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Archive for October, 2010

Week 5 Game Pick Results

Every week I like to take a chance and push at least a couple picks beyond normal rationale.

It’s not a strategy that has paid off very often this year.

Last week, I selected ASU over Oregon State but the Beavers managed to hold off the Sun Devils, 31-28.

I also picked North Carolina State over Virginia Tech. It looked like a smart pick deep into the final frame. More >

CG365 Sweet Sixteen – Week 5

Another great weekend of college football coming up. If you’re looking for a handful of good match-ups to catch this weekend, make sure to check out Alabama at South Carolina, Arkansas at Texas A&M, Oregon State at Arizona, Michigan State at Michigan, Florida State at Miami, and USC at Stanford. More >

Week 6 Game Picks

You won’t find many stray picks on our game grid this week. I’ve been back-and-forth on my BYU – San Diego State pick and decided to stick with the Cougars this week. Perhaps the zit’s been popped in Provo and the talent can start to gel as anticipated. The games that are veritable toss-ups in my mind are UCLA at Cal, Clemson at North Carolina, Michigan State at Michigan, and Pitt at Notre Dame. More >

Week 6 Game Pick Results

Whoa, Nelly! Upsets ruled the weekend and the entire panel’s weekly pick records tanked to an all-time low. The biggest shockers were South Carolina over Alabama, LSU over Florida and BYU over San Diego State. Amazingly, 50 percent of the visiting teams won this week. More >

CG365 Sweet Sixteen – Week 6

Get ready for seismic shifts in the Sweet 16 from now on. There are thirteen undefeated teams remaining and thanks to head-to-head competition coming up between several of them (LSU-Auburn, Nebraska-Missouri, TCU-Utah, to name a few) only seven can possibly end up perfect at the end of the regular season. More >

Q&A with Tex Noel, College Football Stat Whiz

Third down conversion percentage. Yards per carry. Yards per passing attempt. Time of possession.  Tackles for a loss.

These are just a few of the statistics generated during the course of a football game.

But have you ever wondered what college football would be like if nobody kept accurate statistics? What if there were not any statistics recorded besides the score and who won or lost each game?

We take for granted all of the statistics that we use to analyze each game, each team, and every individual player throughout the course of a season.

Without the work of the statistician, you wouldn’t enjoy the game of football as much. Statistics provide comparative value between teams and their opponents; between players in each position, and between offensive players and their defensive counterparts.

Stats provide hope for the next game; they also confirm failure to execute in specific areas.

Try and tune out the endless string of statistics that are used to describe the action the next time you watch a game. You won’t be able to do it.

Tex Noel is one of those unsung heroes behind the scenes of college football. He’s the founder and executive director of the Intercollegiate Football Researchers Association (IFRA) and the founder and executive director of 1st -N-Goal, a college football stat research firm.

In the book, Stars of an Earlier Autumn, Richard Billingsley said this about Noel: “Over the years, I have come to respect Tex, perhaps more than any statistician I have known, not just for his ability to compile stats, but also for his desire to research those stats thoroughly, and get them right. It is so easy, in our world today, to run across information on the Internet that the sports public treats like gospel when, unfortunately, it’s not accurate information. When I read something from Tex Noel, I know I can trust the information to be well researched, detailed and accurate.”

CollegeGridiron365 recently had the opportunity to talk with Tex Noel about the world of college football stats:


CG365: Tex, how did you get your start in the college football stats world?

TN: I have always enjoyed the statistical aspect of any sport. While in college, I kept statistics for the football teams and the sports information director.

I made my own break compiling stats and research (or as I call it, Stat Research) and would then present it to schools and the media.

It may be a difficult path to get into working with statistics; but when no one would hire you or even give you a chance, you do what has to be done to get yourself and your talent in front of those would need and use it.

When I was in college, the sports information directors weren’t much into research, so you can guess who they (and often coaches) would contact to do it.

CG365: Did you have any mentors?

TN: There was one media relations director who was especially encouraging by the name of Bo Carter.  Bo was with the old Southwestern Conference (SWC) and then the Big 12, and now he’s a correspondent for the National Football Foundation. He was, and still is, particularly supportive of my work.

CG365: How did the modern standard for college football statistics come to be? In other words, who decides what stats are the ones that will be recorded and given credence?

TN: Official college football statistics began in 1937 when a man named Homer Cooke was working for the NCAA. He devised a system that standardized the way statistics were recorded and reported. Eventually, his system was officially adopted by the NCAA as the “gold standard” by which everyone would follow.

Through the years, a number of others followed in his footsteps.

