Yards Per Play in the SEC: Two Weeks in the Books

After two weeks of play in the SEC, every team in the conference except Texas A&M has played two games, and every team has played at least one game against an FBS (1-A) opponent. Even though the sample size is only one (or two), I thought it would be interesting to see how the teams are stacking up in terms of my favorite stat, yards per play (YPP).

I prefer this stat because it breaks down offense and defense to the lowest possible level of granularity, the play. Total yardage is a useless stat because a 500 yard game is not very impressive if the team runs 500 plays, and a 100 yard game becomes impressive if the team runs two plays. Those are two extreme (and virtually impossible) examples, I know, but they illustrate the flaws in total yards as a statistic. YPP is by no means flawless; it is a strict average that doesn't account for standard deviation, meaning a team that has one 80-yard play and nine 0-yard plays will have the same YPP as a team with ten 8-yard plays. It also does not account for the fact that there is a maximum (and minimum, on the other extreme) amount of yards a team can gain in a particular play. If it is first and goal at the one yard line, the offense can only gain one yard and the defense can only give up one yard. If the offense scores, the play was obviously successful, but has a negative contribution to that team's offensive YPP value.

All that said, I still like it as a rough estimator of a team's relative strength. After the jump, we'll get to the numbers.

The table below shows the teams of the SEC ordered by offensive YPP to defensive YPP ratio. This stat basically describes how much more (or less) successful your offense is per play than your opponents' offense. All numbers are retrieved from the invaluable resource College Football Statsistics. If you'd like to look at a fancier, more colorful google spreadsheet rather than the HTML table, click here.

Rank Team Offensive YPP Defensive YPP Ratio
1 Louisiana State 6.61 3.47 1.90
2 Mississippi 7.80 4.44 1.76
3 Mississippi State 5.97 3.54 1.69
4 Alabama 6.66 4.29 1.55
5 Tennessee 6.63 5.09 1.30
6 Georgia 6.18 4.79 1.29
7 Florida 5.25 4.47 1.17
8 Kentucky 6.56 5.76 1.14
9 South Carolina 5.88 5.22 1.13
10 Vanderbilt 4.71 4.29 1.10
11 Arkansas 5.71 5.34 1.07
12 Texas A&M 4.84 4.72 1.03
13 Missouri 4.64 5.07 0.92
14 Auburn 4.72 6.03 0.78

Some thoughts:

  • Hugh Freeze has turned around Ole Miss' offense That eye-popping 7.80 offensive YPP is not a typo, folks. I realize that the opponent was UTEP, but Houston Nutt's past few offenses at Ole Miss would not have come close to touching that level of domination. The number is certain to drop once the Rebels get into the meat grinder of their SEC schedule (not to mention this week's contest with Texas), but Ole Miss fans have reason to be optimistic.
  • The new kids on the block had a tough go of it in their first conference games This one is a no-brainer, but after one game in the league, Texas A&M and Missouri take up two of the bottom three spots in the league in YPP ratio. Of course, they have both only played one FBS game, and other teams have had the opportunity to play weaker FBS teams like Western Kentucky or Louisiana-Monroe.
  • The SEC winner is most likely going to come from the West again Another no-brainer, depending on whom you ask, but given the fact that most everyone expected Alabama or LSU to win the conference, and the top four teams above in YPP ratio are from the West, it would appear that we're looking at a fourth straight SEC Champion from the West. If you want to add strength of schedule context to the numbers, Alabama and LSU have produced their numbers while demolishing BCS conference opponents who were trendy preseason dark horse conference championship contenders.
  • Auburn, you're s'posed to be SEC As an Auburn fan, these numbers show me that my eyes haven't lied to me in the two games I've put myself through. If you reverse the numbers, Teams That Play Auburn have an aggregate YPP ratio of 1.27, or approximately Georgia. Gene Chizik better turn this thing around soon, or a 4-8 or 3-9 season could be staring him squarely in the eyes. I wish I could say that's hyperbolic, but based on the evidence I have before me (both visual and numerical), it seems accurate.

So there you have it. I'd once again like to stress that this is a complete exercise in small sample sizes, but in a 12-game season, you're not going to do much better. I would welcome any comments or criticisms about the work, and if I have the time (not to mention the moderators' blessing), I'd like to post an updated version of the numbers each week. Thanks for reading!

A FanPost gives the opinion of the fan who writes it and that fan only. That doesn't give the opinion more or less weight than any other opinion on this blog, but the post does not necessarily reflect the view of TSK's writers.

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