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Latest News Stat Analysis: Slow Grind

What’s the opposite of a Quick Strike team that piles up points in the blink of an eye?  A defense-first club that forces its opponents to slowly grind out points over a large number of plays.  Thus… our Slow Grind measure.

Over the past five years we’ve found that a very efficient way of predicting a team’s success is to look at the number of plays said team forces its foes to run in order to score touchdowns.  This is not simply the opposite of our Quick Strike number (basically: points per offensive snap), but a totally different measurement (defensive snaps run for every defensive touchdown allowed).

Simply: How many plays must an offense run — on average — to score a touchdown against a specific defense?

We do not count special teams scores or interception/fumble returns in this equation.  This is strictly a look at touchdowns — not total points — allowed by a team as compared to how many snaps a defensive unit was on the field.  Still, however, special teams and offensive production do factor in overall.  A good special teams unit will pin an opponent deep in its own end, forcing it to string together multiple plays to score (and with each additional snap run, there’s a greater chance for a turnover).  Steady, grind-it-out offenses can also eat up clock and limit a foe’s time of possession.

Happily, the folks at studied our numbers and found them to be quite accurate at predicting Big Ten success just as we’ve found them to correlate nicely with SEC wins.  The more we see them applied elsewhere — and the more they work — the better we feel.

As we stated earlier in breaking down our Quick Strike measurement, we know that the season is young and that all teams have not played the same types of foes to date.  Once we get deeper into the season and are able to use numbers from SEC-versus-SEC contests only, this data will become more meaningful.

Still, with a quarter of the regular season behind us, we felt now would be a good time to take the lid off one of our old standards — the Slow Grind measure.  Have a look…


  School   Def. TDs Allowed vs FBS   Def. Plays vs FBS   Def. Plays/TD Allowed
  S. Carolina   2   209   104.50
  Alabama   2   177   88.50
  Texas A&M   2   139   69.50
  Miss. State   3   148   49.33
  LSU   4   178   44.50
  Vanderbilt   4   139   34.75
  Georgia   7   221   31.57
  Florida   7   220   31.42
  Auburn   10   241   24.10
  Kentucky   10   225   22.50
  Tennessee   7   143   20.42
  Missouri   8   134   16.75
  Ole Miss   9   148   16.44
  Arkansas   12   168   14.00


So what should you make of that?  That South Carolina is pretty darn good defensively.  Against Vanderbilt, East Carolina and UAB the Gamecocks have allowed just two touchdowns on defense in 209 plays run.  Jadeveon Clowney and crew are allowing a touchdown every 104.5 plays.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Arkansas.  Against Louisiana-Monroe and Alabama, the Razorbacks are letting their opponents score once every 14 plays.  That’s horrific.  The return of Tyler Wilson and a little bit of life on offense should help Paul Haynes’ defense greatly.


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