Regarding early-game sloppiness in bowls

Submitted by erik_t on January 12th, 2011 at 4:43 PM

For a number of years now, it has been a popular position that the time off between the end of the regular season and the beginning of bowl season is excessively long, and leads to poor play early in games. Certainly I have found this to be an attractive explaination for the prodigous quantities of DERP we saw this bowl season.

But DERP is subjective, and the plural of anecdote is not data. Is there any substantial quantitative support to the notion that bowl games start off unusually sloppy? There are a great many factors at play; I chose to look at relevant statistics on a quarter-by-quarter basis. I don't have the massive database that seems popular around these here parts, and the typical box score doesn't give a per-quarter breakdown of anything but score. Bummer. Well, maybe if we go ahead and look anyway at a

Chart?

chart of percent of total points scored per quarter, we can find something elucidating. All bowl games are included. Each team's per-quarter scoring is normalized by their total score in the game. Averages and standard deviations are then computed, based on the entire bowl team population. It seems plausible that excessive pre-bowl layoff will result in a substantially higher standard deviation in the early part of the game, when either offense or defense might be DERPerrific.

 

Team 1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q Total Points
BYU 32.69 26.92 26.92 13.46 52
NIU 12.24 34.69 38.78 14.29 49
Ohio 33.33 0.00 33.33 33.33 21
SMiss 50.00 25.00 0.00 25.00 28
Utah 100.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 3
Navy 0.00 100.00 0.00 0.00 14
Hawaii 0.00 40.00 40.00 20.00 35
FIU 0.00 20.59 41.18 38.24 34
USAFA 21.43 21.43 0.00 57.14 14
WfVU 0.00 100.00 0.00 0.00 7
Mizzou 12.50 29.17 58.33 0.00 24
ECU 0.00 15.00 50.00 35.00 20
UIUC 15.79 26.32 21.05 36.84 38
OkSU 47.22 16.67 27.78 8.33 36
Army 81.25 18.75 0.00 0.00 16
K State 20.59 20.59 20.59 38.24 34
UNC 35.00 50.00 0.00 15.00 20
Nebraska 0.00 100.00 0.00 0.00 7
USF 22.58 32.26 22.58 22.58 31
ND 42.42 39.39 9.09 9.09 33
Georgia 50.00 0.00 50.00 0.00 6
SCar 0.00 17.65 41.18 41.18 17
NW'ern 0.00 15.79 47.37 36.84 38
Alabama 14.29 42.86 28.57 14.29 49
Florida 0.00 37.84 16.22 45.95 37
MissState 19.23 40.38 26.92 13.46 52
Wiscy 52.63 15.79 0.00 31.58 19
UConn 0.00 50.00 50.00 0.00 20
Stanford 17.50 15.00 32.50 35.00 40
tOSU 45.16 45.16 9.68 0.00 31
MTSU 66.67 0.00 33.33 0.00 21
LSU 17.07 51.22 17.07 14.63 41
Pitt 0.00 48.15 25.93 25.93 27
UNR 70.00 15.00 15.00 0.00 20
Auburn 0.00 72.73 13.64 13.64 22
   
UTEP 12.50 29.17 29.17 29.17 24
Fresno 41.18 17.65 0.00 41.18 17
Troy 29.17 50.00 20.83 0.00 48
L'Ville 0.00 67.74 0.00 32.26 31
BSU 0.00 61.54 26.92 11.54 26
SDSU 40.00 20.00 0.00 40.00 35
Tulsa 16.13 27.42 33.87 22.58 62
Toledo 21.88 43.75 9.38 25.00 32
GT 100.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 7
NCSU 30.43 13.04 26.09 30.43 23
Iowa 25.93 37.04 11.11 25.93 27
Maryland 11.76 19.61 41.18 27.45 51
Baylor 0.00 0.00 50.00 50.00 14
U of A 70.00 0.00 30.00 0.00 10
SMU 0.00 0.00 50.00 50.00 14
Syracuse 19.44 19.44 36.11 25.00 36
Tennessee 35.00 35.00 0.00 30.00 20
Washington 52.63 0.00 36.84 10.53 19
Clemson 11.54 38.46 0.00 50.00 26
Miami (YTM) 0.00 17.65 0.00 82.35 17
UCF 0.00 30.00 0.00 70.00 10
FSU 23.08 26.92 23.08 26.92 26
TTech 22.22 31.11 31.11 15.56 45
MSU 0.00 0.00 0.00 100.00 7
Penn State 29.17 41.67 29.17 0.00 24
Mich 100.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 14
TCU 66.67 0.00 33.33 0.00 21
OU 29.17 12.50 29.17 29.17 48
VT 16.67 83.33 0.00 0.00 12
Arky 26.92 11.54 42.31 19.23 26
Miami (NTM) 20.00 20.00 40.00 20.00 35
TAMU 41.67 29.17 0.00 29.17 24
Kentucky 30.00 0.00 70.00 0.00 10
BC 53.85 0.00 23.08 23.08 13
Oregon 0.00 57.89 0.00 42.11 19
 
