed by the second turnover that happens later in the game – your odds of winning just plummeted.

Stats That Are Important

Besides the obvious – points scored – there are 6 stats that correlate to a 70% or better chance at winning. Some you would expect, some you wouldn’t, but the big one that is NOT on the list below is turnovers.

I explained a while back that while turnovers are important, they are far down the list of stats you need to be better at than your opponent to win the game. For example, have a lower yard per pass attempt average than your opponent and you have only a 21.18% chance of winning the game. Approximately 2 in 10. Lose the turnover battle and you still have a 43.20% chance of winning – more than double the odds of winning when you have a lower yard per pass attempt average.


Important Stats

The other note I want to make is that these are not solely focused on offense. Obviously, the better your defense the less likely the chance an opponent is going to average more yards rushing  or more yards per pass attempt.

Finally, headed into the 2012 season this appears to be a mixed bag for Clemson. We all know what the Clemson offense can do, averging 7.53 yards per pass in 2011. On the flip side, the Clemson defense gave up 7.30 yards per pass in 2011 and the Clemson Tigers aren’t very deep in the secondary, so that’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

Debunking College Football Myths – Myth #5 – Rushing the football and stopping the rush are the most important stats

While it’s true that rushing more than times than your opponent (71.51%), rushing for more yards (74.26%) and averaging more yards per rush (73.07%) correlate highly to winning games, there’s one statistic that has them beat. Outgain your opponent in this one category and you have a 78.82% chance of winning the game. What is this stat? Its yards per pass attempt.

Tajh Boyd (orangeandwhite.com)

Over the course of the 2011 season winning teams averaged 8.19 yards per pass, while the losers came in at 6.23.

This is also amplified when you look at the related statistics: Though the losing teams threw 5 more passes per game, losers averaged 26 yards less per game passing. Winning teams gain more yards, despite having less attempts.

This is obviously related to teams being behind and throwing on every play, thereby having more incompletions and less yards per pass attempt, in general.

Of course, outgaining your opponents in these areas is half reliant on your defense. If your offense averages 8 yards per pass, but your defense gives up 8.3 yards per pass, you’re likely to lose.

Clemson is a good case study here because of their dynamic offense and sometimes porous defense.

The Tigers gave up 7.30 yards per pass attempt in 2011 and finished ranked 78th in that category; very close to the bottom third of the entire NCAA D1, yet still won the ACC and 10 games, beating Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech (twice) along the way.

How did Clemson accomplish this with such a weak defense? The Tigers also averaged 7.53 yards per pass themselves, thereby earning a net difference of +0.23 yards per attempt.

More evidence you say? In 3 of the 4 Tiger losses Clemson had a lower yard per pass attempt than their opponent. In 8 of 10 Tiger wins Clemson averaged more yards per pass attempt than the opponent.