Archives For Sports Analytics

Hypothetical: If you had been given the opportunity to start an NFL expansion team before the 2012 season, how would you allocate your $120.8 million salary cap to your new roster? Would you use $13.25 million (nearly 12%) on a wide receiver, like the Cardinals? Or $19.035 million (over 15%) on a defensive end, like the Colts?

Strategically structuring contracts to maximize the talent on NFL rosters is an art in itself. Each owner, general manager, and coach have their own opinions on how money should be spent. Yet, most teams seemingly agree that the quarterback position should have the most money per player allocated to it.

Yet, how do you evaluate the success of an investment in a quarterback?

You evaluate quarterbacks relative to their peers, and you pay them according to that success relative to their peers.

The quarterback is the most highly valued position in the game, and thus, quarterbacks are paid on average more than any other position in the league. Fortunately, due to the NFL’s salary cap rules, teams may sign players with a signing bonus that may be prorated across the life of the contract. Thus, the amount of money allocated to the salary cap is not always the amount of money a player was actually paid that year. This allows teams to offer players a large sum of money up front without the salary cap taking a “hit” for the signing bonus in its entirety. For example, in July of 2012, Drew Brees signed a 5-year contract worth $100 million with a $37 million signing bonus. Here is what Brees is scheduled to actually receive each year under this contract:


Base Salary

Signing Bonus

Workout Bonus


2012  $3,000,000 $37,000,000  $0 $40,000,000
2013  $9,750,000 $0  $250,000 $10,000,000
2014  $10,750,000 $0  $250,000 $11,000,000
2015 $18,750,000 $0  $250,000 $19,000,000
2016 $19,750,000 $0  $250,000 $20,000,000

But, since the Saints may prorate the signing bonus across the life of the contract, here’s the actual “hit” the Saints’ salary cap is taking from Brees’ contract:


Base Salary

Signing Bonus

Workout Bonus

Cap Hit

2012  $3,000,000  $7,400,000  $0  $10,400,000
2013  $9,750,000  $7,400,000  $250,000  $17,400,000
2014  $10,750,000  $7,400,000  $250,000  $18,400,000
2015  $18,750,000  $7,400,000  $250,000  $26,400,000
2016  $19,750,000  $7,400,000  $250,000  $27,400,000

This mechanism allows teams to maneuver contracts and “even” out the Cap Hit to fit the salary cap. The 2012 NFL salary cap was $120.6 million. Thus, the Saints had $110.2 million to allocate to the rest of the team for this past season. Keep in mind that if the Saints were forced to use the amount they actually paid Brees in 2012, it would remove $40 million from the team’s 2012 salary cap instead of $10 million.

The reason the Cap Hit is more important in this analysis than (1) the amount a player was actually paid or (2) the average salary they will be paid over the course of a contract is that the Cap Hit is specifically representative of the cap room a player is taking up in a given year. Thus, it informs us as to the amount of money that is available to allocate to other players on a specific team.

So, now that we’re all salary cap experts, let’s talk about a valuation process for the most pivotal position on the field: the kicke… quarterback. The Quarterback.

There is no exact method in determining a quarterback’s performance over the course of a year. In 1971 the NFL came up with the “Passer Rating,” which rated quarterbacks on a scale of 0 to 158.3. The formula for this rating was:

Passer Rating = [ (4.16667 x [ ( 20 x Completions ) + Yards + ( 80 x Touchdowns ) - ( 100 x Interceptions ) ] ) / Attempts ] + 2.083

This rating system contained some major flaws. To illustrate these flaws, here’s 3 examples:

1. Quarterback A throws 10 passes. He completes 5 of the passes for a total of 100 yards with 0 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.

A's Passer Rating = [ (4.16667 x [ ( 20 x 5 ) + 100 + ( 80 x 0 ) - ( 100 x 0 ) ] ) / 10 ] + 2.083

A's Passer Rating = 85.4 (Rounded to the nearest tenth)

2. Quarterback B throws 10 passes. He completes all 10 of the passes for a total of 50 yards with 0 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.

