Brian mentioned on the front page today that kicking it out of bounds would bring it to the 20. Not sure how that factors into any analysis, but I figure it's interesting enough to mention.
Kicking from the 50--what's the right play?
I can't have been the only one cringing towards the end of halftime last week in expectation of a personal foul penalty about to be wasted by blasting the upcoming kickoff through the endzone.
Can't just complain about it based on intuition, though--what do the numbers say?
There are basically three choices when kicking off from the 50 after a personal foul:
1) kick it through the endzone for the easy touchback
2) kick onside
3) kick short of the goal line, either high or squibbed.
I'll compare (1) and (2)--I have no data on kicks in play from the 50 so I can't analyze (3). Mathlete? Anyone?
The essential and oft-copied graph:
Case #1 is easy to analyze: the receiving team gets the ball at the 25 That's somewhere between 0.5 and 0.6 expected points for the receiving team. Since I go into this convinced kicking onside is the right choice I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt to the other side everywhere, so we'll call it 0.5
For case #2 I'm going to assume that the ball ends up at the 40--the average is probably a little over ten yards on an onside kick but again I want to err on the conservative side. There's also a tiny possiblity of the kicking team actually returning the kick instead of falling on it; if anyone has any data that indicates this materially impacts the calculation please let us know in the comments.
Let the probability of the kicking team recovering the kick be x. If the receiving team recovers they get the ball at their own 40, worth 1.4 expected points. If the kicking team recovers they get the ball at the opponents' 40, worth 2.5 expected points.
Expected points for the receiving team, then, are (1.4) (1-x) - (2.5) x, or
1.4 - (3.9)x
Breakeven is when this equals 0.5:
1.4 - (3.9)x = 0.5
x = (0.9)/(3.9) = .23
give or take 2 or 3 percentage points from any errors I made eyeballing the graph.
That's pretty close to the actual rate of recovery on onside kicks, but remember that most onside kicks are taken in desperation mode at the end of games when the receiving team fully expects them. According to advancednflstats.com the rate of recovery on a surprise onside kick is 55-65%. (That, of course, is for NFL players and NFL rules; I'm not aware of any NCAA data on this.)
If the receiving team doesn't defend the onside kick like they would in an end-of-game situation, kicking onside from midfield is a little over one point better than the touchback.
If the receiving team does send the hands team on and defend the onside kick, it's just about a push, with perhaps a very slight advantage to the touchback.
My proposal is:
1. kick onside, always, from the 50 until teams start defending it.
2. if the receiving team sends out their hands team to defend the kickoff, kick short of the goal line and cover the kick, making use of the short field and the absence of the usual blockers.
Under the pre-2012 rules, with the touchback only coming out to the 20 and the onside kick going to the opponents' 45 instead of the 40, the break even point was somewhere around 35%. It probably still made sense to kick onside, but the situation wasn't as clear-cut as it seems to me to be now.
The receiving team has the option of taking the 5-yard penalty and having the kick retaken.
and I'll be the first to admit that. Here's the Brian quote from the front page, just for the heck of it.
Now I have a Q: what would have happened if Michigan booted it out of bounds? The rule says it's 30 yards from where you kicked, which would be the 20. Which is better than a touchback. mindblown.gif
SECTION 2. Free Kick Out of Bounds
ARTICLE 1. A free kick out of bounds between the goal lines untouched by an inbounds player of Team B is a foul (A.R. 6-2-1-I-II).
PENALTY—Live-ball foul. Five yards from the previous spot; or five yards from the spot where the subsequent dead ball belongs to Team B; or the receiving team may put the ball in play 30 yards beyond Team A’s restraining line at the inbounds spot [S19].
I thought the exact same thing as this was happening. I mean why don't you just have hagerup boot it really high to around the 5 and hope for the best? If the hangtime on the punt was 4.5 seconds, at least one of the players could dodge a block and at least make it 40 yards downfield to get near the returner by the time he catches it.
If it's really the case that you have a 50% chance of recovering the kick, kicking onside is worth about 0.6 points to the kickers. Break even if you kick away is to tackle the returner at about the 8. (I think. Does anyone have a tabular version of this graph?)
I think onside is still better if they aren't defending it, although I suppose there's the possibility of forcing a fumble on the return that adds a bit of value on the squib or high-kick side.
Hagerup is our punter. We're talking about a kickoff.
But in our case I was livid we didn't kick onsides, especially now that a touchback is to the 25. If your D is playing well why wouldn't you risk giving up 15 yards?
I'm shocked that we haven't discussed this ad nauseum yet with a board topic of 100+ replies. Anyway, I was saying to onside kick the ball while watching the game and I haven't heard a good counter-argument.
Everybody knows we threw the game to lure them back into another long term contract. The last 3 years have thoroughly deflated their ego to the point that they called off the series. Evidentally they do not consider msu or purdue to be a threat and msu lost just in case they were having second thoughts. Soon ND will be gripped with their usual sense of overimportance ( "hey we can beat these guys") and cancel sparty or purdue. Once the ink is on the long term contract we will again regularly trounce them. Hoke is one sneaky genius.