Tebow vs. Daniel: Passing

November 26, 2007

This is a comparison of the passing performances of the two leading Heisman candidates: Tim Tebow and Chase Daniel. When talking about schedules, the ranks and stats of only I-A opponents are factored in, while the stats the QBs accumulated in games against I-AA teams are not removed from their overall stats. Tebow gets a freebie for Western Kentucky; Daniel gets a freebie for Illinois State.

Also, the term “BCS team” refers to any team that plays in one of the 6 BCS conferences, plus Notre Dame. Also, all stats are pulled from the NCAA website.

It’s crunch time for the Heisman race. The major statistics for Tebow and Daniel line up as follows:


First, let’s just look at raw numbers. It should be evident that Daniel’s higher yardage is due to more attempts. Daniel is slightly more accurate, so to compare the two, I’ll go by yards per attempt. Tebow has thrown for 9.89 yards/attempt, and Daniel has thrown for 7.98 yards/attempt. Given those rates, if Tebow had 495 attempts, he’d throw for 4,895 yards – 944 more than Daniel did; if Daniel had 317 attempts, he’d throw for 2,530 yards – 605 fewer than Tebow.

As for TDs and INTs, the picture changes as well when you adjust those for attempts as has been done with yards. Tebow has thrown a TD every 10.93 attempts and an INT every 52.83 attempts. Daniel has thrown a TD every 15 attempts and an INT every 55 attempts. Keeping those rates in mind, given Daniel’s attempts Tebow would throw for 45 TD and 9 INTs; given Tebow’s attempts Daniel would throw 21 TDs and 5 INTs.

In chart form:

Tim Tebow’s and Chase Daniel’s expected stats given the same success rates with the amount of attempts reversed.

However, this all ignores a confounding factor – opposing defenses.

Tebow vs. Daniel: Passing, when Defense is Accounted for

The average pass defense rank among BCS teams 56.68, and I use BCS teams as a baseline to eliminate the truly horrible defenses of a lot of the bottom feeders like most of the WAC and Sun Belt. The average rank of the pass defenses that Florida has faced is 33.36, which is 41.46% above the average pass defense. The average rank of the pass defenses that Missouri has faced this year is 72.27, which is 27.51% below the average pass defense.

While pass defense rankings have merit, it could be that the Tigers’ opponents’ average pass defense is so much worse because they are ordered on passing yards allowed per game and the Big 12 runs a higher percentage of passing plays than the SEC does. It could be attempts muddying the waters again.

So, let’s again look at yards per attempt. The average yards per attempt given up by the defenses of Florida’s opponents is 6.24. Tebow threw for 9.88 yards per attempt, or 58.43% above what you’d expect given the schedule. The average yards per attempt given up by the defenses of Missouri’s opponents is 6.87. Daniel threw for 7.98 yards per attempt, or 16.11% above what you’d expect given the schedule. So while both did better than you’d expect a QB facing their schedules, Tebow did 58% better than expected given his opponents while Daniel did only 16% better than expected given his opponents.

Well, what about yards per completion? Some of those incompletions could have been throwaways, drops, or passes batted down at the line and not bad throws by the quarterback. The average yards per completion given up by the defenses of Florida’s opponents is 10.91. Tebow threw for 14.43 yards per attempt, or 32.26% above what you’d expect given the schedule. The average yards per attempt given up by the defenses of Missouri’s opponents is 11.58. Daniel threw for 11.32 yards per attempt, or 2.28% above what you’d expect given the schedule. So while both did better than you’d expect a QB facing their schedules, Tebow did 32% better than expected given his opponents while Daniel did only 2% better than expected given his opponents.

Finally, pass efficiency. The average passing efficiency allowed by the defenses of Florida’s opponents is 116.28. Tebow has a passing efficiency of 177.9, or 52.99% above what you’d expect given the schedule. The average passing efficiency by the defenses of Missouri’s opponents is 127.16. Daniel has a passing efficiency of 155.9, or 22.60% above what you’d expect given the schedule. So while both did better than you’d expect a QB facing their schedules, Tebow did 53% better than expected given his opponents the mean while Daniel did only 23% better than expected given his opponents.

Once you account for the schedules they played, Tim Tebow has performed better as a passer than Chase Daniel has in every way this year.

Tebow vs. Daniel: Passing, Relative to Each’s Conference

Now, let’s look at how Tebow and Daniel stack up within their conferences.

In terms of yards per attempt, the average in the SEC is 6.25 yards per attempt. Tebow‘s again was 9.88, or 57.98% above the average for the conference. The average in the Big 12 was 7.06 yards per attempt. Daniel‘s again was 7.98, or only 13.11% above average for the conference. Tebow has vastly outperformed his peers, while Daniel has bested his peers by a much smaller margin.

In terms of yards per completion, the average in the SEC is 11.28 yards per completion. Tebow‘s again was 14.43, or 27.96% above the average for the conference. The average in the Big 12 was 11.52 yards per attempt. Daniel‘s again was 11.32, or 1.74% below average for the conference. Tebow has clearly outperformed his peers, while Daniel has actually underperformed slightly versus his peers.

In terms of passing efficiency, the average for SEC quarterbacks is 115. Tebow‘s again was 177.9, or 54.70% above the average for the conference. The average for Big 12 quarterbacks was 130.43. Daniel‘s again was 155.9, or only 19.52% above average for the conference. Tebow has vastly outperformed his peers, while Daniel has bested his peers by a much smaller margin.

Tebow vs. Daniel: Passing Efficiency if Schedules Switched

Finally and just to drive home the point, let’s look at passing efficiency if Tim Tebow and Chase Daniel switched schedules somehow.

Tebow outperformed his expected passing efficiency by 52.99%; Daniel outperformed his expected passing efficiency by 22.60%. The expected passing efficiency for Tebow’s schedule is 116.28; the expected passing efficiency for Daniel’s schedule is 127.16. Taking all those numbers into account, Daniel would be expected to have a passing efficiency of 142.57 (below his actual number against his schedule) while Tebow would be expected to have a passing efficiency of 194.54, 14 points higher than Sam Bradford, the current leader (Tebow is #2).

Conclusion

No matter how you slice it or how you compare, Tim Tebow has been a better passing quarterback than Chase Daniel this year. Keep in mind that this study doesn’t even account rushing, a category where Tebow is in a completely different universe than Daniel. It doesn’t tell you that Tebow has accumulated 51 touchdowns to Daniel’s 36.

The Heisman Trophy is supposed to go to the most outstanding player in college football. Since Tim Tebow has outperformed Chase Daniel in every way, you cannot possibly vote Chase Daniel #1 on your ballot because we know of at least one quarterback who has been more outstanding than he has been, never mind players of other positions. Tim Tebow has been more outstanding, and must be voted above Chase Daniel on any Heisman ballot.

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