B's Passer Rating = [ (4.16667 x [ ( 20 x 10 ) + 50 + ( 80 x 0 ) - ( 100 x 0 ) ] ) / 10 ] + 2.083

B's Passer Rating = 87.5 (Rounded to the nearest tenth)

3. Quarterback C throws 10 passes. He completes 8 of the passes for 90 yards with 1 touchdown scored on a 62-yard screen play to the running back and 2 interceptions, which both are returned for touchdowns.

C's Passer Rating = [ (4.16667 x [ ( 20 x 8 ) + 90 + ( 80 x 1 ) - ( 100 x 2 ) ] ) / 10 ] + 2.083

C's Passer Rating = 97.9 (Rounded to the nearest tenth)

At a glance…








A 5 10 100 0 0 85.4
B 10 10 50 0 0 87.5
C 8 10 90 1 2 97.9

As is evident in the examples, this passer rating gives too much weight to completion percentage. It also accounts for specific occurrences that are not attributable to the quarterback, such as an on-target pass that goes through the hands of the receiver and is intercepted or an 80-yard touchdown that was scored on a shovel pass to the running back.

So in an effort to create a more reliable quarterback rating system, ESPN teamed up with and to create the Total Quarterback Rating (“QBR”). QBR takes into account the “contexts and details of throws” and is scored on a scale of 0 to 100, where the average NFL quarterback would be a 50. While QBR is not perfect, it is a far better representation of a quarterback’s performance than the classic passer rating, so we’ll use it to measure quarterback performance.

Here are the 36 quarterbacks that played enough during the 2012 NFL season to qualify for ESPN’s QBR, along with their respective cap hits:



Cap Hit

Peyton Manning 84.1  $18,000,000
Tom Brady 77.1  $8,000,000
Colin Kaepernick 76.8  $1,164,610
Matt Ryan 74.5  $12,990,000
Aaron Rodgers 72.5  $9,000,000
Robert Griffin III 71.4  $3,839,836
Alex Smith 70.1  $9,500,000
Russell Wilson 69.6  $544,850
Drew Brees 67.9  $10,400,000
Eli Manning 67.4  $9,600,000
Andrew Luck 65.0  $4,015,000
Ben Roethlisberger 62.8  $9,895,000
Tony Romo 62.7  $8,469,000
Matt Schaub 62.6  $11,700,000
Matthew Stafford 58.9  $9,842,083
Cam Newton 54.2  $5,005,659
Christian Ponder 53.8  $2,308,795
Josh Freeman 53.1  $7,915,000
Ryan Tannehill 52.3  $2,302,500
Jay Cutler 51.9  $9,600,000
Sam Bradford 51.6  $15,595,000
Andy Dalton 50.7  $1,185,045
Matt Hasselbeck 48.5  $7,500,000
Jake Locker 48.1  $2,860,455
Joe Flacco 46.8  $8,000,000
Michael Vick 46.0  $13,900,000
Ryan Fitzpatrick 45.8  $6,000,000
Nick Foles 45.3  $525,812
Carson Palmer 44.7  $4,716,667
Blaine Gabbert 40.9  $2,727,647
Philip Rivers 40.6  $15,310,000
Matt Cassel 36.5  $7,575,000
Chad Henne 29.9  $2,600,000
Brady Quinn 27.4  $1,500,000
Brandon Weeden 26.6  $1,469,500
Mark Sanchez 23.4  $7,853,125

Logically, the best quarterback in the league is worth the most money, so a team should be willing to allocate the highest percentage of their salary cap to the best quarterback. Along the same logic, in a perfect world the second best quarterback should have received the second highest salary (or respective cap hit). But it’s not a perfect world, so in order to illustrate this relationship, I ranked 2012’s highest QBRs and Cap Hits from 1 to 36:



Cap Hit

1 84.1  $18,000,000
2 77.1  $15,595,000
3 76.8  $15,310,000
4 74.5  $13,900,000
5 72.5  $12,990,000
6 71.4  $11,700,000
7 70.1  $10,400,000
8 69.6  $9,895,000
9 67.9  $9,842,083
10 67.4  $9,600,000
11 65.0  $9,600,000
12 62.8  $9,500,000
13 62.7  $9,000,000
14 62.6  $8,469,000
15 58.9  $8,000,000
16 54.2  $8,000,000
17 53.8  $7,915,000
18 53.1  $7,853,125
19 52.3  $7,575,000
20 51.9  $7,500,000
21 51.6  $6,000,000
22 50.7  $5,005,659
23 48.5  $4,716,667
24 48.1  $4,015,000
25 46.8  $3,839,836
26 46.0  $2,860,455
27 45.8  $2,727,647
28 45.3  $2,600,000
29 44.7  $2,308,795
30 40.9  $2,302,500
31 40.6  $1,500,000
32 36.5  $1,469,500
33 29.9  $1,185,045
34 27.4  $1,164,610
35 26.6  $544,850
36 23.4  $525,812

