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SEC Stat Analysis: Quick Strike

With just a couple of weeks left in the regular season, the sample of in-conference games is large enough now that we can begin to trot out a few more statistical analysis pieces.

First, we’ll look at a figure we call Quick Strike.  It measures how easily a team can score points.

The stat is a simple one.  Take a team’s total number of points scored.  Divide that number by the number of plays an offense runs… and there’s your points-per-play ratio, your Quick Strike number.

This isn’t just a measure of offense, however.  Obviously, non-offensive points are counted in this as well.  Special teams and defensive plays also help to set up offenses with short fields.

This statistic simply gives you an idea of which teams have the ability to score the quickest.


Quick Strike (Points-Per-Play in SEC contests only)

School
SEC Record
Points
Offensive Plays
Points Per Play
Arkansas
5-1
205
382
.536
Alabama
6-1
229
464
.493
LSU
6-0
187
381
.490
Georgia
6-1
215
515
.417
S. Carolina
6-2
206
551
.373
Florida
3-5
166
470
.353
Vanderbilt
2-5
148
439
.337
Auburn
4-3
146
458
.318
Miss. State
1-5
97
402
.241
Ole Miss
0-6
87
390
.223
Kentucky
1-5
74
394
.187
Tennessee
0-6
58
367
.158




Observations:


* So how important is the ability to score quickly?  The five highest-rated teams in this category are a combined 29-5 in SEC play.  the bottom seven teams are 11-35.  Conclusion: points-per-play is a pretty good stat to keep an eye on.

* At the top of the league, every play Arkansas runs on offense is worth more than half a point on the scoreboard.  If you want to beat the Hogs — and this is no surprise — you’d better keep their offense off the field with a time-consuming, ball control offense of your own.

* For all the shots leveled at the offenses of Alabama and LSU by the national media following their 9-6 overtime slugfest, it’s pretty clear that the Crimson Tide and the Tigers can score with ease on just about everyone except one another.

* For the second time in three years, Gus Malzahn’s offense ranks in the bottom half of the league in points-per-play.  Last year — with Cameron Newton — that was far from the case.  Three years in and the jury is still out as to whether or not Malzahn’s offense is truly “special” in the SEC when it doesn’t have a Heisman-candidate at the controls.

* Pity Kentucky and Tennessee.  For every play those teams run, they’re putting up less than 20% of a point.  The last-ranked Vols played the top-ranked Razorbacks this past weekend and sure enough, Tennessee ran 77 plays to Arkansas’ 57, but the score at the end of the night: Hogs 49, Volunteers 7.

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Chizik Goes To Bat For Newton

“All In” — the new book from Auburn’s Gene Chizik — will present a strong defense of former AU quarterback and Heisman-winner Cam Newton:


“Going to bat for Cameron Newton is something in my hear I feel very strongly about.  That’s not because he won 14 games at Auburn, but because of he person that he is. … He needs to be remembered at Auburn as a great individual as well as a great player.”


Chizik began promotion for his book today.

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Enes, Heels, Newton, UK volleyball, open practices

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

(H-L photo/Mark Cornelison)

(H-L photo/Mark Cornelison)

Trying something different this morning, combining Big Blue Links and SEC links into one package.

BIG ENES — Breaking news, the ruling on the Enes Kanter case could come today. Wait, or tomorrow. Wait, or Sunday. Or maybe we’ll get it from WikiLeaks. Seriously, it could come today.

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE HEELS — Thursday was UK’s preview day for Saturday’s game with North Carolina. Usually, the pre-game interviews are done the day before, but the Cats are leaving early today for Carolina, so everything was moved up.

TERRENCE JONES — Can he feel the love? Eamonn Brennan of espn.com ranks the UK guard/forward as the nation’s best freshman in November.

ON TAP – UK volleyball opens up NCAA Tournament play tonight at Purdue. From UK Athletics: “The Kentucky volleyball team will open its sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament at No. 24 Purdue, Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET. UK takes on the Boilermakers for the second time in four years in the NCAA Tournament in West Lafayette, Ind. Live stats, video and radio will be provided by the host institution with links available at UKatheltics.com Kentucky (17-13) is among just 18 teams in the country to appear in the NCAA Tournament in six straight seasons. Kentucky and Purdue last played in the national tournament in 2006 with the Boilermakers earning a 3-0 victory in the second round of play. The squads last met on the court in 2009 at the Kansas State Tournament with UK earning a 3-1 win.”

