Watching David Shaw and Stanford make some more sadly predictably terrible punt decisions last Saturday it occurred to me that we can use the cfbd data to figure out exactly how bad they were.
The surrender index was first described by Jon Bois in this video, and now there’s an excellent twitter bot that tracks it for the NFL here. This is not my idea! That being said, I don’t see one out there for college so let’s write one that uses the cfbd data model.
The “sadness score” uses objective factors about the punt to score how bad it was. Deep in opponents’ territory with a close game and short yardage to go all make it worse.
Here’s the code. My very basic query pulls everything from a given week. Let’s see some bad punts from last weekend. (Caveat: The cfbd data store has some issues with the pbp. Some games don’t have good scrapeable data. I have eliminated a few outliers. If you run this you may see some noise.)
56.150 Connecticut with 4th and 8, 41 yards to goal, gameclock 10:25 in Q4 (score 28-31) 53.661 Western Illinois with 4th and 8, 37 yards to goal, gameclock 5:07 in Q3 (score 14-21) 33.176 Colgate with 4th and 4, 49 yards to goal, gameclock 1:39 in Q4 (score 0-51) 30.835 LSU with 4th and 9, 39 yards to goal, gameclock 7:07 in Q2 (score 7-14) 30.835 Western Michigan with 4th and 7, 39 yards to goal, gameclock 14:45 in Q2 (score 7-10)
These are the five “worst”. The first number is the “sadness score.” First thing to note: the worst punt of the week was so bad the coach quit/got fired right after the game! Bye Randy Edsall, this was the last straw. On the opponent’s 41 trailing by a field goal in the 4th. That’s a bad punt.
So where did Stanford’s two terrible punts net out?
8.218 Stanford with 4th and 27, 41 yards to goal, gameclock 10:14 in Q3 (score 0-14) 7.435 Stanford with 4th and 23, 43 yards to goal, gameclock 13:12 in Q2 (score 0-7)
That was good for the 41st and 49th worst punts of the day by the sadness index. The first one listed was actually much worse, because it seemed like Shaw lined up to punt from the 36 before getting a penalty to move it back. (The NFL surrender bot handles this case gracefully.) If that punt had been from the 36 it would have scored out above 20, making it around the 14th worst punt of the day across the nation.
So much despair. I honestly did not expect the list to be that bad. This one really jumps out at me:
21.032 Indiana with 4th and 1, 57 yards to goal, gameclock 2:58 in Q4 (score 6-34)
It’s very similar to the Colgate punt in the top 5. The game is lost at this point. You’re close to midfield with likely your final possession. Why not take this chance to practice heroic 4th-and-1 conversions? Leave it on the field. What’s the point of a final punt?
Fortunately this week also saw the college debut of the “neverpunt” coach, Kevin Kelley. He was hired by tiny Presbyterian College this past offseason. They won by a ton, but most importantly look at that punting line in the boxscore. Nothing but breeze.
(You can see the full text file of bad punts here.)