Using the table above, I created a scatter plot, with the X-axis representing QBR and the Y-axis representing the Cap Hit. Once all of the points were on the chart, I had excel create a “trend line” to represent the average relationship between Salary Cap Hit and QBR. Interestingly, an exponential relationship exists between Cap Hit and QBR. This is due to teams’ willingness to pay exponentially more money for the more elite quarterbacks. The trend line can be seen in the scatter-plot chart below:

Salary Cap Hit and QBR Relationship

As you can see, the trend line’s formula in the chart is:

y = 3,214.6(x)2 - 51,907x - 419,885

To demonstrate the applicability of this formula, here’s an example:

In 2012 Jake Locker had a QBR of 48.1. Since QBR is the X-axis of the chart, we’ll plug Locker’s QBR into the formula to determine how large of a salary cap hit his performance warranted:

Salary Cap Hit = (3,214 x (48.1)2) - (51,907 x 48.1) - 419,885

…I hate to ruin the fun as you scramble to find your old TI-83 calculator, but here’s the answer:

Salary Cap Hit = $5,360,489

In other words, relative to other quarterbacks in the NFL, Jake Locker’s performance at quarterback was worth a team taking up to a $5,360,489 cap hit for him, thus I deemed this amount a player’s “Cap Hit Value” for a given year. Here’s the “Cap Hit Value” for all 36 quarterbacks in 2012:



Cap Hit Value

Peyton Manning 84.1  $18,790,761
Tom Brady 77.1  $15,526,756
Colin Kaepernick 76.8  $15,393,910
Matt Ryan 74.5  $14,394,647
Aaron Rodgers 72.5  $13,553,369
Robert Griffin III 71.4  $13,101,627
Alex Smith 70.1  $12,577,781
Russell Wilson 69.6  $12,379,195
Drew Brees 67.9  $11,716,024
Eli Manning 67.4  $11,524,509
Andrew Luck 65.0  $10,627,615
Ben Roethlisberger 62.8  $9,837,993
Tony Romo 62.7  $9,802,841
Matt Schaub 62.6  $9,767,753
Matthew Stafford 58.9  $8,514,685
Cam Newton 54.2  $7,049,863
Christian Ponder 53.8  $6,931,755
Josh Freeman 53.1  $6,727,542
Ryan Tannehill 52.3  $6,498,012
Jay Cutler 51.9  $6,384,790
Sam Bradford 51.6  $6,300,549
Andy Dalton 50.7  $6,051,297
Matt Hasselbeck 48.5  $5,463,938
Jake Locker 48.1  $5,360,489
Joe Flacco 46.8  $5,031,383
Michael Vick 46.0  $4,834,257
Ryan Fitzpatrick 45.8  $4,785,618
Nick Foles 45.3  $4,665,146
Carson Palmer 44.7  $4,522,702
Blaine Gabbert 40.9  $3,674,304
Philip Rivers 40.6  $3,611,279
Matt Cassel 36.5  $2,807,930
Chad Henne 29.9  $1,741,750
Brady Quinn 27.4  $1,411,026
Brandon Weeden 26.6  $1,313,681
Mark Sanchez 23.4  $965,448

Obviously, some of these quarterbacks were paid much less than their Cap Hit Value, while some were paid much more. I’m going to call the difference between a player’s Cap Hit Value and their actual Cap Hit “Net Value.” While the Cap Hit Value represents the average amount teams paid for a particular QBR, the Net Value represents whether teams actually gained money or lost money on their investment.

For instance, the Seattle Seahawks took a $544,850 Cap Hit for Russell Wilson, yet he played up to the market value of a quarterback worth $12,379,195. Thus, his Net Value for the Seattle Seahawks was $11,834,345. While on average other teams had to pay an additional $11.8 million in 2012 to receive the caliber of play Russell Wilson provided the Seahawks with, Seattle was able to use that $11.8 million elsewhere. In essence, Net Value is simply how overvalued or undervalued a quarterback was in a particular year.

