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Stat Revelvance Watch: Part Five - The Big Ten

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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


Part Five: Big Ten Game-by-Game Results

The Method SMQ used ESPN box scores to pull out specific numbers from all 44 conference games played among Big Ten 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). 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. Yards Per Pass .907 (39-4)
2. Total Offense .860 (37-6)
3. Time of Possession .763 (29-9)
4. 3rd Down Efficiency .750 (33-11)
5. Rush Offense .721 (31-13)
6. Yards Per Carry .682 (30-14)
7. First to Score .636 (28-16)
8. Turnover Margin .630 (17-10)
9. Pass Offense .605 (26-17)
10. Home Team .477 (21-23)
11. Fewest Penalty Yards .390 (16-26)

OCD version and analysis follows the jump:

Stat Category Win % Stat Category Win %
Total Offense .860 (37-6) Yards Per Carry .682 (30-14)
> 500 .818 (9-2) > 6.0 .546 (6-5)
450-499 .333 (1-2) 5.5 - 5.9 .667 (4-2)
400-449 .750 (15-5) 5.0 - 5.4 .714 (5-2)
350-399 .800 (8-2) 4.5 - 4.9 .692 (9-4)
300-349 .467 (7-8) 4.0 - 4.4 .300 (3-7)
250-299 .273 (3-8) 3.5 - 3.9 .727 (8-3)
< 250 .111 (2-16) 3.0 - 3.4 .250 (1-3)
Pass Offense .605 (26-17) < 3.0 .280 (7-18)
> 400 1.000 (1-0) Yards Per Pass .907 (39-4)
350-399 1.000 (1-0) > 12.0 1.000 (1-0)
300-349 .500 (3-3) 10.0 - 11.9 1.000 (10-0)
250-299 .647 (11-6) 8.0 - 9.9 .833 (15-3)
200-249 .565 (13-10) 6.0 - 7.9 .409 (9-13)
150-199 .429 (9-12) 4.0 - 5.9 .321 (9-19)
< 150 .316 (6-13) < 4.0 .318 (7-22)
Rush Offense .721 (31-13) Third Down Efficiency .750 (33-11)
> 300 .500 (1-1) > 70% .500 (1-1)
250-299 1.000 (4-0) 60 - 69% 1.000 (10-0)
200-249 .737 (14-5) 50 - 59% .833 (10-2)
150-199 .688 (11-5) 40 - 49% .467 (7-8)
100-149 .444 (8-10) 30 - 39% .421 (8-11)
50-99 .278 (5-13) < 30% .267 (8-22)
< 50 .091 (1-10) Turnover Margin .630 (17-10)
> +3 .900 (9-1)
Penalty Yards .390 (16-26) + 2 .667 (4-2)
+ 1 .455 (5-6)
Time of Possession .763 (29-9) 0 .500 (17-17)
-1 .545 (6-5)
First to Score .636 (28-16) -2 .333 (2-4)
< -3 .100 (1-9)
Home Team .477 (21-23)

Any discrepancies in the number of games in any given category - which there are few - are the result of the numbers being tied or only one or two off and therefore offer too small a margin to represent a discernible advantage for either team.

Old-school, run-first aficionados will point to the league's impressive 72 percent success rate among the better rushing offense in any given game and the time of possession winner's shocking 76 percent chance of coming out the overall winner this season - the latter far out of proportion to the rest of the nation as measured through the first four installments, much to Brian's chagrin, no doubt - as evidence this is still a league won by burly backs behind hulking lineman with consonant-laden Balkan surnames. This is probably still only true of Wisconsin and Michigan, to the extent it's true to any team, but everybody was coming up with at least a few timely strikes in the air: the "yards per pass" category correlated to a better than 90 percent chance of victory, which is significantly off the charts for that statistic compared to the ACC and Big East and over the number of games in the Big Ten look. And if you played the efficiency game well enough to convert more than half of your third down attempts on offense and average double digits per pass attempt, regardless the overall yardage at the end of the game, your chances of winning in the Big Ten this year were just about certain, which was not the case in the ACC or Big East (though this is largely because those leagues' respective coaches were mostly terrified of what might happen if the quarterback was asked to actually put a big game in his delicate hands). If you failed to convert third downs and hit the occasional big play - and probably also hit the 150-yard team rushing mark - you were probably Indiana. It clearly paid to hang on to the ball, by hook or by crook: penalty yards nearly matched flags in the Big East for irrelevance.

Part Six: Big XII Game-by-Game Results