clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Daniel Carlson's Shot at the Lou Groza Award

New, 8 comments

He's officially one of 20 semi-finalists, but how does he compare to the others?

#LEGATRON's got some guns, too?
#LEGATRON's got some guns, too?
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

When Daniel Carlson was listed among the semi-finalists for the Lou Groza award last week, no Auburn fan was surprised. After all, he's #LEGATRON to us and Gus Malzahn has confidence in him once the offense crosses the 35, saying "he's got to be one of the best place kickers in college football."

But just how do you compare place kickers? You could simply count up how many points they've earned for their teams, but surely you should penalize a kicker for misses. So you could look at field goal percentage, but long misses shouldn't be counted the same as short misses and long made field goals shouldn't be counted the same as short ones. What if there was some mythical "average" kicker everyone could be compared to?

Field Goals 2005-2014

Click here for an interactive version.

There he is. Somewhere in the green and red above is the average kicker of the last ten years.

Using data from fbsdrivestats.com, I got the distance of every made and missed field goal attempt since 2005 in FBS vs FBS games. Teams have attempted 515 20-yard field goals (from the 3 yard line), making 491 and missing 26. Notice how the total bounces between 600 and 800 between 21 and 47-yard attempts with the misses steadily climbing. Then there's a sudden drop off for any attempts further than that (coaches clearly abide by ESPN's field goal range line) with only a handful of attempts past 57 yards.

This is a better look at that "average" kicker.

Points per Field Goal

Click here for an interactive version.

This chart shows the average points made per field goal attempt. If the average kicker made 50% of his kicks from the 47, then he effectively earned 1.5 points per attempt from that distance. Obviously, the shorter the kick, the better the odds of making it. Now, it gets a little choppy past the 40 and really bad past the 50 once sample size becomes a problem, but I think it's still useful.

How, you ask? Imagine a field goal attempt from the 10 yard line, a 27-yard attempt. The average kicker earns 2.04 points per attempt from this distance, but in one play, the kicker can only earn either three or zero points. If he makes it, he earns 0.96 points better than average. If he misses, 2.04 points worse than average.

Further out, a 52-yard attempt from the 35 averages 1.41 points, meaning an attempt from that distance is good less than half the time. On a particular attempt, the kicker can earn three points, 1.59 points over average, or miss it and earn zero points, 1.41 under average.

For now, I'm calling this stat Field Goal Points Over Average (FGPOA). In this way, we can measure how much better making a long field goal is than a short one and how much worse missing a short one is than making a long one.

So how do the 2015 place kickers stack up? Below is a table of every team's FGPOA. There's a total version (tFGPOA) that sums up all of a team's points over average and an average version (aFGPOA) that measures a team's points over average per attempt. Simply put, the former takes the number of attempts into consideration and the latter does not.

It should be useful in most cases, but understand that if a team has attempted field goals with more than one kicker, it is a measure of the team's success only, not any individual kicker.

Even worse, these numbers do not take games against FCS teams into consideration. I did not realize that until this article was nearly done. I'm not going to fill in FCS games for all 128 teams, but I will for the best kickers in a few weeks.