SEC HOOPS TONIGHT – Only game is UAB at Georgia. It’s on ESPN3.com, starting at 7:30.
ALREADY LOOKING AHEAD TO 2011-12 – All Kentucky Hoops reports that Marist says it will open next season at Kentucky.
HOPE IN REDSHIRTS — Bleed Blue Kentucky has a comprehensive report on the players UK football redshirted this fall. There’s a paragraph on each one. Good stuff.
OPEN UK FOOTBALL PRACTICES – This from UK:
Kentucky football practices on Saturday and Sunday are open to the media and public, Coach Joker Phillips has announced.

UK will practice from 8:35 to 10:15 a.m. on Saturday and 2:30 to 4:25 p.m. on Sunday. Practices are expected to be held in the Nutter Field House because of projected winter weather.

The Wildcats are preparing for what would be a school-record fifth-consecutive bowl game. Bowl announcements will be made Sunday night.

(UK will be off next week as the coaches are on the road recruiting.)

OVC BASKETBALL OPENERS – Eastern Kentucky lost a heartbreaker to Murray State, 74-72, last night. Mark Maloney of the H-L reports a fire delayed the start of the double-header in Richmond. Meanwhile, Morehead blew out UT-Martin 70-49. Meanwhile, Mark Adams of espn.com writes that Morehead’s Kenneth Faried may well be the next Dennis Rodman.

FIASCO AT ALLEN FIELDHOUSE – Have to admit I went to bed at halftime on the Kansas-UCLA game. (I had tuned out LeBron’s beatdown of his former fans. I plan on avoiding Cowherd’s crowing this morning.) But apparently I missed a heckuva of a finish, thanks to the officials. Gary Bedore of the Lawrence Journal-World has the game-story of the controversial Kansas win. ESPN’s Andy Katz on the end of the Pac 10/Big 12 Hardwood Challenge.

UK-U OF L WOMEN — The rivals play Sunday in Louisville. The Lady Cards tuned up by thumping Mississippi Valley State last night. Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader writs that UK’s A’dia Mathies stays steady before trip back to hometown.

(AP photo)

(AP photo)

SEC TITLE GAME PREVIEW – Lost in all the Cameron Newton fallout is the fact that there is an SEC title game on Saturday (4 p.m., CBS). Still give South Carolina a terrific shot.

MORE NETWON RULING FALLOUT – NCAA president says Cameron Newton case was different, reports Charles Goldberg of Birmingham News.

DAN MULLEN TO MIAMI? – The Mississippi State coach is mum on reports linking him to Miami job, reports Brandon Marcello of the Clarion-Ledger. Meanwhile, Brad Locke of the NE Mississippi Daily Journal writes that rabid fans the internet combine to feed the beast when it comes to Mullen speculation.

COTTON BOWL -- Scott Rabalais of the Baton Rouge Advocate writes that the Arlington Bowl is looking at LSU playing Texas A&M.

FLORIDA TRIPLE QUARTERBACKS – Rachel George of the Orlando Sentinel reports that the Gators may scrap the three-quarterback system when the bowl game arrives.

VITALE ON KANTER — Hat tip Tailgate Review

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SEC: Gators shocked in hoops; NCAA praised over Newton

Kentucky
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SEC links for Thursday:

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SEC: Bill Curry brings upstart back to Alabama

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

(AP photo/David Tulis)

(AP photo/David Tulis)

SEC links for Thursday:

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The Friday Tailgate. It’s Not Gonna Be Free This Time.

Georgia
Content provided by Dawg Sports.

Lost in the uproar over Cam Newton’s alleged academic shenanigans and financial statements has been the fact that there’s actually a football game being played this Saturday in Auburn. Gene Chizik says that Cameron Newton will be playing in it.

