What's the sound of Greg Jones Sacking? (Part 1)

So, I read a lot of preseason analysis, and like KJ (Can I call you Bob?), I struggle with the comparative lack of good statistical analysis to college basketball.

A particular qualm is with statements like ESPN's Adam Rittenberg:

Michigan State's defense also should be much improved as All-American linebacker Greg Jones returns to the fold.

I mean back in my debate days (NERD!) claims needed to have warrants, and while getting Jones back is a big, big, deal, how much does that really mean? In fact, what does returning production in general really mean, and what teams are bringing the most firepower back? I'm going to try to answer those questions statistically.

Thanks everyone for the propers on my first post. To paraphrase Jay-Z, I'm going to keep trying to pay Lebron if the rest of theonlycolors' keeps paying Dwayne Wade. This is a work in progress, but I'm gonna try to keep taking it hard to the hoop. Hopefully, I don't get Hightower'd.

Wonkery after the jump.

Returning Offensive Production

So, I read a good bit of boring economics and international relations texts, and one of the core foundations of this stuff is that statements aren't worth much without models or statistics backing them up. I think this is pretty analogous to sports, where talk of 'A big loss at X position' or a 'lot of returning talent' often misses the point.

So let's jump on in to the data. Returning data is accumulated by subtracting the stats of seniors, transfers, season ending injuries, and early draft entries from the team's 2009 totals. There is a possibility that I missed a player attrition on team rosters I'm unfamiliar with, but I'm confident it's nothing that will badly skew the numbers. Nichol's position change is a variable to think about. I ran the numbers of MSU's 2010 opponents with the exception of Northern Colorado.

Here are the stats in nice table form:

Team Completions Passing Yards Passing Tds Carries Rushing yards Rushing Tds Receptions Receiving yards Receiving Tds
Florida Atlantic 43.60% 42.90% 46.20% 81.60% 82.00% 82.40% 35.00% 33.80% 34.60%
Illinois 13.60% 13.10% 6.70% 55.70% 65.80% 59.10% 50.50% 48.90% 46.70%
Iowa 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 71.40% 72.30% 73.70%
Michigan 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 61.90% 52.60% 51.90% 69.80% 72.20% 86.70%
Michigan State 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 80.00% 72.20% 56.25% 64.90% 68.90% 64.30%
Minnesota 99.00% 98.30% 93.30% 99.50% 100.00% 100.00% 55.30% 52.50% 46.70%
Northwestern 6.10% 6.30% 10.00% 68.20% 79.00% 55.50% 54.70% 49.60% 30.00%
Notre Dame 4.00% 4.10% 6.70% 77.60% 93.00% 61.50% 60.50% 55.50% 46.70%
Penn State 3.70% 2.60% 4.00% 82.00% 90.40% 65.00% 78.40% 79.70% 80.00%
Purdue 1.80% 1.20% 4.30% 5.70% 0.60% 0.00% 34.20% 31.20% 26.10%
Western Michigan 2.20% 1.40% 4.20% 20.10% 10.90% 15.40% 85.20% 89.70% 79.20%
Wisconsin 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 99.50% 99.50% 93.90% 73.90% 76.20% 56.30%
Average: 47.83% 47.49% 47.95% 69.32% 70.50% 61.75% 61.15% 60.88% 55.92%

And as an added bonus, here's MSU minus Keith Nichol's passing stats:

Michigan State 80.50% 78.20% 75.00% 80.00% 72.20% 56.25% 64.90% 68.90% 64.30%

So what are we left with as an average of the total returning production? Here's the formula and ranked results:

 [returning 2009 percentages of: (QB completions + pass yards + pass Tds + carries + rush yards + rush TDs + receptions + receiving yards + receiving TDs)/9)) ]

1. Iowa-90.82%

2.Wisconsin- 88.81%

3. Minnesota- 82.73%

4.Michigan State- 78.5% with Nichol's passing stats

5. Michigan- 77.23%

6. Michigan State- 71.14% without Nichol's qb passing stats

7. Penn State- 53.97%

8. Florida Atlantic- 53.57%

9. Notre Dame- 45.51%

10. Illinois- 40.01%

11. Northwestern- 39.94%

12. Western Michigan- 34.25%

13.Purdue- 11.68%


The conference average in this category is about 57.5%.


