In taking a third look at the many ways that Al Golden can improve the University of Miami football team from last year to the 2014 season, we decided to look at the all important third down conversion rates on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball as one key measures of potential success during any football game or season.
Let us now look more closely at a few of these stats and exactly where the University of Miami ranks among their peers:
- For the 2013 season the Hurricanes ranked #96 of 123 teams in offensive third down conversion rate with a .352 average.
- Not surprisingly, on defense Miami fared no better coming in at #98 with an average of .419 of third downs being converted against the UM defense.
- So as you might expect Miami did not fare well at all when it comes to the time of possession category. The Hurricanes ranked #118 of the 123 teams in TOP in 2013.
So let's do a simple flip-flop of the numbers to see where the Hurricanes would land If UM were able to reverse the numbers above:
- If Miami raised their offensive third down conversion rate to .419 (from .352) they would move from #96 to #28 in the team rankings a spot held by Mississippi State in 2013.
- If Miami were to lower their defensive thrird down coversion rate to .352 (from .419) they would move up from #98 to #52 a spot occupied by Notre Dame last season.
Now let's take a look at the top 10 teams in both categories, offensive conversion rates first:
1 LSU .571
2 Louisville .560
3 Florida St. .522
4 Georgia Tech .514
- Marshall .514
6 Navy .511
7 East Carolina .510
8 Texas A&M .503
9 La.-Lafayette .500
10 Stanford .497
Now let's make a closer inspection of the defensive stop rates for third downs:
1 Louisville .267
2 Michigan St. .279
3 Virginia Tech .297
4 Wisconsin .306
5 Clemson .308
6 Nebraska .309
7 Oklahoma St. .314
8 Virginia .320
9 Stanford .322
10 Florida St. .322
As you can see from the above lists, three teams made the top 10 in both categories: Louisville (2/1), FSU (3/10) and Stanford (10/9). So what does all this tell us about these stats and their outcomes?
- Not surprisingly, Louisville, a team that spanked Miami in the bowl game in Orlando and finished the season ranked #15 in the polls, was ranked #2 in time of possession in 2013.
- Stanford ranked #27 in TOP and finished the 2013 campaign ranked #10/11 in the polls.
- Eventual 2013 National Championship winner FSU finished on top of the college football world but quite a bit lower in TOP (due to their explosive offense) at #71.
And just for kicks, let's look at some other ACC teams who also made the list:
- Virginia Tech was #3 in defensive third down stops and #8 in TOP in 2013.
- Georgia Tech ranked #4 in offensive third downs converted and finished at #6 in TOP.
- Virginia ranked #8 in defense on third down and finished at #5 in TOP.
- All of these teams were un-ranked at season's end in 2013, so these stats alone clearly are not a complete measure of a team's chance of success but only one of many areas that must be examined, assessed and improved from year to year.
While it can be argued that converting third downs while on offense, and preventing the opposition from converting while on defense, easily trumps the often misleading time of possession category, all three factors are so closely inter-related that their combined impact on a game's outcome cannot be ignored.
What it all really comes down to is that third downs, and time of possession, really do matter.
For your Miami Hurricanes what that means is that by increasing first downs converted on offense by even a small percentage and also reducing the opposition's third down conversion rate by a just a narrow margin can be all the difference between winning and losing in 2014.