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» Four Downs: NFC South

Our offseason Four Downs series continues with a division-by-division look at each team's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. Does anyone in the NFC South have any pass rushers? Well, the Bucs might, but they still need more players to catch the ball.

19 Sep 2014

Varsity Numbers: Cry Havoc

by Bill Connelly

In Tuesday's Numerical column at SB Nation, I made reference to a measure I've been tracking for a while but haven't done much with to date. I included it in this offseason's team previews but never gave it too much emphasis.

Havoc rate is a pretty simple method for looking at how much hell a defense is raising. Add up tackles for loss (which includes sacks), forced fumbles, and defensed passes (picks and break-ups), divide it by total plays, and voila: havoc rate. The national havoc average in 2013 was 15.9 percent.

Against Georgia, South Carolina's was a paltry 11.7: four tackles for loss (two sacks) and three pass break-ups in 60 snaps. Not very good. However…

A) It represented significant improvement from South Carolina's first two games, in which the Gamecocks averaged a woeful 6 percent against Texas A&M and East Carolina: five tackles for loss, five passes defensed in 166 snaps. (Further frame of reference: Navy was dead last in havoc last year at 9.3 percent.)

B) South Carolina's second "sack" saved the game. Georgia trailed 38-35 with 5:24 left, and Damian Swann had just picked off S.C. quarterback Dylan Thompson and returned the ball to the Gamecocks' 4. Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo had called seven consecutive run plays (three for Todd Gurley, one for Sony Michel, three for fullback Quayvon Hicks) to finish Georgia's last scoring drive, and he decided it was time for the play-action bootleg that tends to work pretty easily in those situations. Only, when [quarterback Hutson] Mason turned to run to his right after faking the handoff, [Gerald] Dixon was charging at him. Mason attempted to throw the ball at a back's feet (a "grounding" that doesn't tend to draw a penalty), but the ball deflected off of Dixon, and Mason was penalized.

It was a pretty tenuous call, and if the ball doesn't hit Dixon, it doesn't get called at all -- but it set into motion the chain of events that won South Carolina the game. Facing second-and-goal from the 14, Georgia quickly went three-and-out (thanks in part to a pass broken up by J.T. Surratt), and previously automatic place-kicker Marshall Morgan missed a 28-yard field goal off of the right hash. South Carolina moved the chains a couple of times, converted a fourth-and-1 by a literal millimeter, and ran out the clock for the win.

So while South Carolina didn't generate much havoc, it generated clutch havoc. That's something.

(I enjoy tossing in the word "clutch" at times, just to see which nerds' hackles get raised.)

Simply making plays that show up in the box score doesn't make your defense good. Arkansas has made plenty of plays, as you'll see below, but currently ranks 63rd in Success Rate; Syracuse's front seven makes more plays than anybody, but the Orange rank just 58th in Success Rate. And in the name of Havoc, you might end up making yourself quite vulnerable to not only big plays, but huge ones. So before we go any further, realize that this is more of what I like to call a personality stat than an evaluative one.

Still, it's a hell of a personality stat. It's incredibly easy to understand -- it was only one part of the Numerical, but it resonated more than the rest of the piece combined (sheesh, it's like nobody cares about the plight of Troy's football program or who Abilene Christian was playing 10 years ago). Plus, if you separate the numbers out by defensive unit (line, linebackers, secondary), you can figure out which teams are doing their damage where.

In total, the Havoc stats as defined above hedge toward passes defensed; defensive backs have made 39.0 percent of all Havoc plays this year, while linemen have made 31.3 percent and linebackers have made 29.8 percent. And to be sure, breaking up a pass is not as destructive as making a huge sack. (Still, a breakup is only a happy bounce away from becoming an interception, so we shouldn't downplay it too much either.)

With that in mind, here are the Havoc totals for 2014, broken down by unit. Note that each player's position is dictated by how he is listed in his school's official roster. If the roster is outdated, or if a player plays a pretty blurry position (a linebacker could really be spending a good amount of time as a defensive end in one system, or a makeshift nickelback in another), that could add some error to the data. But that's what we have to work with.

