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    SECCG: A Statistical Differential Analysis of... the Quarterbacks?

    There has been a lot of discussion about what match-ups are most important and which players on which defense will step up and make plays. Many people, rightfully so, spend a lot of time looking at the OL/DL match-ups trying to give an advantage to either team on each side of the line. However, the one thing that pretty much everyone is saying about every one of these match-ups is this: the battles are all close and the advantages are slim. When you've got two very good, very talented, seemingly very equal teams then it usually comes down to which defense does a better job of shutting down or containing the other team's offense. So, the real question then is "which offense will be able to step up to the plate and handle what the other defense throws at it?"

    And, let's be honest --- this year, especially, both of these offenses run through and heavily depend on one player: the Quarterback.

    You can talk about all the other match-ups all you want and you'll probably make some very good points. At the end of the day, though, this game - assuming both teams show up to play from the opening whistle - will most likely be decided by which Quarterback is able to better lead his offense, to at times put the game on his shoulders and come through on third and long to extend drives, to do a better job of scoring Touchdowns instead of Field Goals in the Red Zone, and is able to avoid making the kinds of mistakes that can cost his team the game.

    So, which Quarterback fits that bill?

    Most of the time you can get a fairly quick answer to that question by comparing the Quarterback's Passer Efficiency Rating. In this case, that would be:
    Aaron Murray: 177.15
    AJ McCarron: 176.26

    Well, that didn't really answer much because A) they're razor close and B) they're number one and number two in the nation at that stat, respectively. Beyond that you would typically look at their overal resume, the quality of defenses they faced, and how they performed in big games. Well, they both played well pretty much throughout the season playing in the SEC. They faced SEC defenses throughout the year. They were both 1-1 in their two biggest games of the year. No matter how you slice it, it's razor close.

    I normally do these type of analyses on [primarily] a team versus a team and often a unit versus a unit but rarely even a level versus level - never a player versus a player. To answer this question, though, we'll really just need look at these two Quarterbacks, comparing their performances only - as opposed to the entire team's - to the defenses they faced compared to what they are about to face. First, here are three sets of stats showing a comparison of AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray using several standard, pertinent Split Stats, Situational Stats, and Opponent Specific Stats.


    Split Stats
    Category G Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att TD Int Rating Att/G Yards/G
    AJ McCarron All Games 12 265 178 67.2% 2507 9.5 25 2 176.26 22.1 208.9
    Aaron Murray All Games 12 320 213 66.6% 3201 10 30 7 177.15 26.7 266.8
    AJ McCarron vs. FBS (I-A) 11 259 172 66.4% 2374 9.2 24 2 172.44 23.5 215.8
    Aaron Murray vs. FBS (I-A) 11 292 195 66.8% 2871 9.8 26 7 173.96 26.5 261
    AJ McCarron vs. Conference 8 194 132 68.0% 1744 9 15 2 167.01 24.3 218
    Aaron Murray vs. Conference 8 230 152 66.1% 2056 8.9 19 6 163.22 28.8 257
    AJ McCarron vs. Ranked (AP) 3 82 46 56.1% 673 8.2 4 2 136.26 27.3 224.3
    Aaron Murray vs. Ranked (AP) 2 55 23 41.8% 259 4.7 1 4 72.83 27.5 129.5
    AJ McCarron vs. FBS Winning 5 124 76 61.3% 1100 8.9 10 2 159.19 24.8 220
    Aaron Murray vs. FBS Winning 3 79 41 51.9% 509 6.4 3 4 108.43 26.3 169.7
    AJ McCarron vs. BCS AQ 9 215 143 66.5% 1943 9 17 2 166.66 23.9 215.9
    Aaron Murray vs. BCS AQ 9 247 166 67.2% 2271 9.2 21 6 167.64 27.4 252.3


