A while back I talked with SharpTusk, a blogger from SportingNews.com about making a few posts on Hog Database. He is becoming well known around the Arkansas blogging circuit as a writer that loves football stats which makes him a perfect fit with hogdb. He wrote a great piece last week on the SEC and below you can read a sample of his work from this weekend. I love the stats and as you will see he hit the nail on head with his analysis of the SEC Championship game. Hopefully, we will see more and more of SharpTusk on Hog Database.
‘Bama Punches Ticket to BCS National Championship
The teams are listed according to their records and then according to Sagarin’s Predictor ranking which considers points and margin of victory in its computations, unlike the BCS formula. Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas have all ended the season with 7-5 records. LSU ended at 8-4 and gets top billing while Arkansas is second by the Predictor rankings, Tennessee is third and so on.
Ranking them in this manner makes it easier to look at performance against the Top 3 teams, Top 4 teams, Top 5 teams, etc. and places focus on arguably tougher competition and minimizing their performances against FIU.
Statistically, Alabama and Florida are almost identical against common opponents in all offensive and defensive categories.
But this Arkansas Razorback Fan has stared at the essence of what he sees before..
When you understand these teams’ Defensive numbers relative to one another as I’ve grouped them, the key to this game is obvious. Here are the details.
Sacks — Florida has consistently produced almost one more sack per game average.
Tackles for Loss — Alabama has consistently produced one more tackle for a loss on average.
Rushing Yards Gained — Alabama has held the all categories of Top 3 and Top 4 teams to 20 fewer yards on average while the other categories are roughly even.
Rushing Yards Lost — Alabama has thrown offenses for a loss for 5-10 yards more per game average for each category.
Rushing Touchdowns Against — Both teams have minimal rushing touchdowns in the common opponent comparison. Alabama has allowed only 2. Florida has allowed only 3.
Number of Passing Completions Against — Teams have completed 5-6 more passes per average againstAlabama and that correlated directly with opponents have thrown the ball an average of 10-15 times more per category average than they did against Florida. For instance, the Top 5 schools (LSU, AR, TN, SC, KY) passed on average 37 times per game against Alabama while the same schools threw for an average of 25 times per game against Florida. The Top 5 completed an average of 18 passes per game against Alabamawhile the same schools completed an average of 13 passes against Florida.
Completion Percentage Against — The Top 5 completed an average of 49% of their passes againstAlabama while the same schools completed 52% of their passes against Florida.
Yards per Catch Allowed — The Top 5 common opponents averaged 11 yards per catch against Alabamaand 10.6 yards per catch against Florida.
But the differential in passing attempts and completions by Alabama’s opponents can be explained from one other simple statistic. Quite simply, Florida’s common SEC opponents averaged 11-12 fewer plays per game than they did against Alabama. Almost all of the additional plays which Alabama allowed have been used for passing by opponents and the yards per catch against Alabama for each of those 5-6 receptions account for the additional 50-60 yards per game which Alabama allows than does Florida.
In a way, perception creates its own reality. Opponents who gain fewer positive yards, who are tackled for a loss more frequently, and who have more negative yardage plays for more lost yardage are taking to the air against Alabama.
However, common opponents’ completion percentage and yards per reception are virtually identical for these two defenses. Properly placed, 5 additional receptions per game at 10 yards per reception as allowed by Alabama can account for the extra 11-12 more plays which offenses run against the Tide. The perception is that a team is indifferent offensively to running or passing the ball againstFlorida. Neither is easy to do, so the team should remain balanced. The perception when playing Alabamais that a team better throw the ball because their defense isn’t going to allow your team to run.
What’s lost in the perception is that a team may be as effective at throwing the ball against Florida as it is against Alabama. Completion percentages and yards per catch are almost identical between the two teams. More plays, more yardage and longer drives are there for the taking. I don’t believe a similar analysis will escape Nick Saban.
It’s never occurred to me that a run defense may be too good.
Despite the extra receptions and yardage allowed, Alabama holds common opponents in every category to one point fewer on average than Florida. Both have gained slightly more yardage on the ground than through the air.
Without going into great detail, the offenses are nearly identical in terms of the number of yards gained and points scored against their 7 common opponents in both rushing and passing. However, despite predictions that Florida’s offense would open up, against common opponents Florida’s passing numbers aren’t impressive. Florida threw well against the two worst common opponents against pass, Arkansas and FIU. Otherwise Florida threw for 199 yards against South Carolina and averaged around 130 yards per game against all of the other common opponents!
Alabama averages similar numbers against teams other than Arkansas and FIU, but impressively the Tideshowed the ability to open up its offense in a 276 yard passing performance against LSU.
Once again, I’m staring at the conclusion that one team’s defensive strength meets the other team’s offensive strength head on. Unlike my prediction of Arkansas trending toward a stout rushing defense against Florida, there’s absolutely no need to predict future performance from Alabama’s Defense. Against common opponents Alabama’s run defense has been stifling and will meet Florida head on.
In this game, the ability to throw the ball will be key. Florida will have to show an offense it hasn’t shown to move the ball. Tebow left and Tebow right won’t fly here. Watching LSU and Arkansas make brutal hits,Florida and Alabama aren’t playing for a birth in the Capital One Citrus Bowl. I expect this game to take hitting to a new level.
Look for the winning threshold of points scored in SEC regular season games to be key here. The point battleground will be between 22 and 28 points.
Alabama will punch it’s ticket today to the BCS National Championship game, 27-24.