College Football Pace Report: Projecting Week 8 Totals Using Advanced Metrics
Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Joshua Youngblood.
The integration of finishing drives and pace into my projected totals hit a number of games with near-complete accuracy this weekend. Both Houston and BYU had long stints of unanswered scoring, and our projection of 70 fell one point short of 69.
Tulane and SMU projected at 69 points, with a regulation score of 68 before the game went to overtime. Alabama-Georgia projections called for a total of 68, just three points higher than that game finished despite the Dawgs posting a scoreless second half.
The Pace Report uses a number of statistics to come up with a projection for each game (which are all included in Action PRO). But I want to give everyone a sense for how these totals are created.
Oddsmakers in New Jersey and Las Vegas have an assigned point value for each team, and that number is adjusted based on ensuing game results. I go a bit further by applying some math and advanced stats to my projections.
The formula first takes into account yards per play for offense and defense. Plays per game are also integrated to the yards per play difference to come up with a total.
For example, based upon those factors, Texas A&M’s team total in a neutral setting would be 28.1.
But the formula is incomplete, as finishing drives and pace must be accounted for in totals.
As you can see in the updated finishing drives chart, Texas A&M scores 2.88 points per trip past the opponents 40-yard line. The Aggies defense allows 3.9 points per trip when an opponent enters a scoring opportunity. I’ll add a finishing drives total to that raw number for Texas A&M.
Pace is as equally important to determining a total.
Seconds per play can help determine the speed at which a team hikes the ball with time left on the clock. The more snaps per game, the more scoring chances for the team and their opponent depending how good the team is at gaining the proper amount of yards.
(For that we use success rate is defined as gaining 50% of needed yards on first down, 70% of needed yards on second down, or 100% of needed yards on third or fourth down).
Integrating Texas A&M’s pace of 29.4 seconds per play, among the slowest in the country, drives their projection down despite strong raw numbers in net yards per play. That shows the power of pace and its effect on totals.
The Aggies (who are off this week) final number fell from 28.1 to 25.3 when integrating these variables.
Here is the total list of projections for every game with the exception of the Big Ten and Mountain West, where no data currently exists.
Week 8 Projected Totals
Notes on Week 8 Totals
Tulsa vs. South Florida
I project this total much lower than the market opener. Tulsa has a big edge on defense in finishing drives, which plays a part. Tulsa will unleash plenty of havoc and control the clock with a slow pace of play on offense vs. USF.
Louisville vs. Florida State
Louisville had a handful of scoring opportunities against Notre Dame and came away with seven points. And each team only had seven possessions the entire contest.
Florida State, which didn’t score a single point against North Carolina in the second half, ran for almost twice as many passes against the Heels.
If quarterback Jordan Travis continues to use his legs until start receiver Tamorrion Terry returns, the Seminoles are an under team.
Jordan Travis takes it in for the 7-0 FSU lead.
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) October 18, 2020
Kansas vs. Kansas State
The Jayhawks may have broken the model for determining a total. Kansas has scored an average of 15.3 points per game thus far in the season. The raw number for plays per game and yards per play net is 17.2. That number got knocked down to 15.5 because of an atrocious finishing drives number.
Combine that with Kansas State running almost dead last in pace, and this game screams under. If the Jayhawks can limit the Wildcats explosiveness this should be an easy under ticket, but that could be a huge ask of Kansas.