If that’s the case, I am very pessimistic about the outcome. As much trouble as Todd Grantham’s defense had stopping Mississippi State’s Chris Relf in short yardage situations, I simply cannot comprehend them stopping Cam Newton when it’s absolutely necessary.

That being said, I can envision a scenario in which the Bulldogs prevail. It involves three components. First, and this probably goes without saying, we will have to score a lot of points on the Auburn defense. That’s not so far-fetched, as the Tigers have given up 30 or more points in 4 out of 6 SEC contests this season. And they haven’t really been progressing. Their best defensive effort in conference was their first one (a 17-14 victory over Mississippi State). Auburn gave up 25 points per game in their first 3 SEC contests, and 30.3 in their last 3.

The problem of course is that even when Auburn’s offense has been sluggish it has still been the fastest car on the road. At least so long as the highway doesn’t lead to Oregon. But I digress. The point is that Auburn will be a threat to wake up and score 21 more points right up until the final horn sounds. No lead is going to be safe.

Second, we need for this week’s events to have affected Cam Newton. I can hardly see how they couldn’t. The F.B.I. is interviewing people, his father is lawyered up and not talking, and Gene Chizik is giving impassioned defensive speeches. If Newton is focused and on his game, I don’t think we have an answer for him. However if Cam Newton has spent the past week preparing for business as usual, he has more mental fortitude than any young man of that age that I have ever seen. He has more mental fortitude than me. My guess is that Cam Newton will need some time to get into his game on Saturday. If we can jump on top before he gets going, we may just be able to hang on. Assuming we can tackle effectively, but let’s not even start on that subject.

Finally, as a corollary to that second point, we need the Auburn offense as a whole out of synch. The Auburn attack, like all offenses, relies on rhythym. And that rhythym starts with Cameron Newton. If he’s out of synch, the whole operation is out of synch. And while Onterio McCalebb and Michael Dyer are fine tailbacks, Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery are dangerous receivers, and Ryan Pugh is a legitimate threat to break someone’s kneecaps, Newton’s the show.

And as for the question of the day, yes, I still assume Newton is playing tomorrow. Because, as the expression goes, if you’re going to the chair you might as well go ahead and kill somebody. If Cameron Newton is ineligible, it appears that he was just as ineligible in September. I am assuming that Auburn officials either sincerely believe that Cameron Newton is eligible to participate in intercollegiate athletics, or that they have plausible deniability regarding his ineligibility. Newton gives Auburn their best chance to beat everybody left on their schedule, and Jay Jacobs is not going to risk pulling Newton and sustaining a loss unless he has smoking gun, irrefutable evidence that Cam Newton was not an amateur athlete. Is there a risk involved in that? Certainly. But it’s not like the Auburn athletic department is historically averse to risk taking. They hired Gene Chizik for pete’s sake. Auburn has a lot invested in their national championship run at this point. They’re already in for a penny, they might as well be in for a pound, right?

Money. It’s a gas:

Don’t forget that the Hoop ‘Dawgs kick things off tonight at the Stege which, if you haven’t been by to see the ongoing renovations, is looking nice. The game is allegedly available on CSS if you have it.

Until tomorrow, remember that when you accept less than what the market will bear for your services, the ghost of Adam Smith kicks a puppy. And . . .

Go ‘Dawgs!!!


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Week Eleven On The SEC Hot List

It’s time for our regularly-scheduled SEC stock check and we’ll once again keep things short and to the point.  (After all, we’ve got more Cam Newton stuff to get to.)  Below you’ll find our most recent Hot List rankings as well as one sentence on each squad as they head into Saturday’s action.

And away we go…


The MrSEC.com Hot List


1.  Auburn

At this point, AU might as well just stick with Cameron Newton and roll the dice that the NCAA can’t find enough evidence to prove that he or his father did anything wrong.


2.  LSU

The Tigers are still alive in the hunt for a BCS bowl bid and, yes, possibly even a national title shot.


3.  Alabama

Mississippi State will provide a gut-check for a Bama team whose season was undone by a couple of freshman breakdowns in the secondary last week.


4.  Arkansas

Beat UTEP and the Hogs’ could be playing their final two games with a Sugar Bowl bid on the line.


