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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Points Per Play in 2006

Athlon Sports recently pointed out that Nebraska led the nation in offensive plays in 2006 with 965.
"It tells you we're moving the chains" Bill Callahan says. "It means the system is working."
That got me thinking more about the efficiency of our offense last season. So I took a quick look at how are scoring output fit with the number of plays we ran. Last year we scored 428 points off of those 965 plays. That works out to .44 points/play, which ranks 25th nationally.

To put that in perspective, the national average was roughly .38,

In addition, here are the Top 10 teams in terms of offensive plays in 2006 as well as their points per play quotient (plays, pts/play).

1. Nebraska (965 plays, .44)
2. Oregon (958 plays, .40)
3. Purdue (941 plays, .39)
4. Houston (935 plays, .49)
5. NM State (930 plays, .40)
6. Missouri (922 plays, .42)
7. Hawaii (913 plays, .72)
8. TCU (909 plays, .42)
9. Oregon St. (899 plays, .43)
10. Oklahoma (897 plays, .47)

And here are the Top 10 teams nationally in points per play a year ago.

1. Hawaii (913 plays .72)
2. West Virginia (823 plays, .61)
3. Boise St. (857 plays, .60)
4. Louisville (867 plays, .57)
5. Ohio St. (820 plays, .55)
6. Texas (854 plays, .55)
7. Oklahoma St. (843 plays, .54)
8. Brigham Young (889 plays, .54)
9. LSU (818 plays, .54)
10. Pittsburgh (712 plays, .54)

Ultimately I think we had a pretty good offense in 2006. By many measures we were among the nation’s best. However, when we look at measures of offensive efficiency we seem kind of middle of the road. That seems to indicate we left a lot of points on the field a year ago. What says you?

Friday, July 27, 2007

1998 Texas at Nebraska on YouTube

From a Longhorn POV, but still worth your time. The game features two Heisman winners in Williams and Crouch. Also remembered for Mike Brown's 21 tackle performance. This game was also the only home game Nebraska lost during my time as a student at UNL. Sometimes I still can't believe I live in Texas.

First Half:



Second Half:



UT Students Celebrate in Austin on the Drag

Erin Andrews Picture of the Week



Now with handy guide for stalking...

The Atlanta Journal Constitution provides Erin's favorite hangouts in the ATL. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Big 12 Preseason Blogger Poll

Peter at BON has the final tally of votes, but here is my individual ballot for the Big 12 Preseason Blogger Poll.

South

1. Texas
2. Oklahoma
3. Oklahoma State
4. Texas A&M
5. Texas Tech
6. Baylor

North

1. Missouri
2. Nebraska
3. Kansas State
4. Kansas
5. Colorado
6. Iowa State

All-conference team, by UNIT. List your top two schools only.

Quarterback:
1. Texas
2. Missouri

Runningback:
1. Texas A&M
2. Oklahoma

Wide Receivers:
1. Texas
2. Oklahoma

Offensive Line:
1. Oklahoma
2. Texas A&M

Defensive Line:
1. Texas
2. Oklahoma

Linebackers:
1. Nebraska
2. Texas

Secondary:
1. Oklahoma
2. Texas Tech

Offensive Player of the Year:
1. Colt McCoy, Texas

Defensive Player of the Year:
1. Reggie Smith, OU

Best Offense (Team), Big 12:
1. Oklahoma State
2. Missouri

Best Defense (Team), Big 12:
1. Texas
2. Oklahoma

Most exciting/interesting/compelling conference game of the season (you may not vote for a game involving your school. e.g. the red river shootout is not a choice for texas or oklahoma bloggers.)

Oklahoma vs. Texas

Most exciting/interesting/compelling non-conference game of the season (same as above; don't vote for a game involving your team)

Oklahoma State vs. Georgia

Here are the other Big 12 blogs who participated.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Quick Hits

I don't have much to say, but felt the urge to post something.

Big 12 Media Days have seemed like kind of a let down. I don't know what I was expecting, but they didn't seem to generate much real news. I think that has a lot to do with Corey McKeon being left behind in Lincoln. J.B. Phillips? Really?

I watched the Texas game last night to finish breaking it down and charting it. It was actually the first time I had seen the complete game since that cold, cold day. A couple of thoughts:

When our defense plays like that, we seriously have a chance to beat anyone.

Secondly, the atmosphere was really, truly unbelievable. The DVD I watched had the radio audio and Matt Davison said he had never experienced anything like that during his time as a Husker.

Zac Taylor had a really bad game and we struggled with UT's blitzes. Jim Rose kept telling the listener how Texas hadn't blitzed all year long prior to our game. Both Marlon Lucky and BJax missed key blitz pickups that cost us sacks.

We ran the toss sweep two times prior to the halfback pass to Swift. Both were from a One Back, 3 TE set. On the halfback pass, you guessed it, we were in a One Back, 3 TE set.

Once I get through all of the games, I will be able to tell you more fascinating stuff like that. Unfortunately the game breakdowns take FOREVER! Hopefully I will complete them soon. Like before the 2007 opener.

And finally, just because here is the Sidetracks Band with a clip of the infamous Blowjob Song (NSFW - Unless you sign your own paychecks).

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Returning QBs and Preseason Favorites

The consensus seems to be that Missouri will win the Big 12 North, as most have them pegged as the preseason favorites. I tend to agree with this assessment for the time being. When I look at both teams on paper and examine the schedules I see Missouri as having a slight advantage over the Huskers.

