BCS Title Game: 7-7 at the Half

January 8, 2009

My brother texted me not long ago to say that we’re lucky it’s not 21-7 at the half. I don’t fully agree with that because letting teams gain yards but then stiffening up in the red zone is what the defense has done all year. Nothing new there.

Tebow is not having a good game on his handoff/keep reads though. On a couple of the 4-9 yard losses, Tebow should have kept it instead of handing it off. The two INTs don’t help his cause much either,  but he’s been pretty sharp throwing the ball except for those.

In short, the Florida offense is not executing very well. The Oklahoma offense is executing very well, but the Florida defense is stopping them when it counts.

If Florida’s offense can step up the execution and the defense can keep it up, we should be in good shape. We’ll see.


One Last Look at the Defenses

January 8, 2009

The relative value of the two defenses in this BCS title game has been the most pervasive and contentious debate. It’s what both teams have been mouthing off about the most, and it also is perhaps what has inflamed message boards the most (other than the generic Conference Wars woofing).

Something I’ve see brought up a lot in recent days is that one reason why Oklahoma gives up more points and yards than Florida does is because of the fast pace of its games. More plays per game means more points and yards allowed, you see. Another thing I’ve heard is that Oklahoma tends to give up a lot of points when the game is out of hand, skewing their numbers.

I went through the play-by-play of each teams’ games (throwing out each’s game against a I-AA opponent) to see how much this was true.

I counted up how many full drives each faced. I threw out any drives that ended halves with something other than a score or punt from the drive count totals.

I also counted up how many yards and points each defense surrendered. Defensive penalty yards were included in the yardage count because it would have taken too long to pull them out. Plus those are yards the defense allows the offense to move, so they are relevant in that sense.

The twist is that I recorded what the point margin in the game was at the time the yards and points were given up. That way, I could draw some sort of conclusion on the part about Oklahoma giving up a lot of points when the game was out of hand. For points, I recorded the margin before they were scored. So for example, if a touchdown was allowed when the game was 14-0 in favor of OU or UF, the recorded margin goes down as 14.

What makes a competitive game is subjective of course. However, in my casual observation I have noticed that teams generally don’t change their strategy until the opponent’s lead is more than 14 points. That can change as the course of the game goes on, but they certainly do change strategy when the lead is more than 21. Those became the two benchmarks for the “out of hand” analysis.

Here is a handy table organizing my findings:

Defense, Oklahoma and Florida
Oklahoma Florida
Drives 156 136
Points 301 153
% Drives Scor 29.5% 18.4%
% Drives TD 24.4% 9.6%
Yards/Drive 31.27 23.29
Points/Drive 1.93 1.13
% Pts, 14 & under 45.8% 45.8%
% Pts, 21 & under 52.8% 56.9%

So it was true that Oklahoma had to defend more drives than Florida did. Twenty more, to be precise. You can see in the yards and points per drive what happens when you smooth out the difference in drive count. The yardage difference is there but not great, but the Sooners allow almost a full point per drive more.

We can also see that Oklahoma allowed its opponents to score on almost 30% of their drives, as compared to Florida’s defense allowing opponents to score on just 18% of their drives. You can also see in the next row that OU allows touchdowns quite a bit more often than Florida does. That fact is something that can be attributed to the Gators’ incredible red zone defense and its propensity to hold teams to field goal attempts.

The real juicy stuff comes on the last two rows. Each team allows the same proportion of its points when they lead by 14 or fewer points, and the difference when the margin was 21 or less is only very slight.

So while Oklahoma gives up a good number of its points when the game is out of hand, Florida basically gives up the same percentage of its points when the game is out of hand too. Because of that fact, you then have to go back to the chicken-or-egg fight about offensive and defensive strength in the two conferences to settle this one once and for all. That battle is not something I intend to get into here, because there is no ultimate, satisfying answer.

The Sooner players have done an admirable job at defending their defense, and some others have brought up some interesting points about game pace and the timing of when points
are given up.

However, those arguments don’t cut it when it comes to explaining why Oklahoma gave up more points than Florida did this season.


If you prefer graphics and pretty colors, here are pie charts for what the margin is when these two teams give up their points.



A Preview of the Game

January 8, 2009

I volunteered to write a few bowl previews for Bleacher Report, and the final one for tonight’s game is here.

Time for the DEs to Step Up

January 8, 2009

Watch these highlights of Texas DE Brian Orakpo against Oklahoma:

The left tackle he’s often going against is Phil Loadholt, a 6-8, 337 lb man/mountain. Even with Orakpo’s freakish strength, going through Loadholt is not something that is going to happen consistently.

What you do see in that video is that you can go around him if you’ve got the speed to do it. Something that Kirk Herbstreit gets cut off from mentioning is that Loadholt doesn’t have the best lateral speed/quickness, an understandable condition for a guy his size.

Sam Bradford leaves games without once hitting the turf more often than not. If Florida is to get the pressure it craves, the ends are going to have to create it because clearly it’s possible.

Jermaine Cunningham, Justin Trattou, and Carlos Dunlap all need to have good games. The success of the defense as a whole could depend on getting some heat on Bradford, and they’re the guys who will need to do it.

(video via Dr. Saturday)