    Situational Stats
    Category G Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att TD Int Rating Long 1st 15+ 25+
    AJ McCarron 1st Down 12 117 79 67.5% 1315 11.2 11 0 192.96 57 47 33 19
    Aaron Murray 1st Down 12 149 111 74.5% 1759 11.8 11 2 195.34 67 64 45 17
    AJ McCarron 2nd Down 12 66 46 69.7% 539 8.2 5 0 163.30 54 25 15 3
    Aaron Murray 2nd Down 12 88 54 61.4% 668 7.6 7 3 144.56 33 32 20 5
    AJ McCarron 3rd Down 12 80 52 65.0% 649 8.1 9 1 167.77 85 32 16 6
    Aaron Murray 3rd Down 12 79 47 59.5% 773 9.8 12 2 186.75 66 35 17 10
    AJ McCarron 3rd Down, 7+ To Go 12 37 24 64.9% 312 8.4 4 0 171.37 112 10 6 3
    Aaron Murray 3rd Down, 7+ To Go 12 47 24 51.1% 464 9.9 5 2 160.59 89 16 13 7
    AJ McCarron Opp 20 To 1 Yd Ln (RZ) 12 33 18 54.5% 145 4.4 11 1 195.39 20 8 2 0
    Aaron Murray Opp 20 To 1 Yd Ln (RZ) 12 45 29 64.4% 232 5.2 13 2 194.20 17 12 3 0


    Opponent Specific Stats
    Category
    Result Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att TD Int Rating
    AJ McCarron AJ McCarron's FBS Opponents 10 - 1 259 172 66.4% 2374 9.2 24 2 172.44
    Aaron Murray Aaron Murray's FBS Opponents 10 - 1 292 195 66.8% 2871 9.8 26 7 173.96
    AJ McCarron AJ McCarron's Conference Opponents 7 - 1 194 132 68.0% 1744 9.0 15 2 167.01
    Aaron Murray Aaron Murray's Conference Opponents 7 - 1 230 152 66.1% 2056 8.9 19 6 163.22
    AJ McCarron Worst Two Conference Performances 1 - 1 61 35 57.4% 474 7.8 2 2 126.91
    Aaron Murray Worst Two Conference Performances 1 - 1 55 23 41.8% 259 4.7 1 4 72.83
    AJ McCarron Best Two Conference Performances 2 - 0 43 32 74.4% 522 12.1 8 0 237.79
    Aaron Murray Best Two Conference Performances 2 - 0 66 51 77.3% 811 12.3 8 0 220.49
    AJ McCarron Common Conference Opponents 4 - 0 94 70 74.5% 873 9.3 10 0 187.59
    Aaron Murray Common Conference Opponents 4 - 0 113 81 71.7% 1120 9.9 12 2 186.44



    As you can see, they are very similar. They are the two highest rated Quarterbacks in the country for a reason. However, there are a few things that stand out:
    - McCarron performed marginally better than Murray, overall, in conference play (8 games for both).
    - McCarron performed significantly better than Murray, overall, versus FBS teams with current winning records (5 games for AJ, 3 games for Murray).
    - McCarron performed extremely better than Murray, overall, versus teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25 (3 games for AJ, 2 games for Murray).
    - Both Quarterbacks perform exceptionally well, overall, on 1st Down and in the Red Zone.
    - AJ McCarron performs noticeably better than Murray on 3rd and Long.
    - While both McCarron and Murray have great Attempts/TD ratios (10.6 and 10.7, respectively), McCarron has a much better Attempts/Int ratio (89.0 versus 30.4, respectively) over the entire season.
    - Similarly, against SEC opponents both McCarron and Murray have good Att/TD ratios (12.9 and 12.1, respectively) while McCarron has a much better Att/Int ratio (66.0 versus 25.3).
    -Against FBS teams with winning records, McCarron has a significantly better Att/TD ratio (12.4 versus 26.3) as well as Att/Int ratio (38.0 versus 10.3).
    In their two worst Conference game performances (both against a Top 10 and a Top 40 Pass Efficiency Defense), AJ McCarron performed much better, overall, than Aaron Murray (126.91 QB Rating versus 72.83 QB Rating).