One of the key areas I focused on in my assessment of the two teams was the quarterback position. Don’t get me wrong, I’m elated to have Sam Keller in the scarlet and cream. However, we have to remember that the guy has just eight career starts and has appeared in just 20 games. Missouri on the other hand, has Chase Daniel who although only a junior, has already started 13 games in his career. Daniel knows what it takes to QB a Big 12 team. While Keller was busy garnering the Scout Team MVP, Daniel was earning 2nd-Team All-Big 12 from the coaches.

I’m not the only one to use the QB position as a key measuring stick for my prognosticating. Coach Callahan addressed that very issue Monday at the Big 12 Media Days. He said:
“Well, my understanding is that the Big 12 writers essentially pick the team to win the division predicated on a number of factors. And the first factor is the quarterback. And since they have a starting quarterback that’s established in their program that's been productive, I can see where that's going.

Personally, no, I don't agree with it. But I love our football team and I think they're capable of doing some great things. And I understand how it all works and why people make the decisions and do the things that they do. And motivation -- we've got plenty of motivation with Nevada, you know, in the opening game. during the regular season. During the 9-3 season we did do a good job like I said with the one faltering -- we faltered against Texas late in the game.”
But before I put all of my preseason prediction eggs in one basket, I wanted to determine if a returning quarterback really mattered in college football. Thankfully, I didn’t have to do the analysis myself. Matt at Statistically Speaking had already done that for me.

I’ll try to briefly describe what he found.

First,
“Teams with a returning experienced quarterback had a collective record of 375-357 (.512) in 2005. When their experienced quarterbacks returned in 2006, their combined record jumped to 469-337 (.582). That's an increase of roughly 7 percentage points in winning percentage.”
Likewise,
Teams who lost their quarterbacks after 2005 had a collective record of 341-309 (.525) in 2005. When they lost their quarterbacks, they regressed to a combined 316-384 (.451) in 2006. That's a decrease of roughly 7.4 percentage points in winning percentage.
You’ll obviously notice that the gain in winning percentage among teams that returned their quarterback is almost equal to the losses in winning percentage of teams that lost their quarterback. What a coinky-dink.

In Part II of his QB analysis Matt stripped away some riff-raff by limiting the teams’ performances to conference play.

Here are the highlights of those findings:
The teams (62 total) that returned an experienced quarterback in 2006:
Went a collective 238-248 in conference play (.490)
Equates to just under a 4-4 record in a standard 8-game conference schedule.

In 2006, those same teams improved to 269-223 in conference play.
This is a winning percentage of .547 and equates to a 4.37-3.63 record in a standard 8 game conference season.
This is an improvement of roughly 1/2 game in the conference standings.

The teams (53 total) that did not return an experienced quarterback in 2006:
Went a collective 214-204 in conference play in 2005 (.512).
Equates to a conference record of 4.10-3.90 in a standard 8 game conference season.

In 2006, those same teams regressed to 188-234 in conference play.
This is a winning percentage of .445 and equates to a conference record of 3.56-4.44 in a standard 8 game conference season.
This is a regression of a little more than 1/2 game in the conference standings.
He also looked at the percentage of teams that improved/declined by a certain number of games. He found:
Of those teams returning an experienced QB:
21 teams (33.9%) improved by at least 2 games in the conference standings.
8 teams (12.9%) improved by at least 3 games in the conference standings.
13 teams (21%) declined by at least 2 games in the conference standings.
5 teams (8.1%) declined by at least 3 games in the conference standings.

Of those teams not returning an experienced QB:
10 teams (18.9%) improved by at least 2 games in the conference standings.
5 teams (9.4%) improved by at least 3 games in the conference standings.
21 teams (39.6%) declined by at least 2 games in the conference standings.
10 teams (18.9%) declined by at least 3 games in the conference standings.
Matt concludes by noting:
“I will say this, it appears that it may not be as valuable to return your starting quarterback (12.9% that returned theirs improved by at least 3 games and 9.4% that did not improved by at least 3 games) as it is damaging to have him leave (more than double the chance--18.9% to 8.1% of declining by at least 3 games).”
Now, I know Sam Keller is considered by many to be a returning quarterback even after sitting a season out and entering a new system. While I agree that his situation doesn’t exactly fit with this model, we have a talented QB who is new, and raw in Callahan’s version of the WCO. The bottom line is that we just don’t know how it will play out. And frankly that’s what makes this upcoming season so great – all of the unknowns. But for now, I stand my preseason selection of Missouri to win the Big 12 North. And I’ll continue to stand by that pick for at least the next few days.

Monday, July 23, 2007

VERSUS Announcing Team for Big 12 Coverage

I've written about the Big 12 moving to VERSUS on the FanHouse. Today we found out the announcing team for the network's Big 12 coverage.
The announce team for Mountain West telecasts includes Joe Beninati as the play-by-play announcer, Tim Neverett as sideline reporter and Glenn Parker as the analyst. Ted Robinson is the play-by-play announcer for Pac-10 games and Ron Thulin will call the games for the Big 12 telecasts. Kelly Stouffer is the analyst and Lewis Johnson is the sideline reporter for all Pac-10 and Big 12 conference games on VERSUS.
The play-by-play man will be familiar to Nebraska fans:
Ron Thulin is the former play-by-play announcer for Pac-10 and Big 12 on TBS and also served as the play-by-play announcer for the NBA on TNT and TBS for seven seasons. His broadcast experience also includes positions with FOX, ABC, ESPN, Raycom and Prime Network, covering a variety of events, including the 1992-1994 Winter Olympics alpine events, basketball during the 1990 and 1994 Goodwill Games, the 1991 Pan Am Games, and SEC college football for Prime Network.
And the Pride of Nebraska's Rushville High will provide the color:
Kelly Stouffer is an NFL alumnus who spent his four year professional career with the Seattle Seahawks. He is currently the color analyst for Minnesota Vikings pre-season games and for ESPN college football games.
On the sideline:
Lewis Johnson, a former all-American middle-distance runner at the University of Cincinnati, is currently a reporter for NBC sports and for Notre Dame football home games. In 2001 and 2002 he served as a reporter for the NBA Finals on NBC and for the network’s Arena Football telecasts from 2003 through 2006.