Average 26.52 28.94 21.71 22.82 26.13
StdDev 26.20 24.62 18.49 20.83 13.32

 

Well, hmm. We could weight the per-quarter score fractions by the total number of points scored per team (0-3-3-3 is less telling than 0-21-21-21), but we find that this makes little difference. In the unweighted case, we find that the first half standard deviation is 29% higher than the second half standard deviation. The first quarter standard deviation is about 16% higher than the average quarter.

This seems to lend mild support to the idea that bowl games start off unusually sloppy. How does this compare to regular-season results? I compared to games from weeks 12-15, but only if the game involved two teams that ended up bowl-eligible (I counted Arizona State, because I graduated from there and it was Wisconsin's/SJSU's fault anyway and if you don't like it then tough). I toyed with the idea of removing rivalry games, because rivalry games are weird, but I did not.

 

Team 1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q Total Points
Navy 32.26 45.16 0.00 22.58 31
ASU 15.00 15.00 0.00 70.00 20
NIU 66.67 0.00 0.00 33.33 21
UIUC 0.00 43.48 30.43 26.09 23
SMU 0.00 0.00 0.00 100.00 7
Auburn 37.50 12.50 25.00 25.00 56
MTSU 25.00 25.00 25.00 25.00 28
FSU 30.30 21.21 21.21 27.27 33
UConn 15.79 36.84 15.79 31.58 19
OU 0.00 73.91 13.04 13.04 23
Temple 100.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 3
WfVU 20.00 20.00 40.00 20.00 35
SMU 0.00 26.32 55.26 18.42 38
Auburn 0.00 25.00 50.00 25.00 28
SMiss 20.41 26.53 20.41 32.65 49
U of A 48.28 17.24 10.34 24.14 29
BSU 9.68 67.74 0.00 22.58 31
BC 18.75 18.75 43.75 18.75 16
Mich 0.00 100.00 0.00 0.00 7
Sparty 25.00 25.00 25.00 25.00 28
USF 0.00 17.65 41.18 41.18 17
Kentucky 50.00 0.00 50.00 0.00 14
LSU 0.00 60.87 26.09 13.04 23
Florida 100.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 7
NCSU 45.16 0.00 9.68 45.16 31
BYU 18.75 18.75 43.75 18.75 16
NW'ern 13.04 60.87 26.09 0.00 23
SCar 31.03 34.48 34.48 0.00 29
GT 0.00 41.18 20.59 38.24 34
ND 0.00 65.00 0.00 35.00 20
OU 14.89 36.17 0.00 48.94 47
Ohio 22.58 32.26 0.00 45.16 31
Fresno thanks for breaking the chart Fresno 0
Pitt 17.65 0.00 41.18 41.18 17
WfVU 41.18 41.18 17.65 0.00 17
Wiscy 14.58 35.42 14.58 35.42 48
NCSU 0.00 34.48 24.14 41.38 29
Troy 0.00 29.17 41.67 29.17 24
UTEP 25.00 50.00 25.00 0.00 28
UIUC 43.75 12.50 14.58 29.17 48
tOSU 0.00 15.00 35.00 50.00 20
VT 22.58 9.68 22.58 45.16 31
Army 100.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 3
UConn 30.43 13.04 30.43 26.09 23
Arky 45.16 9.68 22.58 22.58 31
FSU 33.33 10.00 23.33 33.33 30
OU 39.62 24.53 35.85 0.00 53
Nebraska 50.00 0.00 0.00 50.00 6
Utah 7.89 55.26 0.00 36.84 38
 
