Pass break-ups and Interceptions: Adjusted Pass Coverage Statistics [2010]

[Author's note: There is a javascript file called within this article to make the data table interactive. If you have JavaScripts turned off, you'll just have a static table. Thanks to mod Pbysh for trouble-shooting!]

So I'm feeling pretty smart right now. This and all of my future posts where I present any data table should now be in interactive form and sortable by column. Clicking twice will reverse the sort direction. The .js file and HTML code to do that is located here for both of you that are interested.

But on to what you're here for: Pass break-ups and Interceptions. The splash statistics behind defensive pass coverage. Good coverage means you're in the hip pocket of your offensive opponent, ready to swat or steal the ball out of the air should it be thrown your way. Or, especially in the zone-heavy schemes of today's college football, you've hidden underneath perfectly near the seam of an opponent's route - unbeknownst to the college quarterback. Pitch and catch, pick-six.

Whatever the case may be, stopping an opponent's passing game is a critical facet of a good defense. The old 3-yards and a cloud of dust offenses of the early 20th century gave way to more pass-heavy and focused offenses. Even the pro-style mantra of "running to setup the pass" is becoming blasé. Brian Burke of Advanced NFL Stats has shown that running is actually much less important overall than passing towards winning. With passing attacks being crucial to offenses, the need to be proficient in pass coverage has arguably never been more important.

Today we'll look at the 120 FBS schools in 2010 and their pass coverage proficiency. Just after a quick hop, skip, and a jump.

