Advanced Football Stats: Efficiency

In a June series for WKUInsider, we're exploring the world of advanced football statistics.

In part one of our series exploring advanced football statistics, we looked into the importance of explosiveness (more here).

Explosiveness makes up 35 percent of Bill Connelly's (SB Nation) "five factors" for a football team's success, the most crucial of the group. The second most important metric? Efficiency.

Efficiency uses numbers to measure whether a play was successful, or for lack of a better term, a "failure".


Successful first down plays: 50 percent of yardage needed.

Successful second down plays: 70 percent of yardage needed.

Successful third down, fourth down plays: 100 percent of yardage needed.


Failure to reach the above objectives on an attempt results in a "failed" play.


Why is this measurement so important? Each successful play almost guarantees a team is a threat to use a rushing or passing play on the next down. A failed play can result in a "passing down" (second-and-8, third-and-5,) where a team almost always has to pass, allowing the defense to better prepare for what's coming.

Teams who were 5-10 percent more "successful" than their opponent in 2013 won 76.2 percent of their games--A staggering amount.

As an example, let's use Auburn as the FBS median in 2013, No. 62 out of 125 teams at 73.8 plays per game. Oklahoma was No. 63 at 73.6 plays per game.

Rounding up to 74, this means in a contest of two similar-paced teams, if Auburn is "successful" on 33-for-74 plays (44.5 percent), but their opponent (Oklahoma) is "successful" on only 29-for-74 (39.1 percent), Auburn has roughly a 75 percent chance to win the game. A difference in only 4 plays for an entire game, just one play per quarter! That's incredible.

While those numbers are almost mindblowing, it's important to remember how vital this makes explosiveness, and why it trumps efficiency in the end.

An inefficient team can mask their weakness with explosiveness--the big plays help them still be successful on "passing downs".

But even the most efficient teams will still "fail" on many attempts. At a (raw) 49.3 percent success rate, WKU finished No. 12 overall in 2013 for FBS efficiency. That means still slightly over half of their plays were "failed" attempts.

And without the explosiveness to consistently make big plays after "failed" attempts, you're now looking at a punt or field goal. The Toppers' much lower explosiveness ranking in 2013--No. 77 in FBS--sometimes exposed that last year.

Worth 25 percent of Connelly's "five factors" formula for team success, efficiency combines with explosiveness to make up 60 percent of Connelly's overall metric.

In the next breakdown, we'll look at a stat we all know is important, but somehow still overlook--Field position.

For more from Connelly, check out his book, available for order on Amazon.com.

Stay tuned with WKUInsider.com for the latest in WKU recruiting and team news.


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