College Football's Dirtiest Programs

FanHouse plug alert.

Pete Holiday one of my colleagues at the House is running an amazing series on college football’s dirtiest programs. He explains his methodology here and his first entry on the #10 team is here.

I’ve seen the final tally and the completed list, and it is fascinating.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Keller & Lucky Heisman Darkhorses?

That's what Heisman Pundit believes. Here is his rationale:
So, who has a shot of coming out of nowhere to win this thing?

First, I'd say to look no further than the Big 12. The conference has been the home of unexpected Heisman runs of late, from Josh Heupel's second-place in 2000, to Jason White's 2003 win to Adrian Peterson's 2004 runner-up finish.

The league seems to be conducive to quick-starting candidacies.

Sam Keller, QB, Nebraska--I can't seem to shake the possibilities with Keller. Think about it. He plays for a traditional Heisman power that has been fairly mediocre of late. He has good name recognition and is respected as a pro prospect. He comes to the Big 12 from a quarterback league, so he could conceivable pick up where he left off at Arizona State (where he averaged 316 yards per game as a starter). The Nebraska schedule has plenty of big games for him to make his case, from USC in game 3, to Texas in game 9 and a potential Big 12 title game.

What's more, his team does not have to go undefeated for him to win the Heisman. He could lead the Huskers to an impressive 11-2 record and a Big 12 title and get credited for leading a resurgent program, much like Carson Palmer did with USC in 2002. Beating USC would be huge, but even a close loss in which he played well would help if combined with a strong season in which he put up Jason White-like numbers. Keep an eye on him.

Marlon Lucky, RB, Nebraska--I know. What the hell is this guy doing here, you might ask? Well, after all, these are dark horses. But consider the case of Mr. Lucky (great name, by the way). He plays for a traditional power that might get a boost this year because of improved quarterback play from the aforementioned Keller. It stands to reason that an improved passing game will lead to a more effective running game. Hence, Lucky's rushing yardage seems likely to go up.

Lucky, for those who don't remember, is a talent. He was one of the top backs in the country coming out of high school. He got lost in the cornfields as a freshman, but he ran for 728 yards and six touchdowns last year, though a great chunk of his yardage came against horrible competition. He also did well as a receiver, catching 32 balls. When you take into account the early entry in the draft of Brandon Jackson, you would do well to assume that Jackson's 969 yards will be reapportioned elsewhere. The likely beneficiary of most of those yards is Lucky. What if he gets 1,500-plus yards and has big games against USC and Texas? Well, he just might luck his way into the Heisman race.
Heisman Pundit, definitely knows his way around the famous stiff-arm statue, so his mention of these two Huskers should be duly noted.

I told you it wasn't playcalling...

The Needham Hex killed us against Auburn.



(via EDSBS)

Nebraska and Offensive Efficiency - Part III

Today we’ll look briefly at the historical data concerning Nebraska’s Scoreability Index over time. You can see the entire spreadsheet here. Have fun.

Here are the Top 10 seasons since the Osborne era began in terms of offensive efficiency.

1. 1988 - 9.68
2. 1996 - 9.90
3. 1980 - 10.00
4. 1983 - 10.51
5. 1986 - 10.66
6. 1997 - 10.91
7. 2000 - 11.09
8. 1993 - 11.10
9. 1992 - 11.29
10. 1999 - 11.45

Interestingly only one of our National Championship teams makes the list. This is due in part (I think), to the ways in which certain Nebraska teams dominated their competition. If we consider the 1995 team, which blew out pretty much everyone, you get to a point where that team was just racking up yards with its scrubs, but then taking knee and refusing to put up points. That would certainly hurt its efficiency as calculated by this method. That’s at least my best guess to explain this.

Now we have the worst ten seasons since the Osborne era began in terms of offensive efficiency.

1. 1973 - 17.70
2. 1977 - 15.67
3. 1995 - 14.53
4. 2004 - 14.53
5. 1979 - 14.05
6. 2003 - 13.93
7. 1981 - 13.79
8. 2002 - 13.64
9. 1994 - 13.62
10. 2006 - 13.56

First thing that jumps out at me is that we see both 1973 and 2004 on the list. What do these two seasons have in common? Breaking in a new head coach. We also see that the last two seasons of the Solich era also make this list. This should surprise absolutely no one who was actually paying attention.

Is anybody surprised to see that 2006 made the Top 10 in least efficient offensive performances? In some ways it is unexpected but our performances against teams like KSU, and ISU involved pretty big chunks of yardage and not a lot of point production. That adds up pretty quickly when we use this methodology.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

From the Comments...

Bumped from the comments, because I've apparently become Callahan's biggest defender. Crikey.

