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College Football Knockouts: Method 2

A second humble attempt at contributing to college football stats (by stealing from others' contributions to NFL stats).

GIF from @EagleDamnWar via @wareaglereader

About a month ago, I broached the subject of knockouts in college football. It was something I had seen done for the NFL and I thought it would be fun to see how it looked at Auburn's level of the game. As you might recall, I defined a knockout as,

A knockout occurs when the winning team scores more points than the losing team's final score.

But there are problems with that and I discussed some of them last time. I also mentioned there was a better way, but it would take some work to get it done. Well, thanks to the spectacular drive charts at, I got it done. Now, a knockout is defined as,

A knockout occurs after the last play in which the losing team had possession while within one score (8 points).

From the winning team's perspecitve, it's the last play defended that could have given the other team the lead (or at least tied the game). Simply put, it's when the game is no longer a one-score game. So let's revisit the same games I used to explain the first definition and see how it changes with the new definition.

According to Method 1, Auburn knocked Arkansas out of their 2014 contest with a Nick Marshall TD run in the third quarter, but according to Method 2, it happened eight minutes later when Jermaine Whitehead returned an interception for a touchdown. That was the last play Arkansas had on offense within eight points.

According to Method 1, Auburn knocked LSU out their 2014 contest with a Sammie Coates TD catch in the first quarter. Method 2 isn't that different. The knockout happened almost two minutes earlier when LSU was forced to punt already down by three. The Bayou Bengals never had the ball again in position to take the lead or even tie the game.

I broke down some other games you brought up in the comments of the last post, so go there to see some more examples. Or bring up some more in the comments here. But for now, let's see which teams were the quickest to knock their opponents out using the new definition. This time, we measure how long a team had the game in hand by seeing how long the scoring margin was greater than eight points.

The knockout times for every game in 2014 are here and the full list of 2014 rankings are here, but the tables below show the top ten teams,

Team Wins Losses Avg KO rk Avg Winning KO rk Avg Losing KO rk
TCU 11 1 33:00 1 36:06 7 -1:11 4
Marshall 12 1 30:38 2 33:11 17 0:00 1
Oregon 12 2 29:32 3 35:48 9 -8:04 11
Baylor 10 2 29:14 4 36:05 8 -4:59 6
Alabama 11 2 26:02 5 30:50 25 -0:18 2
Georgia 9 3 25:23 6 37:40 3 -11:28 18
Ohio St. 14 1 25:12 7 27:03 41 -0:46 3
Georgia Southern 8 3 23:40 8 37:19 4 -12:45 25
Michigan St. 10 2 23:20 9 31:51 20 -19:13 51
Memphis 9 3 20:56 10 29:07 29 -3:34 5

and the bottom ten teams.

Team Wins Losses Avg KO rk Avg Winning KO rk Avg Losing KO rk
San Jose St. 2 9 -20:36 119 16:42 87 -28:54 98
Iowa St. 2 9 -21:58 120 6:01 116 -28:12 95
New Mexico St. 1 10 -22:17 121 0:00 126 -24:31 75
UNLV 1 11 -22:34 122 0:00 127 -24:37 76
Southern Miss 2 9 -23:47 123 7:48 113 -30:49 103
Vanderbilt 2 9 -25:15 124 8:06 112 -32:39 107
Kansas 2 9 -27:31 125 28:37 32 -40:00 124
Georgia St. 0 11 -31:28 126 #DIV/0! 128 -31:28 106
Eastern Michigan 1 10 -36:06 127 13:12 100 -41:02 127
SMU 1 11 -36:46 128 4:13 119 -40:30 126

Auburn came in at #31 with an average knockout time of 9:46.

(Due to an error, these tables have been changed since initlal publication.)

Here's a look at when these knockouts tended to happen in a game compared to the other old definition. (Method 1 is a little different that last time because I removed all FCS games.)

Wow, that's a lot of last-two-minute knockouts, double the number Method 1 finds. The spike just before halftime is still there, too, though it's not nearly as noticeable. Anyway, I bet if I look at the numbers over several years, the histogram smooths out except for the last two minutes (where it happens a lot) and the first two minutes (where it rarely happens).

And now it's time again for some disclaimers.

Just like last time, this is not meant to be a stand-alone ranking. No, I don't think Marshall was the second best team in the country last year. There is no strength of schedule adjustment here, though Ryan Sterritt might can help. See what he did with the Method 1 knockout numbers.

While this gets closer to when a team is truly out of the game than Method 1 does, it's not perfect. Plenty of teams can come back from 10, 20, even 24 points, right? However, this metric does reset the clock if a team gets down by 10 and later has the ball down by seven or less. In that way, the boxing analogy still works. It could have been a knockout, but it was only a knock down and the team got back up swinging. Plus, any stricter of a definition and I'd just be tracking kneel downs at the end of games and that wouldn't be much fun.

So with that, Method 2 is what I'm sticking with. The drive data goes back to 2005, so in another post this week, we'll see which teams have been the best and which teams have been the worst. We'll look at some of the quickest knockouts over the last ten years. And we'll take a look at just where the Tigers fit in all of this.