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How the Lou Groza Award Finalists Stack Up

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The winner will be announced on Thursday. Who do the numbers support?

Ka'imi Fairbairn, Jake Elliott, Judd Groza, John Smith and LEGATRON, I mean Daniel Carlson
Ka'imi Fairbairn, Jake Elliott, Judd Groza, John Smith and LEGATRON, I mean Daniel Carlson
@LouGrozaAward

About a month ago, Daniel Carlson and 19 others were named Lou Groza Award semi-finalists, the award for the NCAA's best place kicker. To help compare the kickers, the Lou Groza Award website provides some basic kicking stats: field goals made and attempted, a breakdown of those field goals from certain distances, extra points, etc. All well and good, but what if there was single number to rate and compare those kickers?

I made an attempt at that a few weeks ago. Using field goal attempts since 2005 (data from fbsdrivestats.com), I was able to find out just how many points an average field goal attempt is worth from a given distance. You can read more about it here, but the quick summary is this.

Average Points per FG Trendline

Obviously the further the field goal attempt, the less likely it is to be made. All 18-yard field goals (basically from the one-yard-line) since 2005 averaged 2.90 points. All 28-yard field goals averaged 2.53 points. And all 50-yard field goals averaged 1.38 points. The actual averages are a little noisy for shorter field goals and sample size is a problem for the longer ones, so instead, I'm now using numbers given by the trend line shown on the image above to smooth it out a bit.

Finally, to measure an individual kick, just compare what happened (0 or 3 points) to what happens on average. Make an 18-yard field goal? That's worth 0.10 points over average. Miss it? That's 2.9 points worse than average. Add all the makes and misses together and you get total points over average.

Now that the regular season is over and the Lou Groza is down to three finalists, let's see how they measure up.

Kicker Team Attempts Total Points over Avg Points over Avg per att.
Daniel Carlson Auburn 26 12.13 0.47
Ka'imi Fairbairn UCLA 23 11.23 0.49
Jake Elliott Memphis 26 10.63 0.41

Just looking at total points over average, Auburn's Daniel Carlson leads the way. He's put 12.13 more points on the score board than an average place kicker would have. UCLA's Ka'imi Fairbairn has contributed nearly one full point less this season, but with three fewer attempts, he actually holds the edge in points over average per attempt. Memphis' Jake Elliot has had a great year but is short of the other finalists in both measures.

So, in my humble opinion, the award is down to Carlson and Fairbairn, and with a little touch of homerism, I'm going with Carlson. Welp, that's it! War Eagle! See you next ti... WAIT!

The finalists were announced after week 12, before the last two weeks of the season? Each of these finalists had another game? Some other semi-finalists had two!?!?

After being named finalists, Carlson went 2/3 in the Iron Bowl, Fairbairn went 0/1 against USC, and Elliot didn't even have an attempt, though he did kick 9(!) extra points, which I haven't taken into consideration. The numbers above reflect these games, but what about the other semi-finalists? How do they measure up to the three finalists now that the regular season is over?

Some, like LSU's Trent Domingue, never had enough attempts to show whether they were on a lucky streak or were truly better than the rest. Domingue in particular had only missed one attempt when the finalists were announced, but he had only 12 attempts. He then went 2/5 the next week. Good call, Lou Groza voting committee.

There are definitely some snubs, though. Two kickers earned more points over average this season than Carlson, Utah's Andy Phillips and Boise State's Tyler Rausa. Rausa just beat Carlson with 12.36 points over average, but Phillips beat everyone by at least two whole points with 14.59 points over average.

The rest of the top nine according to total points over average are shown below.

Kicker Team Attempts Total Points over Avg Points over Avg per att.
Andy Phillips Utah 27 14.59 0.54
Tyler Rausa Boise State 28 12.36 0.44
Daniel Carlson* Auburn 26 12.13 0.47
Greg Huegel Clemson 25 12.11 0.48
Zach Matics Appalachian St. 14 11.59 0.83
Ka'imi Fairbairn* UCLA 23 11.23 0.49
Nick Weiler North Carolina 22 10.89 0.49
Ross Martin Duke 27 10.82 0.40
Jake Elliott* Memphis 26 10.63 0.41

* = Lou Groza Award Finalist

Clemson's Greg Huegel had a great season, finishing just under Carlson. As a team, Clemson did edge out Auburn, but one field goal was kicked by senior and 2014 Lou Groza Award semi-finalist Ammon Lakip, who effectively lost his job after being suspended for an arrest over the summer. The numbers above are for Huegel alone.

