Kentucky Football: Where Do We Need Improvement?

You know, the answer to the question in the lede looks so obvious and so straightforward, but is it really what we think it is?  We know that last year's UK team was anemic on offense, OK on defense and allegedly really good at special teams (although when we think about the Florida game, it sort of makes that statistic look a lot less meaningful).

So what I decided to do was pull down some key statistics from cfbstats.com, the excellent college football statistics website, and look at them.  Now, this is just one cut on these stats, and as with most mathematical things, if you torture the numbers enough, they will confess to anything.  What I have tried to do here is not put too much spin on these numbers, but just offer them up for comparison and comment.

When we remember back to 2007, when Kentucky had such a potent offense but also a very impotent defense, and see how the situation was, to some degree anyway, reversed last year, it makes me think of my golf game.  When I am hitting the ball well, my short game tends to go south.  When I am putting and chipping well, I play poorly tee to green.  When I am driving the ball well, my irons are way off.  In other words, it seems really difficult to get all aspects of the game going in the right direction at the same time.

This year, you have to wonder if Brooks & Co. will have the same problem.  The loss of Jeremy Jarmon is really painful for the defense, and even if we have someone step up and play well in his spot, our depth at DE is really compromised by his loss.  The question therefore becomes, can the defense step up and play at least to the level of last year, and the offense show significant improvement over last year.  If that does come to pass, I think UK will be fine, but ...

Well, let's look at the numbers and see what they'll confess to.

This chart is as simple as it looks.  The "delta" colum is the horizontal difference between the overall and conference numbers, and the spread is the difference between the offensive and defensive numbers.

Statistic Rank all Value Rank Conf Value Delta Spread National Rnk
Scoring Offense 6 22.6 9 17.9 -4.7 1.1 87
Scoring Defense 8 21.5 10 29.8 8.3 -11.9 35
Rushing Offense 8 127.46 8 109.13 -18.33 -11.77 83
Rushing Defense 9 139.23 11 177 37.77 -67.87 57
Passing Offense 8 171.8 9 162.5 -9.3 -21.4 96
Passing Defense 9 193.2 10 199.9 6.7 -37.4 40
Field Goals 8 0.8 10 0.6 -0.2 0.1 107
Opponent FG 1 0.7 1 0.6 -0.1 0 1
3rd Down Conversions 12 31.44% 12 27.35% -4.09% -1.72% 110
Opponent 3rd Down Conversion 6 33.16% 10 39.82% 6.66% -12.47% 22
Red Zone Conversions 9 74.42% 11 63.64% -10.78% -4.37% 102
Opponent Red Zone Conversions 5 78.79% 8 72.41% -6.38% -8.77% 40

I've noted in red the items that look particularly problematic to me, and yellow are the items that look pretty bad, but not bad enough to make red.  In general, when our rank went at or near 100 on the national scale, I considered that a really bad number.  Over 75 I considered yellow, and under that I considered it pretty good.

A couple of things that really stuck out to me:

  • UK was the best team in the entire nation at preventing opponents field goals.  Amazing.
  • UK was really, really bad at third down conversions.  This affects both our offense and defense negatively, and was very likely a huge reason our defensive numbers were not better.
  • UK was lousy at red zone conversions.  Really lousy.  Compare this with the 83% conversion rate UK had in 2007.
  • UK was #35 nationally in scoring defense.  I'm pretty proud of that.
  • UK's rushing defense was better than I thought, but not much.
  • Field-goal kicking has got to improve.

OK, so what jumps out at you?

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