Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Penalties to Success

Obsessing, perhaps, but it is one of the things I do.

In my work here at Saurian Sagacity, drawing heavily off the greater work by the Sunday Morning Quarterback, I have been ruminating as to why more penalized teams (in terms of yardage) seem to win more often than not, at least as far as the data for the 2006 season.

The opposite side of this equation would be that less penalized teams are likely less successful. Sports Illustrated as keeps a ample array of college football stats, including lists of the least penalized teams in Division I-A football. The Top 20 of that list, by yards penalized, is as follows (rank, team, average yards per game penalized)–

Looks like a bottom 20 list to me

This list represents approximately 17% of Division I-A football. As such, one would expect there to be 4.25 of the top 25 Coach’s Poll final teams were penalties to performance random.

There are about exactly that, with numbers 4 Wisconsin, 11 Oklahoma, 12 Rutgers, 23 Tennessee and 25 Penn State. However, the list contains some of the most miserable losers of Division I-A, with Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Air Force, Stanford, Iowa State, Army, Memphis, Illinois and New Mexico State (all which won 4 games or less). These nine teams, nearly half the list had 4 wins or less. Of the nine, 5 managed to finish last in their conference or conference division.

So, in looking at this, there does appear to be perhaps some correlation to losing and being lightly penalized. It also appears there is no correlation to be seen to winning and having few penalty yards, as only 5 ranked teams make this list, with only a single one of those teams ranked higher than 10th.

And, once again, I have no idea why this would be so.


SMQ said...

This is exactly what I found in the first part of my Stats Relevance Watch, when the 20 most-penalized and 20 least-penalized teams emerged with almost identical overall records (top 20 teams in other categories were always significantly better than the bottom 20 in the same category):

In part two, I looked at the average rank of top 10 and top 25 teams in each statistical category, and the number of teams in top 20 and bottom 40 of each category, and penalty yards generally emerged in the middle because the results were all over the board (other categories skewed far more heavily towards the top of statistical rankings):


Henry Gomez said...

Perhaps the refs give really bad teams a pass on some penalties.

Bill (NoleCC) said...

It could be a pass for the crappy teams, it could also be the crappy teams beg the refs to "keep an eye" on this or that with the good teams. Refereeing is a subjective profession, whether anyone wants to admit it or not.