Friday, November 07, 2008

3rd Down analysis

We start with something that appears pretty obvious---BG and its opponents have performed almost exactly equally on third down...

BG is 53 of 128
Their opponents are 57 of 128.

That's a difference of four conversions in 9 games, or less than a half a conversion per game--on exactly the same number of attempts.

But, if you look closer, there is another story. And another.

The first other story is that BG has been great on conversions with more than 10 to go. We have only allowed 1 third down to be converted at more than 10 to go, while we have converted 7 times.

Again, this would appear to be a positive. But, you can see a lot about what has happened by looking at how our overall attempts are distributed. First, for BG.

Now, for the opponents....

Wow! Let's digest that for a minute. Yes, our opponents have only converted 1 time over 10 yards, but they have only put themselves in that position 16 times, while BG has run 43 plays on 3rd down over greater than 10 to go. This is a direct reflection of the quality of plays made on first and second is candidly a miracle that we are doing as well on third down as we are.

When you think that the opponents have run 89 3rd down plays of 6 or less, and we have run 63, and that we have run almost three times as often from more than 10 yards (almost five a game!), its just amazing that we are doing as well on 3rd down as we are.

Let's compare success rates by yards to go.

This is, again, pretty striking. A few conclusions:

First, on the mid-range attempts, (4-6), our opponents are making about 43%. Since this is about in the middle of the distance to go, you'd expect teams to convert about the league average for all attempts, and, indeed, our opponents do. But, BG converts 61%, almost as well as we do on the shorter attempts. In fact, it essentially doesn't matter to BG whether its 1-3 or 4-6--the conversions are about the same.

And, on the really short ones, we're pretty close to our opponents.

So, in other words, BG makes up for the fact that we put ourselves in situations where we have longer to go by being better at converting them. Which, given our team philosophy, we should be.

There are two ways to look at this....

  1. If we could improve on first and second down, we'd be really dangerous.
  2. Or, this is something we cannot expect to sustain, and if we keep getting ourself in these difficult situations, our good fortunes will eventually turn against us. It isn't logical that you can convert just as well from a longer distance forever.
Well, I thought this was interesting. Comments are welcome, as always.

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