There is only ONE Oklahoma

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A (very) long statistical analysis of OU and Florida

Yes, I have been distracted from NASCAR over the past few weeks and after the new year I will offer my never ending opinions of the goings on with the sport and especially 'my driver' and the #19 GEM team. But it is not every day that your college football team makes it to a BCS champ game:

I know the prevailing wisdom seems to be that Florida is going to beat us 65-63, but I don't see it playing out that way. I have come to a different conclusion. One team may light up the scoreboard, but I don't think both teams will. I think it's either a blowout, or a very close game with a lower final score than people expect. The reason I believe this is OU and Florida's recipes for success are extremely similar. Dynamic offenses that are put in favorable positions by opportunistic defenses. Because I love my team, but more so because I'm a massive 'numbers cruncher', I've done some exhaustive investigative web-surfing to support this supposition. This is a very long post, and very stat-heavy, so go ahead and stop reading...right about....now.

An opportunistic defense creates turnovers and momentum-changing events like quarterback sacks and tackles for loss. I'll start there.

Turnover Margin

No surprise, Oklahoma and Florida are 1st and 2nd nationally in turnover margin. Oklahoma is +1.77 per game, Florida +1.69. This seems like a push, however if you dive a little deeper the statistics reveal a little more. Florida leads the nation in passes intercepted with 24. However, Sam Bradford has thrown just one interception since the Texas game, or one interception in his last 257 attempts. Tim Tebow has thrown 3 interceptions for the year on 258 attempts. It seems unlikely either team will gain an advantage in this department. OU may have an advantage in fumbles. We've recovered 17 fumbles on the year, while Florida has lost 8 fumbles. Conversely, Florida has only recovered 9 fumbles on the year, while OU has only lost two fumbles on the season. That in itself is amazing, and is the lowest total of any team in the country. The next lowest team has 4. For reference, OU has lost two fumbles on 1,036 plays for the season for an average of one fumble lost every 538 plays. Florida has lost 8 fumbles on the season on 800 plays for an average of one fumble lost every 100 plays. I would give OU a very, very slight advantage in the turnover department. If we can recover just one fumble in the game it may be the difference.
Verdict-Slight advantage to OU

Sacks/Tackles For Loss

OU is 3rd nationally with 42 quarterback sacks. Florida is 33rd with 32 quarterback sacks. OU averages a sack against the opposition once every 11.83 pass attempts. Florida gets a sack once every 12.57 pass attempts. Guess who numbers 1 and 2 are in sacks? Texas and TCU. In case you're wondering, 7 of the 11 sacks OU has allowed on the season were to Texas and TCU. We've faced 3 other teams on the season with more sacks than Florida: Cincinnati, Texas Tech, and Nebraska. Those 3 teams combined for a total of 2 sacks against us. OU has allowed a total of 11 quarterback sacks on the year which is 4th best statistically. Florida has allowed 16, which is 13th best. This is where it gets interesting though-OU allows a sack every 43.27pass attempts, Florida allows a sack every 18.68 pass attempts. Florida has also faced more defenses that are statistically weaker in quarterback sacks. I'm not sure how significant this will turn out to be, but it appears to be an advantage for OU

There is a pretty significant discrepancy in our advantage in tackles for loss. OU ranks 9th nationally with nearly 8 per game, Florida is 85th with just over 5 per game. Both teams are nearly identical in TFL allowed. OU 12th, Fla 14th, both allowing just over 4 per game.
Verdict-Advantage to OU

3rd down offense/defense

I believe this is one of the most overlooked stats in football. Converting 3rd downs offensively allows a team to sustain drives and retain momentum. Conversely, a defense's ability to stop the opposing team from converting 3rd downs kills momentum and gives the other team the ball back. Not surprisingly , OU and Florida both excel in each category.

OU is 7th nationally with a 3rd down conversion rate of 51.6%. Florida is 13th with a conversion rate of 49.3%. What's interesting is we've already faced 5 teams with a higher conversion rate than Florida. Texas-2nd 57.1%, Texas Tech-4th 54.5%, Mizzou-5th 54.4%, TCU-8th 51.5%, and Kansas 11th 50%.

Again, both teams are nearly identical in 3rd down defense. Florida is 15th nationally, allowing opposing offenses to convert 31.8% of the time. OU is 21st, allowing a 33.3 conversion rate. Something to consider about this statistic that lends itself in OU's favor-OU's defense has faced 5 of the top 11 offenses in converting 3rd downs. This would appear to be a good sign for us defensively. There's a common theme that manifests through these statistics-TCU and Cincinnati. These are very solid teams. TCU is 5th, Cincinnati is 6th in this category.


I'll attempt to dissect the defensive statistics a little now. FYI, I won't be breaking down the offensive numbers. Most of us know them anyway. Defense is supposedly an overwhelming advantage for Florida, but the statistics reveal some interesting things. I'll break this down in 3 categories-Rush defense, pass defense, and total defense.

Rush Defense

OU and Florida are nearly identical in rush defense. Florida ranks 16th nationally, OU ranks 18th. However, OU has a slight advantage in yards per carry allowed (OU 3.24-UF 3.33). Once again, we faced the top two defenses in these statistical categories this year: TCU and Texas. If you exclude quarterback sacks, we had identical yards per carry averages against Texas and TCU-2.43. What's encouraging is we're averaging 5.74 ypc since the Texas game. Florida averages 5.96 ypc on the year.

