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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Mathophobes can skip this section. I've subscribed to Smart Football for a while now and recommend anyone with an interest in the coaching side of the game do so as well. The latest post over there is titled "Run/Pass Balance and A Little Game Theory," which makes the tingly bits tingle. In it, proprietor Chris Brown proposes a different way of looking at run/pass balance based not on a straight ratio of run to pass plays but on the yards per play each achieves:

The idea is if you are a very good passing team you pass most of the time, then you run when it is favorable and see positive results without having had to practice it too much. Same goes vice-versa--we all know how dangerous play-action passes are from heavy run teams, especially say a veer option team.

Again, I don't think yards per rush and yards per passing attempt should be exactly equal--passes are riskier than running plays. Specifically, they more often result in lost yardage (sacks) and turn the ball over more often (both fumbles and interceptions). So you should expect your yards per pass attempt to be higher than yards per rushing attempt.
The idea here is that if your results from the running and passing are out of wack you should be adjusting your run-pass ratio in a counterintuitive fashion because the defense will be expecting you to do what you're good at. If your yards per play for both are approximately equal with the addition of a "passing premium" of about a yard per play, your offense is operating with the correct balance between run and pass: you've reached a Nash equilibrium that balances what your offense is good at with game theory considerations. The implications of this can be startling:
Pass-happy Mike Leach at Texas Tech attempted 697 passes for 4857 yards, averaging 6.97 yards per pass attempt. (I also recognize how many of these are shovels and the like but I'm just being simplistic.)

They ran the ball 172 times for 1040 yards, or 6.05 per rushing attempt.


The result? Tech, for all its crazy stuff, is pretty balanced.
What about Michigan? Last year the team ran for 1902 yards on 435 carries -- all quarterback rushes are counted as passing plays -- for (ugh) 4.35 yards per carry. If you include Henne's sacks/rushes, which were all passing plays save for two or three unsuccessful QB draws and a few sneaks, Michigan averaged (ugh) 5.85 yards per pass play, so they should have thrown more... I guess. Michigan's reliance on wide receiver screens that should more properly be classified runs seriously distorts those stats. In any case, it's an interesting way to look at things. Texas Tech is balanced in their way.

And another thing: Smart Football mentions in passing that certain stat gurus harp upon the as-of-yet fictional "yards per passing play" statistic as the most important metric in the passing game, but I think you can take that assumption a step farther. If you remember this graph from way back when...

...then you might have an idea in your head that the value of the yards you gain is not linear. Getting into third and one or third and two is much more valuable than third and four. I've had an idea to measure the expected value of each situation on the field -- third and six from your twenty, first and ten from their sixteen, fourth and twenty from midfield -- and assign "points" to each play based on the differences between each expectation. For example, you have a first and ten at midfield. On average teams in this situation find after the next score (by either team) they're up an average of 3.3 points. That's the expectation. On first down, Chad Henne wings one six rows into the crowd. You have second and ten at midfield, which is only worth 2.7 points. Chad is charged -0.6 points. BAD CHAD!

Anyway, add all that up and you get a measure of A) my insanity and B) offensive efficiency that is accurate by definition. Possibly coming soon-ish. Or late-ish.

Aaaaand another thing: That post keeps on giving.

Q. What's the only way to make Hal Mumme look smart?

A. Put him in front of sportswriters:
I remember someone asking Hal Mumme when he was at Kentucky about how his teams' yards per carry had dropped around a yard or so from the season before. The reporter was incredulous and turned red faced at Mumme's response: Mumme told him that he saw the same thing, and that to fix it he would throw the ball more. The reporter cut him off and essentially called him an idiot, mentioning that everyone knows you run better by simply running more (wear them down!).

Michigan: not so crappy at football after all. Paul Westerdawg has an interesting post up on the states that provide NFL talent. It has the usual states at the top (California, Florida, Texas), but supposed basketball state Michigan is #8 on the list with 50. Ohio has 78 and Pennsylvania 58. Insofar as NFL talent reflects collegiate talent -- an imperfect comparison, surely -- the implication is that OSU's main asset is not OMG Ohio High School Football but the fact that they're the only BCS school in their state.

Thufferin thuttcotath! Lou Holth: The Biography!
A standout is Holtz’s long-term position at Notre Dame, of special importance not just because of his devout Catholicism but also his refreshing devotion to strict academic standards for the players. In fact, what stands out is his modesty and adamant belief that football is ultimately less important than education.
EDSBS has your incredulous scoffing covered.

Etc.: Maize 'n' Brew ponders the eternal question "Is a Ball State ticket worth somewhere between 50 and 100 dollars?" and reaches the eternal answer "no"; Bruce Ciskie rounds up his roundtable, accuses MGoBlog of cheating and sucking, MGoBlog laughs at result of UW-UM football... er... hockey... er... basketball... er... softball (yeah! that's the ticket!) game.