* = Lou Groza Award Semi-Finalist

Offense Attempts Total Point over Avg rk Avg Points over Avg rk
Louisiana St.* 10 7.22 12 0.72 1
North Carolina* 13 9.20 4 0.71 2
Appalachian St. 11 7.72 9 0.70 3
UCLA* 16 11.22 1 0.70 4
Stanford* 12 7.31 10 0.61 5
Virginia Tech* 19 11.16 2 0.59 6
Nevada 13 7.29 11 0.56 7
Utah St. 10 5.51 22 0.55 8
Boise St.* 19 10.42 3 0.55 9
UNLV 12 6.35 14 0.53 10
Western Kentucky* 12 6.08 17 0.51 11
Washington 12 5.98 19 0.50 12
Clemson 18 8.71 5 0.48 13
Memphis* 18 8.64 6 0.48 14
Utah* 19 8.59 7 0.45 15
Kentucky 14 6.22 15 0.44 16
Oregon 15 6.64 13 0.44 17
Navy 10 4.15 31 0.41 18
Notre Dame 12 4.96 24 0.41 19
Auburn* 19 7.78 8 0.41 20
Virginia 16 6.14 16 0.38 21
Minnesota* 18 6.08 18 0.34 22
BYU 13 4.38 28 0.34 23
Hawaii 8 2.69 45 0.34 24
Air Force 12 3.82 32 0.32 25
Idaho* 19 5.90 20 0.31 26
Georgia Tech 10 2.97 41 0.30 27
Washington St. 16 4.71 27 0.29 28
Temple 15 4.30 30 0.29 29
Penn St. 16 4.31 29 0.27 30
Duke* 18 4.79 26 0.27 31
Arizona 14 3.49 33 0.25 32
Cincinnati* 20 4.94 25 0.25 33
Miami (FL)* 22 5.35 23 0.24 34
Nebraska 23 5.57 21 0.24 35
Indiana 12 2.88 42 0.24 36
Northern Illinois 14 3.36 35 0.24 37
Iowa 13 2.99 40 0.23 38
Kansas St. 12 2.74 44 0.23 39
South Alabama 12 2.54 48 0.21 40
Mississippi St. 12 2.52 49 0.21 41
Michigan 15 3.12 39 0.21 42
Texas Tech 14 2.88 43 0.21 43
Iowa St. 13 2.66 46 0.20 44
TCU* 17 3.29 37 0.19 45
Mississippi 18 3.33 36 0.18 46
Maryland 8 1.44 57 0.18 47
Florida St.* 19 3.41 34 0.18 48
Army 5 0.89 62 0.18 49
UTEP 13 2.29 52 0.18 50
Texas A&M 19 3.28 38 0.17 51
Connecticut* 15 2.51 50 0.17 52
Oklahoma 16 2.56 47 0.16 53
Pitt 15 2.07 53 0.14 54
Louisiana Tech* 18 2.42 51 0.13 55
Eastern Michigan 15 1.90 54 0.13 56
SMU 9 1.08 60 0.12 57
Central Michigan 16 1.81 55 0.11 58
Central Florida 14 1.44 56 0.10 59
San Diego St. 13 1.34 58 0.10 60
Florida International 11 1.07 61 0.10 61
East Carolina 8 0.70 64 0.09 62
Troy 15 1.18 59 0.08 63
Georgia Southern 11 0.62 65 0.06 64
Toledo 19 0.86 63 0.05 65
Colorado St. 13 0.54 66 0.04 66
Cal 11 0.29 67 0.03 67
South Carolina 23 0.20 68 0.01 68
Wake Forest 13 0.08 69 0.01 69
Baylor 7 -0.01 70 0.00 70
Middle Tennessee 11 -0.05 71 0.00 71
West Virginia 13 -0.13 73 -0.01 72
Arkansas St. 11 -0.12 72 -0.01 73
Syracuse 14 -0.19 75 -0.01 74
Texas 10 -0.14 74 -0.01 75
Colorado 20 -0.86 82 -0.04 76
Missouri 15 -0.84 80 -0.06 77
Ohio 9 -0.54 76 -0.06 78
Akron 12 -0.72 77 -0.06 79
Louisiana-Lafayette 11 -0.74 78 -0.07 80
Ball St. 17 -1.42 89 -0.08 81
Louisville 15 -1.31 87 -0.09 82
Rutgers 12 -1.17 86 -0.10 83
Wisconsin 22 -2.35 98 -0.11 84
Texas St. 8 -0.86 81 -0.11 85
Oregon St. 9 -0.97 83 -0.11 86
Kent St. 10 -1.15 85 -0.11 87
Buffalo 13 -1.50 90 -0.12 88
Illinois 15 -1.88 95 -0.13 89
Tulane 6 -0.76 79 -0.13 90
North Texas 12 -1.55 92 -0.13 91
Massachusetts 10 -1.32 88 -0.13 92
Marshall* 20 -2.89 101 -0.14 93
Miami (OH) 10 -1.52 91 -0.15 94
Southern Miss 12 -1.84 93 -0.15 95
Old Dominion 12 -1.85 94 -0.15 96
Western Michigan 13 -2.01 96 -0.15 97
Fresno St. 6 -1.06 84 -0.18 98
Oklahoma St. 13 -2.51 100 -0.19 99
Northwestern 19 -3.70 105 -0.19 100
Alabama 19 -4.20 108 -0.22 101
Arizona St. 19 -4.24 109 -0.22 102
Vanderbilt 16 -3.81 106 -0.24 103
San Jose St. 9 -2.20 97 -0.24 104
USC 12 -2.94 102 -0.25 105
Florida Atlantic 20 -5.59 115 -0.28 106
Houston 12 -3.48 104 -0.29 107
Louisiana-Monroe 8 -2.46 99 -0.31 108
Tulsa 21 -6.66 119 -0.32 109
UTSA 15 -4.89 112 -0.33 110
Charlotte 16 -5.24 113 -0.33 111
Arkansas 10 -3.32 103 -0.33 112
Michigan St. 11 -3.90 107 -0.35 113
Georgia 15 -5.38 114 -0.36 114
New Mexico St. 13 -4.69 111 -0.36 115
Ohio St. 11 -4.27 110 -0.39 116
Tennessee 18 -7.17 124 -0.40 117
South Florida 13 -6.97 120 -0.54 118
Florida 11 -6.17 117 -0.56 119
Georgia St. 12 -7.10 122 -0.59 120
Bowling Green 15 -8.88 126 -0.59 121
North Carolina St. 9 -6.18 118 -0.69 122
Rice 10 -7.17 123 -0.72 123
Kansas 9 -6.98 121 -0.78 124
New Mexico 8 -8.39 125 -1.05 125
Boston College 8 -9.03 127 -1.13 126
Purdue 5 -5.76 116 -1.15 127
Wyoming 7 -10.50 128 -1.50 128

