So I was thumbing through ye olde Phil Steele College Football Preview Magazine this evening and came across his article on Yards per Point. This is a metric Steele uses to gauge the efficiency of a team's offense or defense. On offense the lower the number designates a more efficient team (they required fewer yards for each point) and on defense it's the opposite. Steele's contention is that unusually high or low values tend to correspond with teams' performance the next year.
Now Steele's feature only gave the national outliers but I was curious about the relative performance of the teams in the 2012 SEC so I whipped up the charts below. I don't really have a gauge on how predictive a measure this actually is so I figured I'd toss this out with a couple of observations and let y'all debate the idea's merits in the comments. If you have any ideas on how to refine this data or use it with something else, let me know and I'll fire up the spreadsheet.
Thus, on offense, squads that had unusually high YpP numbers tend to improve while teams with low numbers regress (although Steele says the effect of the latter isn't as strong as the former). His calculations suggest teams with a greater Offensive YpP value of 17.5 have an 80% chance of improving their record while those with less than 11.56 have slightly less than a 75% chance of doing worse (note: he hedges on all these by saying the team will do "equal to or worse/better").
Thus, this would seem to suggest LSU will do worse and Ole Miss will improve. I don't really know if that's going too far out on a limb seeing how extreme their records were last year but the chart of the SEC rankings seems to suggest some other interesting possibilities.
2011 SEC Offensive Yards per Point
Arkansas' offense also falls on the wrong side of Steele's bad YpP number. With that and the rocky head coach transition this off-season should we expect even less out of the Razorbacks than many are supposing up till now? Also, Alabama is right on the line there as well. So should we better prepare ourselves for the possibility that AJ might regress as the helmsman of the Crimson Tide attack? On the flip side, it's interesting to see how out-of-kilter Tennessee's offensive efficincy was last year. Is the Vols offense due for a long-delayed step forward?
Turning to the other side of the line of scrimmage, Steele say that teams with a Defensive YpP of 13.29 or less tend to improve the following year -- 68.9% chance -- and those with 17.35 or more take a step back -- 65.4% chance. (Also, this is the only defensive metric I have come across for the 2011 season that LSU actually scores better than Alabama. For whatever that's worth)
2011 SEC Defensive Yards per Point
Now given the talent level on the Alabama and LSU teams it's tough to say they'll get much worse but pretty much every preview mag (including Steele) points out the two teams are on the bottom half of the conference in terms of returning players with significant experience. That certainly would be reason to see at least a small step back from the airy heights they resided at in 2011. Perhaps more interesting is the Mississippi State inclusion in that group. Most of the magazines pick the Bulldogs' defense as their strength. Maybe there is reason to believe that's less likely than supposed.