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Just The Sports: Was Rudy Carpenter All That Good To Begin With?

Just The Sports

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Was Rudy Carpenter All That Good To Begin With?

Had Arizona State Dirk Koetter not waffled on who his starting quarterback would be this year, one day picking Sam Keller and then the next day after listening to his players deciding on Rudy Carpenter leading to Keller's transfer to Nebraska, the decline of Rudy Carpenter's play would not be such a story, but since he did then it is.

For a little background on the story for those who may not be very familiar with it, last year was Sam Keller's first year as a full-time starter and he acquitted himself very well. During his six games of play (not including the Stanford game), he completed 58.5% of his passes, averaged 344.5 passing yards per game, and his pass attempts netted 8.3 yards per. Then he injured his thumb in the Oregon game and after playing only part of the Stanford game was done for the season due to torn ligaments in his thumb, which opened the door for one Rudy Carpenter.

Carpenter stepped in for Keller and ended the season as the leader in the nation in passing efficiency, seemingly putting up better numbers in his six games than Keller did. Carpenter completed 64.3% of his passes in those games, averaged 355.5 passing yards per game, and had 9.7 yards per pass attempt. In addition, he threw 17 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions.

Originally, I, too, was enamored with Carpenter's 2005 passing numbers and when he struggled this year, I thought he would turn it around quickly. When he didn't, I started wondering if he had ever been that good to begin with. Comparing the two quarterbacks' numbers, there was no statistically significant difference between any of their important numbers, meaning neither quarterback had started enough games to say for sure who was actually the better quarterback.

I also thought that Carpenter's numbers may have been inflated by the teams he played. Of the six teams he faced, only two of the teams went to a bowl game and one of those teams was his opponent in a bowl game; four of the six teams Keller faced went to a bowl game, meaning in theory he probably faced tougher competition. There was some truth to this, but not much. For the season, the teams Carpenter lined up against did allow more average passing yards per game (254.8 to 237.3) and and a higher yards per pass attempt (7.5 to 7.0) than Keller's opponents, but the differences were not statistically significant. The only statistically significant difference was in completion percentage with the teams Carpenter played against again allowing better numbers to quarterbacks (61.1% to 56.8%).

All of this I write to point out that Rudy Carpenter was probably never as good as he looked last year and this year seems to be his regression to the mean. Just as importantly, it is no guarantee if Sam Keller had been the starting quarterback for the Arizona State Sun Devils this year that he would be doing any better than Rudy Carpenter is. We will have to wait until more games are played to see that for sure since neither quarterback is appreciably superior to the other.


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