Here’s all 36 quarterbacks in order by their Net Value in 2012:



Cap Hit

Cap Hit Value

Net Value

Colin Kaepernick* 76.8  $1,164,610  $15,393,910  $14,229,300
Russell Wilson* 69.6  $544,850  $12,379,195  $11,834,345
Robert Griffin III* 71.4  $3,839,836  $13,101,627  $9,261,791
Tom Brady* 77.1  $8,000,000  $15,526,756  $7,526,756
Andrew Luck* 65.0  $4,015,000  $10,627,615  $6,612,615
Andy Dalton* 50.7  $1,185,045  $6,051,297  $4,866,252
Christian Ponder* 53.8  $2,308,795  $6,931,755  $4,622,960
Aaron Rodgers* 72.5  $9,000,000  $13,553,369  $4,553,369
Ryan Tannehill 52.3  $2,302,500  $6,498,012  $4,195,512
Nick Foles 45.3  $525,812  $4,665,146  $4,139,334
Alex Smith 70.1  $9,500,000  $12,577,781  $3,077,781
Jake Locker 48.1  $2,860,455  $5,360,489  $2,500,034
Cam Newton 54.2  $5,005,659  $7,049,863  $2,044,204
Eli Manning 67.4  $9,600,000  $11,524,509  $1,924,509
Matt Ryan* 74.5  $12,990,000  $14,394,647  $1,404,647
Tony Romo 62.7  $8,469,000  $9,802,841  $1,333,841
Drew Brees 67.9  $10,400,000  $11,716,024  $1,316,024
Blaine Gabbert 40.9  $2,727,647  $3,674,304  $946,657
Peyton Manning* 84.1  $18,000,000  $18,790,761  $790,761
Ben Roethlisberger 62.8  $9,895,000  $9,837,993  $(57,007)
Brady Quinn 27.4  $1,500,000  $1,411,026  $(88,974)
Brandon Weeden 26.6  $1,469,500  $1,313,681  $(155,819)
Carson Palmer 44.7  $4,716,667  $4,522,702  $(193,965)
Chad Henne 29.9  $2,600,000  $1,741,750  $(858,250)
Josh Freeman 53.1  $7,915,000  $6,727,542  $(1,187,458)
Ryan Fitzpatrick 45.8  $6,000,000  $4,785,618  $(1,214,382)
Matthew Stafford 58.9  $9,842,083  $8,514,685 $(1,327,398)
Matt Schaub* 62.6  $11,700,000  $9,767,753  $(1,932,247)
Matt Hasselbeck 48.5  $7,500,000  $5,463,938  $(2,036,062)
Joe Flacco* 46.8  $8,000,000  $5,031,383  $(2,968,617)
Jay Cutler 51.9  $9,600,000  $6,384,790  $(3,215,210)
Matt Cassel 36.5  $7,575,000  $2,807,930  $(4,767,070)
Mark Sanchez 23.4  $7,853,125  $965,448  $(6,887,677)
Michael Vick 46.0  $13,900,000  $4,834,257  $(9,065,743)
Sam Bradford 51.6  $15,595,000  $6,300,549  $(9,294,451)
Philip Rivers 40.6  $15,310,000  $3,611,279  $(11,698,721)

*Made playoffs as a starting QB (Alex Smith made playoffs, but not as a starting QB)

The most fascinating part of this chart is that every one of the top 8 quarterbacks, with respect to their net value, made the playoffs. This illustrates the principle that teams who effectively evaluate talent and draft or sign quarterbacks (or really any position) for lower than their eventual performance on the field have more money to spend in other areas, and thus, more overall talent on their roster. While this conclusion is a simple generalization, common sense seems to deem it meritorious.

To close quite simply, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Tom Brady, and Andrew Luck gave their teams the most “bang for their buck” in 2012, while Matt Cassel, Mark Sanchez, Michael Vick, Sam Bradford, and Philip Rivers played far below their pay grade.

