To Defer or Not to Defer?

By Owen Tedford

In 2008, the NFL added a rule that allowed teams that won the coin toss to defer their choice of receiving or kicking to the second half. When this rule was first introduced, it was used only 7.8% of the time. But, it has become an increasingly used option in today’s NFL with the toss getting deferred over 78% of the time now. Why are teams doing this? Well, coaches, like Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, claim that by deferring you have the chance to get an extra possession. Now, if true, this would provide teams a clear advantage by giving them an extra chance to score.

Using data from Sporting Charts [1], I’ve compiled the time of possession in minutes, the total number of drives, and time per drive for each NFL team (table at the end). The average time of possession this past year was 2.65 minutes or 2 minutes 39 seconds. But, looking at the data, there are a few outliers, and so for the rest of my analysis, I chose to use the median of 2.695 or 2 minutes 41.7 seconds.

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NFL Playoff Picture and Predictions

By Owen Tedford

We’ve reached the end of another NFL season and that means that it’s time for the playoffs. The 12 teams have been decided with the Patriots, Chiefs, Steelers, Texans, Raiders, and Dolphins representing the AFC and the Cowboys, Falcons, Seahawks, Packers, Giants, and Lions representing the NFC. Every team has had their share of ups and downs but they’ve all made it to the final stage where records mean nothing and all that matters is what they do going forward, as this is what will make them remembered.

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Theory of the Big 3: Predicting NBA Team Win % from Individual Performance: Full Paper

By Gene Li

spurs

Nowhere is the concept of the “Big 3” more relevant than basketball. As a relatively star-dominated game compared to football, soccer, etc., NBA games are determined by the performance of a few players who can deliver offensive firepower. NBA fans often view their team’s success as driven by the top three players on each team. Just last season, we saw the trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green from the Golden State Warriors face off against Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Historic “Big Threes” include the infamous James-Wade-Bosh trio in Miami, and the Duncan-Parker-Ginobili Spurs offense that won four championships over 13 years. But just how much can a team’s performance be attributed to its top three players?

View Li’s “Theory of the Big 3: Predicting NBA Team Win % from Individual Performance” full paper here.

 

A New Metric to Analyze Viewer Experience in Pro Tennis: Full Paper

By Rohan Rao

 

Recently, organizations such as the NCAA have been attempting to increase viewership of tennis by implementing rule changes to reduce the length of the individual matches. The logic behind these changes is to increase the relative importance of each point making the overall experience more exciting. I think this is a particularly interesting problem for the sport of tennis, which is currently fighting falling ratings (losing 1.4 million viewers this year for the men’s U.S. Open finals) but is increasing the uncertainty of games the best way to gain viewership or increase the excitement of the sport? The process for determining which rule changes lead to more viewers can be a complicated question; however, I would say that by statistically examining the shot selection across a variety of tournaments and players, we can get an alternate and useful metric to determine how exciting or interesting a match is, which could provide some insight into the issue.

View Rao’s “A New Metric to Analyze Viewer Experience in Pro Tennis” full paper here.

Why 3 Big Ten Teams Should Be in the Playoff

By Chris Murphy

With the season coming down its final weeks, it is crunch time for any and all College Football Playoff hopefuls. It is also crunch time for College Football Playoff predictions. Perhaps the question you will hear most over the next two weeks is “who’s in?”, and everyone has an answer along with an explanation.

If you take a survey of all these answers and write them down, you will probably end up with the following list of teams: Alabama, Ohio State, Washington, Clemson, and Penn State/Wisconsin. Of these 6 teams, some will have Penn State, some will have Ohio State, and some will have Wisconsin. But very few will have multiple Big Ten teams, even two seems a little much to have.

Alabama Crimson TideIn a season of big risks and outlandish statements, I’m going to make one myself: Three Big Ten teams deserve to be in the College Football Playoff. Those three teams should be Ohio State, Michigan, and the winner of Penn State/Wisconsin. These three, combined with Alabama, should be the top four come the final Playoff Rankings. Along with this idea, I’m here to try and convince you why this Playoff scenario should be considered.

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Great Expectations: the Roberto Aguayo story

By Jack Graham

Among other things, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been plagued by the kicking struggles of rookie Roberto Aguayo throughout the 2016 season. Through 9 games, Aguayo has made only 9 of 14 Field Goals, a rate of 64% that qualifies him as the least accurate kicker in the league. Of course, these lackluster numbers would not typically be grounds for an interesting story, except for the fact that Aguayo also happened to be the Buccaneers second round draft pick. While selecting a kicker so early in the draft is not unprecedented (the Oakland Raiders drafted Sebastian Janikowski in the first round in 2000), it is incredibly rare. It is not controversial to say that Aguayo has not met the lofty expectations imposed on him by his draft status, but it is also natural to wonder: how well would Aguayo have to perform in order to justify such a high draft pick? And then, based on his college performance, was it reasonable for the Bucs to expect him to meet this standard?

Roberto Aguayo

Roberto Aguayo

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Who Is the Best Team in the NFL?

By Owen Tedford

How do you measure the best? Is it quantifiable at all or is it the intangibles that could never be measured that make a team better than another one? This question has been an issue for many years in college football and has been complicated in recent years with the creation of a four-team playoff. The problem is selecting which metric should be given the most weight, which has led to the creation of a number of new metrics for measuring the best.

NFL Teams

One that I find most intriguing is the idea of strength of record, created by ESPN this year. It measures the probability of an average Top 25 team having the same record against the same schedule. To me, this seems like the best metric that is out there that I know of. But what I find interesting about ESPN’s use of this metric is why they don’t calculate it for the NFL, which leads me to my next question of why do we not question the NFL playoffs as much as the college football playoffs? We accept record as the metric of who is best without taking into account strength of schedule or all of the other factors that can lead to a better or worse record. With this in mind, I set out to create my own metric, inspired by strength of record, comparing strength of schedule and team’s records.

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