Archive for September 2011

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September 24th, 2011 — 4:02pm

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard that the NFL moved the kickoff line forward 5 yards to the 35 yard line. The hope is that this will result in more touchbacks and, therefore, fewer injuries due to fewer returns.

With more kickoffs going into the end zone, returners are faced with many more decisions. With apologies for the poor title of this post, the question still remains for returners: Should I take it out, or take a knee? I’m going to try to shed some light on the returners’ decision. Continue reading »

8 comments » | decision making, Football, strategy

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September 4th, 2011 — 8:45pm

Our first big day of football is under our belt, and one of the storylines from yesterday was turnovers, specifically fumbles. Oregon lost 3 fumbles in their loss to #4 Georgia. Two of Notre Dame’s 5 turnovers were lost fumbles, including a backbreaking fumble on 3rd and 1 from the USF 1 yard line that was returned the length of the field for a TD. I tweeted that that fumble alone was worth an 11.2-point swing in USF’s favor (for those curious, the start of the play [3rd and Goal at the 1] is worth about 4.9 expected points, and the end of the play [a USF TD] is worth -6.3 points for a total swing of 11.2 points). Clearly ND’s running back Jonas Gray was fighting as hard as he could to get the TD, but was stood up by 5 defenders and eventually stripped of the ball. The result was disastrous for the Irish.

When considering whether to fight for the extra yard, there are two main trade-offs: fumbles and injuries. Going down or out of bounds as opposed to battling one or more defenders would decrease the likelihood of a fumble as well as save the runner’s body from both acute injury and repetitive wear and tear. In this post, I’m going to consider only the trade-off of the extra yard versus the risk of fumbling. The example above represents one of the biggest risk-reward situations in this area, where success means a TD and a fumble is extra costly. Other areas to consider: going for a 1st down, yards inside the 1st down marker, and yards after a 1st down has been gained.

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2 comments » | College Football, Football, strategy

Expected Points – College Football

September 1st, 2011 — 12:20am

Football is finally back as college football kicks off its season tomorrow. As an early present, I’m unveiling an expected points model for the collegiate game.

First, due respects need to be paid. This is heavily influenced by the work over at, where Brian Burke has done the same thing for the NFL. Many others have done similar work in football as well. And most of the football work is based off work done in baseball, where, while not the first, tangotiger at The Book Blog is arguably the most well-known for his run and win expectancy work (for those familiar with baseball, run expectancy by base-out state is essentially equivalent to the expected points concept in football).

What Expected Points (EP) does is provide a baseline for a given situation based on what we’d expect the average team to do. My EP system, like Brian Burke’s, is based on Down, Distance, and Yardline, but other things like time remaining in the half, timeouts remaining, etc. can be included. By putting everything on same scale we have an easy way to compare any type of situation, and by using points as that scale, we have something that is both intuitive and informative. When I say that that 1st and 10 on your opponents’ 20-yard line is worth 3.9 points, you immediately have a sense of what that means.

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7 comments » | College Football, decision making, Football, strategy

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