But Philip Rivers, if you’re reading this, don’t despair… in 2010 Jamarcus Russell did not play a down for the Oakland Raiders and was paid $19.92 million for a Net Value of $(19,919,100), all of which was applied to the cap (thankfully for the Raiders, it was an uncapped year). Let’s just hope Jamarcus Russell makes this return he’s talking about, so that I can do this next year, and he can shatter any semblance of a record low that you may currently hold, Philip.


By: Tyler Raborn

Many fans believe that recruiting is the key to success in college football.

Is that the case? Is college football strictly dictated by recruiting? Are teams’ accomplishments directly related to their recruiting classes?

Umm… kinda, sorta, and maybe.

After 10-20 hours of research and building an excel file that would make Nate Silver proud, those are the answers I came up with— total indecision.

But what my research did determine was data showing the most overachieving and underachieving teams of the past 7 years.

The terms “overachieving” and “underachieving” are in regards to the relationship between the amount of talent on a given team and their actual performance with that talent.

So what defines a team’s “talent”?

I used the most objective formula that I could come up with to determine talent. And while I know this method has several exceptions and is extremely broad, it is the most effective method that I could come up with, without doing individual team analyses. So, keep in mind, this is all done to give a broad picture of a general idea— not a detailed team-by-team analysis.

First, I collected all of the recruiting data available from two of the most respected sources in the college football recruiting industry: Scout, Inc. and Rivals. Both Scout and Rivals’ data goes back to 2002, so I collected all of the team rankings in recruiting from 2002 to 2012 from each site and inserted them into an excel file. Then, I averaged the rankings together to come up with an objective “composite score” to represent each team for each year.

For example, in 2003 Scout ranked Florida State’s recruiting class 12th in the nation, while Rivals ranked them 21st in the nation. Thus, their composite score was a ranking of 16.5.

Next, I devised a formula to account for all of the recruiting classes on an individual team. After examining several depth charts, I determined the following weights for each class:

Freshman- 12.5%
Sophomore (or Redshirt Freshman)- 22.5%
Junior (or Redshirt Sophomore)- 25%
Senior (or Redshirt Junior)- 27.5%
5th Year Senior- 12.5%

So,the formula to determine, what I will call, the “talent quotient” on a particular team is:

( .125 x Composite Score of Freshman Class ) + ( .225 x Composite Score of Sophomore Class ) + ( .25 x Composite Score of Junior Class ) + ( .275 x Composite Score of Senior Class ) + ( .125 x Composite Score of 5th Year Senior Class ) = Talent Quotient

For instance, to determine the talent quotient of the 2006 Florida State team, we simply need to plug in the composite scores of each recruiting class into the formula. Here’s Florida State’s 2002 – 2006 recruiting class ranks:


Scout, Inc.


Composite Score

2002 6 4 5
2003 12 21 16.5
2004 4 3 3.5
2005 3 2 2.5
2006 12 3 7.5

So, inputting the 5 composite scores into the formula would give us the following:

( .125 x 7.5 ) + ( .225 x 2.5 ) + ( .25 x 3.5 ) + ( .275 x 16.5 ) + ( .125 x 5 ) = 7.5375

Thus, the 2006 Florida State team had a talent quotient of 7.5375, which was the 5th lowest score in the nation. Hence, according to the formula, the 2006 Florida State Seminoles had the 5th most talented team in all of college football.

Once I had determined the talent quotient for every team in the FBS for the 2006 season, I ranked each team by their talent quotient, with the lowest score ranked number 1, the second lowest ranked number 2, and so on. Then, I repeated the process for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 seasons.

The logic behind this process is simple: the teams with more talent should beat the teams with less. So, the higher ranked “talent quotient,” the more talent a team can field in a game. In other words, the number 1 ranked team in talent, all other things being equal (they’re not), should beat the number 2 ranked team in talent.

After ranking every FBS college football team from 2006 until 2012, I compared these ranks to how the teams finished in the final college football polls. In an effort to make this process more objective, I averaged the final AP polls with the final USA Today polls to determine a general end of the year ranking for each team. The purpose of this method is to compare how a team performed relative to the talent on the team.

