Michigan Leads the Country in (Weighted) Red Zone Efficiency

Submitted by Rashman on September 27th, 2010 at 6:32 PM

We've all seen our offense's ridiculous red zone numbers (for a quick refresher, Michigan is 18/19 in the red zone with 17 touchdowns) and I wanted to see how that stacks up against the rest of the NCAA. I started here:


According to that, Michigan is 11th in red zone efficiency. But for anybody who knows football, we know that simply scoring when in the red zone is not the ultimate goal. If team A got 20 red zone chances and kicked 20 field goals while team B got 20 red zone chances and scored 15 touchdowns, I think we all realize that we'd rather be team B. Yet according to the above link, team A did better.

Those of you who pay attention to basketball eFG% know where I'm going with this, and I believe Brian has also touched on something along these lines. [Ed: Aye.]

Here's how things play out if you weight red zone scores (7 for a TD and 3 for a FG).  Weighted Efficiency is (7*TD + 3*FG)/(7*RZ):

Rank Name Gm Red Zone Scores FG TD Weighted Efficiency
1 Michigan 4 19 18 1 17 0.917
2 East Carolina 3 13 13 2 11 0.912
3 TCU 4 23 21 1 20 0.888
4 Southern California 4 13 12 1 11 0.879
5 South Carolina 4 16 15 2 13 0.866
6 Florida 4 19 17 1 16 0.865
7 Oklahoma St. 3 16 16 4 12 0.857
8 Washington 3 8 8 2 6 0.857
9 Mississippi St. 4 7 6 0 6 0.857
10 Oregon St. 3 7 6 0 6 0.857
11 Nevada 4 19 19 5 14 0.850
12 Clemson 3 16 14 1 13 0.839
13 Stanford 4 26 26 8 18 0.824
14 Duke 4 13 13 4 9 0.824
15 Cincinnati 4 12 11 2 9 0.821
16 Michigan St. 4 14 12 1 11 0.816
17 Western Mich. 3 14 12 1 11 0.816
18 Utah 4 17 15 2 13 0.815
19 Illinois 3 9 9 3 6 0.810
20 Arkansas 4 14 13 3 10 0.806
25 Iowa 4 18 15 1 14 0.802
29 Ohio St. 4 27 25 7 18 0.778
34 Wisconsin 4 25 21 3 18 0.771
48 Indiana 3 19 16 4 12 0.722
57 Northwestern 4 18 15 4 11 0.706
62 Minnesota 4 14 12 4 8 0.694
72 Nebraska 4 18 13 2 11 0.659
98 Notre Dame 4 14 11 5 6 0.582
102 Purdue 4 12 9 4 5 0.560
109 Penn St. 4 15 11 5 6 0.543

Shown are the top 20 teams along with the Big Ten (including Nebraska) and Notre Dame.  I find this pretty interesting because not only can we hit the home run w/ Denard breaking a long run or hitting a receiver deep, but we're also extremely efficient when we get near the goal line.

Disclaimer: I have to admit to a bit of subjective criteria -- if you weight a TD as six points rather than seven, Michigan comes in second behind East Carolina.



September 27th, 2010 at 7:16 PM ^

Given the level of research that appears to have gone into this, I think it is diary-worthy and would have no objection to having it promoted. A day's-end board topic probably offers less attention than it deserves.


September 27th, 2010 at 6:48 PM ^

Love it. Three tries should almost always be enough for our offense to get at least 10 yards, and when we're in the red zone it's going to be hard to stop us from getting into the endzone.


September 27th, 2010 at 6:49 PM ^

Most of the time you can expect 7 points from a TD, so I think it is fair to assess 7 points on for a TD in this case. However, if you take away the one XP that we missed, that puts us just behind them anway.

Another point: The problem with efficiency ratings is that you get penalized for higher number of attempts So, if a RB has 150 yards on 30 carries, and another RB has 12 yards on 2 carries, which is better? Another system that has been used to compensate for this is to square the numerator so that the denominator has less weight. The first RB would have 750 yds^2/attempt while the second would have 72. Without crunching numbers, it looks like TCU would still beat us, but it looks like we would still be in second.


September 27th, 2010 at 7:19 PM ^

Most of the time you can expect 7 points from a TD, so I think it is fair to assess 7 points on for a TD in this case.

I actually agree with the above which is another reason why I went with seven instead of six, but I figured it was worth mentioning.  That's a debatable point and I wanted to be up front with it.


