Is It Better To Have Better Stats?

If statistics don't matter, why do they bother to keep them? Truth is, some probably matter more—a lot more--than others. Some probably don't matter at all. The main reason statistics are kept, we suspect, is to provide grist for the sports conversation mill.

Alabama (4-0 in the important statistic of games won-games lost) hosts Florida (also 4-0) in a battle of the Southeastern Conference's giants on Saturday. It's also a game of more than a little national importance with the Crimson Tide, the 2009 national champions, ranked first in the nation and the Gators, 2008 national champs, ranked seventh. As such, CBS will televise the game from Bryant-Denny Stadium in prime time, kick off at 7 p.m. CDT.

Most statistics are part of the process, and that's what we all know to matter.

The key results statistics are Scoring Offense and Scoring Defense. By narrow margins, Alabama has the best of it against Florida as the Crimson Tide ranks first in the SEC in both categories. Bama ranks 15th in the nation in scoring offense at 39.5 points per game. Florida is second in the SEC and 19th nationally at 37.8 points per game. In scoring defense, Alabama allows 9.8 points per game, which is first in both the conference and the nation. The Gators are third in the league and 15th in the country, allowing 14.2 points per game.

In rushing offense, Alabama is second in the SEC and 13th in the nation, averaging 244.8 yards per game. Florida is sixth in the conference, 47th nationally at 169.0. On defense, the Gators have been better, holding opponents to 94.0 yards per game, which is second in the SEC and 13th in the nation. Bama is tied for fourth in the league and 27th in the nation, giving up 106.5 ground yards per game.

Alabama is second in the conference and 28th in the nation in passing offense at 267.0 yards per game. The Gators are 10th in the SEC and 90th nationally, 185.5. On defense, the Tide is sixth in the league and 52nd in the country, allowing 188.8, with Florida seventh in the SEC and 61st in the nation, giving up 201.5. In pass efficiency Alabama is second in the conference and eighth nationally and Florida is ninth and 31st, while on defense the Bama efficiency is first in the conference and fifth in the nation, just ahead of Florida which is second in the league and sixth nationally.

Turnover margin is considered a key statistic, and the Gators are best in the SEC and fourth in the nation at plus eight. Florida has recovered two fumbles and intercepted 12 passes while losing five fumbles and suffering one interception. Alabama is third in the league and 26th nationally at plus three with one fumble recovery and eight interceptions against three fumbles lost and six passes had intercepted.

Coaches also look at Red Zone effectiveness. Florida has been slightly better than Bama. On offense, the Gators rank fifth in the league at 89.5 per cent (16 touchdowns and a field goal on 19 trips) and Bama is seventh at 84.2 per cent (12 touchdowns and four field goals in 19 trips). On defense, the Gators are second in the SEC at 63.6 per cent, holding opponents to three touchdowns and four field goals in 10 trips inside the 20-yard line and Bama is third holding opponents to 70 per cent on two touchdowns and five field goals on 10 trips to the Red Zone.

On third downs, Alabama ranks second in the league in conversions, 20-40 for 50 per cent, and Florida is fifth, 23-50 for 46 per cent. On defense, Bama is first, allowing 15-56 for 26.8 per cent, the Gators third, 29.6 per cent on 16-54.

Bama's Trent Richardson leads the SEC in all-purpose yardage with 356 rushing yards, 126 receiving yards, and 282 yards on kickoff returns, and averages 191 yards per game. Richardson also leads the league in kickoff returns with an average of 35.2 yards per return.

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