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Kentucky Football: The Numbers Game Part I

Football season.  It's almost here, and by now, you have heard every possible analysis of Kentucky's chances, good, bad, and in between.  I am not going to add another season analysis to the voices of so many others, it just doesn't make sense.

So instead, I figured I would analyze some statistics and see if we can get a sense of what it would take for Kentucky to have a good season.  Obviously, I am going to have to do some speculating here, so feel free to take my conclusions, such as they are, to task in the comments.

First of all, much has been made of the new kickoff rule, and what it may mean to UK and others.  Last year, UK was 10th in the nation in kickoff returns.  So, courtesy of, let's break that statistic down a little further and see if we can learn anything:

  • UK was 15th games that they WON.
  • UK was 29th in games that they LOST.
  • UK was 56th in games against CONFERENCE FOES.
  • UK was 6th in games against NON-CONFERENCE FOES.
  • UK was 3rd in the SEC overall. UK was 2nd in the SEC in games it WON.
  • UK was 4th in the SEC in games it LOST.
  • UK was 3rd at HOME and AWAY.
  • UK averaged just over 20 yards/return in CONFERENCE, and almost 29 in NON-CONFERENCE.

So what can we learn from this?  Well, it looks pretty straightforward -- better teams played better against our special teams for one thing.  It's no surprise we did better against non-conference foes, since they are, as a group, much weaker.  I was surprised to see that the difference was so large, however -- 9 yards per return.  The new rule, assuming it does nothing more than add 5 yards to the return average will put us in better field position against conference foes.

The reason this is important is that if we are unable to score on a given possession, we should have a chance to pin the opponent back further than last year.  That would be a small but not negligible advantage, especially if our defense is improved as expected.

Another statistic we were strong in last year is passing offense.  Let's look at that breakdown also:

  • UK was 9th in the nation.
  • UK was 10th in games they WON.
  • UK was 24th in games they LOST.
  • UK was 9th in games against CONFERENCE FOES.
  • UK was 14th in games against NON-CONFERENCE FOES.
  • UK was 1st in the SEC in games it WON.
  • UK was 3rd in the SEC in games it LOST.
  • UK was 9th at HOME and 29th Away.
  • UK averaged 172 passing yards/game in conference, 283 vs. non-conference.

Kentucky was much closer against conference vs. non-conference teams in passing offense rating-wise than they were in kickoff returns even though the actual yardage difference is more dramatic. Also, the Cats passed the ball much better at home than they did on the road.  Two things come to mind here:

  1. If UK can improve its road offense, a little help from the defense could put close games within reach, like South Carolina and Tennessee last year.

  2. If the Cats are able to generate a more balanced attack this year, the offense could become very efficient.  Last year we struggled in red-zone conversions, particularly away from home and against conference foes, converting only low to mid 60%, versus 72% overall.  Compare that to South Carolina, who converted at over 70% both at home and away, but fared about the same in the SEC as we did.  If we can move that conversion rate above 70% in conference like, say, Arkansas did last year, we will have a say about who wins and who will not, and could equal or even exceed last year's effort.

Update [2007-8-23 15:57:39 by Truzenzuzex]:  Be sure to check ASoB's recruiting board -- there have been several changes recently.