Bill C., the advanced stats guru behind S&P+ and Five Factors, posted a new article today talking about big plays in college football and how to best achieve them.
If you can't read it, he basically says the following:
When he initally came out with his five factors in January 2014, he said: "Big plays are probably the single most important factor to winning football games."
His reasoning was that while a 20 play 80 yard drive was the ideal outcome, they rarely happen. When offenses, especially in college, are on the field for that long they tend to make drive killing plays (turnovers, penalties, big loses, etc.) more often than not. Big plays reduce the amount of plays an offense is on the field, reduce chances for drive killing plays, and are thus paramount to a team's success.
While the general idea still remains, he walks back a good amount on that in this article. He draws a lot of comparisons to Ken Pomeroy's thoughts on 3 point defense where KenPom says the best 3 point defense is preventing 3 pointers from being taken as 3 point percentages are random as a whole.
In this case, Bill C. shows that according to his data big plays happen at the same rate no matter the down and distance. With this in mind, and looking at his data for Success Rate, PPP and isoPPP, he comes up with the following major conclusions:
"If big plays can happen on any down at any rate, the key to creating explosive plays is an efficient offense. The more plays you're on the field, the larger chance you have of creating big plays."
"Efficiency is everything in CFB. Explosiveness is too random to rely on without efficiency. Unless you're Penn State anyway"
While this seems pretty obvious in theory, the data behind it is very cool and it's a big change in philosophy from his old idea of "efficiency doesn't matter, just make big plays."
That last sentence about PSU is also a mini shot at them, supporting any PSU naysayers who think their offense last year was too random/luck oriented to sustain success at the same rate this year.