Team Havoc Rate, Through Three Weeks (2014)
Team Havoc Rate Rk DL Rk LB Rk DB Rk
Florida 27.8% 1 9.4% 7 4.1% 72 14.3% 1
Virginia Tech 27.6% 2 6.5% 33 8.6% 8 12.5% 2
TCU 27.4% 3 11.5% 2 7.4% 17 8.5% 16
Virginia 26.2% 4 5.7% 43 12.0% 1 8.6% 14
Wake Forest 26.2% 5 9.1% 11 9.5% 4 7.6% 26
Northern Illinois 25.3% 6 8.1% 15 7.1% 19 10.1% 5
Utah State 24.1% 7 5.8% 37 8.4% 11 9.9% 6
Mississippi State 23.5% 8 6.8% 27 8.3% 12 7.1% 42
Boise State 23.1% 9 7.6% 18 8.4% 10 7.1% 39
Arkansas 22.1% 10 9.4% 8 6.5% 26 5.8% 68
Clemson 21.7% 11 10.0% 4 6.3% 28 5.4% 77
Missouri 21.6% 12 11.7% 1 1.8% 114 7.6% 30
Baylor 21.5% 13 10.8% 3 5.6% 45 5.1% 86
Oklahoma State 21.5% 14 8.5% 13 6.0% 35 7.0% 44
Ole Miss 21.2% 15 6.9% 26 2.0% 113 12.3% 3
Ohio State 21.0% 16 6.8% 29 8.3% 14 6.0% 60
Syracuse 20.8% 17 9.7% 5 9.7% 3 1.4% 128
Louisville 20.2% 18 6.8% 28 3.8% 80 9.6% 7
Wisconsin 20.2% 19 3.8% 82 10.5% 2 5.9% 66
Stanford 20.1% 20 5.0% 51 8.3% 13 6.2% 54
Penn State 20.1% 21 9.2% 10 3.3% 92 7.6% 28
LSU 20.0% 22 7.4% 20 4.3% 67 8.3% 19
Marshall 19.8% 23 7.7% 17 3.2% 94 9.0% 10
Oregon 19.7% 24 4.9% 54 5.4% 48 9.0% 9
Pittsburgh 19.7% 25 6.6% 31 6.0% 34 6.6% 49
Team Havoc Rate Rk DL Rk LB Rk DB Rk
Oregon State 19.3% 26 4.1% 74 7.0% 20 8.1% 20
Oklahoma 19.0% 27 4.9% 55 5.8% 43 8.4% 18
Miami 19.0% 28 4.2% 72 8.8% 6 5.6% 73
South Alabama 19.0% 29 3.6% 87 6.2% 30 9.1% 8
Akron 18.6% 30 7.2% 21 6.2% 29 5.2% 84
Auburn 18.6% 31 7.1% 22 4.3% 67 7.1% 38
Appalachian State 18.5% 32 4.6% 60 9.3% 5 4.6% 97
Rutgers 18.3% 33 7.5% 19 2.7% 102 7.5% 31
Old Dominion 17.9% 34 7.1% 23 5.7% 44 5.2% 82
Nebraska 17.9% 35 5.5% 46 3.4% 90 8.9% 11
Maryland 17.9% 36 4.0% 78 6.7% 23 7.2% 37
Iowa 17.8% 37 7.9% 16 5.0% 55 5.0% 88
Memphis 17.8% 38 4.4% 68 8.5% 9 4.8% 91
Florida International 17.7% 39 9.1% 12 2.6% 103 6.0% 62
Kansas State 17.7% 40 4.6% 62 5.0% 52 8.1% 22
Utah 17.7% 41 9.5% 6 2.4% 106 4.6% 98
UAB 17.6% 42 3.4% 93 7.9% 16 6.0% 59
North Texas 17.6% 43 9.3% 9 3.5% 86 4.8% 94
UTSA 17.5% 44 7.0% 24 2.0% 112 8.6% 15
Arkansas State 17.5% 45 4.1% 73 4.8% 56 8.1% 23
Boston College 17.4% 46 3.5% 89 6.5% 24 7.3% 36
Central Michigan 17.2% 47 6.5% 32 1.6% 118 7.7% 25
UL-Monroe 17.2% 48 2.7% 108 5.9% 40 8.1% 21
Michigan State 16.9% 49 5.8% 40 4.2% 71 6.9% 46
North Carolina 16.9% 50 4.4% 69 6.1% 33 6.4% 52
Team Havoc Rate Rk DL Rk LB Rk DB Rk
San Jose State 16.8% 51 1.2% 127 3.6% 83 11.2% 4
Georgia Tech 16.7% 52 7.0% 25 1.1% 123 8.6% 13
Texas 16.6% 53 8.3% 14 4.8% 57 3.5% 116
Notre Dame 16.6% 54 5.8% 39 4.3% 70 6.5% 50
UTEP 16.5% 55 4.9% 53 4.1% 74 7.4% 34
San Diego State 16.4% 56 6.3% 34 5.5% 47 4.7% 96
California 16.3% 57 5.1% 50 5.1% 51 6.1% 56
Georgia 16.2% 58 3.0% 103 8.1% 15 4.4% 104
Western Michigan 16.1% 59 5.4% 49 4.7% 59 6.0% 58
Kentucky 15.7% 60 6.2% 35 1.7% 117 7.4% 33
Army 15.7% 61 2.5% 111 6.8% 21 6.4% 51
Tennessee 15.7% 62 5.4% 48 5.9% 40 4.4% 103
Washington 15.7% 63 5.5% 45 6.1% 32 4.0% 111
N.C. State 15.7% 64 5.8% 38 3.8% 81 6.1% 57
