Tony DeMeo

The Bowl Games and Meaningful Stats by Tony DeMeo

With the 2010 – 2011 Bowl Season complete, I have some observations and thoughts you might like to mull over.
The first thought is thank God for the mute button. ESPN should require their announcers to be semi-prepared for the offenses in the games they are doing. In many games the duo did not have a clue. Brent Fussberger is no Keith Jackson – really not even Tito Jackson – when he said the kick was for “All the Tostidos” he hit a new low. Brent also had a serious man-crush on Scam Newton.

The second thought is that the winner of the game should get double the payout as the loser. Then the coaches might take some of the “lesser bowls” more seriously and do a better job preparing for the game.

My third thought is that there should be a penalty on a team that is playing in a bowl game without their head coach. I don’t think that it is fair to the bowls or the fans to have a team play minus their head coach. So a financial penalty should be levied on the offending team.

Next – the officials must be consistent in enforcing the sportsmanship rule. The last thing we want is for college football to become a poor man’s NFL.

Meaningful Stats

Someone once said statistics are like whores – they’ll do whatever you want them to do. Another sage said that statistics are for losers. Larry Byrd said “Some guys put up numbers and some guys win championships.” There is some truth to all those statements. The key is to discover what stats are meaningful and which ones are worthless. The thing you must remember is to always keep the main thing the main thing. In this case: What does it take to win football games vs. evenly matched opponents?

At The University of Charleston we have very specific stats that lead us to victory.

1. Keep our Opponents to less than 16 points. In other words – PLAY GREAT DEFENSE. We are 18-2 when that occurs – a winning percentage of 90%. That’s a very significant stat, but very tough to accomplish.

2. Score more than 25 points. This is not as difficult but very significant because we are 39-2 when this goal is achieved – a winning percentage of 95%! So the important thing here is that you don’t have to score a lot of points – just ENOUGH to win.

3. Score a Non- Offensive Touchdown. To score a defensive touchdown is even more significant than a kick/punt return. But scoring a non- offensive TD gives you a huge edge. At The University of Charleston we are 16-1 when we have scored a non-offensive TD or a win percentage of 94%. Conversely, if you give up a non-offensive TD your chances of victory drops significantly.

4. Have a Plus 2 Turnover Margin. This is VERY difficult to achieve but it really is a very significant stat. At UC we are undefeated when we accomplished this goal.

These are very interesting stats, but are they only significant at The University of Charleston or do they hold true at other schools? I decided to use the Bowl Games as a test. I picked the bowls because the teams are generally evenly matched and these stats could decide the game.

1. Keep Opponents to less than 16 Points. In 35 bowls a team held their opponents to less than 16 points 16 times and won 13 for a winning percentage of 84%. But two of the three teams that gave up less than 16 points and lost also had more than a negative 3 in turnover margin which overrides the defensive effort.

2. Score More Than 25 Points. In 35 bowls a team scored 25 points or more 27 times and won 19. That’s only a 70% winning percentage. But of the 8 teams that scored 25 points and lost, 2 had more than a negative 2 turnover margin.

3. Score a Non–Offensive Touchdown. In the 35 bowls only 8 teams scored a non-offensive touchdown and they won 7 times for an 88% winning percentage. But the team that lost also gave up a non-offensive TD. So if you call that a wash it would be 100%.

4.Have a Plus 2 Turnover Margin. That occurred 12 times in the 35 bowls and the team that had a plus 2 won all 12 – a 100% win percentage! This is clearly a MEANIFUL STAT.

So the same four stats are very interesting, but how does this affect your preparation as a coach? Can you direct your philosophy and preparation to give yourself an advantage in attaining these statistical goals?

The most important stats stem from ball security. So your offense must be one that is not reckless with the ball. I’m not suggesting a “three yard and a cloud of rubber pellets” offense but taking care of the ball has to be a point of emphasis.
Holding your opponent to less than 16 points also is very significant but very difficult. The key coaching point is protect your defense by giving your opponent a short field, keeping your opponent’s offense off the field, and not giving up a score on offense or special teams.

Scoring a Non-Offensive Touchdown can occur more often if you devote more time to your return game and making “scoop & score” or pick sixes a daily part of your practice schedule. Remember you don’t get what you want or what you wish for; you get what you emphasize.

Scoring 25 points in a game does not seem too difficult in today’s world of high tempo, fast paced run ‘n’ gun offenses. However, in the BCS Championship Game NEITHER team scored 25 points despite having 2 extremely prolific offenses! As a matter of fact only 51% of teams in bowls scored 25 points or more. Now many teams average more than 25 points per game but can they score 25 against a good opponent – that’s the litmus test of the effectiveness of an offensive. Too many teams pad their stats against inferior opponents, but when they face a good team can’t move the ball. Basically your offense must be able to score against the best on your schedule.

What are the worthless stats? These are the stats that the ESPN crowd loves to keep you thinking about. These are stats that might have an effect on winning if all other things are equal.

Time of possession is significant only if you’re an exorcist. You can always win the time of possession battle by throwing a pick six or giving up a non-offensive TD, but you won’t win the game.

Total Offense is another over-rated stat. Only 66% of the time does a team win the total offense battle and win the game. The key is to move the ball and SCORE. So the coaching point is to develop your offense to SCORE TOUCHDOWNS. Develop a great red zone attack so you can make your trips there result in 7 points. Bragging on Total Offense is pretty irrelevant.

Passing yards has almost reverse significance. Although fans, A.D.s, and ESPN announcers love passing stats; they rarely lead to winning. Only 48% of the time did the team that passed for the most yards win the game. If anything, it works the other way. 52% of the time the team that passed for the most yards LOST the game! There a few reasons for this. The field shortens as you get closer to the goal line making it more difficult to pass and thus scoring fewer TDs. Also, the more you throw the greater chance for turnovers and possible non-offensive TDs. Also, you must be able to run the ball in running situations (in addition to Red Zone) especially at the end of the game to secure a victory.
In summary: a balanced offense that can score 25 points or more in a game and not turn the ball over will give you a lot of “Ws”. If you can have a defense that can get turnovers and keep opponents out of the end zone, you’ll win even more games. You get what you emphasize.