So after inventing a “talent quotient,” ranking teams by that invented number, comparing those ranks to the ranks of plausibly inaccurate year end poll rankings, I came up with the most overachieving and underachieving college football programs over the last 7 years…


The Most Overachieving Programs

Four teams stood far above the rest in regards to their ability to play at a level far above what the talent on their team would indicate they were capable of. Fans and analysts offer up a multitude of reasons for these teams’ success, such as: coaching, strength of schedule, and a plethora of other factors, both negative and positive, in an attempt to explain these teams’ habits of winning seemingly far beyond their talent level. Yet, no matter what your biased opinion may be, you have to admit, what these 4 teams have done with the talent on their rosters is nothing short of impressive.


4. BYU


Talent Quotient Ranking

Final Poll Ranking

2006 59th 15th*
2007 59th 14th*
2008 59th 25th*
2009 56th 12th
2010 54th NR
2011 53rd 25th*
2012 51st NR


3. Cincinnati


Talent Quotient Ranking

Final Poll Ranking

2006 91st NR
2007 88th 18th
2008 80th 17th
2009 74th 8th
2010 67th NR
2011 59th 25th
2012 57th 24th


2. TCU


Talent Quotient Ranking

Final Poll Ranking

2006 62nd 21st*
2007 62nd NR
2008 68th 7th
2009 71st 6th
2010 74th 2nd
2011 65th 13th
2012 53rd NR

Boise State

1. Boise State


Talent Quotient Ranking

Final Poll Ranking

2006 75th 5th
2007 67th NR
2008 67th 12th
2009 68th 4th
2010 70th 8th
2011 73rd 7th
2012 71st 16th

And onto the more entertaining part of this column…

The Most Underachieving Programs

A.K.A. the laughing stock of college football. These teams recruit some of the most talented players in the country year in and year out, but over the past 7 years, they’ve had an extraordinarily hard time making that talent translate to success on the field. An important factor to take into consideration is that I have adjusted the formula that I used to determine these rankings to add more weight to higher ranked teams. The logic behind this adjustment is simple. Without the adjustment, a team that finishes the season ranked 67th and has a talent quotient ranking of 49th is a bigger letdown (or “underachiever”) than a team that has the number 1 ranked talent quotient and loses 3 games to finish the season ranked 17th. And, in my opinion, the team that has the most talent in the country, but manages to lose 3 games and wind up out of the top 15, is a bigger underachiever than a team with mediocre talent performing a little less than mediocre. Thus, this adjustment gives much more weight to teams with higher ranked talent quotients. So, without further ado, here’s your top 7 most underachieving college football programs over the last 7 years…

Notre Dame

7. Notre Dame


Talent Quotient Ranking

Final Poll Ranking

2006 15th NR
2007 19th NR
2008 14th NR
2009 9th NR
2010 9th NR
2011 10th NR
2012 12th 3rd


6. Tennessee


Talent Quotient Ranking

Final Poll Ranking

2006 9th 24th
2007 10th 12th
2008 11th NR
2009 14th NR
2010 14th NR
2011 14th NR
2012 13th NR


5. Georgia


Talent Quotient Ranking

Final Poll Ranking

2006 3rd 25th
2007 3rd 3rd*
2008 3rd 12th*
2009 3rd NR
2010 6th NR
2011 6th 20th*
2012 7th 5th


4. Michigan


Talent Quotient Ranking

Final Poll Ranking

2006 8th 9th*
2007 4th 19th*
2008 4th NR
2009 6th NR
2010 8th NR
2011 12th 11th*
2012 11th 25th


3. Florida State


Talent Quotient Ranking

Final Poll Ranking

2006 5th NR
2007 7th NR
2008 7th 22nd
2009 12th NR
2010 13th 17th*
2011 9th 23rd
2012 5th 9th


2. USC


Talent Quotient Ranking

Final Poll Ranking

2006 1st 4th
2007 1st 3rd*
2008 1st 3rd*
2009 1st 21st
2010 1st NR
2011 2nd 16th
2012 3rd NR


1. Miami (FL)


Talent Quotient Ranking

Final Poll Ranking

2006 4th NR
2007 8th NR
2008 9th NR
2009 11th 19th
2010 12th NR
2011 13th NR
2012 15th NR

*Rounded numbers

One last interesting fact to consider is that no team in the past 7 years has won a National Championship without a talent quotient ranking below 10th. So, while it is very possible for teams to crack the Top 25 without Top 25 talent, it is much more difficult to make it to, and win, the National Championship without elite talent.

