Know Thy Enemy: Matthew Stafford

May 29, 2008

One of the most critical players for Georgia in 2008 is QB Matthew Stafford.

Georgia’s running game will should be excellent thanks to Knowshon Moreno’s brilliance and the emergence of redshirt freshman Caleb King. At some point though, teams will stack the box to stop the running game and dare Stafford to beat them through the air.

Stafford has basically been a starter since he walked in the door at Georgia. He has finished 86th and 56th in the country in passing efficiency in his two years. Those aren’t terrible results for true freshman and sophomore years, but he finished behind and tied with UCF quarterbacks Steven Moffett and Kyle Israel. If you’ve watched any UCF football the past two seasons, you know that’s not a good sign.

I now present Stafford’s production in 2007. I’ve ignored the Western Carolina game, since you don’t learn anything about good I-A teams when they play bad I-AA teams, and the “expected” production is based off of the stats of each of his opponents. Values are rounded off to two decimal places, so they may not always add up, but I promise that Excel’s not lying.

Stafford in 2007
Actual Expected
Completions 180 230
Attempts 328 396
Comp. Pct 54.88% 58.08%
Yards 2349 2597
Yards/Game 195.75 216.42
Yards/Comp. 13.05 11.31
Yards/Att. 7.16 6.56
TDs 17 17
TD Pct 5.18% 4.29%
INT 10 13
INT Pct 3.05% 3.28%

Stafford was a little better at throwing touchdowns, avoiding interceptions, and gaining yards than the average quarterback given his schedule. He was not quite as accurate though, with a completion percentage about 3.20% below the expected figure. These stats also show that Georgia generally ran the ball more than the average offense that played against Stafford’s slate of opposing defenses as he had 68 fewer pass attempts than would be expected.

Georgia in the second half of the season was a lot better than Georgia in the first half of the season. The defense and Moreno appeared to be the main drivers of the change, but a rising tide lifts all boats, right? Maybe Stafford played a bigger role in the turnaround than he got credit for.

Here are the same stats for the first and second halves of the season. The first half again leaves out Western Carolina. The second half begins with the Florida game and includes the bowl game.

Stafford in First 6 Games of ’07
Actual Expected
Completions 101 118
Attempts 188 199
Comp. Pct 53.72% 59.30%
Yards 1190 1345
Yards/Game 198.33 224.13
Yards/Comp. 11.78 11.36
Yards/Att. 6.33 6.76
TDs 8 9
TD Pct 4.26% 4.52%
INT 4 7
INT Pct 2.13% 3.52%

For the first half, Stafford was average across the board. He was better at avoiding interceptions than would be expected, but he was a lot worse in accuracy. His completion percentage lagged the expected level of production by 5.58%. You’ll also notice that his attempts were nearly even with the projected amount.

Stafford in Last 6 Games of ’07
Actual Expected
Completions 79 111
Attempts 140 196
Comp. Pct 56.43% 56.63%
Yards 1159 1253
Yards/Game 193.17 208.81
Yards/Comp. 14.67 11.36
Yards/Att. 8.28 6.39
TDs 9 8
TD Pct 6.43% 4.08%
INT 6 6
INT Pct 4.29% 3.06%

Georgia, as you would expect, ran the ball a lot more in the second half. Stafford’s attempts dropped by 48 from the first half, and his total was way below the expected amount. His accuracy was better, basically even with the projected figure. His yardage and touchdown rates went up, but his interception rate more than doubled.

Stafford clearly benefited from the emergence of Moreno. As teams had to focus on the run game more, his production improved. His accuracy wasn’t great, but it was better than it had been. He was at his best when he wasn’t asked to carry the offense, but sophomores aren’t generally asked to do so.

A natural comparison point for him is David Greene. Stafford is on track to start all four years (should he stay all four), and Greene did that for the Bulldogs earlier this decade. Through their first two years, Greene has a definite edge having put up better numbers in nearly every statistical category in his freshman year than Stafford did in his sophomore year. Greene’s passing efficiency actually was lower his sophomore year, but his 137.3 mark was still better than Stafford’s 128.9 mark a year ago.