    Of course, those are just general stats and don't necessarily take into account the defenses that the Quarterbacks faced. So, here are a couple sets of differential stats, comparing how McCarron and Murray performed versus what the defenses they faced typically allowed:


    General Differential Stats
    Category
    Result Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att TD Int Rating
    AJ McCarron Against FBS Opponents 10 - 1 259 172 66.4% 2374 9.2 24 2 172.44
    FBS Opponents Allowing 378.5 229.4 60.6% 2729.4 7.2 18.8 10.4 132.12
    Differential 5.8% 2.0 40.32
    Aaron Murray AgainstFBS Opponents 10 - 1 292 195 66.8% 2871 9.8 26 7 173.96
    FBS Opponents Allowing 372.5 222.1 59.6% 2650.0 7.1 17.4 10.4 129.21
    Differential 7.2% 2.7 44.75
    AJ McCarron Against Conference Opponents 7 - 1 194 132 68.0% 1744 9.0 15 2 167.01
    Conference Opponents Allowing 405.0 248.8 61.4% 2926.5 7.2 19.4 10.8 132.60
    Differential 6.6% 1.8 34.41
    Aaron Murray Against Conference Opponents 7 - 1 230 152 66.1% 2056 8.9 19 6 163.22
    Conference Opponents Allowing 390.4 231.9 59.4% 2663.3 6.8 15.9 10.9 124.53
    Differential 6.7% 2.1 38.69
    AJ McCarron Against Common SEC Opponents 4 - 0 94 70 74.5% 873 9.3 10 0 187.59
    Common SEC Opponents Allowing 400.0 255.0 63.8% 2995.5 7.5 21.3 8.8 139.81
    Differential 10.7% 1.8 47.78
    Aaron Murray Against SEC Conference Opponents 4 - 0 113 81 71.7% 1120 9.9 12 2 186.44
    Common SEC Opponents Allowing 400.0 255.0 63.8% 2995.5 7.5 21.3 8.8 139.81
    Differential 7.9% 2.4 46.63


    Situational Differential Stats (Per Game Averages)
    Category
    Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att TD Int Rating 1st Downs 25+ Yard
    AJ McCarron 1st Down 9.8 6.6 67.5% 109.6 11.0 0.9 0.0 192.96 3.9 1.6
    AJ McCarron's Conference Opponents 13.4 8.7 64.8% 105.1 6.3 0.5 0.3 139.27 3.8 1.0
    Differential 2.7% 4.5 4.7 0.4 -0.3 53.69 0.1 0.6
    Aaron Murray 1st Down 12.4 9.3 74.5% 146.6 11.0 0.9 0.2 195.34 5.3 1.4
    Aaron Murray's Conference Opponents 12.3 7.6 61.7% 91.5 5.4 0.5 0.3 131.82 3.4 0.8
    Differential 12.8% 55.1 5.6 0.4 -0.1 63.52 1.9 0.6
    AJ McCarron 2nd Down 6.0 4.2 69.7% 49.0 5.0 0.5 0.0 163.30 2.3 0.3
    AJ McCarron's Conference Opponents 10.8 7.0 64.9% 75.0 6.1 0.5 0.2 134.96 3.7 0.6
    Differential 4.8% -26.0 -1.1 0.0 -0.2 28.34 -1.4 -0.3
    Aaron Murray 2nd Down 7.3 4.5 61.4% 55.7 7.0 0.6 0.3 144.56 2.7 0.4
    Aaron Murray's Conference Opponents 10.5 6.7 63.4% 67.9 4.7 0.4 0.3 125.05 3.3 0.5
    Differential -2.0% -12.2 2.3 0.2 0.0 19.51 -0.6 -0.1
    AJ McCarron 3rd Down 7.3 4.7 65.0% 59.0 9.0 0.8 0.1 167.77 2.9 0.5
    AJ McCarron's Conference Opponents 8.9 4.7 52.7% 58.7 6.3 0.5 0.3 120.15 3.0 0.5
    Differential 12.3% 0.3 2.7 0.3 -0.2 47.62 -0.1 0.0
    Aaron Murray 3rd Down 6.6 3.9 59.5% 64.4 12.0 1.0 0.2 186.75 2.9 0.8
    Aaron Murray's Conference Opponents 9.0 4.7 52.5% 58.7 5.1 0.4 0.3 115.45 2.9 0.5
    Differential 7.0% 5.7 6.9 0.6 -0.1 71.30 0.0 0.3
    AJ McCarron 3rd Down, 7+ To Go 1.8 1.1 64.9% 14.9 4.0 0.2 0.0 171.37 0.5 0.1
    AJ McCarron's Conference Opponents 5.5 2.7 49.5% 35.8 2.8 0.2 0.2 111.40 1.3 0.3
    Differential 15.4% -20.9 1.2 0.0 -0.2 59.97 -0.8 -0.2
    Aaron Murray 3rd Down, 7+ To Go 2.5 1.3 51.1% 24.4 5.0 0.3 0.1 160.59 0.8 0.4
    Aaron Murray's Conference Opponents 5.8 2.9 50.7% 38.5 1.9 0.2 0.2 108.04 1.5 0.4
    Differential 0.4% -14.1 3.1 0.1 -0.1 52.55 -0.7 0.0
    AJ McCarron Opp 20 To 1 Yd Ln (RZ) 3.0 1.6 54.5% 13.2 11.0 1.0 0.1 195.39 0.7 0.0
    AJ McCarron's Conference Opponents 3.9 2.0 53.0% 16.1 10.5 1.0 0.2 160.90 0.8 0.0
    Differential 1.5% -2.9 0.5 0.0 -0.1 34.49 -0.1 0.0
    Aaron Murray Opp 20 To 1 Yd Ln (RZ) 3.8 2.4 64.4% 19.3 13.0 1.1 0.2 194.20 1.0 0.0
    Aaron Murray's Conference Opponents 3.9 2.0 51.2% 14.1 9.1 0.8 0.1 144.64 0.7 0.0
    Differential 13.2% 5.2 3.9 0.3 0.1 49.56 0.3 0.0