2010 Adjusted Pass Coverage Statistics
Team Ints PBU PD P.A. Ints.pP PBU.pP PD.pP DSOS
Air Force 12 36 48 321 3.74% 11.21% 14.95% 57
Akron 8 30 38 357 2.24% 8.40% 10.64% 112
Alabama 22 57 79 367 5.99% 15.53% 21.53% 8
Arizona 9 60 69 413 2.18% 14.53% 16.71% 49
Arizona State 12 33 45 430 2.79% 7.67% 10.47% 37
Arkansas 11 41 52 340 3.24% 12.06% 15.29% 4
Arkansas State 11 33 44 338 3.25% 9.76% 13.02% 46
Army 14 37 51 327 4.28% 11.31% 15.60% 98
Auburn 12 39 51 515 2.33% 7.57% 9.90% 3
Ball State 17 26 43 349 4.87% 7.45% 12.32% 115
Baylor 10 41 51 467 2.14% 8.78% 10.92% 47
Boise State 14 40 54 371 3.77% 10.78% 14.56% 90
Boston College 20 38 58 510 3.92% 7.45% 11.37% 42
Bowling Green 14 41 55 373 3.75% 10.99% 14.75% 88
Buffalo 15 48 63 325 4.62% 14.77% 19.38% 117
BYU 16 47 63 384 4.17% 12.24% 16.41% 51
California 9 47 56 360 2.50% 13.06% 15.56% 39
Central Michigan 4 29 33 360 1.11% 8.06% 9.17% 83
Cincinnati 8 25 33 370 2.16% 6.76% 8.92% 93
Clemson 15 45 60 382 3.93% 11.78% 15.71% 14
Colorado 10 23 33 388 2.58% 5.93% 8.51% 61
Colorado State 4 14 18 306 1.31% 4.58% 5.88% 72
Connecticut 20 32 52 445 4.49% 7.19% 11.69% 58
Duke 8 37 45 329 2.43% 11.25% 13.68% 33
East Carolina 11 40 51 405 2.72% 9.88% 12.59% 53
Eastern Michigan 2 30 32 298 0.67% 10.07% 10.74% 110
Florida 22 38 60 372 5.91% 10.22% 16.13% 19
Florida Atlantic 11 37 48 322 3.42% 11.49% 14.91% 106
Florida International 15 34 49 387 3.88% 8.79% 12.66% 100
Florida State 15 62 77 477 3.14% 13.00% 16.14% 26
Fresno State 8 38 46 377 2.12% 10.08% 12.20% 73
Georgia 16 29 45 316 5.06% 9.18% 14.24% 12
Georgia Tech 8 41 49 365 2.19% 11.23% 13.42% 71
Hawai'i 23 56 79 445 5.17% 12.58% 17.75% 84
Houston 13 40 53 370 3.51% 10.81% 14.32% 113
Idaho 11 32 43 433 2.54% 7.39% 9.93% 97
Illinois 11 42 53 413 2.66% 10.17% 12.83% 23
Indiana 8 29 37 344 2.33% 8.43% 10.76% 21
Iowa 19 43 62 479 3.97% 8.98% 12.94% 10
Iowa State 13 33 46 372 3.49% 8.87% 12.37% 56
Kansas 7 37 44 341 2.05% 10.85% 12.90% 59
Kansas State 13 68 81 400 3.25% 17.00% 20.25% 96
Kent State 16 44 60 405 3.95% 10.86% 14.81% 120
Kentucky 9 24 33 319 2.82% 7.52% 10.34% 27
Louisiana Tech 12 46 58 440 2.73% 10.45% 13.18% 89
Louisiana-Lafayette 14 31 45 367 3.81% 8.45% 12.26% 24
Louisiana-Monroe 12 42 54 366 3.28% 11.48% 14.75% 67
Louisville 9 30 39 343 2.62% 8.75% 11.37% 87
LSU 19 51 70 344 5.52% 14.83% 20.35% 5
Marshall 11 46 57 441 2.49% 10.43% 12.93% 92
Maryland 19 57 76 499 3.81% 11.42% 15.23% 40
Memphis 8 28 36 368 2.17% 7.61% 9.78% 86
Miami (Florida) 16 47 63 327 4.89% 14.37% 19.27% 32
Miami (Ohio) 21 58 79 424 4.95% 13.68% 18.63% 107
Michigan 12 31 43 409 2.93% 7.58% 10.51% 48
Michigan State 17 52 69 422 4.03% 12.32% 16.35% 9
Middle Tennessee 11 40 51 391 2.81% 10.23% 13.04% 108
Minnesota 11 20 31 280 3.93% 7.14% 11.07% 36
Mississippi 6 32 38 352 1.70% 9.09% 10.80% 6
Mississippi State 13 45 58 446 2.91% 10.09% 13.00% 2
Missouri 18 47 65 441 4.08% 10.66% 14.74% 41
Navy 7 34 41 424 1.65% 8.02% 9.67% 74
Nebraska 19 51 70 390 4.87% 13.08% 17.95% 63
Nevada 12 45 57 488 2.46% 9.22% 11.68% 116
New Mexico 4 24 28 318 1.26% 7.55% 8.81% 75
New Mexico State 4 38 42 371 1.08% 10.24% 11.32% 78
North Carolina 19 43 62 431 4.41% 9.98% 14.39% 25
North Carolina State 9 45 54 406 2.22% 11.08% 13.30% 43
North Texas 8 29 37 328 2.44% 8.84% 11.28% 102
Northern Illinois 16 45 61 448 3.57% 10.04% 13.62% 118
Northwestern 15 40 55 466 3.22% 8.58% 11.80% 65
Notre Dame 18 44 62 439 4.10% 10.02% 14.12% 13
Ohio 17 50 67 408 4.17% 12.25% 16.42% 114
Ohio State 19 48 67 385 4.94% 12.47% 17.40% 7
Oklahoma 19 71 90 496 3.83% 14.31% 18.15% 35
Oklahoma State 19 57 76 570 3.33% 10.00% 13.33% 50
Oregon 21 81 102 489 4.29% 16.56% 20.86% 31
Oregon State 10 34 44 356 2.81% 9.55% 12.36% 30
Penn State 10 33 43 351 2.85% 9.40% 12.25% 11
Pittsburgh 13 42 55 394 3.30% 10.66% 13.96% 94
Purdue 10 37 47 389 2.57% 9.51% 12.08% 16
Rice 6 44 50 417 1.44% 10.55% 11.99% 85
Rutgers 8 30 38 336 2.38% 8.93% 11.31% 105
San Diego State 10 64 74 427 2.34% 14.99% 17.33% 80
San Jose State 10 48 58 419 2.39% 11.46% 13.84% 34
SMU 10 45 55 430 2.33% 10.47% 12.79% 55
South Carolina 10 44 54 460 2.17% 9.57% 11.74% 1
South Florida 15 32 47 404 3.71% 7.92% 11.63% 95
Southern Mississippi 16 47 63 430 3.72% 10.93% 14.65% 76
Stanford 18 50 68 424 4.25% 11.79% 16.04% 70
Syracuse 9 31 40 368 2.45% 8.42% 10.87% 104
TCU 12 40 52 323 3.72% 12.38% 16.10% 69
Temple 9 36 45 357 2.52% 10.08% 12.61% 119
Tennessee 18 43 61 439 4.10% 9.79% 13.90% 15
Texas 8 37 45 305 2.62% 12.13% 14.75% 64
Texas A&M 16 48 64 510 3.14% 9.41% 12.55% 20
Texas Tech 15 55 70 520 2.88% 10.58% 13.46% 44
Toledo 20 38 58 453 4.42% 8.39% 12.80% 101
Troy 14 45 59 427 3.28% 10.54% 13.82% 82
Tulane 10 41 51 319 3.13% 12.85% 15.99% 109
Tulsa 24 52 76 507 4.73% 10.26% 14.99% 77
UAB 9 46 55 399 2.26% 11.53% 13.78% 103
UCF 17 66 83 475 3.58% 13.89% 17.47% 68
UCLA 7 53 60 360 1.94% 14.72% 16.67% 38
UNLV 7 30 37 325 2.15% 9.23% 11.38% 28
USC 15 46 61 464 3.23% 9.91% 13.15% 52
Utah 12 33 45 380 3.16% 8.68% 11.84% 62
Utah State 13 47 60 410 3.17% 11.46% 14.63% 60
UTEP 11 52 63 442 2.49% 11.76% 14.25% 81
Vanderbilt 9 35 44 349 2.58% 10.03% 12.61% 29
Virginia 11 24 35 304 3.62% 7.89% 11.51% 66
Virginia Tech 23 59 82 429 5.36% 13.75% 19.11% 17
Wake Forest 11 39 50 392 2.81% 9.95% 12.76% 18
Washington 12 39 51 359 3.34% 10.86% 14.21% 54
Washington State 11 35 46 358 3.07% 9.78% 12.85% 45
West Virginia 12 52 64 393 3.05% 13.23% 16.28% 91
Western Kentucky 8 23 31 336 2.38% 6.85% 9.23% 99
Western Michigan 15 31 46 353 4.25% 8.78% 13.03% 111
Wisconsin 14 46 60 367 3.81% 12.53% 16.35% 22
Wyoming 9 41 50 317 2.84% 12.93% 15.77% 79
Averages 12.7 41.3 54.0 419.1 3.21% 10.46% 13.68% --

