Saturday, April 28, 2007

Numbers Numbers Numbers (Part Three)

Part One
Part Two

I’m no longer at a loss as I was in Part Two! Go me! Well...I still don’t totally know where this is going, but I’ve found some interesting things to share.

First, here’s what I’ve done since the last post:

  • I’ve entered box scores for 2003. I now have four seasons’ worth of Big XII box scores.
  • I’ve dabbled in some pivot tables (oh baby!).
  • I’ve looked further into the predictive values of my numbers (i.e. which factors are precursors of possible success the next season).
I've got plenty of material for future posts, but for this one I'm going to focus on one issue.

What do you figure is the most important of this list: Rush Offense, Pass Offense, Rush Defense, or Pass Defense? In other words, if you had to build a team from scratch, where should you start? As always, it depends on how you define those terms, I guess. Are we talking yards or yards per play? We’ll look at both. For results between 2003 and 2006 (Big XII teams), here are the correlations between quality in one area and overall success.

First, let’s look at the importance of overall yardage:

1. Rushing Yards (correlation: 0.51)
2. Opponents’ Rushing yards (0.48)
3. Opponents’ Passing yards (0.24)
4. Passing Yards (0.14)
This makes sense, really. Pure yardage stats are extremely circumstantial—how many times you run or pass (and therefore how many yards you rack up) can be closely dictated by the game situation (you’ll run more, and therefore rack up more yards, if you’re ahead; you’ll pass more, and therefore rack up more passing yards, if you’re behind). So if you’re able to get up early, you’ll likely run the ball more. However, some teams pass more than others when the game is close, so high passing yards could mean a couple different things (especially when Texas Tech is a member of your conference).

Just looking at yards isn’t a wonderful gauge because so many other game aspects/circumstances affect this category. Does it make more sense to look at yards per attempt?

1. Opponents’ Yards Per Pass Attempt (0.49)
2. Yards Per Rush Attempt (0.47)
3. Opponents’ Yards Per Rush Attempt (0.46)
4. Yards Per Pass Attempt (0.44)
There is little disparity here. They’re all of roughly the same importance. This almost becomes as much a measurement of big plays as passing or rushing proficiency. I guess we could average the two.

1. Rush Offense (0.49)
2. Rush Defense (0.49)
3. Pass Defense (0.37)
4. Pass Offense (0.29)
If this is a legitimate way of looking at things, then it would suggest that having a good passing game is the easiest thing to do, and it affects games the least. Meanwhile, having a strong running game is the hardest, and it has the most impact. Let’s look at the results to see if that’s true.

(To determine the “Best” for each of these, I just looked at yards per game and yards per attempt and used my own discretion)


Best Running Game: Missouri (conference record: 4-4, overall: 8-5)
Best Run Defense: Kansas State (7-2, 11-4, Big XII Champs)
Best Pass Defense: Oklahoma (8-1, 12-2)
Best Passing Game: Texas Tech (5-3, 8-5)


Best Running Game: Texas (7-1, 11-1)
Best Run Defense: Oklahoma (9-0, 12-1)
Best Pass Defense: Missouri (seriously, look up the in both yards and yards per attempt) (3-5, 5-6)
Best Passing Game: Texas Tech (5-3, 8-4)


Best Running Game: Texas (9-0, 13-0)
Best Run Defense: Kansas (3-5, 7-5)
Best Pass Defense: Texas (9-0, 13-0)
Best Passing Game: Texas Tech (6-2, 9-3)


Best Running Game: Oklahoma State (3-5, 7-6)
Best Run Defense: Texas (6-2, 10-3)
Best Pass Defense: Missouri (again, look up the numbers) (4-4, 8-5)
Best Passing Game: Texas Tech (4-4, 8-5)

Combined Records

Best Running Game - conference: 23-10 (.697 win %), 39-12 (.765 win %)
Best Run Defense – 25-9 (.735), 40-13 (.755)
Best Pass Defense – 24-10 (.706), 38-13 (.745)
Best Passing Game – 20-12 (.625), 33-17 (.660)
Figuring that conference record is the best gauge (since there’s a huge disparity among non-conference schedules), the order might actually be 1) Run Defense, 2) Pass Defense, 3) Run Offense, 4) Pass Offense. But really, there’s just not a distinguishable difference here, at least among the first three categories. All we know for sure is a) Texas Tech is pretty good at throwing the ball (duh), b) the “defense wins championships” cliché has some statistical backing (even bigger duh), and c) Missouri screws these comparisons up by showing up three times and never having a great conference record (for Mizzou fans, the biggest duh of all).

Yeah, that took a lot of words and numbers to basically reaffirm that you can win by being good at any number of things, but you’re more likely to win if you’re good at a number of things. I’m brilliant. So what do you think? I can twist these numbers to say that any aspect is more important than any other...what is your view of the most important? My assumption when I started was Running Game > Passing Game and Defense > Offense. Yours? Is there some other way I should look at this? I actually enjoy doing this for some nerdish reason...