A more granular view of star-rankings

One of the main problems with the star-categorization is that, like most ordinal data, it doesn’t provide an idea as to the degree of separation between intra-star gradings. Generally speaking, we can use the individual ratings to find that, which usually works well. But that still doesn’t let us know exactly where within a particular star category a player currently sits. Taking the range of ratings (composite) for each star category, I added a normalized score at each possible level (at 4 digits). Applying that to Florida’s current commits and leans (per crystal ball) to get an idea of where they stand provides some insight:

Tyler Booker is practically a 5-star (4.98) and Julian Humphrey is a very high 4-star. This is pretty straightforward. Booker is in the 98th percentile of the 4-star range, so he is a 4.98 star.

Class-wise, Florida has some ground to make up, as they are currently 15th using this metric (and controlling for number of commits/leans). Fortunately they have time:

Down and Distance success as a predictor to winning

As Nick Saban recently stated, offense is what is predominantly winning games in college football. Furthermore, passing and points are at a premium. Converting on a down and distance (D&D) situation is intuitively a good thing for the offense, which is then good thing for the team’s chances of winning. I was curious about how converting D&D relates to winning. Since I already had the play by play data from the SEC 2020 season courtesy of https://www.collegefootballdata.com/ (with the exception of the Ole Miss Vanderbilt game), I decided to check it out.

Among the 67 regular season games analyzed, the winner of the game converted a D&D situation (either a first down or a touchdown) at a higher rate than their opponent 77.6% of the time. The winner, on average, converted D&D 9.7% more than their opponent. In the few games in which the team with the lower D&D won, this difference shrunk to 4.2%. So in instances when the team with the higher D&D lost, it was typically much closer, which makes sense.

A regression model for the data indicates a pretty strong relationship between winning and D&D conversion success. A statistically significant model (p < .001, r2 = 0.6281). Yea, it’s a small sample size, but still informative. A quick look at a scatterplot shows the linearity:

8 of 14 observations land within 2 standard errors of the regression line. Adding the team labels shows us who underperformed/overperformed as well:

The team that overperformed best was Texas A&M, while Ole Miss underperformed. There were only two games in which the loser of the game had a D&D conversion rate of more than 10% better than their opponent. Mississippi State vs Vanderbilt (MSU won 24-17, but Vanderbilt had a 34.1% D&D while MSU had only a 22.8%) and LSU vs Florida (LSU won, but UF had a D&D of 40.5% compared to 29.1% for LSU). So, going by this, LSU beating Florida was the SEC’s biggest upset in 2020.

Teamavg D&Dwin percentageD&D Rank
Alabama0.4241.001
Florida0.3900.802
Ole Miss0.3700.443
Texas A&M0.3500.894
Georgia0.3240.785
Auburn0.3170.606
LSU0.3150.507
Missouri0.3080.508
Arkansas0.3080.309
Tennessee0.3050.3010
South Carolina0.3010.2011
Kentucky0.2890.4012
Vanderbilt0.2780.0013
Mississippi State0.2750.3014

I’ll probably play with this some more with additional years and conferences. I’d like to see how it plays out with larger sample sizes.

The Argument for Kyle Trask as 2020’s Best QB

Projecting the Gators’ QB’s total yards and total touchdowns over a 12 game schedule shows just how far ahead of the competition Trask was this year.

So much has already been said about Trask and the fact that his stats came against an all SEC schedule, etc. It seems as if there is some sentiment that Florida’s 3 unfortunate losses are being held against Trask, which is absurd.

The University of Florida Gators 2020 Football Team is highly likely one of the better teams in the nation despite having 3 losses prior to the Cotton Bowl against the University of Oklahoma Sooners. Three low probability plays lead to three narrow defeats, any of which-if prevented- could have resulted in wins instead of losses. If Malik Davis doesn’t fumble on the Gators’ final drive against Texas A&M. If Marco Wilson doesn’t throw a shoe against LSU. If Trey Dean looks left and protects himself against getting vaporized on an interception return against Alabama. Though none of these plays guaranteed victory in any of those games, they were each pivotal in the outcome. They were also each very unlikely to occur, yet they did.

When put into context, the sum of points in those three defeats, is equal to the closest point differential in any of Florida’s 8 victories, 12 against the University of Tennessee. Florida was dominant in all of its games except in its three losses, and in each of those, Florida could have just as easily won, but lady luck was simply not on their side.

The above scatter plot shows data for total yards and touchdowns (rushing and passing) for 103 college QBs in 2020 (https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/years/2020-passing.html) as they would project over 12 games. Trask projects for the most TDs overall while Ole Miss’ Matt Corral projected to have the most yards, but a big chunk of those yards actually projected from rushing (625). Trask projected to have the most passing yards (4500) and most TDs (47)

Here is another look at the same data with each QB listed:

Touchdown passes by game for SEC QBs that started each game
Cumulative yards by passing by SEC QBs who started each game

The consolidation of power in college football recruiting since 2005

Since 2005, it appears as if a few teams have become recruiting super powers. Of course, there were good recruiters and power house teams before that. But it seems as if many of the top recruits have been ending up at the same ‘ol schools – Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and Georgia. In looking at this, some noticeable trends emerged.

I took all the teams that had an average composite recruit rating of at least 1 standard deviation above the Power 5 mean and separated them out from the rest of college football. The full list is at the bottom of the page. There were 14 teams. I then counted up how many recruits each of these teams had each year back to 2005 that were rated at least 0.9300. It is this rating that I have found to be a sort of ‘cutoff’ to probability for getting drafted by an NFL team. Players rated over 0.9300 are more likely to be drafted than those under.

