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Stat Relevance Watch: Part Nine - Non-conference

There are, as they say, lies, damn lies, and statistics. The numbers mean something, yet often we're not sure 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
Part Six: Big XII Game-by-Game Results
Part Seven: Pac-Ten Game-by-Game Results
Part Eight: SEC Game-by-Game Results


Part Nine: Non-Conference Game-by-Game Results

The Method: SMQ used ESPN box scores to pull out specific numbers from all 42 non-conference games played among teams from BCS conferences 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. Total Offense .854 (35-6)
2. Yards Per Pass .850 (34-6)
3. 3rd Down Efficiency .800 (32-8)
4. Pass Offense .762 (32-10)
Rush Offense .762 (32-10)
6. Yards Per Carry .718 (28-11)
7. First to Score .691 (29-13)
8. Turnover Margin .686 (24-11)
9. Time of Possession .675 (27-13)
10. Home Team .643 (27-15)
11. Penalty Yards .439 (18-23)

And the OCD version:

Stat Category Win % Stat Category Win %
Total Offense .854 (35-6) Yards Per Carry .718 (28-11)
> 500 1.000 (5-0) > 6.0 1.000 (5-0)
450-499 .875 (7-1) 5.5 - 5.9 .200 (1-4)
400-449 .75- (6-2) 5.0 - 5.4 .750 (9-3)
350-399 .539 (14-8) 4.5 - 4.9 .583 (7-5)
300-349 .462 (6-7) 4.0 - 4.4 .500 (5-5)
250-299 .300 (3-7) 3.5 - 3.9 .500 (2-2)
< 250 .056 (1-17) 3.0 - 3.4 .600 (6-4)
Pass Offense .762 (32-10) < 3.0 .269 (7-19)
> 400 - Yards Per Pass .850 (34-6)
350-399 .000 (0-1) > 12.0 1.000 (3-0)
300-349 1.000 (6-0) 10.0 - 11.9 .750 (3-1)
250-299 .700 (14-6) 8.0 - 9.9 .560 (14-9)
200-249 .421 (8-11) 6.0 - 7.9 .607 (17-9)
150-199 .389 (7-11) 4.0 - 5.9 .227 (5-17)
< 150 .316 (6-13) < 4.0 .000 (0-6)
Rush Offense .762 (32-10) Third Down Efficiency .800 (32-8)
> 300 1.000 (3-0) > 70% 1.000 (2-0)
250-299 1.000 (1-0) 60 - 69% .800 (4-1)
200-249 .733 (11-4) 50 - 59% 1.000 (14-0)
150-199 .500 (6-6) 40 - 49% .600 (9-6)
100-149 .520 (13-12) 30 - 39% .294 (5-12)
50-99 .375 (6-10) < 30% .258 (8-23)
< 50 .167 (2-10) Turnover Margin .686 (24-11)
> +3 .714 (5-2)
Fewest Penalty Yards .439 (18-23) + 2 .750 (6-2)
+ 1 .700 (14-6)
Time of Possession .675 (27-13) 0 .500 (7-7)
-1 .300 (6-14)
First to Score .691 (29-13) -2 .250 (2-6)
< -3 .286 (2-5)
Home Team .643 (27-15)

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 game here.

Right off, every category shows a stronger correlation to victory than its "average" over conference play, which is probably a testament to the slightly more lopsided nature of these out-of-conference matchups; there were fewer close games than in-conference, and more games where one team dominated a greater number of categories. Taking that into account, this is the strongest correlation we've seen yet between total yardage and victory. Yards per pass continues to rank very high, as it has consistently through several conferences so far, but SMQ doesn't think he's seen as clear a divide in any single category as he does here on third down efficiency, where only one team that converted half its attempts or better lost. Rushing and passing production correlated identically to winning, but there weren't many big games in either case (the only 350-plus-yard passing game was by Purdue, in a loss at Notre Dame).

The theory of a correlation between time of possession and penalty yardage - offenses are more likely to draw penalties than defenses, ergo the team that spends more time on offense will have more penalty yardage - fared much better in this sample than it did in SEC games: teams with the fewest penalty yards were mostly losers again, and won/lost in roughly inverse proportion to teams with a time of possession advantage (18-23 in the former, 27-13 for ToP leaders).

Part Ten: Bowl Game-by-Game Results.