OK - so I know there have been a number of posts on RB performance and who the best RB is (mods - I think this is a new take, but feel free to remove if its redundant).
I did a little more digging into the RB performance last year to see if I could quantify who performed better. I came up with the following charts, which I think definitively shows Drake was our best running back by far. (click to make bigger).
Chart 1 - Big Ten Opponents only
This is based on approximately 32 attempts by Green, 56 by Johnson and 82 by Smith (Note: see data disclaimer below).
How do I read this chart?
Basically, the chart tells you what % of each RB's rushing attempts went for more than X yards. The x axis is "X yards", the y-axis is the % of attempts. Being higher on the chart is better. Data is limited to Green, Smith and Johnson.
E.g. 25% of Green's rushining attempts went 7 yards or more; 34% of Johnson's did the same and only 20% of Smiths. Likewise, 18% of Johnson's carries went 10 yards or more.
Note: Read "15+" as "16 or more yards" (its a little nuance I oversaw when creating the charts)
How did you create this chart?
I basically copied and pasted the play by plays from ESPN for every game into a spreadsheet, then ran some conditional formulas and pivot tables to identify:
1. Was a UM running back in the play?
2. If so, was it a rushing attempt?
3. If so, what was the result in yards.
4. Filter, summarize, etc
Data disclaimer: The underlying data may not be 100% correct, there may be minor discrepancies, but based on the digging and testing I've done, the impact to the results is limited. I'd put the confident interval at >95% on the results.
What should I to take away from the chart?
Basically, Drake Johnson was the most efficient back by some margin. 71% of his carries went for 3 or more yards, compared to 44% for Green and 51% for Smith. The talk of him not being a Power 5 RB seems like nonsense to me, based on the data.
I made also made up a metric I called the explosion/implosion index, calculated as follows: % of carries 10 or more yards divided by % of carries for 0 or less yards. Johnson kills the other two here...
Explosion/implosion index results
- Johnson: 2.0
- Green: 0.57
- Smith: 0.43
What if you include all games? What if you exclude Indiana?
The answer is it gets closer, but doesn't change the story substantially.
If all games are included, Drake still sits higher at all point on the curve if all games are included.
If all games except Indiana are included, Drake sits higher at all but 5 points (9-12 yards), where all the running backs are within 1-2 percent of each other.
Chart 2 - all games excl. Indiana
If all games except App State, Miami (OH), and Indiana are included (Chart 3), Drake is higher at all points, except 15+ yard (5% of Drakes carries when 15+ yards, 7% of Green's did).
Chart 3 - all games excl. App State, Miami (OH) and Indiana