So, Matthew Stafford isn’t quite David Greene, but he doesn’t have to be to lead Georgia to a conference title and more. He must improve significantly this offseason though, since I doubt that completing 56% of his passes will be enough against Georgia’s tough schedule. Opponents will be keying on the run and daring him to beat them.

The good news for Georgia fans is that good quarterbacks traditionally make the jump from average to great as a junior. Plus, Mark Richt has had a good track record with grooming quarterbacks throughout his career. Those two elements will need to work in concert in order for Georgia to live up to its national title aspirations and the expectations of some like those at and who believe that Stafford will be a top ten pick in 2009’s NFL draft.

If you’ve spent any time at, you’ve probably seen Peter Schrager’s article on whether Stafford or Tim Tebow is the better quarterback. The main argument in Stafford’s favor is that he won more games as a starter last year, ignoring the disparity in Florida and Georgia’s running games and defenses. He also conveniently ignores Tebow’s shoulder injury when discussing their performances against each other. He finally mentions that draft guru Rob Rang believes Stafford will be a better NFL QB because of coming from a pro-style offense and his “better accuracy.”

I’m not exactly sure of what Rang means by better accuracy, considering the stats above and Tebow’s 66.37% completion rate. Tebow showed all year that he is a better passer than Stafford, as his performance in both raw and relative numbers beat Stafford’s in every category:

Tebow in 2007
Actual Expected
Completions 221 226
Attempts 333 395
Comp. Pct 66.37% 57.22%
Yards 2986 2457
Yards/Game 248.83 204.73
Yards/Comp. 13.51 10.88
Yards/Att. 8.97 6.22
TDs 29 17
TD Pct 8.71% 4.30%
INT 6 15
INT Pct 1.80% 3.80%

These are just Tebow’s passing stats; they don’t even account for his performance running the ball. You may also notice that his number of attempts was about the same as Stafford’s, so you can’t argue that the difference had to do with Florida having a more pass-friendly offense. Tebow’s year-long performance also beats Stafford’s second half in all of the rates and ratios except yards per completion.

Will Stafford blossom into an elite quarterback in 2008? History says the conditions are right, though it’s not clear how much of the offensive burden he’ll be asked to shoulder. The real measuring stick in 2008 will be the rates and ratios since he won’t have as many attempts as other top QBs. He basically was slightly above average in 2007, but how much of that was him and how much of that was the team’s rising tide lifting him is unclear.

Now that opposing defensive coordinators have had a whole offseason to work on the Knowshon Moreno problem, it will be up to Stafford to play well enough to keep defenses from stacking the line. His play will determine whether the 2008 Bulldogs will be merely great or one of the elite teams in the NCAA.

Paterno: Anti-Playoff Arguments are “Bogus”

May 28, 2008

Joe Paterno has come out in favor of a college football playoff, calling the reasons why one does not exist “bogus.” He rejects the academics-based arguments against a playoff, like players missing class and that having a two semester sport is bad thing, by noting the length of the basketball season. That carries some weight coming from perhaps the only active major college football coach who has endowed a library at his university. He also says the champion “should be decided on the field.”

Knows what’s going on.

This is not really breaking news, considering that Paterno has apparently been in favor of a playoff for some time. It is relevant right now though, since this off season the playoff debate has raged on more so than in past years as more and more people speak out.

The BCS has been criticized since its inception for not providing a satisfying finish to the season. Then last year, we had UF President Bernie Machen’s short-lived playoff proposal that got shot down at conference meetings. This year, we’ve had university presidents, congressmen, and the SEC and ACC commissioners come out in favor of a playoff. FSU President T.K. Wetherell has gone so far as to call a playoff inevitable and has further debunked some anti-playoff arguments himself.

