I was reading Athlon Magazine’s Clemson preview story Tuesday evening when I got a good laugh on page 128. I saw this pullout box in the top left corner called Advanced Stats. I was intrigued so I checked it out.
Listen, I love statistics as much as the next guy, but I really believe we are starting to take things a little too serious these days. Everyone is so into analytics that we think we need a statistic for every statistic that is out there. The computer spits us out a number and we need to know what this number means and what does it mean for this other number and how does it commute out on the field.
Basically, we are making things way too complicated. Remember when your dad told you to stop thinking too much. Things are much simpler than we think they are. Well, that is what we are doing. We are overthinking things, especially when it comes to football.
Anyway, under the heading Advanced Stats it reads “5 factors: College Football’s Most Important Stats.” Those stats are field position, efficiency, explosiveness, finishing drives and adjusted TO margin. When I saw them, I said, “Okay, I’ll give it a quick read.”
Of course, I first had to read the key underneath it so it could explain to me what in the heck “College Football’s Most Important Stats” meant in the first place.
The stats made since, I guess. However, I would not call them “College Football’s Most Important Stats.” They might be important to stat nerds like me and you, but I can tell you they are not important to football coaches and football players.
You hear coaches say this all the time, including Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, “The only statistic that matters is the one that is on the scoreboard.”
We can break down all the drives we want and compute this number and that number and make it all look fancy. And yes, it probably makes us sound like we know what we are talking about. However, in reality, they mean nothing, and they definitely are not the most important stats in college football.
Besides the final score, which is the singular most important statistic in any game, I would say scoring offense and defense are the two most important, followed by total yards and total yards allowed and then run offense, pass offense, pass defense and run defense. I think you get the picture.
If a team is good in any of the areas I just listed, then they are a good team and I don’t need a statistic telling me a 5.7 explosiveness rating is 54th nationally and needs to get better. I can see that for myself.
And if I can see it, you know a coach can see it without him needing a stat to tell him. He watches film all the time. He knows. Is it good for self-scouting during the open week or at the end of the season when they are reevaluating? Absolutely! That is where it benefits. However, they are not living or dying by it. It is not that important.
You know how you know when a statistic is important to a coach, when he uses it in practice or not.
Now, I could be wrong here, and I have been to a lot of football practices in my 20 years as a sportswriter, but I don’t ever remember a coach telling his players, “Boys, we need to get better in our explosiveness rating and our adjusted TO margin, too. We were bad in those areas last week.”
Football is a simple game. I think we as fans and the media sometimes make it more difficult than it really is.
I remember a coach telling me this a long time ago. He said, “Football is simple. It’s about blocking and tackling. The team that does that the best will win the game. It is that simple.”
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