I’ve been reading Bill Connelly’s exhaustive Big Ten team previews for SB Nation, and you should too. Connelly is the godfather of the S&P+ rankings, which as I understand it, is an advanced means of statistical sorcery used to discern the cosmos and divine a team’s fortunes. After sacrificing a comely ewe and using software that consults thousands of oracles at once, Connelly plots his mystic data on a graph he calls a radar.
Well, Biff Bluff’s no Luddite. I may have fulfilled Michigan’s quantitative reasoning requirement by taking Intro Stats pass-fail (thank you, Prof. Gunderson), but that doesn’t mean I can’t jump on this advanced metrics bandwagon and offer some analysis. I dove deep into Connelly’s numbers and studied his graphs at length. What I found just might turn statistical football analysis on its head. Or maybe I should say on its pole…
I have concluded that there is a direct, causal relationship between a football unit’s success and how much its S&P+ radar graph resembles the desert continent of Antarctica.
Let’s examine the evidence. Here is Antarctica:
Beautiful, isn’t it? So immense, so majestic, yet so fragile. Now, here are the 2016 defensive radar graphs for the best units in the conference last season, Michigan and Ohio State.
Michigan’s defense was about as good as you can get last year, and their radar is about as close to Antarctica’s borders as you’ll find. Both hold firm along the eastern, Rushing and Efficiency, Indian Ocean edges. In the passing quadrant, we see a significant depression on Yds/Comp that mirrors where the Waddell Sea cuts into the continent along the Ronne Ice Shelf. The two dips in the explosiveness quadrant account for where the Amundsen Sea cuts into Western Antarctica and where the McMurdo Sound hits the Ross Ice Shelf (named for Michigan-grad tycoon Stephen Ross), respectively.
Still skeptical? Let’s look at Ohio State, which also had an elite defense last season.
The Bucks’ Waddell Sea presentation on Adj. Sack Rate is damn near perfect. It’s eastern borders aren’t quite as strong as Michigan’s, because Ohio’s rush defense and efficiency weren’t quite as good last season. But they almost make up for it in the Explosiveness/South Pacific quadrant with a textbook McMurdo Sound.
Now let’s look at the two worst defenses in the league, Rutgers and Purdue.
It should come as no surprise that Rutgers’ 2016 defense is an apt approximation of a badly melted Antarctic that has raised global sea levels to the point of human extinction. This graph doesn’t look like Antarctica just like Rutgers’ defense didn’t look like it belonged in the FBS.
On to Purdue:
Little more than an iceberg, I’m afraid. Purdue was dead last in the Big Ten in points against last year. None of this is coincidental. These facts are cold and hard, like ice. And the same patterns hold true for offense, maybe even special teams.
Of course, Antarctica is always changing, just like offensive and defensive schemes and philosophies. Just last month, an iceberg the size and population of Delaware broke off from the mainland in the Passing quadrant. The savviest coordinators are surely taking this into account as they gameplan for the 2017 season.
This is speculative, but it seems that the more ice is lost along the Larsen Shelf, the more an offense will want to max out its Yds/Comp (to create the Antarctic Peninsula effect) and minimize its completion rate (to account for melting). That would seem to forecast favorable conditions for deep balls and unfavorable ones for west coast offenses. In other words, good news for Trace McSorley and Penn State. We may look back on that Delaware-sized break as the first step in a Nittany Lions title run.
I’m presently looking for more funding to continue my research. This year, I’m hoping to visit Beaver Stadium, Kinnick Stadium, and the Horlick-Kenyon Plateau in West Antarctica to do some field work in support of my hypotheses. This is really only the beginning in an exciting new chapter of advanced football analysis. In ten years, expect Antarctic climate scientists to be as ubiquitous as grad assistants and position coaches on college sidelines.