The Big Ten, Pac 10, and Rose Bowl are generally targeted as the villains who are obstructing progress towards a playoff, though Big 12 President Dan Beebe has been just as consistent in his opposition too.

Paterno reminding the world that he is in favor of a playoff is a crack in the unified façade that the Big Ten has tried to project. It’s not likely to change much though, since Paterno has held the belief for a long time without it making a difference, and Penn State is the newcomer to the conference anyway. Plus, Paterno will not be coaching the 10-15 years more that he joked he would.

Paterno’s belief also does something else: it proves that “old guys” aren’t all in favor of the bowl system. That idea is something that has been an unspoken undercurrent to many of the pro-playoff arguments I’ve seen: old guys clinging to old ways are blocking the flow of Progress*.

Paterno is older than every bowl except the Rose, and only 8 bowls that are currently still playing existed when he took over as head coach at Penn State: the Rose (first game in 1902), Orange (1935), Sugar (1935), Sun (1935), Cotton (1937), Gator (1947), Tangerine/Florida Citrus/Capital One (1947), and Liberty (1959). JoePa coaching in State College, PA is more of a tradition than the Peach Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, or any other bowl you can name are.

Paterno is also not in favor of the rule requiring coaches voting in the Coaches’ Poll to select the winner of the BCS championship game as #1. His frustration with that rule stems from 2004 when he wanted to vote for Auburn as national champion. I’ll let JoePa himself sum it all up:

“They said, ‘Well, you’ve got to vote or else you can’t participate.’ So I will not participate in the voting. Not that I’m against what other people want to do, it’s just that philosophically I think you ought to win it on the field. If I have to vote for somebody only because people have said these are the two teams that ought to be in the BCS championship game and I think they left somebody out that probably ought to be in it, that’s when I’ll feel a playoff ought to be appropriate. I’ve always been for a playoff.”

*Decidedly old guy Beano Cook is in favor of a plus one system, so it’s not just Paterno.

Happy Memorial Day!

May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day everyone! More content will return tomorrow or the day after. I’m traveling this weekend, so I don’t know when I’ll have something new available.

In the meantime, enjoy your day off and don’t forget why you have it off.

Chicago Bulls Hit the Jackpot

May 21, 2008

A bizarre season for the Chicago Bulls that was filled with more losing than anyone expected has been capped off by an improbable win.

Despite a 1.7% chance of gaining the first overall pick, the Bulls hit the jackpot and won the draft lottery. Chicago’s season began with talks about a potential Kobe Bryant trade involving a number of its young players, and most observers cite that as the cause of the Bulls’ unexpected slide.

It would be in Chicago’s best interest to choose a coach before the draft because of the fork in the road the team now faces: Michael Beasley or Derrick Rose? What style of play the coach wants to have will make that choice a lot clearer. A half court-oriented guy would probably favor Beasley; a more uptempo guy would probably favor Rose.

Beasley is a great talent, but he plays a position the Bulls are stocked at. They have Drew Gooden, who is inconsistent but talented, and Tyrus Thomas, who still at just 21 years of age could develop into a great player. They also have Joakim Noah, who despite being listed at center is really a power forward who can run. If they draft Beasley, you have to figure Gooden or Thomas will be moved.

Rose would make an easier transition into the team. Chicago signed Kirk Hinrich to an extension that paid him over $11 million last year, but his scoring and shooting dropped off. Chris Duhon is an unrestricted free agent this summer, so they could just let him go if they draft Rose. Hinrich would be awfully expensive as a backup if Rose beats him out, but thanks to Rose making rookie money it could work financially in the short term.

With the attention that Chris Paul and Deron Williams have been generating, along with the recent MVPs for Steve Nash, I have a hard time seeing the Bulls going with Beasley right now. Top-notch point guards are nearly as rare as dominant centers are, and the evolution in the NBA’s style of play combined with recent rule changes favor great point guards.