Now these numbers don't necessarily tell us anything in themselves. Let me use Minnesota's offense as an example. Yes, Minnesota lost a very important player in Adam Decker, but on the other hand they return a little under 83% of their total offensive production last year, in the top tier of the big ten. So we should expect Minnesota to have a good offensive year, right? Well, probably not, as they are returning 83% of a terrible offense. Minnesota isn't going to suck on offense because Decker's gone, they're probably going to suck on offense because,what they still have isn't very good.

And for all the talk of Robert Marve stepping in for Joey Elliot at Purdue, those numbers really highlight how devastating the loss of Ralph Bolden for the season is.


So if returning numbers aren't enough, we should look at offensive numbers from last year:

2009 ranks in points per game, rushing yards, and passing yards in paraenthesis- average of the three ranks after.

1. Wisconsin- (1st, 1st, 7th) 3.00

2. Michigan State (2nd, 6th, 2nd) 3.33

3. Notre Dame (If they were in the big ten: 2nd, 8th, 1st) 3.67

4. Penn State (4th, 5th, 5th) 4.67

5. Florida Atlantic (If they were in the big ten: 7th, 6th, 2nd) 5.00

6. Michigan (3rd, 4th, 9th) 5.33

6. Purdue (6th, 7th, 3rd) 5.33

6. Northwestern (7th, 8th, 1st) 5.33

9. Illinois (8th, 2nd, 10th) 6.67

10. Western Michigan (If they were in the big ten: 8th, 11th, 2nd) 7.00

11. Iowa (10th, 10th, 6th) 8.67

12. Minnesota (11th, 11th, 8th) 10


So now we have data and added context. So you are probably asking me, 'Hey Heck, how can we synthesize this information?'


My answer: Crudely (and simply).


What I've done is taken the position ranking on the first list, then taken the position on the second list, and divided them by two. This provides us an average ranking of returning production and that productions effectiveness.


The foolproof, 100% guaranteed, projection of 2010 offensive production*

1. Wisconsin 1.5

2. Michigan State 3 (4, sans Nichol)

3. Iowa 5

3. Michigan 5

4. Penn State 5.5

4. Notre Dame 5.5

8. Minnesota 6.5

8. Florida Atlantic 6.5

10. Northwestern 7.5

11. Purdue 8

12. Illinois 8.5

13 Western Michigan 11


"But Heck, this just mostly confirms what we already know!"

Sure it does, as statistics are sometimes wont to do, but there's still some pretty interesting findings. Without a huge influx of new talent, Western Michigan is going to be dreadfully bad on offense. Wisconsin is getting credit but probably not enough for the talent they are bringing back. That offense should be very good. Losing Darryl Clark and Jimmy Emu were a big losses, but Penn State and Notre Dame return a lot of rushing and receiving help to aid their new signal callers. They should be alright. Inversely, lot's of people talk up Michigan's Offense, but they lost their two pretty good running backs at the spear point of their rushing attack. How about Florida Atlantic's surprisingly good offensive numbers? They put up some big numbers last year in the Sunbelt, it'll be interesting to see if that translates to a Big Ten defense.


Why didn't I account for rookies or players 'stepping up'? Well, you can't. they're what Don Rummie would call

'unknown unknowns'. If you have any ideas on how I could address those phenomena tell me so I can steal your work and win the Nobel Prize for sports economics. We probably just have to accept that there will be breakout performers, that we won't know who they are until it's happening in real-time, and that that's okay.


I DO wish two things. One, that I had nicer advanced stats to work with, particularly at the team ranking level (pass yards, rush yards, and PPG are admittedly bad metrics for this sort of thing). Two, that I had a way to calculate offensive line stats. I can't believe my PS2 NCAA football can keep track of lineman's starts, pancakes, and sacks allowed, but the real NCAA can't. If you can point me where to find those three stats I'd be grateful.


Data was found here.


I hope no one has done this already, or I just wasted a couple hours, lol.


Let me know your feedback on whether you think this information is useful. If people get something out of it, I'd be happy to crunch numbers on defense and special teams. Alternatively, if the consensus is this is rubbish, I'd be receptive to that. After studying the figures, my opinion is split on it. I wouldn't be surprised if I have to wait 6 months to study the season's data for a final verdict.


Go state!


-Heck Dorland


*may or may not be true

This is a FanPost, written by a member of the TOC community. It does not represent the official positions of The Only Colors, Inc.--largely because we have no official positions.

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