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Pedal off the Metal?

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While I was running the Warrior Dash in Portland unbeknownst to me, at a place with zero cell signal for 6 hours, the Tennessee Volunteers were building a 17-0 lead over Oklahoma and subsequently giving all away and ultimately losing it in Neyland in OT.

The OT went as I charted in the OT Matrix.  The game was close as expected with my pick of the Vols to win and the CFBMatrix efficiency model taking OU 35-28.  I wish I had seen the game so I could formulate a personal opinion in addition to the metrics.  I didn’t so I turned to one of my best friends for information, Twitter.

The feeling I got from Twitter was that Vols fans felt that the Tennessee offense changed and slowed down to protect the lead.  Was this frustration over a brutal home loss in OT to the Sooners or was the ‘gut feeling’ warranted by the fans?  Keep in mind, whether the Vols slowed or not, that may have not led OU to the win.  The Sooners took the victory and deserve the credit for said comeback, especially on the wings of a 13 and 14 play drive.

Here is what I came up with from the data files for Tennessee vs Oklahoma game

Drive leading to the 17-0 lead:  The Vols ran at a 2.895 plays per minute pace and had zero three and outs.  During that same time the Sooners ran at a 2.452 plays per minute pace.

Drives after 17-0: The pace for Tennessee slowed, especially in their six, three-and-out drives after the 17-0 lead.  The Vols went from a 2.895 plays per minute pace to 2.315 plays per minute, a 20.1% drop in pace.  The six three-and-outs were slower, averaging 2.18 plays per minute, a 26.9% drop in pace compared to the drives leading to the 17-0 lead. By contrast, the Sooners pace, to no ones surprise when trailing 17-0, jumped 30.6%, to 3.20 plays per minute.  Not a blistering pace, but certainly a greater sense of urgency.

Moral of the Tale: IMO, do what you do best, how you do it best, all the time.   Never yield and never play like a lead is safe in college football.

In case you were wondering, since Butch said they spent 4-5 hours on analytics to make the call to go for the field goal on the 1 on the opening drive of the 1st quarter:

  • The average points scored the last 5 years from a drive starting within the 2 in Q1 is 0.75 points per possession. 
  • The odds of scoring a touchdown, from a drive starting inside the 2, as OU would have been should the Vols failed on 4th down, in the 1st quarter, is nearly equal to that of the defense getting a safety. 
  • The odds of a defense creating a safety, interception or fumble are nearly 2:1 better than the opposition driving for a touchdown when starting a drive inside the 2 yard line. 
  • Given that the ratio of FBS football games being decided by 4-7 points compared to 1-3 points is 57:43, is trying to get the 7 more valuable over the course of a season than taking the 3 points?

Sure it is a tough call, but 4-5 hours of analytics to tell you kick a field goal on 4 and a half yard in the first quarter in a 0-0 game at home would be an interest read in the face of these other odds and metrics.

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