Beasley or Rose? Rose or Beasley? Whatever the outcome, you can be sure it’s a choice that Chicago is glad it has to make.

Fulmer versus Brown: The First Decade

May 20, 2008

Mack Brown has completed his first decade at Texas, and some Texas fans are wondering if he is on the hot seat. Brown has won a national title, but the perception of some is that he can’t win The Big One without Vince Young. He also has struggled against his rival Oklahoma, something that has never made Longhorns happy. To make matters worse, he has lost his last two against Texas A&M.

The situation reminded me most of Tennessee in the 1990s under Phillip Fulmer. He had a national title but ended up getting overshadowed by division rival Florida in the decade. I decided to go back and compare Fulmer’s first ten seasons with Brown’s ten years at Texas.

For the purpose of evening things out, I included Fulmer’s four games as coach in 1992 after Johnny Majors got fired to make up for the extra games Brown got thanks to 12-game seasons. The AP Top 10 refers to teams that finished the year in the top 10. For Fulmer, “Rival” means Florida; for Brown, “Rival” means Oklahoma.

Fulmer vs. Brown, First Decade
Fulmer Brown
Record 103-25 103-25
National Titles 1 1
Conference Titles 2 1
Division Titles 3 2
vs. AP Top 10 7-14 (.333) 4-15 (.211)
vs. Rival 2-8 (.200) 4-6 (.400)
Heisman Finalists 1 (Manning) 1 (V. Young)

Those two slates are remarkably close. Fulmer did better against the top 10, but Brown did better against his rival school. Brown’s first win against OU did come before Bob Stoops got there, so Mack has gone 3-6 (.333) against his foil.

There have been some key differences: Brown so far has mostly avoided the rash of off-the-field incidents that have plagued Fulmer, while Fulmer won his national title without his Heisman runner up. Brown had more 10-win seasons, but three of them were 10-3 seasons that would have been 9-3 years without the 12th game against a cupcake.

It’s impossible to say where Texas will go in Brown’s second decade. Fulmer has won two more division titles so far in his second decade, but he did have an inexplicable 5-6 record in 2005. The Longhorn faithful point to 2009 as their next best chance to contend for a title, so we shall see.

I just find it funny that the best analogue for Brown’s tenure at UT just so happens to be the other UT: Tennessee.

The Proliferation of Non-Saturday Games

May 19, 2008

Football used to be organized neatly into three days: Friday for high school, Saturday for college, and Sunday for the professionals. Sure, sometimes the pros played on Thursdays or on Saturdays after the college season was over, but they’re money-grubbing professionals. Maximizing profit is what they do.

Then, the past few seasons drove a huge semi truck of disorganization through the scheme as colleges figured out that by playing games on days other than Saturday, they could get more exposure. Drum up some more interest in the program, as it were. ESPN, being run by money-grubbing professionals, has been more than happy to accommodate the trend.

Of course Thursday night college football has been going on since at least 1997, but in the rush to saturate life with as much football as possible, we’ve been getting football on nearly every night of the week. This fall, it continues as we will have college football on every day of the week at some point.

I’ve been going through schedules and though I haven’t finished yet, I have found some Sunday games. Louisville and Kentucky play on the Sunday before Labor Day, which makes sense seeing as how that’s before the NFL begins. UCF appears undeterred by the pros though, as it has two Sunday games in a row: at Tulsa on October 26 and against East Carolina on November 2. As far as I can tell, Labor Day is the only Monday to have a college game.

Tuesday games are rare, and a bad idea in general, but that’s not deterring Houston from meeting Marshall on Tuesday, October 28. Wednesday games also are a bad idea, but Kansas State is still traveling to Louisville on Wednesday, September 17.

There are more Thursday contests than ever it seems, as schools demonstrate a lack of understanding of the law of diminishing returns, and there’s a smattering of Friday games as well. So much for letting the high schools have their day.

The astute observer will note that Louisville’s name came up twice. There is a good reason for that – the Cardinals play only 6 Saturday games all season. Half of their games are elsewhere in the week, with three Thursday games, and one each on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday.

