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.
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.