Husker Mike: As for the Auburn game, Nebraska got the ball with 5 minutes left and never threw a pass downfield until it was 4th and long. (Threw a screen pass for a loss on 3rd and long.) Go back and look at Callahan's playcharts. At the end of the game, it looks balanced, but that's because his playcalling is run-run-run-run-pass (3rd & Long) or pass-pass-pass-pass-pass. Every so often, we'll see a pass-run-run-pass-pass-run-pass-run-run situation, but it's far too infrequent.

Ok, so let's look at the run/pass split by down.

1st Down
18 runs 67%
9 passes 33%

Not a 50/50 split, but not as severe as Mandel (and Husker Mike) might believe.

More important statistic is 1st down efficiency (plays gaining 4+ yards)

+4 runs = 8 (44%)
+4 passes = 4 (44%)

Running and passing was equally effective on first down (but with a smaller sample of passes). Based on this, we should perhaps have seen a more equal mix of runs and passes on first down.

But, an even more important factor when it comes to playcalling (and gameplanning), is what do you expect to work?:

Auburn’s National Defensive Rankings

Passing Efficiency Defense = #33
Yards/Pass Att. Allowed = #33
Passing Defense = #14

Rushing Defense = #45

Auburn was statistically better at stopping the pass than stopping the run. Would a 50/50 run/pass split in the gameplan have made sense coming into the game?

Now the rest of the playcalling splits

2nd Down
14 runs 64%
8 passes 36%

Again, more proof that the run-run-pass scenario clearly wasn’t happening every drive

3rd Down
1 run
14 passes

So, yes, we threw a ton on third down. Again this has more to do with 1st down and 2nd down efficiency (by way of runs or passes) and falling behind on down and distance than anything else, right?

Additionally, I still don't subscribe to the notion that Callahan went into a hole in the fourth quarter.

Playcalls in the 4th Quarter
17 total plays (1 scored as penalty, without going to the tape I don’t know if the hold came on a run or a pass)
6 runs
10 passes

Again, the offense was ineffective, but we can't blame all of that on playcalling. I was very frustrated watching this game that we didn't throw more and didn't try to get something going downfield. But, that doesn't mean that I had a clear understanding of what was actually going on. Now I haven't gone back to watch the tape for a while, but this analysis comes straight from the charting of the game I did and collected in a spreadsheet.

What am I missing?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Stewart Mandel Still Makes No Sense

Or, Stewart Mandel’s lips are moving, but I can’t hear what they are saying through his Levi’s.

Last week Stewart Mandel included Bill Callahan as a coach on the verge of being on of his “worst coaches”list. Obviously, this provoked a flurry of emails from Nebraska fans. This week, in his mailbag, Mandel highlights his reasoning for putting Callahan on this list. Not surprisingly his reasons show the lack of research and insight that have come to characterize the mainstream media in general,

I shall attack his arguments one-by-insipid-one.

The above e-mailers mentioned the impressive strides he's made in recruiting. There's a reason for that. Because of the drastic personnel makeover Callahan had to undergo to run his desired style of offense, he was able to go into the living rooms of blue-chip athletes around the country with the promise of instant playing time. Over a longer period of time, however, it's unrealistic to think Nebraska will be able to remain a true, national recruiting force like USC.

Neither one of us knows what promises Callahan might have made in which living rooms along the recruiting trail. But the bottom-line is, very few first-year players have taken the field (in a meaningful way) under Callahan’s leadership. So, he either made promises and then didn’t kept them, or maybe, just maybe, his recruiting prowess stretches a bit further than promises of playing time. This isn't EA Sports NCAA Football, recruiting in the real world comes down to relationships built on a lot more than pithy pitches.

In addition, it’s unrealistic to think that any school can keep up with the type of recruiting that Pete Carroll is doing at USC. In fact, I’d argue that it might actually be more difficult for Carroll to continue to stay among the Top 3 in recruiting, year-in-year-out, than it would be for Callahan to continue to put together Top 10 or Top 15 classes.

This is nothing against Nebraska; it's just reality. Given the choice between spending four years in L.A., Florida or Lincoln, Neb., which do you think a five-star receiver from Virginia is going to choose? And the fact is, Callahan is going to be almost entirely dependent on these types of recruits because 6-foot-5 pro-style quarterbacks and 4.4 receivers aren't exactly growing on trees in Nebraska's backyard.

This is nothing new. L.A and Florida have always been better locales than Lincoln. And Nebraska is unlikely to ever be a recruiting Mecca. Yet, year after year we’ve managed to find enough guys to field a team. In addition, you have to look at what Callahan has done to help this situation. He’s locking up what high school talent Nebraska does put out each year, he’s putting on clinics, he’s working with high school coaches to implement his offensive system, and he’s inviting the best recruits to various camps throughout the summer. So, no recruits don’t come here for the beaches (Holmes Lake?), or the mountains. They come here for the tradition. They come here for the fan support. They come here for the facilities and the academic support. In the end, they all become proud to say “I Play for Nebraska.” Ooh, goosebumps.

Furthermore, it's asking a lot of college quarterbacks to run a full-fledged, NFL-style version of the West Coast offense.

You’re right, it is asking a lot. I get irritated, however, when people forget that Callahan utilizes the WCO because it is the system he is both familiar with and strongly believes in. It would be far worse coaching on his part if he asked his QBs to learn the run-and-shoot, as this lies outside his expertise. Callahan was hired to run the WCO. His QBs are recruited to run the WCO. Can you, or I, as casual observers really say that Nebraska’s offensive struggles relate to a lack of WCO expertise on the quarterbacks’ part, as opposed to say poor execution at any number of other positions on the field?

