How UT's Defense Compares To Our SEC Brethren: is 14th Place Bad?

I really like football statistics.

Unlike baseball -- a game which both (a) sucks, and (b) is now quantifiable to the point where arguments about the game have essentially been rendered obsolete -- football is not a game that lends itself to elegant but character-robbing description and prediction via objectively accurate numerical analysis. No no, football is fuzzier -- there are more moving parts and more context. This is a good thing. The utility of various innovative football metrics, vis a visa one another, is an interesting topic that lends itself to meaningful discussion. Flaws can be compared; usefulness contrasted; tweaks devised; Microsoft Excel incompetence exposed; etc.. Interesting stuff, right?

Well I think so, which is why II often find myself lurking around blogs that dabble in football statistics. Which brings us to our topic of the day: Standard Deviation Power Index (SDPI). This is a metric I saw on this here blog called "statistically speaking". Here is the basic idea:

[SDPI] measures how far above or below average a team is relative to its conference mates in terms of gaining and preventing yards.

Basically he finds the conference average for yards gained and prevented, and the number assigned to each team represents the distance -- good or bad -- removed from that average (in terms of standard deviation).

I could try to explain standard deviation to you in understandable prose, but this picture does a better job. Basically, 68.3% of data will fall within one standard deviation to either the left or right of the mean. And if you're starting to approach a second standard deviation: you're either the starting QB (positive number) or you're known for drooling on yourself in class (negative number). Tennessee's shirt has a visible moist spot.


What did this metric teach me? Well not too much really. I already knew that Tennessee's defense was ho-horrendous. But then again, maybe a little. Because as it turns out, we're even worse than I imgined. Ho-ho-horrendous?

Alabama 1.94
LSU 1.44
MSU 0.85
S. Carolina 0.72
Florida 0.62
Ole Miss 0.19
Auburn -0.4
UGA -0.44
Missouri -0.44
Vanderbilt -0.59
Arkansas -0.61
Kentucky -0.78
TAMU -0.79
Tennessee -1.73

Ouch! If Tennessee's defense were a standardized test score, the kid who took that particular test is DEFINITELY riding the short bus to school.

As of today, the author has only performed the SDPI analysis for the SEC, MAC, and PAC-12. That data shows only one other team that is as bad vis a vis its conference mates on either the offensive or defensive side of the ball.Thanks Arizona. The Wildcats are actually even worse on defense relative to their PAC-12 compadres, than we are relative to our SEC brethren. Rich Rod is my homeboy.

Oh, and also, thanks Kentucky! UK is bad on both defense and offense such hat when you put the two together they are over two and a half standard deviations worse than the average SEC team. Double ouch!

Offense Defense Total

Alabama 0.83 1.94 2.77
Mississippi State 0.78 0.85 1.63
Texas A&M 1.88 -0.79 1.09
LSU -0.49 1.44 0.95
Florida 0.28 0.62 0.89
Ole Miss 0.24 0.19 0.43
UGA 0.84 -0.44 0.4
S. Carolina -0.43 0.72 0.29
Arkansas 0.36 -0.61 -0.23
Vanderbilt -0.51 -0.59 -1.09
Tennessee 0.43 -1.73 -1.31
Missouri -0.88 -0.44 -1.32
Auburn -1.56 -0.4 -1.95
Kentucky -1.78 -0.78 -2.55

If Kentucky's combined performance were a standardized test score, the person who took it simply bubbled in "c" for every answer and then took a 45 minute nap. Either that, or their lobotomy went horribly wrong.

Oh, and Alabama is really really good at defense. And the game of football generally.

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