    As you can see, both Quarterbacks fared generally better against the defenses they faced compared to what those defenses usually allowed, from basically every major perspective. You will notice that Aaron Murray did face slightly better Passing Efficiency Defenses than did AJ McCarron, for the season and in SEC play, although the difference is minimal. You will also notice that AJ McCarron performed slightly better than Aaron Murray did against common SEC foes, although that difference is also minimal.

    The biggest keys that are to be found when comparing these two Quarterbacks, looking for an advantage or disadvantage, is going to be in the details. Generally, both of them are excellent and their numbers are very similar. However, whether it is due to the system or the Quarterback, there are a couple of important differences to consider. While Murray does have more overall TDs and big plays passing, that is a direct result of throwing the ball more; the two either average the same number of pasing attempts to TDs and big plays or else AJ has an advantage in that number, depending upon the split or category you look at. Both of these defenses want to force you into 3rd and Long as much as possible. When facing 3rd and Long (7+ yards), both Quarterbacks performed well. However, AJ McCarron did an excellent job of protecting the football - not throwing an Interception all season in 3rd and Long - when the defense all but knew it was going to be a pass. Both Quarterbacks also performed well overall in the Red Zone, averaging a TD pass per game in the Red Zone in Conference play. Murray had more yards on more attempts than did AJ but AJ was more effective, throwing a TD for every three Red Zone passing attempts versus one per close to four attempts for Murray. Both protected the ball very well, with AJ throwing one Interception and Murray throwing two. The most important detail, though, is in looking at each Quarterback's "downside". Against the best passing defenses they faced - in and out of Conference - there was a marked difference in the overall quality of play between the two Quarterbacks, especially in Conference. Comparing their two worst performances in Conference play, AJ McCarron's QB Rating was over 50 points higher than was Aaron Murray's. Both quarterbacks faced 3 of the Top 40 Pass Efficiency Defenses while Murray faced 4 Top 60 Pass Efficiency Defenses and McCarron faced 5 - McCarron's QB Rating was around 30 points better than Murrays in both of those sets of games.

    Murray has a better "top-end" - likely due to playing more and throwing more passes - against "bottom-half" defenses than does McCarron. However, Murray has a habit of struggling or under-performing much more than McCarron against better defenses.

    And both of these defenses are good against the pass, with Georgia averaging allowing a Pass Efficiency Rating of 118.76 (32nd in the Country) and Alabama averaging allowing a Pass Efficiency Rating of 98.69 (5th in the Country).

