Stats That Matter: Bendability

Of the "Quality Stats" formulated by Cold, Hard Football Facts, the one most likely to be misunderstood is the "Bendability" index.

That's because "bend, don't break," has a certain pejorative connotation among college football fans. They tend to associate anything with the letters "b-e-n-d" in the word or phrase with a defense that gives up big hunks of yards without a fight, the ultimate example of which is a "prevent" defense.

The bendability stat, however, measures how many yards an opposing offense must move the ball on your defense in order to score a point. Although it does reward your team for giving up a lot of yards in relation to the points it gives up, in many ways it is a measure of how well your defense performs in the red-zone. The opposing offense can drive up and down the field, but if your defense forces field goals or, better yet, no points at all, it is going to score well in this category.

It isn't, however, a way to identify weak, passive defenses.

The "rank" column tells you, over the last five years, where this stat would stand among all the bendability numbers posted by BCS teams over that time (And there are 320 rankings, 64 x 5, by the BCS teams over the past five years), while the "stat" column indicates the number of yards opposing offenses had to move the ball in order to score a point.

For example, Virginia Tech's 2010 defense had the 13th best defense in this statistical category over the last five years, requiring offenses to move the ball 19.79 yards for each point they put on the scoreboard against the Hokies.

You think Bud Foster's defense is soft? As you can see below, Virginia Tech's defense ranked first in the ACC in "Bendability" in 2010.

Aside from its inability to distinguish between 5-3 and 4-4 ACC teams, the "Bendability" index did a remarkable job of predicting the final ACC standings last year. Virginia Tech was 8-0 and first in the ACC in this stat, FSU was 6-2 and second, while all of the 1-7 teams finished at the bottom of this stat.

Curiously, the Demon Deacons own both the worst and the best bendability numbers of any ACC team over the last five years. In 2006, the Deacons turned the fifth best BCS mark over the past five years, and not-so-coincidentally was the year they won the ACC title, while last year their bendability ranking was one the four worst in the BCS over the past five years (317th). If you're looking for the story of the Deacons' demise in recent years, it is in this defensive stat, where they have gone from first to worst.

In terms of North Carolina football, the Tar Heels recorded their worst bendability ranking during this five-year span – unsurprisingly – during the 2006 campaign. That season they turned in the 293rd worst bendability ranking in the last five years, and were 11th in the ACC in that category that year.

It is a bit of a surprise that UNC's best year in this stat came in 2008, when it was first in the ACC and posted the 38th best bendability mark in the last five years in the BCS. You would have thought that mark would have come in 2009, with a more experienced defense overall.

Among the "Stats That Matter" that we studied, bendability came in ninth, although that's somewhat misleading. If you take out the differential stats (PPG Differential, Bendability-Scoreability Differential, Passing Efficiency Differential, Total YPG Differential, and Rush YPG Differential), then bendability would have the fourth highest correlation to wins and losses among the 27 categories we looked at.

Tomorrow: Part III, Scoreability

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