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Introducing "Statistical In-Ferentz"


This is just a quick announcement that every Tuesday during the football season I'll be writing a short graph/analysis thing about the previous week's (or possibly about the upcoming game if the past game was not very interesting).  Basically like Fran-Graphs complete with bad pun, but for football.  

As an example of what I'll be doing, I worked up a chart from the Insight Bowl of last year.  The question I had was: exactly how often did Iowa use their various formations/personnel groups, and what plays did they run out of them?  Here's what I found after re-watching the game tape (I wasn't super precise about matching all the yardage up to the box score, so there may be some differences between the totals here and the official totals).


[To understand this chart, know that the numbers correspond to the yardage of the plays run in those formations/situations.  So in the 1TE, 3WR, 1RB set, Iowa had normal pass plays of 49 yards, 12 yards, etc., and play-action pass-plays of 38 and 16 yards.  The total yards and averages are color-coded.]

As you can see, the 1TE, 3WR, 1RB set was the most popular of the night, with 16 plays called, with the 2TE, 2RB, 1WR set only slightly less used.  These were also successful sets for the Hawks, which is perhaps not surprising -- Ken O'Keefe went with what worked.   There was very little use of shotgun or heavy sets (the two times they used three tight ends came near the goal line), there was a pretty good balance between runs to the right and left, and the preponderance of the plays were runs.  All of which is probably not too surprising to anyone who watched Marcus Coker run around and through Missouri's defense all night.

One thing that does stand out to me is the "no tricks here" approach that comes through when you actually count the number of plays run.  At least in this game, when Iowa came out with two tight ends and two running backs (i.e. with a fullback and a tailback), they were definitely going to run.  And if they came out with three wide receivers, they were very likely going to pass.  This fits into my general impression of Iowa's offenses in the Ken O'Keefe era: great execution, few surprises (and highly successful surprises when they do come, e.g. on the few play-action passes here).  It will be interesting to see if these patterns hold up over the course of the year. 

Anyway, this is the kind of thing I'll be looking at.  I may just do this chart over and over if people like it, but I also welcome suggestions.  Other charting-type ideas I had were looking at blitz rates and where they came from, what the team runs on first, second, third down, the number of throws Vandenberg puts on target/into the first row, and which receivers are targeted most.  If you have other ideas, leave them in the comments.  I'm working from the TV broadcast, so I can't look at everything, but I'll do my best.