It's just too complicated.

Stewart Mandel, I’d like to introduce you to Zac Taylor, 2006 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year.

At other programs that have attempted it, the typical QB has taken three years to fully grasp it. (UCLA's Drew Olson being a perfect example.)

I see where you’re going with this and everyone has his or her example to use as evidence (Drew Olson, Rich Gannon, etc.). The bottom line is freshman QB recruits have 5 years to play 4.

Callahan has been fortunate thus far to be able to land a juco transfer (Zac Taylor) who'd already been in the system and now a fifth-year senior transfer in Sam Keller.

Callahan was extremely fortunate to land Taylor (and Keller), but you make it sound like Taylor fell from the sky. Callahan and company, FOUND Taylor at a Kansas JUCO. They identified both his talent, and his football savvy, making him a perfect fit for their offense, regardless of his remaining eligibility. This ability is what distinguishes Callahan, from say, a bad football coach.

In addition, I’m a little confused about how Zac Taylor had “already been in the system”. He was in Callahan’s system for a spring and then 2 full seasons. If you are implying that his JUCO ran “a full-fledged, NFL-style version of the West Coast offense,” than you are either (A) wrong, or (B) mistaken about its complexity as a JUCO (2-year school by definition) is the last place this Rubik’s Cube-like system should be utilized.

It won't always be that way. When the inevitable day comes that he needs to start a freshman or sophomore, it's going to be 2004-05 all over again.

Inevitable? Perhaps, but it doesn’t really seem likely in the next few years. You see, Callahan knows that he needs talented QBs to run his system. And in college football they have this thing called recruiting that allows you to target high school and junior college athletes and then add them to your team. You can even see the results of Callahan’s recruiting on Nebraska’s roster. There you would find a bevy of quarterbacks waiting to take over for Sam Keller.

Joe Ganz, Jr.
Beau Davis, Jr.
Zac Lee, So.
Patrick Witt, Fr.
Blaine Gabbert (2008 commit)

One of these guys might have to take over as a sophomore eventually. But all Callahan can do is recruit to the best of his ability and then teach his system to ease any sort of transition.

The strange thing is, Callahan has shown he's more than willing to break out the flea flickers and other trick plays, but in last year's USC and Oklahoma games, and when the game was on the line against Auburn, he retreated to all-out, run-it-into-the-line-three-straight-times-and-play-defense mode. I can't emphasize this enough. I hate that.

Ok, I’ll grant you the USC game. Callahan’s playcalling in that game was conservative at best. Maybe he didn’t think we could win, or maybe he was protecting Zac Taylor, but he did sandbag at least a little. Point Mandel.

But what about those other two games? As I noted earlier, the OU and Auburn games were two of our least efficient offensive performances. However, it doesn’t seem like we retreated to all-out, run-it-into-the-line-three-straight-times-and-play-defense mode in either contest. How do I know? Well we ran 72 plays in the second halves of those games. You know, the second half when the “game is on the line”. Of those 72 plays 44 were passes. That means passing attempts represented 61% of the playcalls. Ineffective? Yes. An all-out retreat? I don’t think so.

See, that’s why you got you all of those emails from Nebraska fans. And you can call us defensive all you like. I just like to think that we are doing our part to protect the world from more mainstream media idiocy.

So You're Saying There's a Chance...

VegasInsider has Nebraska as a 30-1 shot to win the BCS National Championship. Here's a quick look at who tops their list:

1. SOUTHERN CAL 3/1
2. MICHIGAN 6/1
3. WEST VIRGINIA 7/1
4. FLORIDA 8/1
5. LSU 10/1
6. TEXAS 10/1
7. WISCONSIN 15/1
8. LOUISVILLE 20/1
9. OKLAHOMA 20/1
10. CALIFORNIA 25/1

(via CFR)

In a related item, Brandon has a look at how the home field advantage might impact the early line for the USC game.

Purify's Official Statement

Maurice Purify pleaded "no contest" to all of the charges he faced stemming from his two arrests. He now faces 1250 in fines and probation.

Here is his official statement to the media:
"I apologize to my family, my friends, my teammates and to those who support Husker Football. I especially want to express my apologies to Coach Callahan and the coaching staff because I know I let them down. I am extremely disappointed in myself.

"I am responsible for my actions. The choices I made that led to these circumstances were out of character for me. In each instance, I was under the influence of alcohol. I do not use that as an excuse, but I want to be honest. I am currently addressing this issue with professional help and guidance.

"I realize the impact of my poor decisions. I will not make the same mistakes in the future. My actions will speak louder than my words. I intend to learn from this experience and to move forward.

"I do not know if I will be fortunate enough to play another game at Nebraska. I hope that I can be afforded a second chance to do what I love to do - play football for Nebraska. If Coach Callahan decides that I will not be able to play again, I respect his decision and am grateful for the opportunity that he has given me.

"I am grateful for the support I have received through these difficult times. I regret my actions and I have learned from my mistakes. I will work hard to restore the faith of the people that have supported me."

Nebraska and Offensive Efficiency - Part II

In the first part of this series I introduced to the concept of the Scoreability Index. I explained the value of this statistic as a measure of offensive 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 offensive efficiency.