So, in conclusion… as if you didn’t already whine about your college football team enough, I hope that I’ve provided you with further information to sulk about— the 7 years of your life that you’ve been continuously letdown as a fan.


By: Tyler Raborn

What if?

What if Texas A&M hadn’t joined the SEC? What if the Heisman Trophy winner had played the 2012 season against predominantly Big 12 opponents? What if?

Well… here’s what if:

Johnny Manziel would have had the single greatest college football season OF ALL TIME.

I’m not the type to make arbitrary statements. I asked myself these same questions and researched the applicable statistics. And then, well… and then I realized…

Johnny Manziel would have had the single greatest college football season OF ALL TIME.

Here’s how…

First, I looked at Texas A&M’s opponents this year and how those opponents did against every other team they played. Specifically, I looked out how many yards and points they allowed in those games.

So, here’s Texas A&M’s 2012 opponents, with the yards they allowed per game (“YAPG”) and the points they allowed per game (“PAPG”):




Florida 283.42 12.92
SMU 400.25 27.00
South Carolina St. N/A N/A
Arkansas 409.92 30.42
Ole Miss 385.00 28.50
Louisiana Tech 526.08 38.50
LSU 296.17 16.92
Auburn 420.50 28.33
Mississippi State 389.92 22.42
Alabama 246.00 10.33
Sam Houston St. N/A N/A
Missouri 390.67 28.42

In order to obtain a more applicable statistic, I adjusted the YAPG and PAPG for each of Texas A&M’s opponents. These adjusted statistics remove each team’s game against Texas A&M, so that it gives a more accurate depiction of what the team did against every team other than Texas A&M. So here’s Texas A&M’s 2012 opponents, with their adjusted yards and points allowed per game:


Adjusted YAPG

Adjusted PAPG

Florida 278.82 12.55
SMU 381.64 25.09
South Carolina St. N/A N/A
Arkansas 382.09 27.91
Ole Miss 376.29 28.36
Louisiana Tech 512.27 36.64
LSU 285.82 16.73
Auburn 397.73 25.18
Mississippi State 362.37 21.00
Alabama 230.36 8.63
Sam Houston St. N/A N/A
Missouri 367.37 25.64

Side Note: Yes- Removing the Texas A&M game from Alabama’s schedule would have lowered their points allowed per game to a nearly unfathomable 8.63 points a game.

Moving on…

Then, I looked at Texas A&M’s actual performance, in yards and points, against those teams in comparison to how many yards and points those teams typically allowed. Here’s Texas A&M’s actual performance against their opponents in 2012:


Yards (Adjusted YAPG)

Points (Adjusted PAPG)

Florida 334 (278.82) 17 (12.55)
SMU 605 (381.64) 48 (25.09)
South Carolina St. N/A N/A
Arkansas 716 (382.09) 58 (27.91)
Ole Miss 481 (376.29) 30 (28.36)
Louisiana Tech 678 (512.27) 59 (36.64)
LSU 410 (285.82) 19 (16.73)
Auburn 671 (397.73) 63 (25.18)
Mississippi State 693 (362.37) 38 (21.00)
Alabama 418 (230.36) 29 (8.63)
Sam Houston St. N/A N/A
Missouri 647 (367.37) 59 (25.64)

Next, I had to compare that to how Johnny Football did in each of those games, so here’s Johnny Manziel’s stats, total yards gained and total touchdowns scored, in each game this year:


Manziel’s Total Yards

Manziel’s Total Touchdowns

Florida 233 1
SMU 418 6
South Carolina St. 252 5
Arkansas 557 4
Ole Miss 320 2
Louisiana Tech 576 6
LSU 303 0
Auburn 350 5
Mississippi State 440 2
Alabama 345 2
Sam Houston St. 367 5
Missouri 439 5
Totals 4,600 43

Now comes the fun part. I removed all non-FBS games (South Carolina State and Sam Houston State) and determined percentages, which represented (1) Texas A&M’s total yards gained in relation to their opponents average yards allowed per game and (2) Texas A&M’s points scored in relation to their opponents average points allowed per game. The percentage for Texas A&M’s yards gained was 159%, and the percentage for Texas A&M’s points scored was 191%. In other words, Texas A&M gained 59% more yards and scored 91% more points than their opponents typically allowed.