Appalachian State's Zach Matics might be the best kicker in the country this year. He earned 0.83 points more than an average kicker would per attempt, nearly double many others on this list. But he had only 14 attempts, barely more than one per game. As much as the Lou Groza Award rewards quality, it also rewards quantity and Matics just didn't have enough opportunities.

Rounding out the top nine are North Carolina's Nick Weiler and Duke's Ross Martin at number 7 and 8 before the last finalist, Elliott, comes in at number 9. Keep in mind that Clemson and North Carolina had an extra game, too, but like I said, quality and quantity count.

So, if I had a vote and could vote for anyone, finalist or not, I would have to vote for Andy Phillips, who ranks first is total points over average and third in points over average per attempt. (Western Kentucky's Garrett Schwettman is second, but with only 15 attempts this year, he ranks only 15th in total points over average.)

Now, to the data visualization!

This represents every field goal attempt by each of the top nine kickers according to total points over average. Greens were made. Reds were missed. The size of the circle represents how much good or bad it did to that player's numbers. Click here for a larger version or click here for an interactive version of each chart. If you want to see the chart for another team, let me know in the comments and I'll make it.

FGPoA prebowl 2015

Finally, here is a table with the numbers for all 128 teams in the FBS. It now includes all games against FCS teams, but it does not separate different kickers for the same team. These are team-wide numbers, no matter how many kickers attempted field goals for them. That's why Clemson ranks ahead of Boise State and Auburn in the table below, but not in the individual numbers above.