First, you can check out the entire Scoreability 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 Scoreability Index:

1. Boise St. 10.60
2. Texas 10.90
3. Ohio St. 11.11
4. Virginia Tech 11.42
5. Rutgers 11.59
6. Oklahoma St. 11.63
7. Pittsburgh 11.72
8. SMU 11.80
9. West Virginia 11.88
10. Nevada 11.89

Right away, you will notice a few surprises, including Pittsburgh, SMU(?) and Nevada. However, all of the teams in the Top 10 had a .500 record or better and combined for an overall record of 94-34 (.734).

Overall, Boise State had the most efficient offense in 2006. The undefeated Broncos scored one touchdown for every 64 yards of offense they generated. You can watch their proficient offense at work in these Fiesta Bowl highlights.



The least efficient offense in 2006 belonged to the Golden Panthers of Florida International. FIU managed just one touchdown for every 146 yards of offense they generated. That’s exactly how you go 0-12. No wonder they was always fightin'.

Now let’s turn our attention to the Huskers. Nebraska finished a modest 43rd nationally in the Scoreability Index, obviously meaning they were the 43rd most efficient offensive unit in 2006. The Huskers produced 428 points, and 5804 yards. This produced a Scoreability Index of 13.56. Thus, the Huskers scored one touchdown for every 81 yards of offense they generated.

If we look at this statistic on a game-by-game basis (this is a less exact science), we can see our offensive efficiency in each match-up. Let’s start with our least efficient offensive performance. I managed to guess this one, and I have a feeling you might have as well. That cold night in KC for the Big 12 Championship, turned out to be our least efficient offensive performance and by quite a margin. In that game, the Huskers generated just 7 points off of 366 yards. That equates to a Scoreability Index of 52.29. In other words, Nebraska needed to produce 314 yards for the equivalent of one TD (six points) against the Sooners. Our other inefficient offensive performances came against USC (21.10), Texas (17.00), KSU (16.95), and Auburn (16.43).

Nebraska’s top three offensive efficiency performances came against non-conference opponents Nicholls St. (8.89), Troy (10.66), and Louisiana Tech (11.92). The Huskers’ most efficient offensive effort in conference play came against Missouri (12.32). The only odd finding overall related to the Scoreability Index came in the Kansas State game. That was the Huskers least-efficient offensive performance in which they managed a win. If we think back to the findings for the Bendability Index, we will notice that the KSU game just happened to be our most efficient defensive performance of the year. See how these statistical measures interplay?

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

1. Texas 10.90
2. Oklahoma St. 11.63
3. Oklahoma 12.17
4. Kansas 12.90
5. Baylor 13.36
6. Nebraska 13.56
7. Texas Tech 13.80
8. Kansas St. 13.84
9. Missouri 14.15
10. Texas A&M 14.27
11. Iowa State 16.88
12. Colorado 17.84

There are a few surprises here, but first things first. When discussing the Bendability Index, I noted that while Nebraska had a more efficient defense in 2006, the Sooners still won the head-to-head matchup. Now we know a little more about why. Overall, the Sooners offense (even with a WR at QB) was more efficient than that of the Huskers. In addition, see above for an explanation of just how awful our offense was in the Big 12 Championship Game.

Another surprise is Baylor listed ahead of us. That stings obviously, but don’t be too quick to discredit the Scoreability Index as a viable measure. If we look at the teams ahead of us (and that we played in 2006) on this list, you’ll notice that we lost to all but one of them. The one game we won against a team with a better Scoreability Index was Kansas, and we needed OT to sneak by the Jayhawks at home. That trend actually applies to our entire 2006 schedule, as every team Nebraska lost to in 2006 had a more efficient offense than the Huskers.

Still think this Scoreability Index doesn’t matter?

In Part III of this series I will again take a look at Nebraska’s historical performance as it relates to the Scoreability Index.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Nebraska and Offensive Efficiency - Part I

Earlier I introduced to the Bendability Index, a measure of defensive efficiency and one of the "Stats That Matter" at Cold, Hard Football Facts. Today I want to switch sides of the ball and look at offensive efficiency. Cold, Hard Football Facts has a stat for that as well. This is measure is known as the Scorability Index.

According to the site:
Scoreability Index – This is the offensive counterpart of the Bendability Index. The Scoreability Index is obtained by dividing a team's total yards by total points scored, yielding Yards Per Point Scored. A team that ranks high on the Scoreability Index has the offense that scores most efficiently, marching off a relatively small number of yards for every point it scores. This effort is more important than total offense and, in many cases, more important than scoring offense. The Scoreability Index is not purely an offensive yardstick. It is, instead, a great barometer of team success. It is a function of many team-wide factors, including general offensive strength, defense and special teams proficiency, turnover differential and Red Zone offense.
To help explain how this variable works in the NFL, Cold, Hard Football Facts uses the incompetence of the Raiders offense:

Pity poor Oakland. The Raiders will not only go down as one of the most inept offenses in modern NFL history, scoring just 10.5 PPG and averaging a dreadful 4.4 yards everytime they dropped back to pass, they also wasted a lot of effort this season moving the ball up and down the field for no reason.

Oakland needed to generate 23.45 yards to score a single point this season. That's more than twice the effort expended by division rival San Diego, which needed just 11.87 yards to score a single point.

To put it in more concrete football terms, the Chargers scored one touchdown for every 71 yards of offense they generated. The Raiders scored one touchdown for every 140 yards of offense they generated.

As a result, one team has the best record in football. The other team has the worst record in football.
That’s a pretty telling statistic in the NFL, but what about in college football? To find out, I again constructed a spreadsheet ranking NCAA teams in terms of the Scoreability Index for 2006. Next I used SMQ’s methodology for determining the relevance of a particular statistic in CFB. This meant finding the winning percentage of the Top 20 teams in the Scoreability Index category, as well as the winning percentage of the Bottom 20 teams in the Scoreability Index.

