Inside Clemson football: Orange Bowl underdog role forecasts mixed results

Clemson's Tajh Boyd throws during practice Tuesday at Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson's Tajh Boyd throws during practice Tuesday at Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida.

I don’t bet on football games but I do pay close attention to who’s favored and by how much. Why? Because the guys that set these numbers know what they’re doing.

In researching almost 1,900 games since the beginning of the 2011 season I’ve found that the favored team (no matter the spread) has won 76.1 percent of the time.

Of course, not all spreads are equal and the bigger the spread the better the odds of the favored team winning as shown in the chart below.

The good news for Clemson fans is that 3 points is somewhat of an anomaly in the data, in that this spread appears in the 54 times and the underdog has won exactly half of those games.

On the field, the metrics that matter the most are gaining more yards than your opponent (77.1%) and averaging more yards per pass (78.7 percent).

It’s obvious why more yards are important – yards correlate more to points than any other metric. On the other hand, yards per pass could be skewed, in that teams that are behind tend to throw more (winning teams throw more passes only 35% of the time). When teams throw more often when behind the tendency is to complete a lower percentage of passes which leads to a decrease in yards gained per pass. For this reason, I believe it’s ver likely that yards per pass is “noise” and total yards is the “signal” that correlates more to winning than any other metric.

I’m often asked about defensive stats. They are included in that the percentages above compare stats between teams, rather than setting a specific goal. For example, it doesn’t matter if you gain 450 yards or 250 yards as long as your defense allows less. Or alternatively, it doesn’t matter if you give up 250 or 450 as long as your offense gains more the odds are in your favor.

Two things that are over played in the media and among fans are “winning the turnover battle” and penalties.

The data shows that only 58.4% of the time does the winner have less turnovers than the loser, meaning turnovers are far less of a reliable predictor than the metrics above. The correct phrase should be, “Don’t lose the turnover battle”, because teams that have less or the same number of turnovers as their opponents win 79.8% of the time. Staying even in turnovers is O.K.

How many times have we heard penalties are a “killer”? The fact is only 48 percent of the time the winning team had less penalty yards than the loser. Think about that. More often than not the winning team has more penalty yards than the losing team. It flies in the face of everything we’ve ever heard at every level of football about the importance of not committing penalties.

Not only do winners have more penalty yards than losers but, in one of my all-time favorite stats, teams with 100 or more penalty yards have won 57 percent (109-82) of the time. Good teams are often penalized and penalized a lot.

As with most things, context and timing can be a factor. Win the turnover battle, but fumble the ball on your own 2 in a tie game with 40 seconds to go and you’re probably going to lose. Those are the ones that make the headlines, but for the vast majority of games that’s not what happens and turnovers and penalties play a smaller role while total yards tells the story for the majority of games.

Clemson was 1-1 when being outgained on the season and 9-1 when outgaining their opponents. Many Clemson fans feel as if it was a three game season and the Tigers were outgained in 2 of those games (both at home) and committed 6 turnovers in the other.

It’s really a simple recipe for me. Outgain your opponent and be at least even on turnovers. Teams with that combination win 89.1 percent of the time.

Check out more Clemson stats analysis from Coleman on SeldomUsedReserve.com

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Comments » 16

33dtb writes:

I believe it was Disraeli who said there were "lies, d_ _n lies, and statistics".

waran writes:

Did anyone watch the USC - Wisconsin game and Spurier receiving the trophy? He referred to the State Championship, again.

tigerrob44 writes:

Yea, well I do bet and I seldom bet a favorite because a favorite better is generally someone that does not win. A short home dog is a good bet almost always. You do have to pick which dog to bet because they all don't cover the spread. It use to be the best bet in sports to bet a home team dog on Monday night football. They covered a high percentage of the time, it's just they are not all that many home dogs on a Monday night. And saying 76% of favorites wins is no big revelation but, of the percentage how many covered the spread. A 14 point favorite may win the game by 10 points which means you lost your hinny if you bet on them. Every now and then a prohibitive favorite gets beat straight up but, it's sort of rare. I am talking about 24 point and above favorite. Very rare for that to happen but, it does happen.

kimpots writes:

in response to waran:

Did anyone watch the USC - Wisconsin game and Spurier receiving the trophy? He referred to the State Championship, again.

why not refer to being the state champions, after all, they are like it or not.

seldomusedreserve#284867 writes:

in response to tigerrob44:

Yea, well I do bet and I seldom bet a favorite because a favorite better is generally someone that does not win. A short home dog is a good bet almost always. You do have to pick which dog to bet because they all don't cover the spread. It use to be the best bet in sports to bet a home team dog on Monday night football. They covered a high percentage of the time, it's just they are not all that many home dogs on a Monday night. And saying 76% of favorites wins is no big revelation but, of the percentage how many covered the spread. A 14 point favorite may win the game by 10 points which means you lost your hinny if you bet on them. Every now and then a prohibitive favorite gets beat straight up but, it's sort of rare. I am talking about 24 point and above favorite. Very rare for that to happen but, it does happen.

