Last month I put together a new way of looking at down and distance and some new metrics. Like the four factors that have become prevalent in basketball, here is my shot at looking six factors for evaluating a football team. There are two key areas that aren’t included. Turnovers, which are critical to explaining past outcomes but poor at predicting future outcomes. The second is special teams. As Brian noted in the previews, special teams are funny because a lot of the value is derived by the presence or absence of big plays. Like turnovers, these are obviously key plays, but they make predicting future performance a challenge because they show up in very inconsistent ways.
The Six Factors
You could call him a factor (Fuller)
|Field Pos||Early Conv||Bonus Yds||Avg 3rd Dist||Adj 3rd Conv||Red Zone|
|Offense||25.4 (19)||49.2% (39)||107 (51)||7.2 (59)||+28% (4)||7.0 (1)|
|Defense||19.2 (55)||44.1% (30)||40 (10)||11.2 (2)||-6% (37)||3.0 (9)|
The first week is going to have some big outliers, with not a lot of competitive games, so the rankings should smooth out over the next month or so.
The defense was really outstanding against Central Michigan. There were almost no big plays, they put the Chips in awful third down situations and limited them both times the offense set them up in good position to enter the red zone.
The offense wasn’t really great in early downs but was exceptional in high leverage situations. Bonus yards (although possessions were limited) and first and second down plays were below NCAA average for the first week but third down and red zone performance was outstanding.
Field Position: A team’s expected points based on where a team started its drives
Early Conversion: The percentage of first downs' that are converted prior to a third down play
Bonus Yards: All yards gained after the first down marker
Average 3rd Down Distance: Average yards to go on third down
Adjusted 3rd Down Conversion: Rate of conversion for a team on third down, adjusted for the standard conversion rate based on yards to go, 0% is average
Red Zone: Points per red zone trip (TD’s counted as 7 regardless of PAT)
All categories except field position are based solely on plays in competitive situations (all first half plays and any second half plays where the drive begins or ends within two scores). Only games against FBS opponents are included, but after last week maybe I need to reconsider that.
Individual Game Scores
It’s just week one so we won’t kick in opponent adjustments for another month. I also included all garbage time plays in the totals since there were so many new players getting touches in the second half.
Devin Gardner: +16.4 (12.2 in the first half)
Fitzgerald Toussaint: +3.1
Derrick Green: +4.4
Shane Morris: +2.2
Deveon Smith: –0.8
*All numbers are PAN, Point Above Normal, a representation of how many points a player adds or subtracts from the team’s final score as compared to an average player/team
If you’re on twitter or look at stats at all, you’ve probably experienced the NCAA stats overhaul that happened this year. In general, it’s awful, but now has auto-play video ads. From the play by play they have stripped out first names of players (so this week we won’t be able to differentiate between Cam and Thomas), no longer list the starters for a game, removed tackler information unless it is a sack, provide no description of a penalty, removed targeted receivers for incomplete passes and removed all yardage detail from punts and kickoffs. It’s pretty awful.
The one slight benefit is they did add directional information to plays. So we can look at how Michigan performed over each side of the line. When running here is how Michigan performed (scrambles and NORFLEEEEET removed):
Left: 5.9 YPC, +2.7, 14 plays
Middle: 3.2 YPC, +5.3, 18 plays
Right: 3.0 YPC, +1.4, 4 plays
Running left was Michigan’s most successful direction but all the benefit was in big play generation. Michigan yielded 50 yards on its two big runs to the left, but was under 3 yards per carry on all other plays to the left.
Ron Zook Dumb Punt of the Week
Dumb punts typically fall into two different types,
1. Punting on short yardage deep in opponent territory for “field position” reasons, even if the values to field position are highly debatable.
2. Punting while trailing in the fourth quarter when future possessions are highly limited
There were 13 punts last week (excluding mercy punts with large leads, not that Hoke would care). 4 of the 13 came from current or future B1G members. Mark Dantonio and Michigan State are the only ones to do it twice. Dantonio wanted to start the year off right so before midway through the first quarter he had twice punted on short yardage from Western Michigan territory. The first time on 4th and 1 from the 41 and the second time on 4th and 3 from the 48. #B1G
27 times teams punted in the fourth quarter within two scores of the lead. Georgia, New Mexico, California and Fresno State all punted from opponent territory with no more than 7 yards to go for a first down. Northern Illinois and Iowa combined for four 4th quarter punts while trailing or tied in their matchup.
And the winner is…Mark Richt and Georgia. The Bulldogs punted twice while trailing in the fourth quarter. The first was on 4th and 7 from the Clemson 40 with about 12 minutes left, trailing by 3. Clemson would take the ball 87 yards for a touchdown to go up by 10. On the next possession, Georgia was facing a tough 4th and 15 on their own 43 but now there were only 6 minutes left and they were down 2 scores, and Clemson had scored 38 points on them. Richt still chose to punt away. Georgia got the ball back down 10 with less than 2 and half minutes to play. They did get a quick score but failed to recover the onside kick.
Notes from around the NCAA
- You may not have heard but Michigan State’s offense was kind of bad last week. With defensive touchdowns and other big turnovers, an average team would have scored 41 points given State’s field position. They were one of the worst offenses in the country in both early conversions (38%) and adjusted third down conversion rate (-15%).
- Alabama won easily over Virginia Tech but the offense did not look strong. The Tide generated only 24 bonus yards, only four teams were worse.
- Three games saw both teams generate over 200 yards past the first down line. Georgia-Clemson, Northwestern-Cal and Vandy-Ole Miss were some of the most exciting games of the week with big plays on both sides. Oklahoma versus Louisiana-Monroe was the worst, with only 75 yards combined from both teams.
- All the Texas A&M talk was around The Manziel “controversy” train but the A&M offense was amazing on early downs. It’s hard to be good at both converting early downs and limiting third down distance. The Aggies did both, tops in the country with 1.7 average yards to go on third down to go with a 59% early conversion rate.
Notre Dame 6 Factors
|Field Pos||Early Conv||Bonus Yds||Avg 3rd Dist||Adj 3rd Conv||Red Zone|
|Offense||13.8 (68)||49.2% (39)||278 (2)||5.4 (26)||+1% (37)||7.0 (1)|
|Defense||10.9 (11)||52.5% (60)||91 (32)||8.1 (19)||+14% (75)||3.5 (18)|
If you watched any of the Irish game on Saturday, it’s not too hard to see where things went right for their offense. 278 bonus yards was second only to Georgia for the week, and Notre Dame did it in only 7 drives. Notre Dame looked like they were playing NCAA Football on the peewee difficulty setting with the way they broke out the big plays.
With so many big plays and with the opponent being an overmatched Temple squad, I don’t know that we know a whole lot else about Notre Dame’s offense from Saturday’s results. On defense the Irish mostly held serve. The Owls were faced with limited field position, expected to score only 11 points based on field position for the game. Notre Dame allowed over 50% early conversions and was awful (75th out of 88 teams) on third down.
With both Michigan and Notre Dame putting up easy wins against overmatched opponents in week one, I’ll have to revert to preseason rankings for a prediction. Going into the season I had Notre Dame at #15 and Michigan ranked 17th, essentially tied. With the game at Michigan I think they will have a slight edge. If they can keep the turnovers and big plays even, I think it’s a clear advantage Michigan.
Michigan 24 Notre Dame 21