A Few Pre-Holiday Thoughts

December 19, 2008

This will be the last long post until after New Year’s, most likely. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours.

I am glad to see that the Florida coaching staff is preparing for this national title game the same way they did in 2006. It was a successful strategy, and there’s no need to reinvent the wheel on it. It’s not like the core of this team (save Harvin and Tebow) were major components of the ’06 run and might get complacent if they did the same thing as before.

After all, focus shouldn’t be a problem for them. They didn’t lose it from October on despite blowout after blowout. The only close game came as a result of the opposing team – Alabama – being a great football team and not a result of getting complacent against a bad team.

Besides, they’re playing for a national title. If you can’t get focused around that goal, there’s something wrong.

As for Dan Mullen helping with the game, it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it does some other people. As I’ve said before, Urban Meyer and his staff have been through a similar situation when moving from Utah to Florida and they did just fine in the Fiesta Bowl.

Mullen is a pro and I believe him when he says that he feels he owes it to these players to give it his all. The article I linked to in the previous section says that practice so far has just been workouts and that game planning won’t come until after the players’ Christmas break. Given that’s when Mullen is returning, it all seems overblown to me.

Some people have brought up how it hurt FSU against Oklahoma in 2000 with Mark Richt leaving to take a head coaching job, but I don’t think the analogy is that apropos. The 2000 Oklahoma defense is far beyond the 2008 Oklahoma defense, which is no better than the 2007 unit that got gashed by West Virginia’s spread option last bowl season.

This article here should end all the ridiculous talk about Meyer leaving Florida to go to Notre Dame. It won’t, but it should.

I still don’t think Kerwin Bell will be joining the Florida staff for 2009, even though reputable news sources are asking the question now instead of just message board creatures.

He makes no sense whatsoever as the offensive coordinator since he doesn’t know Meyer’s system while guys on the current staff do. I don’t think quarterbacks coach alone is enough to make him give up his head coaching gig. That means some secondary title like “associate head coach” would need to be added, but it’s a stretch to me to think Meyer would bestow that title on someone he doesn’t really know.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on the accuracy of offensive versus defensive statistics. If you’ve spent any time looking around the place here, you know that I like to analyze numbers. That is part of the reason why I picked a major in the Warrington College of Business, and it’s something I enjoy doing.

However, I get the feeling that good defenses are always a little better than their numbers indicate and offenses are not quite as good as their numbers indicate. It’s not just that Florida is on the defense side of the OMG OFFENSE VS. DEFENSE!! caricature of the national title game, though that was the topic that brought this on.

If a defense does its best, it cannot hold opponents to less than zero points. They have a firm cap there. If they fail, only the clock is a constraint to how much they can give up.

On the flip side, offenses that succeed have no limit on what they can rack up. This much is obvious, and it’s the reason why there are debates about running up scores. If an offense fails, it can only go down to zero point scored, which, given the rarity of shutouts, is unlikely to happen. They usually pick up some points somewhere late in the game after it has been decided.

That last bit leads to a different issue: garbage time. Garbage time only enhances offensive statistics and hampers defensive statistics. Think about it this way: the Citadel scored the fourth most points of Florida of any opponent this season. That is the most overt example of garbage time hurting the Gators’ defensive stats.

I guess the best way I can illustrate this point is with an example. Think of a game where Team A and Team B each get ten possessions. If Team A’s offense and defense both succeed seven times, Team A will win 49-21.

If a team averaged 49 points a game this season, it would be behind only Oklahoma’s 54 a game in the country. A team giving up an average of 21 points a game would only be 34th-best in the country.

The maxim about it being easier to destroy than create, meaning that it’s easier to play defense than offense, is true to a degree, but not that big of one. I don’t know how to adjust for this discrepancy, and I am probably not smart enough to figure it out.

I am going to run the same stat analysis I did for the SEC title game for as many bowls with teams from the same tier as I can to see how it goes. I understand that bowl games don’t always go as expected for a variety of reasons – coaching changes, the long layoff, etc – but for that kind of analysis you need a season’s worth of data and bowls are all we’ve got.