Further, I had to determine Manziel’s total contribution to the offense this year. After dividing Texas A&M’s total offense by Manziel’s total yards gained in each game, and then averaging all of the games to figure out his percentage of contribution per game, I determined that 70.8% of the offense per game was attributable to Manziel. Using the same process, I determined he was also responsible for 47.1% of Texas A&M’s points scored per game.

So, next, I had to apply these statistics to Texas A&M’s schedule if they were still in the Big 12.

If Texas A&M had not made the switch to the SEC, here is what their 2012 schedule* would have most likely looked like:


2012 YAPG

2012 PAPG

SMU 400.25 27.00
Arkansas 409.92 30.42
Louisiana Tech 526.08 38.50
Missouri 390.67 28.42
Oklahoma 381.36 24.82
Oklahoma State 409.09 28.36
Baylor 509.73 38.55
Texas Tech 367.25 31.83
Texas 417.73 28.27
Iowa State 444.83 23.33
Kansas 466.82 34.00
Kansas State 371.00 20.82

*I determined this schedule by combining their old projected conference schedule (not including West Virginia or TCU) with the first non-conference games they scheduled (SMU, Arkansas, and Louisiana Tech). 

So, I derived a formula for determining Manziel’s total yards gained in each game:

Opponent's YAPG x Texas A&M's Performance % x Manziel's Contribution % = Manziel's Total Yards Gained

For instance, Kansas allowed 466.82 yards per game this year. Plugging that into the formula with Texas A&M’s performance percentage (which for yards we know is 159%) and Manziel’s contribution percentage (70.8%), we get:

466.82 x 159% x 70.8% = 525.51

So, according to my formula, Manziel would have gained 525.51 total yards against Kansas. Similarly, here’s the same basic formula for Manziel’s points per game:

Opponent's PAPG x Texas A&M's Performance % x Manziel's Contribution % = Manziel's Points Scored

Applying these formulas to each game, here’s Johnny Football’s stats for 2012 in the Big 12 (numbers rounded to the nearest hundredth):


Manziel’s Total Yards Gained

Manziel’s Points Scored

SMU 418* 36*
Arkansas 557* 24*
Louisiana Tech 576* 36*
Missouri 439* 30*
Oklahoma 429.30 22.97
Oklahoma State 460.52 26.25
Baylor 573.81 35.68
Texas Tech 413.42 29.46
Texas 470.25 26.16
Iowa State 500.75 21.59
Kansas 525.51 31.47
Kansas State 417.64 19.27
Totals 5,781.21 Yards 338.85 (~56.48 Touchdowns)

*I did not apply the formula to games Texas A&M actually played this year, I just used Manziel’s actual stats in those games.

Thus, according to my unqualified opinion, and assuming a lot of variables, Johnny Manziel would have had 5,781 yards and 56 touchdowns in 2012 during the 12-game regular season. He would have gained 1,181 more yards and scored 13 more touchdowns than he actually did this year.

But, that’s not all historians include in the stats…

As of 2002, single season records include postseason statistics. So, I’m going to take my assumptions one step (or maybe several steps) further. I think Texas A&M wins every single one of those games. Which, puts them in the National Championship*, playing an undefeated… Alabama. Alabama’s only loss came from Texas A&M, and we removed them from the SEC, remember? And as to how that National Championship game would go, well, we all know what happened when Texas A&M actually played Alabama…

*Yes, I know Notre Dame would be undefeated, but I think the computers would have given the number 2 spot to Texas A&M, placing Notre Dame at number 3, and subsequently, out of the National Championship game.

So, if you add Manziel’s actual performance against Alabama, 345 total yards and 2 touchdowns, that would give Manziel 6,126 total yards and 58 total touchdowns for the 2012 season. With 6,126 total yards, Johnny Football would have broken the record for total offense in a single season, which is currently held by B.J. Symons with 5,976 yards (2003). It would also place him only 4 touchdowns shy of Colt Brennan’s record of 63 touchdowns in a season (2006).

So, in conclusion, if Texas A&M had been in the Big 12 this year, Johnny Manziel would have broken the record for total offense in a single season, won the Heisman, and won the National Championship. In other words…

Johnny Manziel would have had the single greatest college football season OF ALL TIME.


By: Tyler Raborn