clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Monday Mathematical: Explosive Plays, Negative Plays, and Points

Revisiting the tweets that launched the Monday Mathematical

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Georgia
Explosive plays equal points...simple as that!
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Between a busy week at work and a complete and total inability to ground myself after the utter craziness that was yesterday’s finish, there wasn’t a lot of bandwidth left in my brain to break new analytical ground this week.

That said, let’s revisit the topic of explosiveness within the context of one of the tweets that gave me the idea for this whole series.

It’s easier to score with big plays

Shocking, right?

The context for that statement is based on this tweet that I linked in the comments of one of Will’s preseason preview articles.

So, what did Tennessee look like on that front in 2015 ? For the sake of comparison given our continued concerns about the offensive front, I also added in drives with negative plays to the equation.

To start, here’s the breakdown of final outcomes of UT’s 162 offensive drives last year.

2015 Drives by Outcome

So our baseline is that the offense scored points 42.6% of the time. How does that change for the 90 drives (55.6% of the total) where the Vols had an explosive play (12+ yard run or 15+ yard pass)?

Points aplenty!

Tennessee was over 50% more likely to score, creating points on 65.6% of those 90 drives. Given that, you would expect the converse to look pretty grim, and it does.


Woof. On the 72 drives (44.4% of the total) that Tennessee failed to create an explosive play, they went scoreless on fully 86.1% of those drives. They managed to best the embedded tweet, scoring 13.9% of the time and managing a touchdown on 9.7% of those drives, but still. That isn’t good.

Negative plays are less bad than you think

If we recreate this exercise looking at drives that contained or avoided negative plays, we see a similar, though less pronounced, pattern.

Somewhat better...

On the 85 drives (52.5% of total) in 2015 that managed 0+ yards on every play, the chances of scoring increased from 42.6% to 50.6%. That’s an improvement, but it’s not nearly as drastic as the bump up to 65.6% that we saw for drives with an explosive play. Which means that the opposite side of the coin isn’t quite as horrifying, either.

Not pretty, but not dire

I mean, it’s not great, but it’s not terrible either. If a drive includes a negative play, which 47.5% of the drives in 2015 did, the odds of scoring fall to 33.8%. I guess it’s...comforting? know that every time Dobbs gets sacked or Hurd gets stuffed for a loss, there’s still a 1 in 3 chance that drive ends in points.

And your point is...?

I’m not sure that anybody is arguing with me at this juncture, but I keep concluding that the importance of explosiveness cannot be overstated. Those drives with negative plays that still resulted in points? 22 out of 26 of those drives, a full 84.6% (!), had an explosive play, too.

Should you prefer to couch it in more mathematical terms, the difference in scoring percentage from drives with explosive plays (65.6%) to the overall (42.6%) is statistically significant at a minuscule level (P < .0005). For drives that avoid a negative play? The 50.6% scoring percentage is not statistically different from the overall for typically accepted P values.

We remain concerned about the OL, and that’s fair given what we’ve seen so far this year. That said, a big run or pass can offset a lot of what ails a college offense. It doesn’t always have to be a Hail Mary (OMG I STILL HAVEN’T COME DOWN FROM SATURDAY ROCKET DOBBS JAUAN JENNINGS AAAAAHHH), but we should continue to look for downfield opportunities to increase our success.