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Stats Relevance Watch, Part Four

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There are, as they say, lies, damn lies, and statistics. The numbers mean something, yet often we know not what. Here SMQ will look at the final regular season statistics in more than a dozen major categories to suss out who succeeded in what and how that statistical success correlated to overall success in terms of final record. SMQ does not have the luxury of a high-powered supercomputer or degree-type qualification in mathematics or statistics, but his analysis will be driven as deep as his egghead, tinfoil cap curiosity and cell phone calculator will take it. That is to say, quasi-scientific at best

Part One: Which stats most closely correlate with success?
Part Two: What do the best teams do best?
Part Three: ACC Game-by-Game Results


Part Four: Big East Game-by-Game Results

The Method: SMQ used ESPN box scores to pull out specific numbers from 23 of the most competitive and reasonably well-matched of the 28 conference games played between Big East teams this season, and developed a winning percentage for each of eleven major statistical categories (the stats below are listed in offensive form, but merely flip the records for a defense-centric point of view; "Home Team" was added since the ACC analysis). That is, if the winning team outgained its opponent running the ball, that game was marked as a "victory" for the rush offense category; if the loser had a higher conversion rate on third down, the game was marked as a "defeat" for the third down efficiency category. And so on for each of the categories in each game until the supply of competitive examples was dry. After which each category's "record" was added up to determine its correlation to victory among the group as a whole.

The quick and dirty, portable results:

Rank Category Win %
1. Rush Offense 0.913
2. Total Offense 0.826
Yards Per Carry 0.826
4. Turnover Margin 0.706
5. Yards Per Pass 0.696
First to Score 0.696
7. 3rd Down Efficiency 0.652
Home Team 0.652
9. Pass Offense 0.522
10. Time of Possession 0.471
11. Penalty Yards 0.364

OCD version and analysis follow the jump...

Stat Category Win % Stat Category Win %
Total Offense .826 (19-4) Yards Per Carry .826 (19-4)
> 500 .750 (3-1) > 6.0 .800 (4-1)
450-499 .667 (2-1) 5.5 - 5.9 1.000 (2-0)
400-449 .889 (8-1) 5.0 - 5.4 1.000 (3-0)
350-399 .667 (4-2) 4.5 - 4.9 .667 (2-1)
300-349 .500 (4-4) 4.0 - 4.4 .556 (5-4)
250-299 .091 (1-10) 3.5 - 3.9 .833 (5-1)
< 250 .200 (1-4) 3.0 - 3.4 .000 (0-2)
Pass Offense .522 (12-11) < 3.0 .125 (2-14)
> 400 - (0-0) Yards Per Pass .696 (16-7)
350-399 1.000 (2-0) > 12.0 1.000 (4-0)
300-349 .400 (2-3) 10.0 - 11.9 .667 (4-2)
250-299 .667 (4-2) 8.0 - 9.9 .667 (6-3)
200-249 .222 (2-7) 6.0 - 7.9 .333 (4-8)
150-199 .539 (7-6) 4.0 - 5.9 .364 (4-7)
< 150 .546 (6-5) < 4.0 .000 (0-4)
Rush Offense .913 (21-2) Third Down Efficiency .652 (15-8)
> 300 .750 (3-1) > 70% - (0-0)
250-299 1.000 (2-0) 60 - 69% 1.000 (1-0)
200-249 .750 (3-1) 50 - 59% .600 (3-2)
150-199 .750 (9-3) 40 - 49% .600 (9-6)
100-149 .667 (4-2) 30 - 39% .539 (7-6)
50-99 .167 (2-12) < 30% .429 (6-8)
< 50 .000 (0-4) Turnover Margin .706 (12-5)
> +3 1.000 (3-0)
Penalty Yards .364 (8-14) + 2 .600 (3-2)
+ 1 .571 (4-3)
Time of Possession .471 (8-9) 0 .500 (6-6)
-1 .429 (3-4)
First to Score .696 (16-7) -2 .400 (2-3)
< -3 .000 (0-3)
Home Team .652 (15-8)

Most striking, aside from the continued irrelevance of cumulative penalty yardage and, to a lesser extent, time of possession (again, ESPN's boxes are erratic reporting TOP), is how dominant the running game proved to be in virtually every game: there is a very clear stratification at about 150 yards, and virtualy every team that outgained its opponent on the ground came out a winner (the exceptions: West Virginia against Louisville and against South Florida). There are also lulls in the otherwise upward trend of winning via passing yardage between 300-349 and much moreso at 200-249, which suggests, in a league that's universally run-first outside of Louisville, throwing for more than 200 yards meant a departure from the gameplan to catch up. Nobody had the quarterback for this (possibly Louisville, not that it was ever significantly behind, even in its one loss at Rutgers) and it didn't go so well - SMQ strongly expects this to be the only league he analyzes that didn't feature a single 400-yard passing game in conference play. No, running and stopping the run was the name of the game here across the board, to a greater extent even than taking care of the ball, though turnover margin did correlate pretty positively winning once again. The running game is probably also responsible for the heavy importance of scoring first, in order to sit on a lead.

The `Home Team' category produced a much better correlation to victory than SMQ would have predicted, since he doesn't put much stock in homefield advantage except in certain situations and guessed it would be right around .500. Maybe because so many Big East teams (Cincinnati, Connecticut, Rutgers, South Florida, Syracuse) trotted out young and inexperienced quarterbacks in hostile road situations? What venue in the Big East counts as a "hostile" environment for a visiting quarterback? West Virginia? But the Mountaineers lost to USF at home, equaling number of games it lost on the road. Or maybe SMQ's non-data-based perceptions, as usual, are very dumb. He'll keep this one on the ledger for the rest of the conferences to see if it holds up elsewhere.

Part Five: Big Ten Game-by-Game Results