I suppose there must be some sort of bonus for this, more TV revenue perhaps, but if I was a Louisville fan I’d be upset. I mean, playing that many games on non-Saturdays is like begging for attention. Louisville has won a BCS game and just put a quarterback in the NFL. It shouldn’t feel the need to get so much extra attention. Plus, after what happened last year, Louisville might want to shore up the defense some before putting it on proud display.

If nothing else, the proliferation of weekday games shows that university presidents are just blowing smoke when they say that academics are part of why they oppose a playoff. We knew that already, but West Virginia sending its team all the way to Colorado for a Thursday game or Navy of all schools visiting Northern Illinois on a Tuesday proves once and for all what a sack of lies that excuse is.

Just ask Louisville.

Charity Bowl Update: Over $20,000 Raised

May 16, 2008

If you recall, earlier this week I implored you to give for the EDSBS/ Charity Bowl. It was a donation drive for cyclone, tornado, and earthquake relief.

I am pleased to report that between Monday morning and 8 pm EDT Wednesday night that the donation total was $20,176. That’s phenomenal, considering it was mainly spearheaded by college football blogs and we are now in the depths of the off season.

The winning school was Michigan, coming through with $7,260. It was by far the most and more than the next 6 schools combined. Thanks to the Wolverines for stepping up. Ohio State finished second (natch), with $2,550. Florida finished a respectable third with $1,820.

This really makes me hope that we try this again during the season when readership is at its highest. If we can raised $20,000 in three days while over 100 days from the start of the season, there’s no telling what we could do in the Fall.

The Logistics of Paying College Athletes

May 15, 2008

The firestorm surrounding O.J. Mayo allegedly taking benefits for the last four years was quickly followed by the same litany of questions surrounding NCAA athletics that have lingered for years. The issue I am focusing on here is the question of paying players.

It’s a very emotional argument for many people. Some think it’s nothing short of a crime that players of revenue sports don’t receive a salary. Others prefer to keep college athletics strictly an enterprise for amateur athletes, and not paying players is about the last thing they have left for arguing that college football and basketball players are still amateurs.

There are some very complex logistics to go over for setting up a player payment system, some of which I’ll detail below. Just remember: for the NCAA, image is everything. Whatever system is set up will have to have the image of being equal to both large and small schools, even if it breaks down in the details. That’s why the Patriot League still gets auto-bids to the NCAA tournament.

Issue 1: Scholarships

Scholarships, and their accompanying benefits like housing and meal plans, are the compensation that college athletes currently receive. They have real value, and the money to pay for them comes from somewhere. Just because athletes can’t convert their meal plan allowance into cash to buy a TV doesn’t mean scholarships don’t count as compensation for playing.

Will they count as a part of the salaried athlete’s total compensation package? After all, a scholarship to FIU and a scholarship to Stanford are drastically different in value. If so, then expensive schools will have a disadvantage because they won’t be able to pay as high a salary. If not, then expensive schools have an edge since they will be offering a more valuable total package than less expensive schools.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll assume that scholarships won’t count towards the payment. Athletes don’t pick schools by trying to get the greatest amount of free tuition, and the NCAA doesn’t seem to mind that scholarships have unequal value. I still would expect the issue to come up in any serious internal NCAA debate.

Issue 2: How much?

This issue is the most critical. The professional leagues set salary caps based on total league revenue, but college athletics are a lot less centralized. Plus, the professional clubs have only one team and sport to worry about.

TV contracts in college are done with conferences, not the NCAA, so each conference starts off with a different amount of TV revenue. Add to that the differing sizes of fan bases and drastically different sizes of stadiums and arenas, and you have a huge financial puzzle to try to solve.

The NCAA won’t let some conferences pay more than others, because that would not be an equal system. It won’t go with a salary cap and floor, because some schools will have no choice but to pay the minimum while others take advantage by paying the maximum. With that in mind, how do you set the pay rate?

