I hate when media guys quote random people who play with numbers rather than do statistical math. If those samples were statistically significant (which they are not), they would be statistically equivalent, not proving a point one way or the other. But go ahead, write something meaningless again.
At SEC Media Days, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn — a man who wants to run the fastest offense in the nation — said he thought it was a joke when he was first told that some coaches were claiming hurry-up offenses are more dangerous for athletes.
Speaking later on the same day, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema — a man who has pushed that “hurry-ups are dangerous” theory — said, “I’m not a comedian,” and proceeded to angrily list the reasons for his belief.
But no one had any hard and fast numbers to back up either man’s argument. That changed this week. Sort of.
The NCAA doesn’t keep official data for the number of injuries each team in the country sustains. The closest anyone really comes to this type of info is the king of the preseason football guides, Phil Steele. Steele tracks how many starts are lost to injury. Now, with starting lineups changing from week to week — and not necessarily due to injuries — we’re not quite sure how he tracks that number. So part of this requires giving Steele the benefit of the doubt, something we’re willing to do due to a) his track record and b) his geekery, which we love.
A website called CFBMatrix.com has taken Steele’s injury data and compared it to the number of plays run by teams across the country. They chose to focus on the 20 fastest and 20 slowest teams in the country in terms of snaps per game. Again, it can be debated whether only using the 20 at each end is accurate, but because they’ve attempted to dig deeper into this topic than anyone else, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, too.
So what did CFBMatrix.com find? That the slower teams lost more starters to injury than the faster teams. According to Rivals.com:
“According to the numbers at CFBMatrix.com, on the 20 “fastest” teams in college football last season, who ran an average of 83.12 players per game, there were 143 total starts lost to injury with 7.15 average number of starts lost per team. Of the 20 “slowest” teams, who ran an average of 65.85 plays per game, there were 151 total starts lost to injury and an average of 7.55 number of starts lost per team.”
Tip: Don’t tell Bret Bielema. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.
CFBMatrix.com took things a big further still and compared the snaps-per-game and injury data of each of (what were) the six major conferences. The slowest conference in terms of average plays per team per game was the SEC (70.40 plays per game). The fastest conference was the Big XII (75.20 snaps per game).
Factoring in the injury data to find which league suffered the most starters lost per play, the SEC had the most injuries and the Big XII had the fewest. Obviously, you can make a case that with twice as many NFL draft picks flying around in the SEC there were bound to be more injuries. Bigger bodies colliding at faster speeds, in theory, would produce more injuries.
Still, it’s hard to ignore the fact that in both of these examinations, the slowest teams suffered more injuries than the fastest teams. Ditto for the conferences.
Will one website’s conclusions end the debate of hurry-up offenses? Of course not. So we say again: As long as the NCAA is getting serious about protecting the health of its student-athletes, college sports’ governing body should commission its own serious study into the issue.
(A tip of the hat to the folks at CFBMatrix.com. As a site that wastes a good amount of time itself on new statistics and data, we know it must’ve been a time-consuming process to pull that info together.)