Does Superior Conditioning Translate to 4th Quarter Scoring?

Does Superior Conditioning Translate to 4th Quarter Scoring?

Submitted by Blue in Saint Lou on September 23rd, 2009 at 2:15 AM

This is my first diary, so I apologize in advance if my images do not embed properly, I'm still figuring this out......


There has been a lot of discussion regarding Michigan’s strength and conditioning program, with many drawing the conclusion that the superior conditioning of Michigan’s football team will result in wearing down teams through three quarters, and dominating a tired opponent in the fourth for a win. I did a little searching in an attempt to find out if there are any historical statistics from teams coached by Rodriguez and conditioned by Barwis to support this belief. Mike Barwis has been the head strength and conditioning coach for Rich Rod since 2003 at West Virginia, so I did the analysis on all of their games since 2003. Since there is no statistic to measure overall conditioning I used points scored or allowed as an indicator, since what I really want to know is whether conditioning or lack thereof translates to points (and wins). I know there are multiple problems with this, e.g. last year’s inability to execute the offense doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with effort or conditioning, but I hope that by looking over several years of data, I will be able to draw some solid conclusions.



I looked at the quarter by quarter scoring for all of the games from 2003 to present. First I’ll give you the average quarter by quarter scoring for offense and points allowed for defense (including WVU’s 2007 bowl game which wasn’t actually coached by Rodriguez).
















Not sure what the proper test for determining statistical significance is here, but the eyeball test says you probably shouldn’t count on the offense to score more points in the 4th versus quarters 1-3. As for the defense, you can probably expect them to give up slightly more points in the 4th quarter, at least as compared to quarters one and three (caveat: defensive data compiled under tenure of multiple defensive coordinators while assuming Rich Rod was in control of the offense in each year examined).   This obviously doesn’t give the full picture, as play calling, personnel, etc. will be dictated by the circumstances of each game. So, to crunch the numbers further, I looked at the 46 games in which the teams were within 16 points of each other after 3 periods. I realize this cutoff is somewhat arbitrary, but it seems reasonable to me that if a team is up or down more than two touchdowns and two 2 point conversions with 15 minutes to go, play calling and strategy may be start to change, which would confound the results of this analysis. Nonetheless, in these situations Rich Rod is 26-20 and on average outscores the opponent by ~1.2 points in the final quarter. I know this crowd is big on charts, but a graph is a bit more useful for this particular analysis.

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Here is a link in case that didn't work:

Again, this is only games that were within sixteen points after 3 quarters. The abscissa is the point differential after 3 quarters ((WVU or M) – opponent), thus negative numbers mean Rodriguez’s team was trailing and positive numbers mean they were winning. The ordinate is point differential of the final score ((WVU or M) – opponent), so a negative value means a loss and a positive number means a win. Based on this, it looks like the third quarter score is a pretty good predictor of whether the team will win or lose the game. I am surprised by how well this holds up even for small 3rd quarter point differentials (between -7 and 7). I know it is a relatively small sample size and all that, but still. One encouraging point of note is that when leading, even by a small margin (<7), Rodriguez’s team usually comes out on top. Look at all the data points with a 3rd quarter lead of 1-5 points. He lost one game. That makes me smile inside. On a side note, if I include all of the games, not just the ones within 16 points after 3 quarters, the results are basically identical. However there was one pretty big comeback in the WVU days against Louisville. Down 17 points after 3 quarters, WVU rallied to win by 2 in overtime.

*Overtime points were included as 4th quarter points.



The idea that Michigan will completely own teams in the 4th quarter is probably not true. If the historical data is a valid indicator of what we can expect, in terms of points scored and allowed Michigan will perform in the final quarter pretty much the same as through the other three. Actually, the biggest differential between points scored and allowed is in the first quarter. I am not sure why there is a noticeable jump in points allowed in quarters 2 and 4. My first guess was that it was due to increased risky play calling during the 2 minute drill near the ends of each half. However, if this were true, I would also expect to see an increase in offensive points scored.

The score at the end of the 3rd quarter is a pretty solid indicator of game outcome. If Michigan is up at the end of 3, even by a little, we will likely come away with a win. Unfortunately the reverse also holds true, with Rodriguez only having two comeback wins (one of which was the 2008 Wisconsin game).



I think Michigan has a bright future under Coach Rodriguez. I think we can expect some exciting football and a lot of wins. I’m just not convinced said wins will come courtesy of the superior conditioning theory. In the end, as long as Michigan is piling up the W’s I don’t think any of us care in which quarter they score the points.


Bonus Tidbit

While doing research I came across this: When Morgan Trent was asked "What's the craziest thing about Wolverines strength coach Mike Barwis?," Trent replied "That he's a former MMA fighter and can kill any one of us if he wanted to with one punch."

Which got me to thinking, who would win if Mike Barwis and Chuck Norris got in a fight? I thought about it for a while and my head started to hurt. So I decided that some sort of black hole, kung-fu vortex would probably open up and suck us all in. We would never know who actually won; therefore it is an unanswerable question.