Pass Defense

This is where it supposedly gets ugly for us. A casual glance at the statistics would support this theory. OU ranks 99th at 253 ypg allowed. Fla ranks 19th at 174 ypg. However, once again, if you dive deeper there's more to the story...First off, a difference of only 79 ypg translates into a difference of 80 spots in the rankings. More interesting tidbits...OU has more pass attempts against than any other team in the nation (497). Florida averages 7 fewer pass attempts against its defense a game less than OU. OU's defense allows 12.01 ypc and 6.62 ypa. Florida allows 10.47 and 5.45. In pass efficiency defense Florida is 2nd nationally. One of the primary reasons for this is they lead the nation in passes intercepted. As discussed previously, you wouldn't think this would be a major factor against us. OU ranks 41st nationally in pass efficiency defense, and 1st in the Big 12. TCU ranks 4th nationally, and Cincinnati 28th. This area is obviously still an advantage for Fla, but its not as drastic as you would be led to believe.
Verdict-Advantage to Florida

Total Defense

The defensive rankings are really easy to be fooled by. It's been proclaimed over and over again by the media that the only team in the Big 12 that plays defense is Texas (50th in yards allowed nationally,). But Texas allows only 20 fewer ypg than we do. We're 2nd in the Big 12 in this category behind Texas, but only 65th nationally. The 3-game stretch of Texas, KU, and KSU earned us the reputation of having a terrible defense, and rightfully so. We allowed 438 yards to Texas, 491 to KU, and 550 to KSU . Now...can anyone tell me if anything might have happened in the Texas game that created this sudden inability to stop opposing offenses? A major upheaval in personnel, perhaps? Anyone?

Once the defense settled in and identified a suitable replacement for Reynolds we've allowed a respectable 350 ypg since the Kansas State game. For reference, that's against the 12th (Nebraska), 4th (Texas Tech), 7th (OSU), 6th (Mizzou), and 77th (damn you, TAMU!) ranked offenses nationally. We're not as bad defensively as everyone seems to think.

Florida allows 279 ypg, which is 9th nationally. They allow 4.4 yards per play on the season. OU allows 5.06 yards per play on the season. OU's defense has faced 922 plays this season, which is the 5th most of any team. Florida's defense has faced 826 plays on the season. Florida has played 4 teams this year that rank 97th or lower in total offense (!), not including a lower division team, The Citadel. The highest ranked offense they've played against this year is Georgia's, which ranks 21st. The second highest ranked offense they faced belonged to Ole Miss (37th), and we all know the result of that game. TCU is ranked 2nd in total defense, Cincinatti is 26th.

Just judging from the statistics I'm inclined to give the advantage to Florida, but not by a substantial margin.
Verdict-Slight advantage to Florida

Special Teams

This will be the last area I dissect. It's pretty bad...but maybe not as bad as you would think.

I keep hearing about how great Florida's special teams are, but the statistics I have don't back that up. I can't find statistics on blocked field goals/punts, which they may very well be proficient at. What I do have is a little surprising. We rank 107th nationally (not surprising) in kickoff return average defense with an average of 24.1 per return. Florida is not a whole let better though, they rank 90th with a 22.4 average. We're dead last out of 119 teams in kick-off touchdowns allowed (4). However, Florida has not ran a kickoff back for a touchdown this year. What's surprising is Florida's relative ineptness at returning kickoffs. You would think with all their (alleged) sub 4.3, Olympic team alternate sprinters they would be among the best in the country in this category. They rank 44th, with a 21.83 average. We rank 7th, with a 25.17 return average, which also surprised me.

They're better at punt returns, which may not benefit them significantly because we don't punt a lot. They're 8th nationally, with a 14.4 average and 2 td's. We're 70th nationally, with a 8.3 average and 1 touchdown. We're actually outstanding at punt return coverage, we've allowed a return on 9 punts for a total of 49 yards. Florida is equally impressive, allowing 63 yards on 13 returns for the season. Hopefully we won't have to punt the ball much, because we have the 5th worst average of all teams at 36.37 yards per punt. Fla averages 42.79 yards per punt. We have punted more than them, 51times for us, 42 for them.
Verdict-Advantage Florida, but not as bad as we thought

Final Analysis

Using all of this information, I'll go ahead and offer a prediction. I'll get to that in a minute. The statistics indicate a matchup between two very evenly matched teams. Some things I didn't include because it seemed like common sense, such as an OU advantage in total offense. What all the statistics reveal to me is if both teams play their A+ game, OU wins narrowly. However, both teams are so evenly matched and so similar in game plan that even a -1 in turnover differential could make all the difference. This is also with the assumption that OU's A+ team shows up. That is the key variable in the entire equation. What OU team shows up? Is it the team that went on the road to Stillwater and out dueled OSU's best team in a quarter-century, or is it the team that was by embarrassed in the Fiesta Bowl? That leads me to another troublesome observation...we've seen a team in the last year a lot like Florida...and that team was West Virginia. Except Florida has better athletes, and more of them. However, despite the media love affair with Tim Tebow I'm of the opinion he's less dangerous than Pat White. West Virginia probably had a superior running game to Florida, but Florida's offense is more diverse. Attempting to pick this game objectively I think it would be somewhat irresponsible to pick OU, given our recent history in bowl games. I won't make anyone happy with this, but if I'm picking with my head I'd be forced to pick Florida. But if this team plays like we all know its capable of, I do think we have the superior team and can therefore achieve victory.

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