    Against Conference opponents, Georgia is averaging allowing a Pass Efficiency Rating of 124.99 (7th in the SEC) while Alabama is averaging allowing a Pass Efficiency Rating of 99.87 (2nd in the SEC).

    Given these stats, comparing the differentials of the two Quarterbacks performances against the defenses they faced, comparing the differentials of the defenses they faced against the averages of the offenses they faced, giving heavier weight to similarly ranked, rated, and styled opponents as what they are facing today, here are the results of the full differential statistical analysis in the way of predicting each Quarterback's performance in the SEC Championship Game:


    AJ McCarron: 28 Attempts, 16 Completions (57.1%), 205 Yards (7.3 YPA), 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 142.21 QB Rating, 10 Passing First Downs, 2 Passing Plays of 25+ Yards.
    Aaron Murray: 28 Attempts, 14 Completions (50.0%), 167 Yards (6.0 YPA), 1 TD, 1 INT, 104.74 QB Rating, 8 Passing First Downs, 1 Passing Play of 25+ Yards.



    This is assuming, of course, that both teams come out ready to play from the first whistle. If one team comes out flat then all bets are off. Based upon the full differential analysis, some key stat trends, and some play-by-play analysis here are a few of my keys for the game:

    Alabama:
    - Stop the run on first down. Murray is deadly on 2nd and 3rd downs with less than 5 yards to go. This is where Murray makes a vast majority of his big plays.
    - Force as many 2nd and 3rd Down and Longs (7+ yards) as you can. Murray does well on 3rd and Long but this is where he is most likely to throw a bad Interception. In conference play Murray averages an INT for about every 12 throws on these downs. Against Top 60 pass defenses this number is less than 10 throws. Given Alabama's knack for collecting INTs on these downs, you could very see a Murray Interception for every 7 or 8 of these throws. If Bama can stop the run on first and second down, forcing Murray into 15 or 16 of these downs, you could very well see Murray throw 3 or 4 INTs in this game.
    - Mix up the zone and man coverages, giving Murray different reads as much as possible. Saban loves the Cover 1 Rat (or Cover 1 Robber) style of man coverage. Sprinkling in a few occasions of rushing only three defenders using both Mosely and Lester in the "Rat" roles - Mosley short and Lester long - could result in big plays for the defense with a mis-read by Murray.
    - Get pressure early in the game, even if you have to give up a big play or two to get it. When Murray feels pressure early and often in a game, he tends to feel pressure the whole game - even when it isn't there. If he starts "hearing footsteps" then he is much more likely to make mis-reads.
    Georgia:
    - Run as often and as successfully as possible on first down. Georgia needs to average at least 4 yards per rush on first down.
    - Utilize the Tight End(s) and Runningbacks on Seam, Flat, and Out routes.
    - Keep Murray's jersey clean for the entire first Quarter, at least.
    - Stay out of 3rd and Long as much as possible - preferably under 6-7 for the game.

    Whichever team does a better job of these keys is, in my opinion, the most likely to win the game.


    My Prediction:
    Alabama 34
    Georgia 17
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  3. #2
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    Re: SECCG: A Statistical Differential Analysis of... the Quarterbacks?

    Wow. Thanks for a lot of good information. Wish there was a way to analyze how often the qb gets his team to the best changed play in audible situations. I'm sure our staff tracks that for AJ, but you could only get that raw data from the coaching staffs. The other interesting stat that I know (at least some) pro teams track is "catchables" or "on target" throws. They add to the QBs stats the drops or other balls that should/could have been caught (wrong route by receiver) and subtract those where the receiver goes to outstanding lengths to get to the ball or it is tip caught by another receiver. After all, one of AJ's INTs this year was because the receiver batted it up in the air.
    Roll Tide

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    Senior Administrator TIDE-HSV's Avatar
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    Re: SECCG: A Statistical Differential Analysis of... the Quarterbacks?

    That exhausted me just reading all that...
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    Re: SECCG: A Statistical Differential Analysis of... the Quarterbacks?


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