Saturday, August 29, 2009

Nugget from Phil Steele for next weekend

So I read Phil Steele on the can, and it could be said that I'm not exactly studying during that time. So I want to make sure I remember a few nuggs that kind of jump off the page.

In his "Football 365 Days a Year" piece, which sticks in a number of items he couldn't fit into their own full article, Steele focuses on starts lost to injury in the previous year. Basically, he suggests that injuries have a lot to do with luck, and a team that suffers a ton of injuries one year isn't likely to suffer as many the next while a team with an incredibly small number of injuries isn't likely to have the same good fortune. Relatedly, a team that has suffered a lot of injuries in the previous year benefits from a few silver linings: not only will many of those good players who were injured return (and since they were the starters before injury, it's possible they add significant talent), but because of those same injuries, the team allowed backups to gain significant in-game experience.

For example, Trinton Sturdivant was Georgia's best lineman heading into last year, when he suffered a season-ending injury in training camp. He returns this year, providing a strong infusion of talent (assuming he's healthy). Consider also, that because of Sturdivant's injury, Vince Vance made 6 starts (before also getting injured). Vance is back now too. Further, because of Vance's injury, Clint Boling played all over the line (versatility can be a massive advantage for a pretty deep line). And Bean Anderson picked up 7 starts. Now, entering the season, Vance and Anderson are backups on the depth chart and they have 13 starts and hundreds of snaps under their belt.

Back to Steele (and this is on pg. 314 if you're keeping up at home). Steele has calculated a raw number of games that starters have lost to injury or suspension. Then he's analyzed how teams with significantly large or small amounts of games starters have lost performed in the next year. Steele's numbers over the last 5 years:

If a team loses 32 or more starts in one year, 74.5% of the time that team improves their record the following year (41 out of 55).

If a team loses 6 or fewer starts in one year, only 35.7% of the time did that team improve their record the following year (15 of 42).

Steele's anecdotes are even better. This time last year, Utah had the most starts lost in the previous season (51 starts lost). They improved from 9-4 to 13-0. This time last year, Illinois was coming off a run to the Rose Bowl in a year when they suffered just 2 starts lost. They ended up 5-7. Purdue lost just 4 starts in 2007 when they went 8-4; they went 4-8 in 2008.

So how does this fit in with next weekend?

Last year, Georgia lost 44 starts to injury or suspension, which was tied for 6th most in the nation.

Last year, Oklahoma State lost all of 2 starts to injury or suspension, which was the second fewest in the nation.

From my numbers, guys who are listed as backups on Georgia's current depth chart have as many as 47 career starts, among at least 10 different players (and that's just for last year). Oklahoma State's depth chart has backups with 8 total starts and that's just 2 players.

Could be hot next week. If it's a shootout, players will need to get rotated in and out. Just something to think about.