What follows is a composite profile combining cumulative, regular-season, conference-game offensive statistics for each SEC West representative to the SEC Championship Game from 2003 through 2009. Also included are the highest and the lowest statistical performance for each category from any team in the group. Further explanations of the stats are at the end of this post.
The 2009 Arkansas Razorbacks met or exceeded the SEC West composite champion in positive way 64% of all categories considered. It’s a tremendous start for 2010 because Arkansas returns 96% of its offensive points scored. Arkansas returns 100% of its passing yards, 74% of its net rushing yards, and 88% of its receiving yards. Adding the season totals together of rushing, passing and receiving yards to create “responsible yards,” the Hogs return offensive players who gained 90.3% of those yards.
As far as positive superlatives go, Hogs excelled where expected and in a couple of unexpected areas. The Hogs exceeded the best stats of any SEC West representative for the last 7 years in passing yards per game, passing TDs per game, passing attempts per game, completions per game, and number of passing first downs per game. While the common wisdom is that the Hogs’ running game could have been better, the degree to which Arkansas rushers took extraordinary care of the ball in SEC play is normally lost in last year’s reviews. The Hogs fumbled the ball less than one time per game and lost only one fumble in 2009 SEC play. Both the number of fumbles per game and fumbles lost equal the best of any SEC West representative since 2003. Unlike holding onto the ball, the Hogs’ offense didn’t control the number of first downs it gained from penalties. Arkansas’ 1.9 first downs per game were more than any other.
|Composite Champion||High||Low||Ark. 2009|
|Points For/ GM||29.8||37.3||26||29.3|
|Marg. Per Win||16.6||21.4||13.1||19.7|
|Marg. Per Loss||-3.4||-12||0||-11.6|
|Rushes / GM||40.8||44.6||37.8||31.1|
|Rush Yds. / GM||205.3||233.1||159.9||131.9|
|Rush Yds. Lost||20.9||26.3||15.5||26.1|
|Rush TDs / GM.||1.8||2.6||1.1||1.6|
|Rush Yards / Carry||4.5||5.3||3.5||3.4|
|Pass Attempts / GM||25.5||32.5||18||34.8|
|Pass Completions / GM||14.9||17.8||9.6||17.9|
|Interceptions / GM||0.8||1.3||0.4||0.6|
|Pass Yds. / GM||191||215||149||278|
|Pass Yds. / Completion||13||15.5||11.4||15.5|
|Pass TDs / GM||1.5||1.8||0.8||2|
|Total No. Plays / GM||66||77.1||58.5||65.8|
|Total Yards / GM||376||409||349||383.3|
|Tot. Yds / Play||5.7||6.2||5.3||5.8|
|Off. Scores / GM||4.6||6.1||3.9||4.9|
|O. Plays/O Scores||14.5||16.6||12.6||13.5|
|Total GiveUps / GM **||6.88||9||5.6||7.4|
|GiveUps to O Scores||1.5||2.3||1.1||1.5|
|Drives / GM||11.5||13||9.5||12.3|
|Drives / O Score||2.5||3.3||2.1||2.5|
|Punts / GM||5||5.9||4||6.1|
|Total Punt Yds / GM||205||238||155||230|
|Yards Per Punt||41.3||43.1||38.8||37.5|
|Punt Ret. No. / GM||2.6||3.6||1.5||0.5|
|Punt Ret. Yds. / GM||30.5||46.1||9.8||7|
|Yards per Punt Ret.||11.3||15.4||6.5||14|
|Punt Ret. No. / Season||20.9||29||12||4|
|KO Ret No. / GM||2.4||3.8||1.1||4.6|
|KO Ret. Yds/ GM||53.3||81.1||28.1||108.5|
|KO Ret. Yds./ Play||22.5||26.8||18.1||23.5|
|FG Att / GM||1.8||2.5||0.9||1.8|
|FG Made / GM||1.3||2.3||0.6||1.3|
|FG Points / GM.||3.8||6.8||1.9||3.8|
|1st Downs Rush/GM||9.4||11.6||7.5||6.5|
|1st Downs Pass/GM||8.2||9.6||6||10.1|
|1st Downs Pen/GM||1.2||1.5||0.6||1.9|
|Tot. 1st Downs / GM||18.8||22.2||16.9||18.5|
|No. Penalties / GM||6.4||8.3||3.8||6.5|
|No. of Fumbles.||1.4||2||0.9||0.9|
*Just before SEC Championship Game.
** Giveups Explained below.
Superlatives are wonderful, but being roughly equal to the composite SEC West champion is great too! Arkansas is on the right track in the “big picture” numbers. Total number of plays per game, Total 1st Downs, Total Yards per Play, Number of Penalties and Penalty Yards per game, and Offensive Scores per Game are all very close to the composite champion’s numbers.