Army 0.00 41.18 17.65 41.18 17
U of A 0.00 0.00 70.00 30.00 20
Miami (NTM) 50.00 0.00 26.92 23.08 26
Fresno 64.00 12.00 24.00 0.00 25
UCF 41.18 17.65 41.18 0.00 17
SCar 41.18 41.18 0.00 17.65 17
FIU 51.85 11.11 11.11 25.93 27
VT 31.82 15.91 31.82 20.45 44
USF 18.75 0.00 18.75 62.50 16
Nebraska 50.00 50.00 0.00 0.00 20
Miami (NTM) 26.09 30.43 13.04 30.43 23
Pitt 70.00 0.00 30.00 0.00 10
ECU 36.84 0.00 7.89 55.26 38
Alabama 77.78 11.11 11.11 0.00 27
Tula 37.50 12.50 12.50 37.50 56
Oregon 14.58 14.58 41.67 29.17 48
UNR 0.00 22.58 22.58 54.84 31
Syracuse 0.00 0.00 100.00 0.00 7
tOSU 0.00 64.86 35.14 0.00 37
Penn State 13.64 0.00 0.00 86.36 22
Miami (YTM) 0.00 0.00 41.18 58.82 17
Tennesseee 0.00 58.33 29.17 12.50 24
Arky 22.58 45.16 0.00 32.26 31
FSU 9.68 67.74 22.58 0.00 31
Maryland 0.00 44.74 18.42 36.84 38
Utah 0.00 0.00 0.00 100.00 17
Wiscy 20.00 50.00 30.00 0.00 70
Clemson 100.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 7
Georgia 33.33 16.67 33.33 16.67 42
USC 18.75 0.00 62.50 18.75 16
OkSU 7.32 34.15 17.07 41.46 41
Temple 0.00 43.48 0.00 56.52 23
BSU 5.88 33.33 33.33 27.45 51
USF 0.00 30.00 70.00 0.00 10
L'Ville 30.00 70.00 0.00 0.00 10
Mich 0.00 0.00 75.00 25.00 28
UNC 28.00 24.00 24.00 24.00 25
SCar 40.58 40.58 4.35 14.49 69
Tulsa 22.58 45.16 32.26 0.00 31
NW'ern 51.85 37.04 0.00 11.11 27
Iowa 41.18 0.00 17.65 41.18 17
Miami (YTM) 41.18 17.65 41.18 0.00 17
ND 0.00 62.96 37.04 0.00 27
Syracuse 50.00 0.00 50.00 0.00 6
MissState 22.58 45.16 0.00 32.26 31
Maryland 18.75 62.50 18.75 0.00 16
Baylor 0.00 29.17 12.50 58.33 24
TAMU 0.00 33.33 0.00 66.67 9
SDSU 41.18 38.24 20.59 0.00 34
 
Average 25.38 26.61 22.49 25.51 26.33
StDev 24.95 22.41 19.90 22.76 13.87

Stupid Fresno. Anyway, we continue to see elevated stdev for the first quarter of regular season games between bowl eligible teams, but by a lesser degree. For these regular season games, the first half standard deviation is 10.8% higher than that for the second half. The first quarter standard deviation is about 11% higher than the average quarter.

There are certainly some serious issues with this methodology. Does a sloppy defense give up more scores to a sloppy offense than when both are playing carefully? I don't know the best answer, but I'm sure it varies on a case-by-case basis. There are also many late-game effects for which I have not accounted - a prevent version of a dominant defense might give up the only score of the game in the 4th quarter when the game is out of reach (hi there Sparty!). This would give a large standard deviation value to the 4th quarter, erroneously implying sloppiness. I do not know how to account for these sorts of errors with the data set I have available. Further, I do not suggest that this is an all-inclusive list of methodological problems.

Still, 29% vs 10.8% seems vaguely compelling, give 70 bowl and 98 regular season scores. My statistical background has faded badly since undergrad, so I'm going to refrain from a hilariously misguided attempt at error bars. The sample size is large, but boy those data are noisy. Any time my standard deviation is as big as the average, I start to feel a little woozy...

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