Below we can see the proportion of how these teams powered up.

So, over time we can see how the concentration of recruiting power has moved from the bottom left to the top right. We can also see how good UF was under Meyer and how bad we were under Mac. Furthermore, it shows that LSU, Alabama, and Georgia are soaking up a ton of talent in the SEC, making the task of winning the conference (if you’re not one of those teams) probably much harder.

The data:

Teamoverall avgrankStandardized5-stars4-stars3-starsConf.
USC0.921412.1774815499Pac-12
Ohio State0.920122.1333218882Big Ten
Alabama0.916932.02152202126SEC
Texas0.912641.86624204116Big 12
Georgia0.910251.78342174135SEC
Florida0.909161.74430177132SEC
LSU0.908171.71027192133SEC
Florida State0.903681.54936152153ACC
Notre Dame0.902391.50413180142Ind
Oklahoma0.8982101.35915162152Big 12
Michigan0.8939111.20812173167Big Ten
Clemson0.8895121.05225125168ACC
Miami0.8894131.04913131175ACC
Auburn0.8886141.02113155178SEC
The above graph shows the recruiting classes for each SEC team from 2005-2020

The above graph shows each SEC team’s recruiting as it correlates with with percentage

A look at the Gators’ problems on 3rd down.

All of us Gators have heard – 3rd and Grantham. We certainly feel it each week, but is it backed up by data? Yep.

Using EPA has a measure of whether a play was won or lost, I took a look at how each SEC team has performed thus far in 2020. Definitely not a good finding for UF, and confirms what a lot of us Gators already knew. Now we know it even more (if that is a thing).

In the above table, we can see that Florida is winning on 3rd down (overall) 45.8% of the time, 8th in the SEC in 2020. However, they are only winning 46.3% of the time on 3rd and 7 or longer. That is 12th in the SEC, better than only Vanderbilt and Arkansas.

In this bar graph, you can see a visual of just how poorly UF has performed on 3rd down.

Do Heisman Trophy-winning schools get a boost in recruiting?

The Heisman trophy is a prestigious award that supposedly goes to the best individual college football player. Whether that is true or not is not the point here. What is pretty much universally agreed upon is that it does go to a very good player, and usually that player is a key part of a winning team. That player is usually a QB and, as of late, an underclassman. But I digress…

Heisman winners obviously garner a lot of attention for themselves, but also for their program. Any coach who has a player win the Heisman has an obvious recruiting pitch to the upcoming recruiting classes. But does the Heisman actually help a program in recruiting in any tangible way? I decided to take a look.

Using 10 years of Heisman winners (2007-2016), I compared the team’s recruiting average rating from the 2 years prior to the Heisman year (HY), the HY, and two years post-HY. I was simply looking to see if there was an uptick in overall recruiting after the HY as compared to how the school was doing prior to and during the HY. Of course, there are several confounds that could impact recruiting along that 5-year stretch. As of this writing, I am not attempting to unearth those confounds, but to simply see if there is an upward trend.

The table above shows that the two years post-HY were associated with an increase in average recruit ratings in 8 out of 10. Again, there could be a lot of reasons for that, but in general recruiting appears to trend up after a school has a Heisman winner. Logically, having a Heisman winner shouldn’t hurt recruiting, and it clearly didn’t show any evidence of that here.

SEC Performance Rankings through Week 2

Using a straightforward approach of comparing points-per-play (PPP)on offense and defense, then calculating the difference, we can see how teams are doing overall. The difference was then standardized to give a sense of “distance” between teams beyond just that of ordinal ranking.

TeamPPP Differential
Alabama0.932
Florida0.668
Georgia0.540
Tennessee0.391
LSU0.317
Auburn0.069
MSU0.018
Arkansas-0.110
Ole Miss-0.168
Kentucky-0.415
Texas AM-0.504
USCe-0.540
Missouri-0.578
Vandy-0.621
Standardized PPP Differential

Below is how each team ranks in PPP overall, offensively, and defensively:

TeamRank overallOffensive RankDefensive Rank
Alabama114
Florida228
Georgia361
Tennessee453
LSU546
Auburn6112
MSU777
Arkansas8125
Ole Miss9314
Kentucky10812
Texas AM111011
USCe12913
Missouri131310
Vandy14149

Alabama is looking like a clear number one. Florida’s offense is humming, but need to shore up that defense. Georgia is very close to Florida overall and can easily pass them as the weeks go on. Tennessee is performing pretty good through 2 weeks as well.

Some looks at College Football Spending on Recruiting and Various Outcomes

Recently, an analysis of recruiting spending was put out (https://watchstadium.com/this-is-how-much-it-costs-to-land-one-of-college-footballs-top-recruiting-classes-07-24-2019/), and I thought it was excellent. It got me curious, so I used their data and ran a couple of correlations and plotted them. (I normalized all of the variables, correlation is below each graph).

4-star
r = .761

5-star
r = .766

2018 Class Ranking
(Recruiting ranking for 2018 – forgot to invert the scale) r = .641

2019 Class Rankings
Recruiting Rankings for 2019, r = .621

2019 win percentage
2019 win percentage, r = .448

Blue Chips
Blue Chips (4 and 5 star recruits), r = .798