So, first a description of what we're looking at. From left to right, the columns are as follows: Interceptions, Pass break-ups (PBU), Passes defended (PD) which is Ints + PBUs, Passes Against (sacks do not count towards total), Interceptions per play, PBU per play, and PD per play. Note that the last 3 columns are listed as a percentage of all pass plays against that particular defense. Also, I've highlighted each ACC team with one of their (more readable) team colors as a way to examine conference ranking, but also so we can see how the conference members stacks up nationally.

If I've programmed everything right, you should be able to click and column header and sort in either direction. I will use this space here to allow you to marvel at the complexities of technology.

So what are some of the take-aways from the table? Here's what stuck out to me. First, FSU:

  • 6th in ACC for INT.
  • 1st in ACC (6th nationally) for PBU.
  • 2nd in ACC (9th) for PD.

ACC Champion Virginia Tech was able to pair its great PBU totals with a high INT totals. But FSU did not. Our PBU totals were incredible. Our INT numbers are not. We might expect there to be a relationship between a team's PBU and INT totals. A team that can swat a lot of passes is arguably demonstrating that they are in position to make a play on the ball. So we could expect that their INT total could be tied with their PBU total. We find a pretty strong correlation between team PBU and team INT (R-squared of 28%), and a linear model suggests that for every 4 additional PBU a team records, they are likely to record another INT. Again, this makes physical sense. A PBU can be considered the JV-INT, especially when you consider the number of INTs dropped by some defensive players (ahem OPEN PRACTICE ahem).

Now let's turn our attention to those pass coverage stats after we account for how many times a particular defense was thrown at.

Adjusted pass coverage stats for FSU:

  • 8th in the ACC for % of plays where an interception was recorded.
  • 3rd in the ACC (17th nationally) for % of plays where a PBU was recorded.
  • 3rd in the ACC (21st) for PD.pP.

A lot of opponents threw against FSU. Quite a few of our opponents did their best to emulate OU's playcalling to hopefully take advantage of a young defense. After accounting for the number of passes against, we see FSU was not not actually as elite as their total pass coverage stats suggest.

Other points of interest:

  • Dayum if 'Bama doesn't do everything well. 1st nationally in Interception % per play (Ints.pP). 3rd in PBU.pP. 1st in PD.pP. And all with having faced the 8th hardest set of offenses. Statistically, Nick Saban is the model for pass coverage defense. He goes after the DBs he wants, coaches them, Kirby Smart coaches up the LBs and is the DC (in title, at least). Oh, Nick Saban really, really, really wanted Mike Harris. I'm sure we can all believe that now.
  • Florida is #2 in Ints.pP. But their PBU.pP is just below the NCAA-average. Perhaps their airborne takeaways were the result of luck?
  • I'm pretty sure I can extend this study back 5 or 6 years. It will be interesting to see which teams might be consistently generating excellent pass coverage statistics.
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