Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This Saturday night, two of the most explosive offensive teams in college football -- Texas Tech and Oklahoma -- will meet in a game that has possible national championship implications. For starters, I thought I'd simply graph the two teams' offensive sequences (i.e., whether they resulted in touchdowns, field goals, or no score) against their five common Big 12 conference opponents (this information is available via ESPN.com's collection of college football team pages, by going to a given team's page, looking up particular games, and finding the Drive Charts). You can click on the following graph to enlarge it.

There are formal statistical tests one can do, such as the "runs test," which examines whether like events (such as touchdowns) are more commonly clustered together than would be expected by chance. Such statistical tests require large sample sizes, however, and the only way they could be obtained in the present situation is through the questionable practice of combining games into a long chain (i.e., have the final drive of one game be grafted onto the first drive of the next game).

Therefore, it's probably best to view the above chart only in a descriptive manner. As can be seen, both the Red Raiders and Sooners have put together several streaks of at least three consecutive touchdown-scoring drives. Though Oklahoma has recorded more such streaks than has Texas Tech, the Red Raiders seem to have more of a tendency to keep their streaks carrying over from one quarter to the next (and even over the halftime break).

In the games examined, Oklahoma has only one fourth-quarter touchdown, total. In many of games, however, the Sooners may have been trying not to run up the score.

One can also break down these streaks into smaller units than the scoring drive, such as pass completions. In Texas Tech's fast start against Kansas, for example, Red Raider quarterback Graham Harrell hit on 22 of his first 24 passing attempts. Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford once completed 18 straight passes in a game.

As a final note, amazing spurts are certainly not limited to Texas Tech and Oklahoma. Trailing Troy 31-3 in the third quarter last Saturday, LSU scored 37 unanswered points to win going away, 40-31.

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