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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Nebraska and Defensive Efficiency – Part II

In the first part of this series I introduced to the concept of the Bendability Index. I explained the value of this statistic as a measure of defensive efficiency and attempted to prove that it was worthwhile to track in college football.

In Part II, I will take a closer look at the national rankings in this statistic, with particular attention paid to Nebraska’s performance on this variable.

First, you can check out the entire Bendability Index spreadsheet here. This should give you access to how this statistic is calculated and what the rankings look like for all 119 Division I-A teams.

Let’s start by looking at the Top 10 teams in the Bendability Index:

1. Ohio State (21.96)
2. BYU (21.72)
3. Wake Forest (21.00)
4. Auburn (20.99)
5. Wisconsin (20.96)
6. Virginia Tech (19.95)
7. Boston College (19.81)
8. Penn State (19.78)
9. Louisville (19.65)
10. USC (19.52)

Teams in the Top 10 in this statistic had a combined record of 109-22 (.832). They won five conference championships and played in four BCS bowls. In their bowl games these teams then went 7-3 (Louisville and Wake played each other). Clearly this statistic has some clout.

Overall, Ohio State had the most efficient defense in 2006. The Buckeyes forced opponents to march 132 yards to score the equivalent of a single touchdown. The least efficient defense in 2006 belonged to Turner Gill’s Buffalo squad. Opponents needed to gain just 65 yards to score the equivalent of a single touchdown on the Bulls. Is it any wonder the team went 2-10 last season?

Now let’s turn our attention to the Blackshirts. Nebraska finished a respectable 15th nationally in the Bendability index, obviously meaning they were the 15th most efficient defensive unit in 2006. The Huskers surrendered 256 points (2nd highest total in the Top 20), and 4646 yards. This produced a Bendability Index of 18.15. Thus, the Blackshirts forced opponents to march 109 yards to score the equivalent of a single TD last season.

If we look at this statistic on a game-by-game basis (this is a less exact science), we can see our defensive efficiency in each match-up. Let’s start with our least efficient defensive performance. Any guesses? My first thought was Oklahoma State and our implosion in Stillwater. Close, that was our second least efficient game. The least efficient defensive performance actually came in the Cotton Bowl against Auburn. The War Tigers managed 17 points on just 178 yards. That equates to a Bendability Index for the game of 10.47. In other words Auburn needed to drive just 63 yards for the equivalent of a single touchdown in the Cotton Bowl. Clearly the outcome was also decided by Nebraska’s offensive inefficiency and the dreaded fake punt call. As I said other inefficient defensive performances came against OSU (BI = 12.1), USC (14.3), OU (14.62), and Texas (15.82). All losses.

Nebraska’s most efficient performance came against Kansas State. Rojo actually made mention of this on HuskerPedia. The Wildcats put up 294 yards, but managed just 3 points. That works out to an incredible Bendability Index of 98.00! Again, if we extrapolate from that figure we find that it would have taken KSU driving 588 yards to put up the equivalent of one TD. Quick note – the Troy game had to be taken out, as the shut out made calculating the Bendability Index unpossible (stupid zeros and division). Most of our other efficient defensive performances came against non-conference opponents. In the Big 12, the defensive was particularly proficient against ISU and Colorado. The rest of the Big games involved performances that were less efficient than the season average (BI < 18.15).

We can put the performance of the Blackshirts in perspective by examining how the Big 12 shakes out in terms of the Bendability Index in 2006.

1. Nebraska 18.15
2. Oklahoma 16.61
3. Missouri 16.39
4. Texas 16.24
5. Texas A&M 15.71
6. Colorado 15.32
7. Kansas 14.83
8. Kansas State 14.54
9. OSU 14.21
10. Texas Tech 13.30
11. ISU 12.76
12. Baylor 12.53

Not surprisingly the two teams that met in the conference championship game fill the top two spots in the conference in Bendability Index. The order might be somewhat surprising to some, given the salty reputation of OU’s defense and their success in the head-to-head match-up. If I had to guess the reason for this discrepancy, I would say that Oklahoma enjoyed a more efficient offense in 2006 than did Nebraska. Again this might surprise you, but stay tuned and I’ll address this is in a later post.

The next level of teams includes three more you would expect in Missouri, Texas, and Texas A&M. Texas had problems in the defensive backfield, which accounted for a lot of yards, but their ranking is about what I expected. Missouri, despite the attacks on Pinkel, actually put up defensive numbers that were quite comparable to Nebraska’s a year ago. The team with the better defense between these two schools in 2007 will likely win the North (really going out on a limb there!). The biggest surprise is 2-10 Colorado at 6th in Big 12. But don’t forget that the Buffs’ defense was pretty stingy in our match-up a year ago. We relied on some key trick plays to account for both yards and points. Their offense, however, was absolutely horrible and was one of the least efficient in the nation. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech were two other teams that relied more on high-powered offenses which allowed for less efficient defensive play. Iowa State and Baylor round out the conference. They are, well, Iowa State and Baylor.

Ok, I think I’m starting to ramble a bit. Can you tell my summer teaching duties are over? Very nice. Part III of this series will put Nebraska’s defensive efficiency into historical context. How much history is yet to be decided. I don’t like to give people data that allows them to compare across the various coaching staffs. So I might just focus on the three years of the Callahan regime. We’ll see.