BYU 15.6% 65 0.5% 128 8.8% 7 6.4% 53
Minnesota 15.6% 66 4.0% 76 4.0% 79 7.6% 29
Alabama 15.6% 67 3.9% 80 7.2% 18 4.5% 99
Tulsa 15.4% 68 5.8% 40 5.8% 42 3.4% 117
Arizona State 15.0% 69 1.8% 120 5.9% 39 7.0% 43
Temple 14.9% 70 6.7% 30 2.2% 108 6.0% 63
Toledo 14.9% 71 5.5% 47 3.5% 87 5.9% 64
Purdue 14.8% 72 3.1% 101 4.0% 76 7.6% 27
Florida State 14.7% 73 3.5% 92 2.4% 105 8.7% 12
Tulane 14.7% 74 4.7% 58 4.7% 60 5.3% 80
USC 14.6% 75 2.4% 113 5.1% 50 7.1% 41
Team Havoc Rate Rk DL Rk LB Rk DB Rk
Vanderbilt 14.4% 76 2.5% 112 6.4% 27 5.6% 73
South Florida 14.4% 77 3.4% 94 5.0% 52 6.0% 60
Buffalo 14.4% 78 4.8% 56 2.2% 111 7.4% 35
Colorado 14.3% 79 4.3% 70 3.1% 96 6.9% 47
Nevada 14.3% 79 6.2% 36 2.2% 109 5.9% 65
Ohio 14.2% 81 3.8% 83 6.0% 35 4.4% 101
East Carolina 14.2% 82 4.6% 63 4.1% 73 5.5% 75
Central Florida 14.2% 83 3.7% 84 3.4% 91 7.1% 40
Indiana 14.1% 84 3.8% 81 6.2% 31 4.1% 110
Kansas 14.1% 85 2.6% 110 3.0% 97 8.5% 16
West Virginia 14.0% 86 2.8% 106 6.5% 25 4.8% 95
Miami (Ohio) 13.8% 87 3.3% 97 4.4% 66 5.6% 70
Wyoming 13.8% 88 3.9% 79 6.0% 37 3.9% 114
Illinois 13.7% 89 4.8% 57 5.6% 46 3.3% 118
Bowling Green 13.6% 90 5.7% 42 4.5% 61 3.0% 123
Georgia Southern 13.6% 91 3.5% 91 2.2% 110 7.5% 32
Houston 13.6% 92 4.7% 59 3.2% 93 5.7% 69
Eastern Michigan 13.5% 93 4.1% 75 4.1% 75 5.4% 78
Washington State 13.4% 94 1.9% 118 4.5% 61 6.9% 45
Texas A&M 13.3% 95 5.6% 44 2.6% 104 5.2% 85
Hawaii 12.9% 96 4.0% 76 4.4% 63 4.4% 101
Louisiana Tech 12.6% 97 3.2% 100 4.3% 69 5.2% 83
Georgia State 12.4% 98 1.9% 119 5.0% 54 5.6% 71
Connecticut 12.3% 99 2.8% 105 6.7% 22 2.8% 124
Western Kentucky 12.2% 100 4.5% 66 3.5% 89 4.3% 108
Team Havoc Rate Rk DL Rk LB Rk DB Rk
Arizona 12.1% 101 1.3% 126 4.0% 77 6.7% 48
Air Force 12.0% 102 3.7% 86 5.2% 49 3.1% 120
Massachusetts 12.0% 103 3.3% 99 3.1% 95 5.6% 71
Middle Tennessee 11.8% 104 2.6% 109 4.4% 64 4.8% 92
Northwestern 11.7% 105 3.4% 95 4.0% 78 4.3% 106
Duke 11.7% 106 3.4% 96 0.5% 128 7.9% 24
Iowa State 11.4% 107 4.3% 71 1.0% 124 6.2% 55
Michigan 11.4% 108 4.6% 61 1.4% 121 5.4% 76
Texas State 11.3% 109 2.8% 104 3.6% 82 4.8% 90
Troy 11.2% 110 4.5% 64 1.3% 122 5.4% 79
Colorado State 10.9% 111 1.7% 123 4.4% 64 4.8% 92
Fresno State 10.7% 112 1.4% 125 6.0% 38 2.6% 125
UL-Lafayette 10.4% 113 4.5% 65 3.6% 84 2.4% 126
New Mexico State 10.2% 114 1.5% 124 2.9% 98 4.4% 105
New Mexico 10.1% 115 2.2% 116 2.9% 99 5.1% 87
UCLA 10.0% 116 2.2% 115 3.5% 88 3.9% 113
Southern Miss 10.0% 117 3.3% 97 0.5% 127 5.2% 81
Florida Atlantic 10.0% 118 3.5% 90 2.3% 107 4.1% 109
Idaho 9.9% 119 5.0% 52 2.8% 100 2.1% 127
Navy 9.9% 120 2.0% 117 4.7% 58 3.2% 119
Ball State 9.8% 121 2.4% 113 1.5% 120 5.9% 67
Cincinnati 9.8% 121 3.0% 102 1.8% 115 4.9% 89
Rice 9.8% 121 4.5% 67 0.8% 126 4.5% 100
Kent State 9.6% 124 3.7% 85 2.8% 101 3.0% 122
SMU 8.9% 125 1.8% 122 3.6% 85 3.6% 115
UNLV 8.6% 126 2.7% 107 1.6% 119 4.3% 107
Texas Tech 7.9% 127 1.8% 121 1.8% 116 4.0% 112
South Carolina 7.5% 128 3.5% 88 0.9% 125 3.1% 121

