Friday, October 14, 2005

Football Wonk: Free Football!

A few weeks ago I remember someone on Gameday mention how some team played an overtime game the week before and so they might be worn out. I started thinking how this could be an interesting topic to look into and to find out if there are any trends to look for.

Using's scores going back to the beginning of 2003 (I couldn't find any scores before then) and going forward all the way to last weekend, I catalogued every overtime game and then checked out how each team played the very next week. I also broke it down by home and away. There are a few somewhat interesting trends.

First, let's look at the initial overtime games themselves. I always wondered if there was an advantage for the home team in overtime games (my thinking was that it wouldn't really matter, since the two teams were already tied and you might say the home field advantage hadn't worked all that well up to then). It turns out there appears to be a significant advantage for home teams in overtime. Home teams since 2003 have gone 50-29 (63%) in OT. The intensity of the crowd probably increases, I suppose.

Next, let's look at how teams perform the next week. If a team had a bye the next week, I didn't count it, since they'd have plenty of time to rest. I also didn't count the Division 1-AA teams involved in OT games.

Overall, teams that played in an overtime game the week before went 58-68 (46%) the following week. Pretty close to fifty-fifty, and considering the variables (playing a more difficult opponent, etc), I'm not prepared to say this is a real trend.

However, splitting the results up by scenarios does seem to show a few trends.

The week following an OT win, teams have gone 30-37 (45%). Strangely enough, the week following an OT loss, teams have gone 28-31 (47%). Statistically, this isn't all that significant, but it may hint that teams suffering a tough loss might regroup.

What about after a Home OT game, as compared to a road OT game. If an OT game takes more out of you than a normal game would, logic would suggest that traveling back home afterwards might affect performance the next week. However, the data doesn't show that. The week following an OT game on the road, teams are 33-27 (55%). Meanwhile, the week following an OT game at home, teams are 25-40 (42%). I've got a theory on this, now that I've seen the data. After a tough, energy draining game like most OT games, the traveling team usually gets on a plane where the players pretty much sleep. The home team is already in their own town, where there's wine, women and song to distract the players.

Taking it to the next level, after a road win, teams are 13-9 (59%) the next week. Appears to me that teams may get some rest on the way home and regroup. After a road loss, teams are still 20-19 (51%), showing that shattered confidence might not be as bad a problem as one might think. On the other hand, after a home loss, teams are 8-12 (40%). But the real trend is after a home win. After a home win, teams are only 17-28 (38%). Too much celebrating after a tough win? Perhaps.

What about travel problems affecting both weeks (the OT game and the subsequent game). Travel is annoying. Playing consecutive road games may affect a team's performance, and when one of the games is a tough OT game, the effects of travel might be more evident. The data doesn't show many trends here. When a team has an OT road game, but they return home the next week, the teams are 22-19 (54%). Not too bad, but not statistically significant. When teams follow a road OT game with another road game, the teams are still 11-9 (55%). Again, statistically insignificant, but hints that travel doesn't cause that many problems. When a team plays an OT game at home, and then doesn't have to travel the next weekend, the teams are 15-10 (60%). Too small a sample to really say all that much, but it hints that not having to travel at all after an OT game may be an advantage to a team. Finally, and what is perhaps the biggest trend of all concerning OT games, when a team plays an OT game at home and then has to travel the next week, teams are only 10-30 (25%)! To me that suggests that win or lose, after a tough OT game, players are probably celebrating or blowing off steam afterward, and when that's added to a short week with travel on Friday, the lack of rest and recovery might catch up to them the next week.

I guess the numbers might say something, or they might not say much at all. I definitely wouldn't say that teams are automatically disadvantaged the next week after playing an OT game. But I'd also worry about a team coming off a home OT game and going on the road.