September 27th, 2010 at 7:21 PM ^

RZ efficiency depreciates just making it to the red zone in the first place so total points should also be considered. For example, Michigan as been more efficient with the RZ chances it has gotten but Stanford has been there 26 times in four games. That's nuts.

Then again total points means the most. Less than 50% of Oregon's points (102 of 250) have come from the RZ, the rest have been scores of more than 20 yards. Um, holy crap.


September 27th, 2010 at 9:43 PM ^

Total wins means the most :)

But of course we look at points, or red zone efficiency, or yards, or whatever increasingly less important metric, because we want some insight into the nature of what makes teams win.

I agree RZ scoring discounts the ability of teams to score from outside the redzone, which can be even more significant. One metric I'd like to see more of is possession efficiency - how many point per possession is a team scoring? Since both sides get the same number of possessions (special teams hijinks excepted,) and the tempo of the game can vary the number of possessions greatly from game to game, possession efficiency to me seems like it's a much better indicator of offensive prowess than even points per game.


September 27th, 2010 at 9:54 PM ^

Points per possession would be a good metric for sure.  This is another of the "tempo-free" stats that are looked at more and more when analyzing basketball, and there's no reason that it wouldn't be just as meaningful for football.  Maybe I'll dig around and see if I can find the necessary data for this.


September 28th, 2010 at 11:11 AM ^

Sorry notYOURmom, I wasn't ignoring you; I just didn't have the data handy last night to answer your question.  I do indeed show Alabama at 72.2 (47th nationally) and I show Boise at 74.3 (41st nationally).  Not sure about the discrepancy on the Boise numbers.

If people actually find this interesting, I may post updated numbers weekly.  In the future, I will go ahead and post the numbers for all teams (again, assuming there is sufficient interest rather than just something that will clutter up the board).


October 1st, 2010 at 1:49 PM ^

I think you should (assuming you have the time) post updates in Diary form every week. I know that many of us would find it interesting. It would also give us a place to send people who think that the standard redzone efficiency data makes sense. Hopefully converting them to the side of reason.


Thanks, and keep up the good work!


September 27th, 2010 at 7:26 PM ^

Is there a way to show defensive effectiveness in the red zone?  I would love to see how our D stacks up in the red zone against others.  It seems to me that we do decent in the red zone while our problems reside more in the "green" zone for allowing TDs. 


September 27th, 2010 at 7:51 PM ^

What's the "Red Zone"?  Oh, now I remember, it's what they call the last 20 yards of one of Denard's runs.  Seems like sort of a silly thing to keep track of, really.


September 27th, 2010 at 8:11 PM ^

Forget the red zone, we need to start talking about the Denard Zone. Which, frankly, seems to be anywhere on the field so far. The Denard Zone should be defined as the average staring point of his TD runs. What would that make it, about the fifty???

Yee ha!!


September 27th, 2010 at 8:32 PM ^

The analysis needs to take opponent quality into account.  I.e. if a team has a terrible red zone defense it is less impressive to have a good efficiency against them than it is to be efficient against a team with a great defense.

I have some ideas on how to do this, let me know if you're interested.

Webber's Pimp

September 27th, 2010 at 9:35 PM ^


Here's what we know about Michigan: the offense is prolific and it should keep us in most games. The Bowling Green State game is our Exhibit A...

For all the RRod haters out there consider the offensive output this weekend of national darlings like Texas and LSU. I would venture to say we could play with any of those two schools right now. 

The sky is not falling here at Michigan. It's just a matter of collecting enough athletes on defense and your will see this program rise like the phoenix. It's only a matter of time now...


September 28th, 2010 at 8:20 AM ^

Because a TD is practically always worth 7. If you did a weighted average (counting XP misses, 2 point conversions, and missed 2-point attempts), maybe you'd come up with 6.9, or something like that.

Optimus Hart

September 28th, 2010 at 8:43 AM ^

I think it's legit to consider the extra point as part of the red zone offense.  But that brings up the question of what to do with 2pt conversions.  To be a real efficiency it seems like it should simply be (points scored)/(maximum possible points).  Using that, Michigan has 121 points from their red zone trips, out of a possible 152 points (8 points * 19 trips).  That makes the top 5 look like this:

  1. East Carolina (0.798)
  2. Michigan (0.796)
  3. TCU (0.777)
  4. Southern California (0.769)
  5. South Carolina (0.758)

...unless they missed any XPs or went for 2.  I only know that we missed one point after, I don't have the data for other teams.