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Latest News Stat Analysis: Slow Grind 10/18/12

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.

With about half the SEC season behind us, we used numbers from SEC versus SEC contests only to arrive at this week’s ranking:


  School   TDs Allowed Vs SEC   Def. Plays   Plays/TD Allowed
  Alabama   2   187   93.50
  Florida   7   328   46.85
  S. Carolina   7   325   46.42
  Texas A&M   6   242   40.33
  Miss. State   5   180   36.00
  LSU   6   182   30.33
  Ole Miss   7   193   27.57
  Georgia   11   287   26.09
  Auburn   12   261   21.75
  Vanderbilt   13   265   20.38
  Arkansas   15   251   16.73
  Missouri   17   269   15.82
  Kentucky   19   278   14.63
  Tennessee   16   207   12.93




*  To date, Alabama’s defense has been twice as good as any another D in the SEC.  Through three games, the Tide has allowed zero offensive touchdowns to Arkansas and Missouri and just two to Ole Miss.  That’s it — two touchdowns against three SEC opponents.  That’s just one touchdown every 93.5 plays run against Bama’s defense.

*  The number is skewed just a smidge by last week’s rain-shortened Arkansas-Kentucky game, but SEC defenses are on the field for an average of about 66.5 snaps per SEC contest.  That means any of the top six defenses in the league have done very well… basically allowing a little less or a little more than two offensive touchdowns per game.  Alabama gives up a score about once every game-and-a-half, but the others in that 30 to 45 play range are Florida, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and LSU.

*  Good defenses usually beat good offenses.  So until Georgia starts playing a much better brand of D, we’ll favor South Carolina or Florida to win the East Division title.  Despite UGA’s “easy” schedule.

*  Arkansas, Missouri and Kentucky are all allowing about four offensive touchdowns per game and unless you’re offense is humming on all cylinders, it’s not east to win that way.  But Arkansas, Missouri and Kentucky have nothing on Tennessee.  The Volunteers are allowing — through three SEC games — one offensive touchdown every 12.93 snaps of the ball.  That’s an amazing number.  Think of it this way… if the average SEC game requires a defensive unit to be on the field for about 66.5 plays, the Vols are allowing more than five offensive touchdowns per game at that 12.93-snaps rate.  Turns out, through three games, UT has indeed allowed nine rushing TDs and seven via the pass.



Arkansas' "average" doesn't correlate very well. Here's their scoring defense through 4 SEC games:







So it's hard to apply any averaged statistic to Arkansas' defense. Other than that, I'm impressed with this stat. It makes sense, and it seems to reflect the effectiveness of the defense from what I've seen this year.


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