If you base it on the conference with the least ability to pay, then you get a large gap between revenues and player compensation at the big money makers and little has changed. If you base it on the conference with the greatest ability to pay, then you price out the little guys even more than what we have today.

Once you’re done figuring that out, how do you determine where to set the pay rate for each different sport? And how do you know which sport generated a hat or shirt purchase if it just has the school logo and nothing else on it?

Issue 3: Revenue Sharing

Revenue sharing does exist on some level in college football, since smaller conferences get a cut of the BCS money whether they had a team in the BCS or not. It will probably have to exist in a much bigger way if player salaries get approved.

The revenue sports provide the money that allows all other sports to exist. Even with football and basketball being generally profitable ventures, some schools’ athletic departments struggle just to break even. Others don’t even come close. If the NCAA is going to force teams to pay players on top of everything else, some sort of revenue sharing will have to occur.

The money disparity within even major conferences can be pretty large. The amount of money that Florida, Georgia, and Alabama can spend is significantly greater than what Ole Miss and Mississippi State can spend. Beyond that, I have a hard time seeing Jim Delaney wanting to allow any profits generated by his baby, the Big Ten Network, paying for player salaries at Bowling Green or Akron.

When a pro team doesn’t spend a lot of money, a new owner can purchase the team and spend more on players. You can’t tell a small university to suddenly expand its student base to bring in more athletic fees, graduate more future boosters, and better pull its weight in generating money. Let’s also not forget that colleges have to build and maintain all their own facilities; pro teams get city, county, and sometimes state taxpayers to pay for theirs.

Then you get the issue of donations. The big money schools make a lot of money off of donations. There’s no way whatsoever that the NCAA can take donation money away from one school and give it to another. How heavily do those gifts factor in the revenue sharing equation when divvying up TV money?

Issue 4: The Star Treatment

I don’t know if it would ever come up in real NCAA discussions, but I know a lot of fans have expressed an interest in having star players get more money than others. If the NCAA did talk about uneven play scales for players, it would probably get dismissed pretty quickly because that’s not equal for everyone.

I can’t imagine the schools supporting it either. Inevitably, someone will promise a pile of money for a high profile recruit. That will cause everyone to have to do the same to have a chance of landing the kid. Then, someone like Tim Floyd or Billy Gillespie will start promising money to ever younger athletes as they already have done with scholarships. I doubt many coaches will want to get into bidding wars over middle schoolers.

If you try to make pay adjustable based on performance, you would open a Pandora’s Box of lawsuits. If Jimmy Benchwarmer is upset that he doesn’t get to play, he might suspect his lack of playing time is because the coach has secret deals ensuring levels of payment to other players. There have been many coaches in college football’s history that would do that very thing, and it would get very ugly if Jimmy’s dad is John Benchwarmer, Esq.

Issue 5: Pay All the Divisions’ Athletes?

How many divisions are going to have to pay players? Will I-AA football teams have to pay players too? What about the bottom of Division I basketball? Will Binghamton of the America East Conference have to pay as much as Wichita State of the MVC will? And will WSU have to pay as much as Duke will?

If the NCAA tries to make some sort of rule saying a program has to make a certain amount of money in order to pay players, there could be some interesting cooking of the books to avoid that threshold for schools that don’t want to pay players. Or, aspiring schools might fudge some numbers to appear above that threshold to get the recruiting benefits that come with paying players.

The NCAA already doesn’t spend enough on rule enforcement. I can’t imagine it wanting to spend a fortune on auditors too.

Issue 6: How Many Sports?

How many sports will the payments extend to? Football and men’s basketball are the obvious targets, but other sports could be revenue generators at other schools.

Until Bruce Pearl showed up, I’d bet that Tennessee made more money off of women’s basketball than men’s basketball. UConn probably makes a nice amount off of that sport too. However, most schools don’t make money off of women’s basketball.

