Wednesday, September 1, 2010

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Today's Topic: Penalties


Nothing is more frustrating than watching a big 40-yard touchdown pass called back because some heavy-footed, fat lineman gets lazy, doesn't move his feet, and thus is forced to basically tackle the defensive end. These plays can make or break a team during a hotly contested game. Likewise, it's cousin, the "we just forced a three-and-out but our stupid defensive lineman hit the QB too late and got called for 'roughing-the-passer'" also causes coaches to lose hair. Today, we are going to look at which teams are the most disciplined in terms of penalties...

Here are the teams that committed the fewest penalties (teams' records listed as well):

1. Navy -- 48 (10-4)
2. Connecticut -- 51 (8-5)
3. Central Florida -- 52 (8-5)
4. Penn State -- 56 (11-2)
5. Iowa -- 57 (11-2)

115. Georgia -- 105 (8-5)

Here are the teams that had the fewest penalty yards per game:

1. Navy -- 29.6 (10-4)
2. Connecticut -- 29.7 (8-5)
3. Penn State -- 31.2 (11-2)
4. Iowa -- 34.4 (11-2)
5. Central Florida -- 37.6 (8-5)

106. Georgia -- 67.5 (8-5)

Although there appears to be a positive correlation between wins and low penalties, I realized there might be a flaw; teams that run a lot of plays are thus given more opportunities to commit penalties, so I decided to look at total plays (offense and defense) divided by penalties. Essentially, it's "plays per penalties":

1. Navy -- 37.2 (10-4)
2. Houston -- 34.9 (10-4)
3. Connecticut -- 34.6 (8-5)
4. Central Florida 33.2 (8-5)
5. Fresno State -- 29.9 (8-5)

118. Georgia -- 15.8 (8-5)

As you can see, Houston, a team that won ten games last year and runs a ton of plays, now moves into the 2nd spot. This shows that perhaps this stat is a better measure of how efficient teams are relative to penalties. Additionally, despite the bad numbers for the Dawgs, there is good news -- neither turnovers nor penalties are statistics that carry over from year-to-year. In other words, Georgia could just as easily be in the top ten in both categories this year. And despite their horrible numbers last year in these two categories, they were still able to find eight wins. So I think it is reasonable to expect Georgia's turnover/penalty numbers to revert back to normal, and possibly above average this season, which should translate into more wins.

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