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Just The Sports: 2006-12-03

Just The Sports

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Makes Sense To Me

Why wouldn't the University of Miami hire the man who has overseen the only aspect of Miami football that has actually improved since the Butch Davis Era?

From that October 2 post:

As for the defense, there are statistically significant differences (pass completions, passing yards, points per game, yards per pass attempt, and completion percentage) between the two eras and the difference all favor Miami's defenses under Larry Coker so the defenses have not been to blame for the decline unless they continue on the path they are on in 2006. Four games into this season, quarterbacks are completing 59.2% of their passes and averaging 202.0 yards per game with 8.2 yards per pass attempt.

The completion percentage is the highest Miami defenses have allowed since 1997 when they were 5-6 and having to deal with having numerous scholarships taken away thanks to an NCAA infraction, the average passing yards is the highest since 2000, and the yards per pass attempt is the highest of any Coker or Davis-led team. Since these games account for only one-third of the season, there is still a lot of time to turn that around, especially since they only have a couple games against veteran successful quarterbacks left.

I should have said defenses under Randy Shannon.

Those curious about my predictive abilities will be relieved to find out I was right about Miami turning around their pass defense. At season's end, opposing quarterbacks finished with a 50% completion percentage, fourth among Miami teams in that category since 2001. Only two of Butch Davis's allowed a lower completion percentage.


The Idea of Quality Wins

One of the most oft-repeated arguments for why Florida is more deserving of a berth in the BCS Championship title game is to say that of course Florida is a better because since they had more quality wins during the season. A more apt reason is to ask yourself who wants to see Lloyd Carr get out-coached again in a big game, but I digress. While it is true that Florida has more wins over bowl-eligible teams, wins for all of their importance do not always give an indication of how good a team is as some teams get lucky in victories and unlucky in losses. Therefore, I propose a different look at the idea of quality wins.

My method is admittedly simplistic, but no more simplistic than the one already espoused by the national media. What I did was to look at Florida's and Michigan's opponents' (sans Ohio St. and Auburn) box scores for all the games they played, including the ones versus Florida and Michigan, and then to split them by offense and defense in the hopes by comparing their statistics I would see which team, Florida or Michigan, had defeated the tougher competition.

Imagine then how soundly my hopes were dashed when I looked at the results. It turns out that all the talk of Florida having more quality wins than Michigan has been nothing but hot air spewed to eat up the precious minutes between sponsored segments. Offensively, the teams Michigan and Florida played have been remarkably identical for the season with the only statistically significant difference being that Michigan's foes have averaged more pass attempts per game (31.7 to 28.4) and more pass completions per game (18.6 to 16.7). Since the two teams' opponents have both completed a nearly identical percentage of pass attempts (58.6% for Michigan's opponents to 58.8% to Florida's opponents) even that attempts per game difference was barely worth mentioning.

Comparing Michigan's and Florida's opponents defensively does not provide a clear winner in terms of who had more quality wins either. As with the offenses, Michigan's opponents saw more passes through the air in their games, having to defend against 29.7 per game whereas Florida's opponents only had to defend against 27.1 attempts per game. Florida's opponents did do a better job at keeping their opponents from completing those 27.1 attempts per game, allowing a 55.2% completion percentage, which was the only important statistically significant difference between the four sets of data. Michigan's opponents allowed their opponents to complete 58.3% of attempted throws. Basically, that is what Florida's quality wins boil down to; they faced teams who played pass defense a little better.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Best Rushing Backfield In The Nation

While everyone else wants to debate who is the best #2 team in the nation, there is a more important and serious question that deserves answering. That is, finding out which team has had the best rushing backfield in the nation during the college regular season. The finalists for this unsanctioned award are as follows: Darren McFadden and Felix Jones of Arkansas, C.J. Spiller and James Davis of Clemson, and Pat White and Steve Slaton of West Virginia. Though, each player on this list has had his share of spectacular runs, this award is not only concerned with highlight reel plays, but also consistency throughout the season down in and down out.

Coming in last place are the duo from the University of Arkansas, McFadden and Jones. If you are surprised to find them third on this last, join the party because I, too, have fallen prey to that nastiest of sports diseases. Namely, I assumed that since these two running backs, especially McFadden have received such national exposure, they were the best in the national. That is simply not the case. Even though their numbers are impressive, 53.6% success rate, 7.6 extra yards per successful run, and 3.4 yards needed per failed run do not quite measure up.

Second place requires us to travel farther north until we reach the state of West Virginia to run into Pat White and Steve Slaton. This duo, notable because it includes a quarterback, have the same success rate, 53.6%, as Arkansas' tandem. Where they have the advantage has been in the length of their successful runs, averaging 9.7 extra yards per. This makes up for the 4.6 yards needed per failed run, the highest of the three pairs.

Those who are master deducers have already figured out that C.J. Spiller & James Davis have won the award for best rushing backfield in the nation, but the reason why still must be given. They actually have not combined for as many long runs as White and Slaton; their 7.4 yards per successful run and 3.3 yards needed per failed run are more in line with McFadden and and Jones. But they have been the most consistent pair of the three with a 56.8% success rate, enough to make up for their lack of impressive runs and guaranteeing them the title that carries with it no honor and the award for which there is no corresponding trophy.