Missouri's defensive line, led by destructive ends Markus Golden (6.5 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, one pass defensed) and Shane Ray (7.5 TFLs, 5.0 sacks, one forced fumble) and tackle Lucas Vincent (2.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks), is allowing the Tigers to play reasonably passive defense in the back seven. That shows up especially in the fact that the Tigers' linebackers have made fewer plays than almost anybody. Mike Scherer (MLB) and Kentrell Brothers (WLB) have combined for 17 solo tackles, 32 assists, and only one tackle for loss. But the Tigers have played efficient ball, and the GoldenRay combination allows them to blitz without blitzing.

Missouri's line is active, but Syracuse's front seven has easily been the most aggressive overall.

Combined Front Seven (or Six) Havoc Rate:
1. Syracuse (19.4%)
2. TCU (18.9%)
3. Wake Forest (18.6%)
4. Virginia (17.6%)
5. Baylor (16.4%)
6. Clemson (16.3%)
7. Boise State (16.0%)
8. Arkansas (15.9%)
9. Northern Illinois (15.3%)
10. Mississippi State (15.2%)

TCU, by the way, is almost No. 1 here despite the loss of star end Devante Fields to general stupidity in the offseason. Granted, the Frogs' averages have potentially been boosted by playing Samford and Minnesota, but they have 21 tackles for loss in two games without Fields, which is rather unfair.

So what does this mean exactly? It may be more descriptive than evaluative, but how does it tie to stats that are actually evaluative?

Correlations
Total Havoc Rate Success Rate IsoPPP
DL Havoc Rate 0.706 0.432 0.148
LB Havoc Rate 0.539 0.369 0.119
DB Havoc Rate 0.600 0.381 0.106
Success Rate IsoPPP
Total Havoc Rate 0.630 0.213

It would make sense that Havoc Rate and Success Rate are rather closely correlated. If you think about the extreme versions of defenses -- great Success Rates, terrible IsoPPP rates (Michigan State, for example); terrible Success Rates, great IsoPPP rates (a bend-don't-break style of defense like UCLA's or Notre Dame's) -- it would certainly stand to reason that the former would be making more plays behind the line of scrimmages and getting more hands on footballs. This somewhat confirms that aggressiveness is a key to efficient football (but isn't the only way to play good defense).

This week at SB Nation

Monday
The SEC West is as good as the SEC always tells you it is

Tuesday
The Numerical, Week 3: No, the Playoff is not ruining college football
Missouri 38, UCF 10: Beyond the box score

Wednesday
4 things we'll learn about from Clemson-Florida State, even if FSU wins big

Thursday
Can Oklahoma avoid another insane shootout at West Virginia?
College football projections: Week 4 F/+ picks

Friday
When Auburn played Kansas State, the better team won
Indiana at Missouri: Stats, matchups, and trench warfare

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 19 Sep 2014

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