Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Its not uncommon to hear some yahoo on ESPN say that special teams will be the difference between a win or loss. Great kickers and punters are claimed to be a very valuable asset to any team. While it seems as though teams with great ST play tend to fair better, do the stats bare that conclusion out?

Let's take a look and see.

We'll first look at kick return average (team/yards per/returns per game)
  1. TCU/29.24/2.5

  2. Cincinnati/28.52/4.2

  3. Stanford/27.53/4.5

  4. Boise State/26.64/3.1

  5. Kent State/21.09/4.4

Now, in order to get an accurate picture of the kickoff part of special teams, we'll look at what I'll call kickoff margin. KM is just KR average minus opposing kickoff return average.

  1. TCU/9.51

  2. Cincinnati/8.09

  3. Stanford/7.74

  4. Boise State/7.58

  5. Kent State/6.11

From this evidence, it would seem that kickoff is a very integral part of a successful team, for the vast majority. The top-5 went a combined 51-14, with Kent State being the real drag on those numbers.

In order to get a really good idea of what these numbers mean in terms of wins and losses, I decided to find a metric that would put these numbers to good use. I came up with this:

(Yards Gained Average-Yards Allowed Average)*(National Average YOA/WOA(Team Yards Over Average/Team Wins Over Average))

For example TCU would be: (29.24-19.73)*(.21002(9.211/5.308)) = 1.9973

This would give me a pure number of wins that the team had simply because of the quality of their special teams, regardless of any other factor.

  1. TCU/1.9973

  2. Cincinnati/1.699

  3. Stanford/1.6255

  4. Boise State/1.5919

  5. Kent State/1.29321

While this shows what the tangible benefits of having a good special teams unit, it doesn't show what each yard over yards gained minus yards allowed means to your team on average. This stat actually tells how important having a good ST unit is. On average, each yard over YG - YA equals -.12 wins per yard over average.

As you can see, on average, having a great special teams unit doesn't necessarily mean that you will win or lose a certain game. Cram that in your cramhole Kirk Herbstreit.

Oh and just so you know where UGA ranks among these stats:

Kick Return Average

54. UGA/22.12/4.6

Kickoff Margin

106. UGA/-3.59

Wins Due to Kickoff: -0.753962453 (So essentially this abysmal coverage actually cost us a game. Thanks Coach Fabris)

In another attempt to measure the success/failure rate of kick team, I came up with a measure that would factor out the good or bad of that unit and give a total of wins and losses despite the performance. BYU ranked highest in that measure because of a high win total and atrocious special teams play. UGA ranked 37th, only ten spots behind Florida. With the best kickoff unit in CFB, TCU ranked 70th because of their very high kickoff margin.

Next week we will get a complete picture of special teams by adding in the other major factor, the punt teams.

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