According to SMQ this is important because:
“…the relevance of a statistic shouldn't be measured only by the relative success of teams that perform well in a given category, but also by the relative failure of those that don't.”
Next, I calculated what SMQ sees as the most relevant measure of this analysis, the relationship between the winning percentages on the high and low ends of the Scoreability Index. In other words, I subtracted the winning percentage of teams in the Bottom 20 of the Scoreability Index from the winning percentage of the teams in the Top 20 of the Scoreability Index to determine the relative disparity between these two groups. From a statistical standpoint, the greater the level of disparity, the more relevant the particular statistic. Or as a SMQ noted:
“the ‘most important’ category, it would follow, would be the one with the best records at the top, the worst records at the bottom and, therefore, the greatest disparity."
SMQ’s analysis (along with my own additional calculations) found the most relevant offensive statistics based on disparity to be:

Third Down Efficiency +.477
Total Offense +.473
Scoring Offense +.472
Yards/Pass Attempt +.389
Passing Efficiency +.377
Rush Offense +.360
Fourth Down Efficiency +.350
Pass Offense +.182
Time of Possession +.164

Calculating the disparity margin of the Scoreability Index produced a figure of +.485. This means that the Scoreability Index produces the most relevant offensive statistic in terms of winning percentage.

So, just to clarify again:
The Scoreability Index is obtained by dividing a team's total yards by total points scored, yielding Yards Per Point Scored. A team that ranks high on the Scoreability Index has the offense that scores most efficiently, marching off a relatively small number of yards for every point it scores.
This is another interesting statistic and I believe it makes sense to think about teams in terms of how hard they are working to put points up on the board. We also have some evidence that this statistic is relevant in CFB. In fact, it looks to be more important than some of the statistics folks around Nebraska continue to harp on way too much - most notably, Time of Possession and Rushing Offense. These two statistics just didn’t matter in college football in 2006. But the Scoreability Index did. In Part II of this series I will look at how the teams ranked nationally in terms of the Scoreability Index. I will also examine where Nebraska fits in with regard to this statistic.

Tuesday - Google Reader Links


Monday, July 09, 2007

A Week's Vacation

I'll be taking this week off to clear up some school-related stuff and to entertain guests here in Houston. If something earth-shattering happens I'll try to cover it, but otherwise I could use some time away from the keyboard.

54 days to kickoff...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Nebraska Defensive Efficiency - Part III

For Brandon and all of the history buffs. Here is the historical breakdown of our Bendability Index over time. Remember that the Bendability Index is essentially a measure of Yards Per Point Allowed.
























































































































































































































































































YearBendability IndexYds. Allowed Pts. Allowed Record Final AP Rank
200618.154646256 9-5NR
2005 15.8239862528-424th
200413.7240882985-6NR
200320.55386318810-319th
200215.1350673357-7NR
200118.23344618911-28th
200016.62354021310-28th
199920.18302715012-13rd
199820.5737641839-419th
199715.68308819713-0*2nd
199620.03306515311-26th
199521.57323515012-01st
199421.42310614513-01st
199319.23338417611-13rd
199219.8033841729-314th
199118.1337722089-2-115th
199019.7128981479-324th
198917.33301517410-211th
198817.32315318211-210th
198721.89291213310-26th
198617.28259215010-25th
198522.5730701369-311th
198421.30223610510-24th
198323.76442018612-12nd
198225.45348713712-13rd
198125.6826451039-311th
198024.9223189310-27th
197920.67270813110-29th
197816.2835162169-38th
197717.9035792009-310th
197619.5135321819-39th
197520.44280013710-29th
197423.7031281329-39th
197317.7929001639-2-17th


And here we see the Top 10 seasons from the past:

1. 1981 - 25.68
2. 1982 - 25.45
3. 1980 - 24.92
4. 1983 - 23.76
5. 1974 - 23.70
6. 1985 - 22.57
7. 1987 - 21.89
8. 1995 - 21.57
9. 1994 - 21.42
10. 1984 - 21.30

You’ll notice an interesting run in the early 80s. I found this a bit surprising, so I decided to take a closer look. The 1981 Blackshirts were led by All-American and Big 8 Defensive Player-of-the-Year (UPI) Jimmy Williams. Williams was joined by fellow All Big-8 performer Jeff Krecji. Tony Felici, Sammy Sims, and Ric Lindquist were named all-conference by the World Herald. Steve Damkroger led the Huskers with 116 tackles, while Williams finished with 10 sacks. The Blackshirts set a team record in 1981 after giving up just 9 TDs during the season. Other than just yielding such a small number of TDs, nothing really jumps out at me about this particular defense. Of course, I don’t have much to go on. I know I was cheering hard for this team, but let’s face it, I hadn’t even turned 4 when they took the field. Maybe one of our older readers can enlighten us (Dad)?

Next, we see the ten worst seasons over the last 34 years.

