Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Quick Post on 2010's Fourth Quarter Collapses

I think we all remember what happened just before this... (Nam Y. Huh | AP)
Last Friday, Bill Connelly, of Football Study Hall, released two Google spreadsheets full of special rankings on every team in college football. Naturally, I was giddy as a damn school girl to have this data at my disposal. And once I opened up these spreadsheets, what was the first thing I wanted to look at? Why Iowa's S&P+ rankings by quarter, of course.

For those of you not familiar with the stats used at Football Study Hall, they come from Football Outsiders. Basically, it's like Sabermetrics (if you're a baseball fan), but for football. S&P+ is basically a combination ranking of two of their stats. The first stat is Success Rate, which basically measures how good a team is at moving the ball on offense or stopping the opposing team from moving the ball on defense. The second stat is Equivalent Points Per Play, which measures how explosive an offense is or how good a defense is at not allowing big plays. These two stats get added together like on-base percentage and slugging percentage do in baseball (OPS) to create S&P+. (To get full definitions of these stats check out this link)

Anyway, why did I look at Iowa's S&P+ by quarter for 2010? Because I wanted to see what the hell happened during Iowa's famous fourth quarter collapses last year. Let's find out.

To the graphs!

The numbers show where Iowa ranked nationally in S&P+, which means the lower the better. As you can see, Iowa's offense and defense got worse late in the game. Iowa's defense performed the worst in the fourth quarter. Iowa's offense, on the other hand, got worse in the third quarter and went down the shitter in the fourth quarter. Since S&P+ is two different stats put together, let's break them down a little further to see if we can explain what happened.

The chart above shows Iowa's Success Rate and Equivalent Points Per Play by quarter on offense. Iowa's offense was pretty good in the first half, but once the ball was kicked off after halftime, they bottomed out. They were still somewhat capable of making big plays in the third quarter, as they were number 40 in the nation in Equivalent Points Per Play. However, their drives started stalling quite a bit in the third quarter, as their Success Rate dropped to number 76 in the country in the third quarter. Once they got into the fourth quarter, the Success Rate stayed consistently bad, and their explosiveness joined it. This is why Iowa was a top 30 team in S&P+ rankings in the first half, but dropped to number 53 in the third quarter, and number 81 in the fourth quarter.

The offense isn't the only unit that fell off as the game went on. However, instead of falling off a cliff once the second half started, the defense held strong until the fourth quarter, which is why they were a top 30 defense in quarters 1-3. Even when they were at their worst in the fourth quarter, they were still the number 47 ranked defense in the nation, according to S&P+.

So what do these numbers tell us?

My take, is that the offense started stalling after halftime. Their Success Rate got worse and worse as the second half went on, which means they were putting together shorter drives. After Iowa's offense goes three and out or puts together two quarters worth of terribly short drives, Iowa's defense is gassed from being on the field the for so long. That's when they start allowing opposing offenses to grind out long game winning drives against them. This is evidenced by the Hawkeyes' defensive Success Rate going from number 31 in the nation in the third quarter to number 70 in the nation in the fourth quarter, while their Equivalent Points Per Play only went from number 14 to number 39 in the nation.

This strikes me as interesting, considering the defense (the defensive line, especially) got a lot of blame for being out of shape in the fourth quarter last year. But, if I was Adrian Clayborn, I would need a breather after chasing Dan Persa or Terrelle Pryor around the field for so long too. The defense didn't come up with the late game stops that we as Hawkeye fans had become accustomed to last year, but the offense certainly didn't help them out any.

I guess what I'm saying is, instead of questioning the conditioning of our defense, maybe we should be questioning where the hell the offense went at the end of games last year?

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1 comment:

  1. This is a fantastic post. Thanks for the link to the data.