I’m too young to have worked with Cooke. But Rick Campbell my NCAA contact after others had retired, once told me, the NCAA scrutinizes all stats from outside their list of approved statisticians. He said, “Tex, if we know someone’s work is creditable like we know yours is, it is easier to accept it when we receive it.”

CG365: It seems like there’s a statistic for everything. For example, it’s not just pass attempts, completions, passing yards, TDs and interceptions for a quarterback. There are more obscure stats like how many passes were thrown to the right side of the field, the center, the left side. What is their tendency to pass on first downs? So, how do these more obscure stats become meaningful if they only have just a small audience like coaching staffs?

TN: The average fan isn’t interested in that detailed level of stats, although coaches certainly find them helpful in determining their game plan for the following week – both for their own team and the opponent.

I knew of a defensive coach in college that would break down these tendencies even further. He wanted to know the down and distance for every play, and the type of play called and yardage gained.

The beauty of college football statistics is that there is something for everyone. If you only care about rushing stats, fine. If you are more interested in passing stats or defensive stats, there’s plenty of them for you to chew on.

CG365: I’m sure you can tell us what one individual statistic has been the most important in determining the Heisman Trophy winner over the years, right?

TN: Probably, the number of pancake blocks an offensive line made during the season! But seriously, it would be rushing yardage because the majority of the Heisman winners have been run-oriented players. Take for instance, 2001 Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch of Nebraska, a quarterback who was more feared as a ball carrier than a passer. He picked up 1,115 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground to complement his 1,510 yards and 7 TDs through the air.

CG365: What about team stats – is there one stat that sticks out as a national champ indicator, like points allowed or total yards allowed?

TN: The old cliché that Offense brings the crowd in while Defense wins championships is true.

In order to win a title, a team must score more than its opponents—regardless if it’s in college football or any other sport.

In looking at the past few decades of National Champions from the NCAA Division 1-A, you would see that 16 times the national champion led the country in pass defense; compared to the 10 teams that led in stopping the run and 8 teams which totally shut down their opponents by leading in both categories.

Field position and turnovers play an important part in winning games, but not in winning the national championship.

Only once has a national champion led the nation in punt returns and four times national champions have led the nation in kick-off returns.

CG365: Speaking of the national championship, why are there so many discrepancies between schools in their national championship claims?  For instance, in Notre Dame’s media guide, they claim 11 consensus national championships, while Oklahoma lists Notre Dame as having 8 national titles.

TN: Good question. It’s like everything else; we all have an opinion and selecting a college football champion, without a true playoff, is just that—a title decided by someone’s input.  Also, some sports information directors count certain sources, while others don’t. Even with consensus champions, schools will ‘’argue” over the number of titles won.

CG365: So, is there a consensus among college football statisticians (looking back in the history of the game) in determining the validity of claims to the national title?

TN: Not really. However, many people accept titles won by the Frank Dickinson System more than anyone else, as he was given the title “Father of Ranking Systems.” He selected a National Champion from 1924-40 (the latter five years would coincide with the AP—the first of now four sources used as “Official National Champions.” He agreed 3 of the 5 seasons.

There were others around before Dickinson and lasted longer; but his seems to be one of the earlier ones that is most accepted.

The other sources that the NCAA accepts as official #1 selectors are first the UP/UPI Coaches Poll (now the USA Today coaches poll) along with the  Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame (NFFHF).

I have come to conclusion that if a team was selected champion by a reputable source they have every right to be considered national champion for that respective season.

CG365:  So, is the NCAA the official certification or clearinghouse organization for individual and team stats?

TN: Yes, they have been the official certifier of stats since 1937, thanks to Homer Cooke. This was one aspect of why the NCAA was organized – to serve as a clearinghouse for statistical information and records.

Before this time, college football records were sketchy, at best, being kept by schools or anyone else. Newspapers were often the source for early college football stats. Early stats were not compiled in any logical order and were only known by the colleges that recorded the stats.

CG365: Why does the NCAA only allow bowl game stats after 2002 to count toward individual career stats in the record books when we have individual bowl game stats that go back to the 1960s? It doesn’t seem fair that players from our past are not allowed to add their bowl game stats to their career stats while current players are allowed to.

TN: Progress. I think since there are a lot more bowl games now, the NCAA saw a need to include them, but many of the stats recorded now weren’t part of the set of categories that were first used in 1937.

Like anything, statistical trends are used as a guide and as the game changes, so does the method of recording stats. Most of the early stats were just totals gained. Then as teams played a different number of games, the per game method was used to aid in the determination of the annual leaders.

CG365: Do you think the NCAA will ever change this rule?

TN: No I don’t think so, nor do I want them to change, since it would take way from the factors of early record/stat keeping. It would detract from the old methods that were used to compile it.