# An Attempt To Quantify Winning And Losing In Terms Of Total Offense

Submitted by LSAClassOf2000 on January 14th, 2013 at 11:19 AM

Using data on total offense from 120 Division I football programs for the season recently ended, I decided to take a look at what the differences in season outcomes tended to be between top and bottom performers across a few different metrics, and the results were fairly consistent.

First, the sample size for these 120 teams is 1,523 games, combining for 108,846 plays and 623,273 yards of total offense. They averaged 5.73 yards per play and 409.24 yards per game as well, and in all that, these 120 teams managed to see the end zone an average of 48 times each. So, basically, there’s your very basic baseline for an average Division I team on offense. Much emphasis on “very basic”.

I first sorted the table strictly by wins, then took the averages of total plays, total yards, average yards per play (which is actually a function of the sum of total plays and yards), touchdowns, and yards per game (I know, average of averages, but a reasonable approximation).

 Plays Yds Avg Tds YdsGm 12-13 Wins 940 6079 6.5 65 450.24 11 Wins 937 5696 6.1 58 432.21 10 Wins 949 5773 6.1 57 434.54 9 Wins 954 5729 6.0 56 441.40 8 Wins 949 5702 6.0 55 442.72 7 Wins 917 5135 5.6 45 397.85 6 Wins 926 4997 5.4 44 384.38 5 Wins 903 4934 5.4 44 411.13 4 Wins 828 4449 5.4 36 370.46 3 Wins 830 4329 5.2 33 360.74 2 Wins 831 4203 5.0 30 345.85 0-1 Win 838 4127 4.9 29 343.92

The trend is interesting, as one thing which consistently decreases in this chart, as you will note, is average yards per play as well as touchdowns. There are a few spikes in the other measures which I take to be a function of sample size as well as some offensively gifted teams which simply do not have defenses good enough to consistently or easily win games as well.

If we look specifically at the higher and lower ends of the Division I spectrum, we also get some interesting results as well. For example, taking the top 10% and bottom 10% of performances along these same five measures, you get these average records:

 AVG. WINS AVG. LOSSES Top 10% Performers - No. Of Plays 9 4 Top 10% Performers - Total Yards 10 4 Top 10% Performers - Avg. Yards / Play 10 3 Top 10% Performers - Touchdowns 10 3 Top 10% Performers - Avg. Yards / Game 8 4 Bottom 10% Performers - No. Of Plays 3 9 Bottom 10% Performers - Total Yards 3 9 Bottom 10% Performers - Avg. Yards / Play 3 9 Bottom 10% Performers - Touchdowns 3 9 Bottom 10% Performers - Avg. Yards / Game 3 9

At least for purposes of this now past season, the mean record for a performance in the bottom decile of teams is fairly obvious, of course. What I found to be intriguing were the ever so slight variations in the top 10%, although it seems clear here that about nine wins makes might be the key to being a top decile performer in one of these measures.

A similar story panned out for those teams who were more than one standard deviation above or below the mean in these same measures:

 AVG. WINS AVG. LOSSES More than 1 Std. Dev. Above Mean - No. Of Plays 8 4 More than 1 Std. Dev. Above Mean - Total Yards 9 4 More than 1 Std. Dev. Above Mean- Avg. Yards / Play 10 4 More than 1 Std. Dev. Above Mean - Touchdowns 10 4 More than 1 Std. Dev. Above Mean - Avg. Yards / Game 8 5 More than 1 Std. Dev. Below Mean - No. Of Plays 3 9 More than 1 Std. Dev. Below Mean - Total Yards 3 9 More than 1 Std. Dev. Below Mean - Avg. Yards / Play 3 9 More than 1 Std. Dev. Below Mean - Touchdowns 3 9 More than 1 Std. Dev. Below Mean - Avg. Yards / Game 4 8 More than 1 Std. Dev. Above Mean - All Metrics 9 4 More than 1 Std. Dev. Below Mean - All Metrics 3 9

One thing possibly of note here is overall offensive productivity possibly buying the worst teams one more win than they might otherwise get. I would imagine that this is likely true for overall poor teams that at least have the ability to make plays on offense with some consistency. In this table, I also put the average records for teams which excelled (or lagged) in all metrics, and the difference was stark, in my opinion.

TL;DR CONCLUSION:

Like many of these diaries, the conclusion shouldn’t shock anyone – produce on offense and you can win games. Control the time of possession, sustain drives and break off the odd big play and you can win even more games. Score consistently, having achieved those other things, and you’ll likely be talking about great seasons. The idea here is to take a stab at the idea of approximating the effect on a team’s overall record and what it statistically means to be a top or bottom performer when you have the ball.

When you consider that the overall average Division I record actually sat around 7-5 last season, what we’re seeing potentially is that being a top performer in any of the measures used here could be worth 1-3 wins for a team, and on the other end, it seems as if being on the bottom in these metrics is worth about 3-4 losses. Again, for purposes of simplicity, I used this year’s data,  so take the strength of the findings for whatever they might be worth. It’s simply an interesting exercise, in my opinion.

it seems to be a pretty straight line progression.  I'd imagine that one of the outliers that you mentioned would be Arizona, who could score in bunches but also had a D like a sieve.  Any other teams particularly stand out in your charting as out of the norm?

Next week could you do an analysis that tells us the key variables that indicate likely success in the areas you highlight?

Am sure mblogatlarge can suggest appropriate hypotheses to test.

C'mon mgobloggers. Consider it a crowdsourcing Mathlete challenge!

FG

yardage  increased as touchdowns decreased, for teams above 8 wins who didn't win 12/13 games.  Though it is a subtle difference it is consistent (under said parameters)

Could that be an effect of Rich Rod-esque spread n shred offenses that fly up and down the field outside the 20's but have a hard time punching it into the endzone?

very little difference between an 8 win and 11 win team. Surprised to see that big of a dropoff from an 8 win to a 7 win team.

My sense is the difference between a good 9-3 team and a great 12-0 team comes down to a few turnovers or key 3rd down conversions to keep a play going.  Those are data points that get obscured in the larger picture.

Alabama could have lost to Georgia in the SEC championship game ... but didn't.  They made their plays and Georgia -- and the end in particular -- did not.  Ditto Notre Dame -- the difference between their 12-0 and 10-2 or 9-3 is a small handful of mistakes they didn't make ... or their opponents did.