Team Attempts Total Points over Avg rk Points over Avg per att. rk
Utah 27 14.59 1 0.54 3
Clemson 26 13.37 2 0.51 6
Boise St. 28 12.36 3 0.44 13
Auburn 26 12.13 4 0.47 10
Appalachian St. 14 11.59 5 0.83 1
UCLA 23 11.23 6 0.49 9
North Carolina 22 10.89 7 0.49 7
Duke 27 10.82 8 0.40 19
Memphis 26 10.63 9 0.41 17
Indiana 25 10.57 10 0.42 15
Virginia Tech 29 10.29 11 0.35 23
Stanford 19 9.98 12 0.53 5
Arizona 20 9.80 13 0.49 8
Miami (FL) 30 9.62 14 0.32 28
Nebraska 26 9.07 15 0.35 24
Western Kentucky 15 8.61 16 0.57 2
Idaho 27 8.56 17 0.32 29
Nevada 16 8.53 18 0.53 4
Oregon 22 8.38 19 0.38 21
Cincinnati 27 8.01 20 0.30 31
Florida St. 24 7.92 21 0.33 26
South Alabama 19 7.76 22 0.41 18
Notre Dame 17 7.68 23 0.45 12
Kansas St. 18 7.67 24 0.43 14
TCU 21 7.52 25 0.36 22
Air Force 16 7.31 26 0.46 11
Minnesota 19 7.30 27 0.38 20
Temple 25 6.75 28 0.27 36
BYU 16 6.68 29 0.42 16
Iowa 19 6.41 30 0.34 25
Texas Tech 19 6.25 31 0.33 27
Texas A&M 30 6.15 32 0.21 40
Kentucky 21 6.13 33 0.29 33
Louisiana Tech 22 5.99 34 0.27 35
Penn St. 20 5.23 35 0.26 37
Connecticut 18 5.12 36 0.28 34
Northern Illinois 18 4.49 37 0.25 38
Cal 19 4.38 38 0.23 39
Navy 14 4.23 39 0.30 30
San Diego St. 22 4.11 40 0.19 44
UTEP 19 3.84 41 0.20 41
Virginia 22 3.70 42 0.17 47
Mississippi St. 18 3.48 43 0.19 43
Western Michigan 20 3.45 44 0.17 46
Hawaii 11 3.24 45 0.29 32
Oklahoma 23 3.07 46 0.13 50
Louisville 20 3.06 47 0.15 49
Texas 17 2.99 48 0.18 45
Central Florida 17 2.77 49 0.16 48
Michigan 20 2.42 50 0.12 53
Georgia Tech 11 2.15 51 0.20 42
Missouri 20 2.13 52 0.11 55
Oregon St. 15 1.97 53 0.13 52
Louisiana St. 17 1.94 54 0.11 54
Washington St. 24 1.91 55 0.08 57
South Carolina 28 1.81 56 0.06 61
East Carolina 13 1.72 57 0.13 51
Washington 18 1.48 58 0.08 56
Ohio 19 1.42 59 0.07 58
Iowa St. 19 1.33 60 0.07 60
Ball St. 21 1.21 61 0.06 62
Mississippi 22 1.20 62 0.05 63
Syracuse 22 1.15 63 0.05 64
South Florida 21 0.91 64 0.04 67
Tulane 12 0.89 65 0.07 59
Georgia Southern 19 0.73 66 0.04 68
Florida International 14 0.61 67 0.04 66
Miami (OH) 12 0.58 68 0.05 65
West Virginia 25 0.46 69 0.02 70
Pitt 22 0.38 70 0.02 71
SMU 11 0.36 71 0.03 69
USC 17 0.27 72 0.02 72
Rutgers 16 0.14 73 0.01 74
Army 7 0.11 74 0.02 73
Eastern Michigan 18 0.08 75 0.00 75
Middle Tennessee 15 -0.30 76 -0.02 77
UNLV 17 -0.32 77 -0.02 76
Troy 21 -0.73 78 -0.03 78
Central Michigan 24 -0.99 79 -0.04 79
Houston 16 -1.02 80 -0.06 80
Massachusetts 14 -1.07 81 -0.08 82
Maryland 15 -1.20 82 -0.08 83
Fresno St. 12 -1.44 83 -0.12 88
Arizona St. 29 -1.87 84 -0.06 81
Oklahoma St. 19 -1.98 85 -0.10 85
Arkansas St. 15 -2.05 86 -0.14 91
Illinois 25 -2.32 87 -0.09 84
Georgia St. 19 -2.53 88 -0.13 90
Old Dominion 17 -2.67 89 -0.16 93
Wisconsin 24 -2.70 90 -0.11 87
North Texas 14 -2.81 91 -0.20 101
Baylor 13 -2.87 92 -0.22 102
Marshall 23 -2.90 93 -0.13 89
Tennessee 29 -3.17 94 -0.11 86
Kent St. 11 -3.18 95 -0.29 111
Buffalo 19 -3.43 96 -0.18 97
Vanderbilt 19 -3.46 97 -0.18 98
Louisiana-Lafayette 18 -3.61 98 -0.20 100
New Mexico St. 17 -4.19 99 -0.25 105
Toledo 26 -4.24 100 -0.16 94
Alabama 30 -4.40 101 -0.15 92
Utah St. 17 -4.40 102 -0.26 107
Akron 19 -4.48 103 -0.24 103
Georgia 25 -4.56 104 -0.18 99
Northwestern 26 -4.60 105 -0.18 96
Michigan St. 19 -4.60 106 -0.24 104
Florida Atlantic 27 -4.64 107 -0.17 95
Wake Forest 18 -4.85 108 -0.27 108
Louisiana-Monroe 14 -5.10 109 -0.36 114
Arkansas 12 -5.35 110 -0.45 117
Colorado St. 20 -5.47 111 -0.27 109
Kansas 11 -5.58 112 -0.51 119
Texas St. 19 -5.82 113 -0.31 112
Southern Mississippi 18 -6.29 114 -0.35 113
Tulsa 24 -6.76 115 -0.28 110
Boston College 11 -6.88 116 -0.63 124
Ohio St. 12 -6.96 117 -0.58 121
San Jose St. 17 -7.09 118 -0.42 115
Colorado 29 -7.43 119 -0.26 106
Rice 15 -7.65 120 -0.51 120
UTSA 18 -7.76 121 -0.43 116
North Carolina St. 14 -8.54 122 -0.61 123
Bowling Green 15 -8.88 123 -0.59 122
Wyoming 8 -9.83 124 -1.23 128
New Mexico 14 -10.02 125 -0.72 125
Purdue 11 -11.21 126 -1.02 127
Charlotte 27 -13.42 127 -0.50 118
Florida 17 -15.23 128 -0.90 126