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What Matters to Kentucky's Winning // SEC 2011

Last week, I produced a list of which stats correlate most with Vanderbilt's winning in the Bobby Johnson/Robbie Caldwell era. I am doing the same with Kentucky in the Rich Brooks/Joker Phillips era today. As with last week, I am using a baseline of 0.264 as a threshold of relevance (for consistency) and listing either the stat or UK's national rank in that stat (but not both).

Stat Correlation
Turnover Margin Rank -0.708
Scoring Offense Rank -0.703
Total Offense Rank -0.673
Turnovers Gained 0.623
Rushing Defense -0.602
Passing Efficiency 0.591
Yards per Pass Att. Rank -0.529
Scoring Defense -0.518
Rushing Offense Rank -0.386
Kickoff Return Yardage Rank -0.385
Passing Eff. Defense Rank -0.370
Turnovers Lost Rank -0.350
Yards per Carry 0.339
Total Defense Rank -0.319
Punt Return Yardage Rank -0.314


Kentucky had a four more relevant stats than Vandy did, for whatever that's worth. What's more important is that, while the Commodores' table was dominated by defensive and turnover stats, Kentucky's is more about turnovers and offensive stats. The programs are mirror images of each other in that way.

Once again, the top defensive category on the list is rushing defense. With UK being a perennial underdog like Vandy is (though to a lesser degree), the reason is likely the same: when teams get down big, their opponents run the ball a lot. Turnover margin and turnovers gained being way up there are also hallmarks of an underdog team, as they're less able to overcome a poor margin and benefit most from gaining turnovers.

The next strongest defensive correlation was scoring defense, which along with scoring offense is kind of a generic "duh" thing that's going to be important to every team. Beyond that, passing efficiency defense rank is the strongest defensive correlation at -0.370. Defense doesn't correlation highly with UK's winning mainly because the defense wasn't great in its best years of 2006-07 but picked up after that when the team's winning fell off some.

The other notable thing to pull out is that passing correlated more strongly with Kentucky's winning than rushing did. This is a point for reminding that correlation doesn't necessarily imply causation, so it doesn't mean that better passing necessarily causes Kentucky to win more games. However, that principle doesn't mean that better passing didn't cause more winning. I would hazard a guess that Andre' Woodson was a huge difference maker in Kentucky's back-to-back eight-win seasons in 2006-07.

One thing Kentucky doesn't have is a crazy correlation that goes contrary to expectation like what Vanderbilt had with rushing offense. That's a relief.

So overall, Kentucky's offense is overall what rises and falls as the team's winning percentage rises and falls. That makes replacing last year's stars all the more important.