Will only some schools have to pay their women’s basketball players but not other ones? If that happens, all of the best players will all sign exclusively with the schools that pay players. The barrier to putting together a successful women’s basketball program will have been significantly raised.

What about the non-revenue generating sports? It’s not the swimmers’ faults that thousands of people don’t flock to meets. Universities are non-profit organizations, so the usual rules of capitalism don’t strictly apply to them. And what if a school voluntarily wants to pay athletes in non-revenue sports? Will that be allowed?

Issue 7: Title IX

Title IX is the biggest issue, primarily because federal law is now in play. The law states:

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

That’s right; violate Title IX and you can lose federal funding. No university wants to play with that fire. A school can prove it is in compliance by passing any one of the “prongs” of the “three-prong test”:

  1. Prong one – Providing athletic opportunities that are substantially proportionate to the student enrollment, OR
  2. Prong two – Demonstrate a continual expansion of athletic opportunities for the underrepresented sex, OR
  3. Prong three – Full and effective accommodation of the interest and ability of underrepresented sex.

The sudden new spending on player salaries in revenue sports – generally football and men’s basketball – would require a proportional increase of spending on women’s athletics to stay in compliance with Title IX. The alternative would be continuing to eliminate other men’s sports to help bring back balance.

Neither of those alternatives is appealing to universities. Even the most cutthroat football factories still do care about fielding teams in as many different sports as they can afford, but they are not going to want to have to pour huge sums of money into sports that don’t provide financial returns. Until and unless Title IX is amended to exempt football, paying players a salary is very unlikely to happen.

* * *

If anything, I hope I have showed that the issue of paying players is a lot more complex than just increasing stipends for football and basketball players. Plus, one of the reasons the BCS plus-one system was rejected was that it would make college football too much like a professional league. There’s plenty wrong with that statement, but “preserving amateurism” is a big deal for the NCAA and the conferences.

It certainly seems unfair that athletes in revenue sports bring in a disproportionate amount of money compared to the value of their scholarships. However, I honestly think we’ll see a college football playoff before we see college athletes get salaries. In other words, don’t hold your breath.

Scoring Drive Percentage

May 14, 2008

Yesterday I took a look at some punting stats from last year, and that was nice but I couldn’t compare them relatively because I didn’t have information on how many drives each team had.

Well, I did my best to approximate how many drives everyone had by adding up punts, lost fumbles, interceptions thrown, field goal attempts, failed fourth down conversions, and offensive touchdowns. That leaves out drives ended by halves, but there are only two of those per game and they often are just teams kneeling to run out the clock anyway. It also leaves out safeties, but I can’t find any stats on those and they’re pretty rare anyway.

All stats came from the NCAA, except field goals which curiously aren’t kept in a nice list. Those I got from ESPN.

Out of that, I calculated the percentage of drives a team scored on. The top ten are as follows:

  1. Florida – 57.43%
  2. Navy – 56.94%
  3. Kansas – 52.63
  4. Texas Tech – 52.20%
  5. Missouri – 52.00%
  6. Boise State – 51.76%
  7. Oklahoma – 51.67%
  8. LSU – 51.40%
  9. Hawaii – 50.57%
  10. West Virginia – 48.80%

The bottom ten are as follows:

  1. FIU – 17.54%
  2. Army – 20.37%
  3. Notre Dame – 20.65%
  4. Duke – 20.78%
  5. Baylor – 20.96%
  6. Syracuse – 22.82%
  7. Temple – 23.53%
  8. Iowa – 23.97%
  9. Iowa State – 24.83%
  10. Louisiana Tech – 25.44%

I don’t think the occupants of either list are that shocking other than Iowa. What happened to the Hawkeye offense? It used to be pretty good not that long ago.

This just goes to (further) show that great offense alone won’t get you contending for the title. Florida, Navy, and Texas Tech were 1, 2, and 4 on the list, with all scoring on over half of their drives. They finished 46, 108, and 50 in the scoring defense rankings though, which is why none of them won more than 9 games.

