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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stat of the Week - # of Plays

So far this season, Auburn's opponents have run 101 more plays than the Tigers, putting them well behind the second worst FBS team in play differential (Tulsa at -73). But in those 100 fewer plays, Auburn has score 13 more points than their opponents (and in just the right proportion to put Auburn at 3-1). In fact, the correlation this season between play differential and point differential is only .279, with Oregon and LSU also among the teams that have defended more plays than they have run themselves.

What do all of these teams have in common? What do all good teams have in common? Higher yards per play than their opponents. Oregon, for example, has been averaging more than 2 yards per play more than their opponents this season. Across teams, the correlation between points per possession and plays per possession is only r=.274 while the correlation between points per possession and yards  per play is a massive .878. In other words, few teams make a living on long, sustained drives. Instead, they score points on big plays and short fields.

And more plays do little to help a team rack up more yards per play by wearing out defenses. The correlation between yard per play and number of plays is weak, and can be totally explained by plays per possession - teams get more plays because they get more first downs. In other words, more plays on their own do nothing to increase a team's offensive efficiency.

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