How does your staff evaluate red zone efficiency?

The NCAA throws a lot of effort at things that ultimately prove useless. And no, I'm not talking about the enforcement process or the rule book or streamlining the recruiting process or.... really anything else the NCAA tries. This time I'm talking about how the NCAA measures red zone efficiency.

Glance at the official offensive red zone ratings and the NCAA would have you believe Connecticut is among the best red zone offenses in college football. Glance at Connecticut's play on the field and you'd know the Huskies aren't among the nation's best in anything on offense. In nine red zone trips through four games, Connecticut has produced four touchdowns and five field goals.

If the ultimate goal of offensive football is to score points, kicking field goals in the red zone isn't the best way to go about it. Any coach, or any fourth grader for that matter, prefers two touchdowns over three field goals in three red zone trips, even if it means coming up empty once.

Only the NCAA thinks 9 > 14.

I like points per red zone possession, and I liked it enough to look up the ten best and five worst offensive and defensive red zone ratings. For purposes of this study, we assumed every touchdown equated to seven points.

Top Ten Points Per Red Zone Possession

Team Points Per Red Zone Trip Scoring  Percentage NCAA Rank
1. Wyoming 6.36 90.9% t-26th
2. Rice 6.14 100% t-1st
3. Florida State 6.07 96.6% 5th
4. New Mexico 6.05 95% 12th
5. Nevada 6.04 96.4% 6th
6. Clemson 6.00 90.9% t-26th
    Fresno State 6.00 93.3% t-18th
    Michigan 6.00 90.9% t-26th
9. Ohio State 5.90 90% t-29th 
10. Oregon St. 5.87 93.3% t-18th 

For the record, Connecticut's points per red zone trip average is a spectacularly mediocre 4.78. The two teams that share a 100% rating with Connecticut and Rice, Iowa State (5.77) and Maryland (5.12), fall somewhere in between.

Bottom Five Points Per Red Zone Possession

Team Points Per Red Zone Trip Scoring Percentage NCAA Rank
123. San Jose State 3.00 71.4% t-105th
122. Colorado 3.11 88.9% 35th
121. La.-Monroe 3.11 52.4% 123rd
120. Purdue 3.63 62.5% 122nd
119. Southern Miss 3.70 70.0% t-109th

This chart perfectly demonstrates the flaw in the NCAA's methodology, where Colorado is 35th thanks to a red zone offense that has produced one touchdown and seven field goals in nine trips. 

Top Ten Points Per Red Zone Possession Allowed

Team Points Per Red Zone Trip Scoring Percentage NCAA Rank
1. Texas Tech 2.36 54.5% t-3rd
2. Iowa 2.44 66.7% t-8th
3. Washington St. 2.75 58.3% 5th
4. Baylor 2.82 45.% 1st
5. Louisville 3.09  54.5% t-3rd 
6. Bowling Green 3.29 47.1% 2nd 
7. Oregon 3.31 69.2% t-14th 
8. Temple 3.54  80.8% 53rd 
9. Cincinnati 3.75 75%  t-31st 
10. Florida 3.78  66.7%  t-8th 

Take a look at that team parked at No. 4. In addition to leading the free world in every offensive category known to man (including outproducing second-ranked Oregon in total offense and scoring offense by close to 20 percent), Baylor has apparently figured out how to play red zone defense which, coaches in that league will tell you, is the only type of defense that really matters in the Big 12. As their offensive numbers come back to earth - and God help us all if they don't - Baylor's ability to stay near the top of this metric will determine their candidacy for the Big 12 championship and beyond. 

Bottom Five Points Per Red Zone Trip Allowed

Team Points Per Red Zone Trip Scoring Percentage NCAA Rank
123. San Diego St. 6.78 100% t-118th
122. Air Force 6.4 93.3% 110th
121. Southern Miss 6.37 100% t-118th
120. N.C. State 6.15 92.3% 107th
119. Connecticut 6.08 100% t-118th

I'm sure this is just a coincidence, but three of these teams are winless and the group is a combined 6-19 this season.

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