5.  Florida

The Gators have piled up points via the run against Georgia and Vandy, but they’ll need to throw the ball successfully against South Carolina.


6.  Mississippi State


The emotions surrounding Nick Bell’s death and the distractions provided by the Cam Newton story could be as tough to overcome as Alabama’s team.


7.  South Carolina

Barring Florida turnovers, if Marcus Lattimore doesn’t get 25 touches the Gamecocks will not win in The Swamp tomorrow night.


8.  Georgia

The Bulldogs’ offense cannot afford to waste possessions if the Dawgs are to win — in shootout fashion — at Auburn.


9.  Kentucky

As long as UK’s players aren’t already looking down the road toward Tennessee, the Cats should ease past Vandy.


10.  Ole Miss

Even if Jeremiah Masoli doesn’t play, the Rebels will hold an advantage over Tennessee if they run the ball between the tackles all afternoon.


11.  Tennessee

Tyler Bray will try his gunslinging ways against a Rebel secondary that has been disappointing all season long.


12.  Vanderbilt

Injuries have made a bad team absolutely horrible.

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SEC: Basketball ready to begin; more Newton news

Kentucky
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(AP photo/Bill Feig)

(AP photo/Bill Feig)

SEC links for Friday:

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SEC: Pelphrey signs impressive class at Arkansas

Kentucky
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(AP photo/Beth Hall)

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What Must Cam Newton Do To Win The Heisman Trophy? Explain.

Georgia
Content provided by Dawg Sports.

The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.

That is the first sentence of the mission statement of the Heisman Trust, the organization tasked with administering the Heisman Trophy. Let me go on record saying that if the Heisman Trophy’s goal were to recognize “the best player in college football” the organization would have probably missed more than it has gotten right. Mark Ingram is a great college football player, but for my money, he wasn’t as good in 2009 as a boy named Suh. I am not a fan of the award. I’ve not shed a tear over any Georgia Bulldog’s exclusion from the winner’s circle. I would not trade our Sugar Bowl victory in 2007 for Tim Tebow’s Heisman in the same season. It’s a nice little award with a great tradition. To me, the Heisman doesn’t mean everything. But it still means something.

That’s why if (note the “if”, Auburnistas, and save yourselves ranting time you’ll never get back) the latest allegations regarding Cameron Newton’s time at Florida and his subsequent recruitment are true, and Newton wins the award this year, you’ll know that a large percentage of the voters either haven’t read the above mission statement (a valid possibility) or don’t really care about it (also quite possible). To recap, ESPN’s Joe Schad claims to have sources who were told by Newton’s father, Cecil,  that it would take “more than a scholarship” to get his son to go to Mississippi State. Now, that could mean a variety of things. It could mean that the younger Newton wasn’t coming to town unless Starkville got a TCBY. Quality of life is important, and raspberry frozen yogurt with gummy bears is a big quality of life issue. Or it could mean that Newton was troubled that the city was left off Band of Skulls’ U.S. Winter Tour, and would be withholding his commitment until a stop there was added. So take this alleged statement for what it’s worth.

Perhaps the more damning report in Schad’s article is Newton’s supposed tearful phone call to a Mississippi State recruiter that he was going to Auburn because “the money was too much.” It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that someone took money to push Newton to play somewhere without Camasaurus Rex even knowing about it. Allegations of such payments to coaches, family members, teachers, pastors and others are commonplace on the recruiting trail, and have been for years. In all arenas of life, access to decision makers and an ability to influence their decisions has monetary value. In Washington, this is called “lobbying” and is considered a respected profession.

But if money changed hands in exchange for Newton’s signature and he knew about it, even ex post facto, and said nothing, that’s a problem. It means that Newton is not an amateur athlete, and has not been since the deal was done. If that’s the case, Newton is not eligible for the Heisman Trophy. Let’s call it “The Reggie Bush Rule”, then collectively lament the fact that such a precedent exists.