From the uncommon observations Arkansas takes 13.5 offensive plays per offensive score while the composite champion would take 14.5. Both are equal in needing 2.5 drives on average to produce an offensive score. Adding together the most common ways an offense “gives up” the ball, the 2009 Razorbacks averaged 7.4 “GiveUps” per game compared to the composite champion’s 6.88 per game.
It will be surprising to many, but Arkansas’s field goal unit matches the SEC West composite champion mark for mark. In 2009 Arkansas attempted 14 field goals, made 10, and averaged 3.8 points per game from the Hogs’ kicker. Those are the exact numbers for the SEC West composite champion!
Every Razorback Fan would trade any three of the other made field goals for three of the four which were missed in SEC play. But even from other angles, Arkansas’ 2009 field goal unit remained in the middle of this grouping. The Hogs’ percentage of overall points from field goals is in the statistical middle of the last seven years’ SEC West winners as is Arkansas’ actual number of points derived from field goals. Four of the seven SEC West representatives had field goal percentages between 71.4% and 75% as did Arkansas. Two had lower percentages while only Alabama’s 2009 club distinguished itself in terms of points (54) and percentage made (90%).
Arkansas’ new kickers may provide tough competition, but don’t be surprised to see no change in the field goal unit personnel absent a clearly better choice. The Liberty Bowl victory by a final field goal was the first victory by a late field goal for Arkansas in 2009 and the first ever for Coach Petrino as a head coach. That’s 76 games. Right now, the more direct choice seems to be to improve kicking under pressure. Leigh Tiffin produced Alabama’s numbers last year. The best result would be for Alex Tejada to use 2009 as a platform to reach for Tiffin’s 2009 performance while Camera and Hocker learn with eyes toward improving for 2011.
Where the Razorbacks fall short statistically in 17 categories, Arkansas was only inside the negative end of the extreme range of SEC West representatives in 2 of those categories. While the composite West champion lost an average of 20.9 yards per game rushing, Arkansas lost 26.1 yards per game. It’s not a terrible difference but of this grouping, only LSU’s 2005 team did worse at 26.3 yards per game. Too, negative rushing yardage is logged for plays which were plainly designed as passes, but the QB is sacked or run out of bounds. When Arkansas lost games, it lost them by an average of 11.6 points per game while overall this group only logged 5 losses altogether and averaged losses by 3.4 points per game. In 2003 LSU lost one game by 12 points but won its other 7. Let’s hear a “Thank God for LSU!”
In 15 categories the Hogs were outside of the extreme range of any SEC West’s unfavorable numbers. Seven of the categories have to do with rushing, but first, a couple of points need mentioning.
Despite rushing numbers, the 2009 Razorbacks averaged 1.6 rushing touchdowns per game compared with a group average of 1.8 rushing touchdowns per game. It’s a difference of 11 points or so for the conference season. But overall, Arkansas scored 13 rushing touchdowns in SEC play last year. By comparison, BCS National Champion Alabama and Heisman Trophy running back Mark Ingram managed only 9 rushing touchdowns in SEC play. In ’03 and in ‘05, LSU scored 10 and 11 rushing TDs, and even Arkansas’ ’06 squad logged only 12. On the other end Auburn put up 18 in ’04 while LSU and ‘Bama each scored 21 rushing TDs in ’07 and ’08. By the time the Hogs had scored a rushing touchdown in 2009, two complete SEC games had passed (Georgia and Alabama). If Arkansas’ game with Auburn marked the turnaround for Coach Petrino’s running game, 13 rushing TDs in the final 6 SEC games is the same 2.2 rushing TDs per game which is roughly equivalent to Auburn’s ’04 results and bested only by Alabama’s ’08 and LSU’s ’07 teams!
Despite common wisdom, folks, Arkansas comes into 2010 with one of the more prolific scoring attacks on the ground, and that’s combined with a passing attack that is already ahead of all comers.
… And Chris Klenakis comes in to improve the running attack. At this point, do you even care how the numbers failed for rushing, if at all? I don’t.
At the end of the day, points win games. While Coach Petrino may be the exception rather than the norm as far as change is concerned, offensive-minded head coaches are rarely going to incorporate wholesale changes in their tried-and-true schemes. Completely from my speculation, the biggest changes won’t be in offensive schemes but will be changes in blocking, whether they are some changes in technique, blitz pick-up, or movement after the snap. Further Kris Cinkovich may be here to find some happy medium between Arkansas’ 2009 and 2006 offensive lines.
Five negative categories involved the punting game on both the kicking side and the return side. On the kicking side, Razorback punts fell 4 yards short per kick from the composite champion but only one yard short of the low range. Arkansas only recorded 4 punt returns in SEC play last year or one return every two games. Over two games the composite champion would log 5 punt returns. On average, the composite champion moves the ball a little over 11 yards for every punt return. Every bit of time spent in spring practice to help the punt receiving game is warranted!