1. 2004 - 13.72
2. 2002 - 15.13
3. 1997 - 15.68
4. 2005 - 15.82
5. 1978 - 16.28
6. 2000 - 16.62
7. 1986 - 17.28
8. 1988 - 17.32
9. 1989 - 17.33
10. 1973 - 17.79

I’m absolutely not surprised to see three seasons from the very recent past up at the top. We just haven’t been a great defensive team for a while. I was shocked, however, to see the 1997 team so high on this list. As I hope you’ve discovered, while the Bendability Index is a helpful and interesting statistic it isn’t the holy grail of variables. In addition, it becomes important to think about the other side of the ball. The efficiency of a team’s offense can make up for an inefficient defense and vice-versa. In that way, we can start to understand that while the 1997 team didn’t boast the most efficient defense, its offense was likely one of the most efficient in history. So, that’s where we’ll go next, examining offensive efficiency or, a team’s Scorability Index.

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.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Nebraska and Defensive Efficiency - Part I

As you can probably tell, I am fascinated by the world of sports statistics. I spend many evenings banging out spreadsheets filled with stats and variables related to Nebraska football and college football as a whole. I am constantly searching for some way of quantifying success/improvement or of determining which statistics matter and which don’t.

Recently I’ve been thinking more about the defensive side of the ball. On Monday I noticed that the poster Rojo had started a thread at both HuskerPedia and the Red Sea Scrolls about Nebraska’s Pass Defense. As always, Rojo presented some great information. This post actually led to very little meaningful discussion on HuskerPedia, although I was surprised it didn’t quickly become a Pelini – Sanders – McBride- Cosgrove – Elmassian debate. Side note – HuskerPedia currently has a poll question asking who fans would rather have as their DB coach and over 70% support Marvin Sanders. That’s a lot of support for a guy who is currently out of work. But I digress.

Anyway, Rojo opened his post with this statement:
Let’s be clear: The most important thing for a defense is keeping the other guys out of the end zone.
Technically, the most important thing is winning, but I agree that keeping the other team out of the endzone goes a long way towards this. While I enjoyed Rojo’s information, I was thirsty for more. That brought me back to some data I had put together some time ago. This data related to the "Stats That Matter" analysis at the Cold, Hard Football Facts, an NFL site. One of the most interesting statistics they track is the Bendability Index. According to the site:
Bendability Index – This is the first stat that chronicles the phenomenon of the "bend-but-don't-break" defense and provides a measure of defensive efficiency. The Bendability Index is obtained by dividing a team's total yards allowed by total points allowed, yielding Yards Per Point Allowed. A team that ranks high on the Bendability Index has the defense that opponents must work hardest to score upon. This effort is more important than total defense and, in many cases, more important than scoring defense. The Bendability Index is not purely a defensive yardstick. It is, instead, a great barometer of team success. It is a function of many team-wide factors, including general defensive strength, offense and special teams proficiency, turnover differential and Red Zone defense.
This is exactly what I was looking for, a measure of defensive efficiency. In their discussion Cold, Hard Football Facts notes that this statistic is quite telling in the NFL.
“NFC North champion Chicago not only gave up the fewest points (202) in football last year, it topped the Bendability Index, too. The Bears forced opponents to march 134 yards to score the equivalent of a single touchdown. Chicago boasted more than a tough defense; they fielded a ferociously efficient defense.”

In addition, if we measure teams by the Bendability Index:
The top seven defenses made the playoffs.
9 playoff teams ranked in the Top 10 (and 10 in the Top 11).
The playoff teams ranked from No. 1 to No. 17 – the narrowest spread.
But before I got too excited, I needed to determine if the statistic carried as much weight in college football. To do this I first constructed a spreadsheet ranking NCAA teams in terms of the Bendability Index for 2006. Next I used SMQ’s methodology for determining the relevance of a particular statistic in CFB. This meant finding the winning percentage of the Top 20 teams in the Bendability Index category, as well as the winning percentage of the Bottom 20 teams in the Bendability Index.

According to SMQ this is important because:
“…the relevance of a statistic shouldn't be measured only by the relative success of teams that perform well in a given category, but also by the relative failure of those that don't.”
Next, I calculated what SMQ sees as the most relevant measure of this analysis, the relationship between the winning percentages on the high and low ends of the Bendability Index. In other words, I subtracted the winning percentage of teams in the Bottom 20 of the Bendability Index from the winning percentage of the teams in the Top 20 of the Bendability Index to determine the relative disparity between these two groups. From a statistical standpoint, the greater the level of disparity, the more relevant the particular statistic. Or as a SMQ noted:
“the ‘most important’ category, it would follow, would be the one with the best records at the top, the worst records at the bottom and, therefore, the greatest disparity."
SMQ’s analysis found the most relevant defensive statistics based on disparity to be:

*Scoring Defense: + .546
Passing Efficiency Defense: + .467
Rush Defense: + ..448
Total Defense: + .396
Third Down Efficiency Defense: + .375
Fourth Down Efficiency Defense: + .253

*SMQ did not actually calculate the relevance of scoring defense. I was able to throw it together and come up with this figure.

When I calculated the disparity margin for the Bendability Index, I was surprised to discover it was + .522. In other words, Bendability Index actually appears to be a more relevant defensive statistic in terms of winning percentage than all but scoring defense.

So, just to clarify again:
“The Bendability Index is obtained by dividing a team's total yards allowed by total points allowed, yielding Yards Per Point Allowed. A team that ranks high on the Bendability Index has the defense that opponents must work hardest to score upon.”
I like this statistic and think we have some proof that it matters in CFB. In addition, it seems to add to the statistic of scoring defense by accounting for overall defensive efficiency or the number of yards necessary for a team to put up points on a defense. In Part II of this series I will look at how the teams ranked nationally in terms of the Bendability Index. I will also examine where Nebraska fits in with regard to this statistic.