That’s to say nothing of the allegations of academic impropriety from Newton’s time at Florida. I don’t know if Cameron Newton in fact engaged in repeated academic fraud while a student at Florida. I don’t know the full story about how he acquired a laptop computer which he subsequently dropped out of a window upon being visited by University Police. I do know that it should be fairly easy to ask Cam Newton if in fact he had pending student disciplinary proceedings relating to cheating when he left Gainesville, and whether he did in fact attempt to pass off others’ work as his own. Because that seems to indicate a lack of integrity to me. I’m not a Heisman voter. But if I were, and I had the chance, I would ask those questions. Unlike the alleged pay-for-play scenario in which the FBI is now involved, there are no criminal ramifications to a years old cheating allegation, no threat of self-incrimination in a legal proceeding. The voters deserve an answer here.

Cecil Newton for his part did not help that situation by saying of the academic fraud allegations: “I wasn’t there. I cannot confirm or deny. At a time like this, I’m taking a defensive posture.” Really? You haven’t discussed with your son the specifics of the allegations which could have led to his expulsion from college and loss of his SEC football scholarship? The subject’s never come up over dinner? While cleaning the gutters or watching Monday Night Football? Seriously?

Certainly, individual voters are free to cast their ballots as they see fit. It is the Heisman Trust’s charge to mete out ballots to those who can be trusted to uphold the organization’s laudable mandate. If the voters are confident that Cameron Newton meets their individual criteria, so be it. As with the yearly teapot-bound tempests that arise over baseball’s Hall of Fame voting, if a consensus exists that a voter is using unacceptable criteria, take that vote away, don’t criticize how it’s used. You can’t hand a 4 year old a sledgehammer then be shocked when he doesn’t quite know how to swing the thing.

Tony Barnhart, whom I respect immensely, disagrees with me to a point. But he disagrees based upon the pay-for-play allegations, and makes the reasonable point that Cam Newton should not have to pay for Reggie Bush’s sins. I agree. But I have serious qualms about these academic fraud allegations, allegations which Barnhart (who does have a Heisman vote and seems likely to vote for Newton unless something changes) does not address.

Barnhart sees a regional bias against us crazy southern football fans in this story  which, quite frankly, I do not. The Reggie Bush fiasco should stand as conclusive proof that the folks at Yahoo Sports and the New York Times don’t care where you play college football. But if you win the sport’s most prestigious award for amateur athletes, one which vows to reward integrity, you should be an amateur, and you should have demonstrated some integrity. Right now, Cameron Newton’s amateur status and his integrity have been called into serious question. That’s unfortunate. But the fact that it’s unfortunate doesn’t mean that we can just ignore it. If Cameron Newton wants to win the Heisman Memorial Trophy he needs to address the allegations against him on both fronts head on. If he doesn’t and the voters turn elsewhere, he has no one to blame but himself.

The purpose of this post is not to say that Cameron Newton should not win the Heisman Trophy. Look, by any of the objective criteria of on-field performance he’s my guy. No other player is more important to his team. No other college football team’s fortunes would be more different with the exclusion of one player’s efforts than Auburn would be with the exclusion of Cam Newton’s. Auburn-Newton=Auburn + (Chris Todd/Brandon Cox)=hoping for the Chik-Fil-A Bowl.

And let me be clear: I have seen no evidence that anyone actually affiliated with Auburn, its athletic department, or coaching staff has done anything improper. I suppose recruiting a guy with question marks about his background might be something, but let’s be honest, Cam Newton’s alleged laptop larceny was not the worst transgression ever ignored in the interest of bigtime college football. And I don’t know that Auburn, or any other school recruiting Newton, had any reason to suspect the cheating charges. So despite the ingrained institutional rivalry between our schools, this is not a “throw Auburn under the bus” post.

It’s not even a “throw Cameron Newton under the bus” post. Because I really want Cameron Newton to be vindicated. I’ve enjoyed watching him play football this season, and I want to be able to root for him in every game this season except the one which will take place this Saturday on the Plains. But if I were a Heisman voter I would need some clarification from Cameron Newton regarding how he has pursued excellence with integrity before I would be willing to vote for him as the 75th winner of the Heisman Memorial Trophy. Given the events of the past week, if he wants the trophy, I think he owes the voters an explanation. It’s up to them to decide if they’re satisfied with it.

I’ll be back tomorrow with Cocktail Thursday. Until then  . . .

Go ‘Dawgs!!!


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