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Stat Revelvance Watch: Part Eight - The SEC

There are, as they say, lies, damn lies, and statistics. The numbers mean something, yet often we're at a loss as to what, exactly, they can tell us. 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
Part Six: Big XII Game-by-Game Results
Part Seven: Pac-Ten Game-by-Game Results


Part Eight: SEC Game-by-Game Results

The Method: SMQ used ESPN box scores to pull out specific numbers from all conference games played among SEC teams this season, and developed a winning percentage for each of eleven major statistical categories. 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 (the stats below are listed in offensive form, but the records are identical as from a defense-centric point of view). 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 .766 (36-11)
2. First to Score .681 (32-15)
3. Rush Offense .674 (31-15)
4. 3rd Down Efficiency .651 (28-15)
5. Time of Possession .617 (29-18)
Total Offense .617 (29-18)
7. Yards Per Carry .609 (28-18)
8. Turnover Margin .605 (23-15)
9. Pass Offense .532 (25-22)
10. Home Team .489 (22-23)
11. Fewest Penalty Yards .311 (14-31)

OCD version and analysis follows the jump.

Stat Category Win % Stat Category Win %
Total Offense .617 (29-18) Yards Per Carry .609 (28-18)
> 500 .667 (2-1) > 6.0 .625 (5-3)
450-499 1.000 (2-0) 5.5 - 5.9 .667 (2-1)
400-449 .727 (8-3) 5.0 - 5.4 .500 (5-5)
350-399 .478 (11-12) 4.5 - 4.9 .667 (4-2)
300-349 .619 (13-8) 4.0 - 4.4 .625 (5-3)
250-299 .467 (7-8) 3.5 - 3.9 .357 (5-9)
< 250 .158 (3-16) 3.0 - 3.4 .600 (12-8)
Pass Offense .532 (25-22) < 3.0 .360 (9-16)
> 400 .500 (1-1) Yards Per Pass .766 (36-11)
350-399 - > 12.0 .333 (1-2)
300-349 1.000 (2-0) 10.0 - 11.9 .875 (7-1)
250-299 .556 (10-8) 8.0 - 9.9 .762 (16-5)
200-249 .500 (13-13) 6.0 - 7.9 .474 (18-20)
150-199 .500 (13-13) 4.0 - 5.9 .211 (4-15)
< 150 .400 (8-12) < 4.0 .200 (1-4)
Rush Offense .674 (31-15) Third Down Efficiency .651 (28-15)
> 300 - > 70% 1.000 (2-0)
250-299 .750 (3-1) 60 - 69% -
200-249 .750 (6-2) 50 - 59% .667 (14-7)
150-199 .533 (8-7) 40 - 49% .588 (10-7)
100-149 .556 (20-16) 30 - 39% .500 (14-14)
50-99 .385 (10-16) < 30% .308 (8-18)
< 50 .000 (0-5) Turnover Margin .605 (23-15)
> +3 .778 (7-2)
Fewest Penalty Yards .311 (14-31) + 2 .500 (4-4)
+ 1 .571 (12-9)
Time of Possession .617 (29-18) 0 .500 (9-9)
-1 .429 (9-12)
First to Score .681 (32-15) -2 .500 (4-4)
< -3 .222 (2-7)
Home Team .489 (22-23)

Discrepancies in some totals are due to ties or virtual ties in a couple games per category. Notoriously inconsistent time of possession results were listed for every SEC game. Two games were neutral site, thus no home team.

There's no consistency here relative to what we've seen in other leagues, when at least one category came through looking strong. Not so much in the SEC. The high correlation of "Yards Per Pass" is in keeping with a larger trend, but other than the small subset of teams that averaged between 8 and 11.9 yards per pass or had a plus-three or better turnover margin, not even a sub-category of possibly relevant sample size exhibited anything like dominance. Per its reputation, this is clearly the most defensively-oriented conference in the nation - not that there's anything wrong with that. There was a grand total of four 300-yard passing efforts, and half of them (both 400-yard performances) came in the same Vanderbilt-Kentucky barnburner. Overall, passing yardage had virtually no relevance (passing yards was actually below .500 most of the process, until the final couple games gave that category a little boost).  Certainly the "first to score" results in no other conference have finished so near the top, or penalty yardage demonstrated such complete irrelevance bordering on actual harm. Before SMQ actually advocates jumping offsides, though, he should note how close those penalty totals were most of the time. The most penalized teams rarely held the title by very much. Per Saurian Sagacity's post on the topic Monday, SMQ kept an eye on time of possession at it related to penalties, the idea being offenses are more likely to be penalized than defenses, ergo the longer a team's offense has the ball, the more likely it is to rack up penalty yardage. But no dice in this sample: time of possession correlated to victory twice as strongly as penalties.

Essentially, if a team managed to crack 200 yards rushing, hit a big pass or two, not give the ball away and get called for holding a lot, it was a winner in the SEC.

Part Eight: Non-conference Game-by-Game Results.