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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Red Zone Efficiency

Red Zone efficiency isn't really a unique skill. Some offensive styles are more effective than others near the goal line, especially in the purple zone (10 yard line in).  But on the whole, good offensive teams are good at their own 20, at midfield, and in the red zone. The same goes for red zone defense. (This doesn't mean I don't think teams shouldn't practice goal line offense and defense, but that the 1st derivative of the returns curve is large and negative - most of the benefit is captured early in practice, and additional practice would be better spent on the team's standard offense).

That being said, red zone efficiency is still massively important in terms of determining wins and losses (just like fluky turnovers and bad calls by referees have determined a number of games). The table below as the average points scored or allowed by each team in red zone situations, and then the difference, which tells us how much better the team has been than its opponents in the red zone.

Texas has been dynamite inside the 20. The Longhorns are averaging 6 points, scoring touchdowns on 82% of red zone trips. Georgia, Oklahoma and Oregon are more logical choices at #2-4. Notre Dame has the nation's best red zone defense, giving up less than a field goal per red zone situation and more than a quarter point better than Boise State at #2.

Overall, the best team in the red zone has been Oregon. The Ducks have scored 2.3 more points per opportunity than their opponents. Alabama, Oklahoma and Kansas State are also in the top 5, no surprise, but Utah State filling out the top 5 and #3 is a surprise. All five teams are in the top 20 nationally in rushing efficiency and top 25 nationally in total defensive efficiency. Unfortunately, Aggie fans should expect a regression in terms of red zone efficiency; only two other teams are overperforming more according to their standard offensive and defensive efficiencies (Rutgers and Cincinnati). Oregon is 5th, so the Ducks might be seeing a regression in the future as well, but the Ducks style on offense and defense seems to fit with those that are particularly effective in the red zone.

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