The point was not to talk about covering or not covering, but more about what it means to be a 3 point underdog and to relate that to what has happened in recent history.

For those of us that don't bet on games there is still value to be gained from looking at who is favored and by how much.

TigerFan95 writes:

in response to waran:

Did anyone watch the USC - Wisconsin game and Spurier receiving the trophy? He referred to the State Championship, again.

I didn’t watch their bowl and didn’t hear his comments live, but I did catch a clip that was all over social media. The first thing I noticed was that he looked like a big goober in that hat--I guess we now know why he wears visors. The second thing I noticed was that he appeared like he had been drinking again. Were these comments made right after the game or were they after he had time to go in and take a nip? As for the comments themselves, they don’t bother me at all and in fact I find them pretty flattering. Think about it, SC just won their third bowl game in a row and Spurrier completely ignores the trophy and insist upon grabbing the microphone to make comments about beating us..And he goes on to say that beating us is just as big or bigger than winning two bowl games..Wow! that puts us in pretty high esteem doesn’t it!!

waran writes:

in response to TigerFan95:

I didn’t watch their bowl and didn’t hear his comments live, but I did catch a clip that was all over social media. The first thing I noticed was that he looked like a big goober in that hat--I guess we now know why he wears visors. The second thing I noticed was that he appeared like he had been drinking again. Were these comments made right after the game or were they after he had time to go in and take a nip? As for the comments themselves, they don’t bother me at all and in fact I find them pretty flattering. Think about it, SC just won their third bowl game in a row and Spurrier completely ignores the trophy and insist upon grabbing the microphone to make comments about beating us..And he goes on to say that beating us is just as big or bigger than winning two bowl games..Wow! that puts us in pretty high esteem doesn’t it!!

When I heard Spurier first, I thought what an idiot!!

But, after having read your comment, I agree with you, it is flattering to Clemson.

TRUETIGER1 writes:

Their entire existence is based on beating us, maybe we should take them a little more seriously. By we, I mean Dabo & Staff. GO TIGERS !

TheTruth46 writes:

in response to waran:

When I heard Spurier first, I thought what an idiot!!

But, after having read your comment, I agree with you, it is flattering to Clemson.

Too funny. Not only has Spurrier camped in CU's coaching staffs minds for several years, it appears he has done the same to the fanbase. Five in a row, all by double digits, speaks for itself. Possibly you are too high strung, and the strain is more than you can bear.Flattering...nope. Flattening....yep.

BlueRidgeBengal writes:

Its a complex he's obsessed just like our resident trolls.

TRUETIGER1 writes:

in response to TheTruth46:

Too funny. Not only has Spurrier camped in CU's coaching staffs minds for several years, it appears he has done the same to the fanbase. Five in a row, all by double digits, speaks for itself. Possibly you are too high strung, and the strain is more than you can bear.Flattering...nope. Flattening....yep.

I guess being second best in a state with two schools for over 100 years makes a drunk just a little mouthier, just saying.

clemvol writes:

Having a dislike for Slurrier as I do for the past 40+ years I will say that he knows exactly what he's doing. Ranking the Tigers over any bowl game is not what he's doing. He knows he will always play 2nd fiddle in the sec east. He knows that all he needs is a winning record and he will be able to pull a lesser team in a bowl game. He knows that the Clemson/SC game is the most important game he will coach. Why? Because he can sell the past 5 wins to recruits. He knows all he has to do for job security it to beat Clemson on a consistent basis. He knows after this he will continue to laugh all the way to the bank and continue to rake in the coots money because after all the mediocrity SC has experienced they are happy with what they have and don't know to expect more. After all he is just a middle of the road coach at best but he has found a scapegoat and knows how to exploit it. So yes as hard as it is to accept they are state champs and have been for quite some time and it's going to take a correct leadership to change this for the Tigers. To be continued.......

radtiger writes:

in response to waran:

When I heard Spurier first, I thought what an idiot!!

But, after having read your comment, I agree with you, it is flattering to Clemson.

If you or anyone else took his comment as flattering, then Spurrier isnt the only person that's had too much to drink.He has beat us 5 yrs in a row so hes earn those Bragging Rights and hes going to poke fun at us in every opportunity given. Until we beat SC again we will have to "PUT UP and SHUT UP"

harryD writes:

Yep shut up, beat Ohio State, and worry about olé red face drunk next year...

TigerFan95 writes:

in response to radtiger:

If you or anyone else took his comment as flattering, then Spurrier isnt the only person that's had too much to drink.He has beat us 5 yrs in a row so hes earn those Bragging Rights and hes going to poke fun at us in every opportunity given. Until we beat SC again we will have to "PUT UP and SHUT UP"

You're right TardTiger,
We need to give the poor guy a break. I mean, he's been there nine years now and still no championships to show for it. Thats gotta be frustrating to the guy...The streak against us is pretty much all the old man's got to crow about. We should just sit back and let him enjoy it while he can. Besides, watching him making an azz out of himself and listening to all the coots gloat is so amusing I almost hate to see the streak end.

f8thwlk writes:

What kind of Defense will we have next year?

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