Also, at 6-6 Iowa serves as the answer to the question of which was the lowest bowl-eligible team (112th). The lowest bowl participant? None other than Sylvester Croom’s Mississippi State Bulldogs, 102nd with a 27.71% scoring rate. How a team won 8 games while scoring on just a shade over a quarter of its drives is a mystery, though timely turnovers and defensive scoring are part of it.

UCLA, our punting champs from yesterday, finished 99th, having scored on just 28.87% of its drives.

The two lowest ranked 10+ win teams were Boston College (#66, 34.97%) and Virginia Tech (T-54, 36.90%). That says a lot about the ACC, since those two teams met in the conference’s championship game. I also find it funny how the Hokies were #3 in scoring defense and went 11-3 while Georgia Tech was tied with VT in this list, but was 21st in scoring defense and finished 7-6. Furthermore, congratulations to the Atlanta Falcons who just drafted a quarterback who scored on just 35% of his drives last season.

Other notables:

  • #14 Georgia (45.22%) – Sugar Bowl champs
  • #16 UCF (44.81%) – Conference USA champion
  • #18 Ohio State (44.52%) – Big Ten champion
  • #23 Kansas State (43.71%) – Highest team with a losing record
  • #36 USC (41.42%) – Pac 10 champs; not a vintage year for the Trojans’ offense
  • #43 Central Michigan (39.68%) – MAC champions
  • #49 Troy (38.86%) – Sun Belt champions
  • #51 BYU (38.75%) – MWC champions; third-lowest 10+ win team
  • #77 Florida State (34.10%) – So much for Jimbo Fisher turning things around immediately
  • #105 Miami (26.53%) – Where have you gone, Ken Dorsey?

Punting in 2007

May 13, 2008

It’s safe to say that no one really enjoys punting. Punter is the only position without a representative in the NFL Hall of Fame (though Ray Guy should have been in long ago). Punting is an important part of the field position battle, but honestly, no one enjoys doing it. We’d rather see our teams score.

It is with that in mind I present you with the most and least prolific punting teams in college football a year ago. Keep in mind that avoiding punting is not necessarily an indication of an elite offense – turnovers end drives too, and often in more damaging ways.

The most prolific punting team was UCLA, with an astonishing 93 punts on the season for a robust 3899 yards. That’s right; the Bruins had more punting yards than 14 teams gained on offense. For comparison, UCLA punted for 992 more yards than Notre Dame gained with its offense. Karl Dorrell, this is your legacy.

The Ray Guy of coaches. Or something.

Other frequent punters included Virginia Tech (89), Iowa (87), FIU (83), Oregon State (83), East Carolina (82), Virginia (81), Syracuse (80), Duke (80), and Mississippi State (80). There’s a mix of good, bad, and mediocre in there, showing that punting a lot doesn’t necessarily mean your team will lose. It is telling though that a fourth of the ACC is in the list of the ten most frequent punters.

On the other end of the spectrum, Navy had the fewest punts with just 24 on the season for 895 yards. I’ll be interested to see if Paul Johnson’s Georgia Tech offense can keep the punting down anywhere close to that much in the punt-happy ACC. Georgia Tech punted 67 times last season, 3.1 more than the average team.

The remaining nine of the top ten least frequent punters are Texas Tech (30), Hawaii (35), Florida (37), Air Force (47), Louisville (48), Boise State (48), West Virginia (49), Southern Miss (49), and Arkansas State (50). This list is a bit better than the ten most frequent punters, with Arkansas State’s 5-7 record being the worst of them.

Granted, I don’t have a list of the number of drives for every team so I don’t know how these compare on a relative basis. Still, it’s interesting to see how justified UCLA fans were in their frustrations with Dorrell and to see how efficient the Gator offense really was last year.

Only 37 punts? Magnificent. If only we forced more than 10 the whole year…


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