Congrats to LSU's Trent Domingue, who through Week 10, leads the country in aFGPOA. It turns LSU is the only team to not miss a field goal so far this year, a perfect 10/10. Ten attempts isn't a lot, but there's something to be said about being perfect.

And congrats to UCLA's Ka'imi Fairbairn, through Week 10, leads the country in tFGPOA. He has made 15 of his 16 attempts, including the season's longest.

Now wait. Where's Daniel Carlson? I mean, #LEGATRON!!! Four of five past 50 yards! How can this be???

Maybe this will help.

This shows the distance of each of Carlson's 19 FBS field goal attempts sorted by game. Green circles were good and red circles were missed. The size of the circle represents how far the result was from average. Make a 50-yarder? That's a big, green circle. Miss a 20-yarder? That's a big, red circle.

Yes, Carlson has made lots of long field goals this year, but unfortunately he also has two short misses.

The image below shows the top ten teams in total and average FGPOA (15 total teams).

Field Goals through Week 10

Click here for a large version or click here for an interactive version.

So, at least according to this measurement, Carlson was rightly named a semi-finalist. He's arguably one of the best 15 kickers in the country. Can he climb the rankings over the next three games? Well, he was ranked 18th in total FGPOA before the A&M game, but four made field goals propelled him up to 8th, so a few more big games can help a lot. He also is the only kicker with four made field goals of 50 yards or more. UCLA's Fairbairn has two. No one else shown here has more than one.

In a few weeks, when the finalists are announced, we'll take a look at how the "average" kicker performs late in the fourth quarter and when a lead change is on the line. It might add some "clutchness" to the rating. And eventually, I want to look back at some of the best and worst teams of the last 11 years.

But for now, I'll just leave this word of advice for Auburn's special teams. Watch out for Idaho. Kicker Austin Rehkow is 18/21, ranks in the top 30 in FGPOA, and joins Carlson as a Lou Groza semi-finalist. But don't worry too much about Georgia and Alabama, who both rank in the 100s. War Eagle!