The single biggest movement Arkansas needs to make is known to everyone. While there may be different ways to win an SEC West Championship, the fact that the composite champion only gives up 15 points per game while Arkansas’s 2009 opponents put up 29 points per game is critical.
Think of it this way, when the best teams have lost since 2003, they’ve only lost by 3 points per game on average. If we tossed out LSU’s 2003 team which had one 12-point clunker, the average goes down to 1.7 points per loss. While the Razorback’s 234 points scored in SEC play in 2009 were better than the offensive production of 5 of these teams, the 233 points it gave up more than doubled the points given up by 5 of these squads and is 99 points more than Arkansas’ 2006 defense.
Don’t think, though, that 14 points of improvement is necessarily the target. Coach Petrino’s 2006 Louisville squad averaged 17 points allowed in route to finishing 6th in the Final A.P. Poll that year. From other efforts similar to this one, since the beginning of the current configuration of the SEC in 1993, winners who have scored 22 points or fewer account for only 25% of all victories. Winners who have scored 24 points or fewer account for only 35% or so of all victories.
If a 6-2 SEC record (75% of 8 SEC games) is the minimum threshold for the SEC West champion, the Razorbacks need to scrap and boar rush to save 7 points per game because opponents’ likelihood of winning at 22 points drops to being good enough only 25% of the time. Meaningful Defensive improvement is doable.
First, I know it’s been a couple of weeks since my last post. The real world and the difficulty of this post have both presented challenges.
For each SEC West representative to the SEC Championship game since 2003, each team’s regular-season SEC games became a cumulative set of numbers. From there, each year’s SEC West Champion’s team statistics were averaged to create a profile of an SEC West Champion. Despite having the information back to the 2000 season, 2003 was chosen because it marked the beginning of a change which has lasted 7 years. 2002 was the last season where the SEC West sent a team with a 5-3 record to the Championship Game. Since then, only LSU’s 2007 team represented the West with a 6-2 record. All other teams have gone undefeated or suffered only one SEC loss since 2003! It’s difficult to say that a 6-2 SEC regular season record is good enough in the SEC West anymore.
What games are not included in these stats? The riff-raff is gone here. Non-conference, statistic-padding games aren’t included. SEC Championship games are out, too, as are bowl games. It’s eight regular-season SEC games. Period.
You’ll find many basic stats which you’ve come to expect boiled down to Per Game (“/ GM”) or Per Play (“/ Play,” “/ Punt,” etc.) averages, but there’s much more insight from outside the box score. To examine some measures of offensive efficiency or ball control, you’ll find “Offensive Scores per Offensive Plays” (O Scores / O Plays) and a solution for estimating “Drive Efficiency.”
Certainly this isn’t the FIRST place OS/OP is being used, but “analysts” don’t throw these kinds of numbers around. We know that football isn’t geared to have defenses, kickoff return teams, and punt return teams produce the majority of points Doesn’t it make sense to look at how many plays it takes for an offense to produce an offensive score? Where’s this stat been?
Drive stats are tedious to compile, but really, almost all drives’ end results are included in basic summaries. The vast majority end with a change of possession from an offensive score, punt, interception, lost fumble or missed field goal. The latter four are called here, “GiveUps.” Turnovers on downs, ends of halves, blocked punts, and safeties are a relatively small percentage of outcomes compared to others. The first two are available only in drive charts while blocked punts and safeties are in the opposing teams’ defensive stats. They’re obtainable but don’t add much to the whole. Adding offensive scores and “GiveUps” will approximate the number of drives in a game. Comparisons will be equal for all teams.
Some 47 categories for the composite view of an SEC West Champion, with the high and low numbers for each category, are placed next to the same numbers for the 2009 Arkansas Razorbacks.
Common sense tells any Arkansas Fan that practically all of the players from skill positions responsible for Arkansas’ offensive production in 2009 are returning for 2010. Although beyond this post, when Arkansas’ rushing, passing and receiving numbers are added together to make “Responsible Yards” almost 90% of Arkansas’ offensive production is returning. It’s difficult for me to look at it any other way. Passing the ball takes two to tango even though the passing and receiving yards are always identical.
One of the reasons I’m not posting this database, even in the form of Hog Database’s Research Wizard, is that some time is needed to test the information for accuracy. Although going through these numbers a couple of times tends to catch errors, some may still exist. Too, additional information needs to be added such as 3rd Down and 4th Down conversions. Exact drive information would be great, but obtaining it other than on a game-by-game basis is elusive. If you find a mistake, let me know!
Thanks for reading, ya’ll. If you have about 15 seconds, a click on any ad is always appreciated. — SharpTusk