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You down with YPP? A New Football Efficiency Statistic

Bad titles aside,

In the coming weeks I'll be statistically reviewing the 2008 Big Ten Football season from a statistical point of view.  This means looking at traditional stats (turnovers, yardage, etc.) along with untraditional ones.  The stat I'll be looking with falls into that untraditional category.  This week, I'll be looking at yards per point (YPP).

Yards per point is a stat devised by Phil Steele six years ago as an offensive efficiency stat.  It's easy enough to understand:  Take a team's total yardage for the season and divide it by the amount of points scored during that same season, and what's left is YPP.

What does it mean though?  Well, a team with lower yards per point is more efficient.  Those teams typically have better red zone scoring percentages, field goal percentages, and commit less turnovers.  The inverse is also true - teams with higher yards per point typically have lower red zone scoring and field goal percentage, and turn the ball over repeatedly.  Think of it as a kind of luck factor - teams with a low YPP might have gotten luckier than teams with a high YPP.  After the jump, you'll see the YPP for the Big Ten.  Note - YPP for all BCS conference teams and Notre Dame (NBC will sue us if we don't include them) can be found in a FanPost on the right side of the front page.


Team Yards Per Point Red Zone % FG % Turnovers 4th down % Wins
Penn State 11.54 92.4 84 7 38.5 11
Iowa 12.22 84.2 79.2 8 50 9
Ohio State 12.42 95.1 81.5 16 44.4 10
Michigan State 13.69 84.9 78.6 2 60 9
Minnesota 13.92 87.8 75 12 60 7
Michigan 14.4 77.1 66.7 -10 70 3
Wisconsin 14.52 84.9 83.3 -8 63.6 7
Northwestern 14.69 85.2 80 -3 28.6 9
Purdue 15.16 82.9 61.9 -3 51.7 4
Illinois 15.29 82.1 75 -6 33.3 5
Indiana 16.99 66.7 58.8 1 26.1 3


First, a few notes about why I chose to display other stats along with YPP.  Turnovers and 4th down percentage are pretty obvious; a team will have a hard time scoring if they can't hold onto the ball.  I included red zone percentage because that's another efficency stat along with YPP, and I included FG percentage because if a team has a good field goal kicker, they're going to get three points out of a drivethat goes to the opponent's more times than a team with a mediocre one.  I'm sure other statistics have an effect as well, but I feel these are the most important ones.

As you can see, YPP correlates somewhat with performance.  Four of the top five teams in the Big Ten last year ranked in the top five in terms of YPP, with Northwestern being the anomaly. YPP and a lot of other statistics are like puzzle pieces in that respect - look at just one piece and you have no clue what's going on, but as you start putting pieces together, the picture begins to come into view. 

As for what this means for the Big Ten in 2009?  I'd look for Michigan to improve offensively.  It's a wonder their YPP was 6th in the Big Ten with 10 more turnovers than their opponents and their sub-par red zone and field goal percentages.  With a few breaks, their offense should be more efficent this year.  Illinois is another team poised to make an improvement.  The Illini had good red zone and field goal percentages, and a few more breaks with turnovers will mean that they'll be able to improve upon their five wins in 2008.

Conversely, I'm predicting Minnesota to drop off a bit production-wise.  It's clear that a few of their wins early in the 2008 season hinged on turnovers - turnovers they might not get this year.  The same goes for Ohio State as well.  They had the best red zone percentage and turnover stats in the Big Ten, and it'll be hard for OSU (note: I will never use the acronym tOSU, besides now.  The word "the" is just an article, get over it) to be as efficient as last year.  Still, their drop off won't be nearly as painful as Minnesota's.

What have we learned today?  YPP can tell us how efficient a team's offense was in previous seasons.  It also can be used to some degree to determine the luck of a particular team in a season.  Mostly though, we learned that I have way too much time on my hands.  Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and continue to be frightened of girls.