Defining the College Football Analytics Stats: A Glossary

By now you should have seen our Side by Side comparison tool, and hopefully experimented with the different views you can pull for your team and any team in the FBS. If not, go check out the tool after reading this quick glossary. As the summer moves on and we get closer to the start of the season we will take a deeper dive in to each category.

Many of these stats are intuitive and will have no definitions attached to them. After all, if we have to define Rush Attempts per Game then you might not be in our core audience. For the ones with a little more nuance in them we have provided a high level view on what the stat is and why it matters.

Many of these stats are intuitive and will have no definitions attached to them. After all, if we have to define Rush Attempts per Game then you might not be in our core audience. For the ones with a little more nuance in them we have provided a high level view on what the stat is and why it matters.

Rush Attempts / Game

Percentage of Plays as Rush – This is the percentage of total plays ran by an offense that are rushing plays. This shows the play calling tendencies of an offense in use of the run game versus the pass game. Quarterback scrambles on pass plays are currently lumped into rushing attempts.

Rush Yards / Game

Rush Yards / Attempt

Rush Touchdowns / Game

Percentage of Possessions w / Rush TD – This is the percentage of possessions that an offense finishes the drive with a touchdown via a rushing play.

Percentage of Plays as Rush – This is the percentage of total plays ran by an offense that are rushing plays. This shows the play calling tendencies of an offense in use of the run game versus the pass game. Quarterback scrambles on pass plays are currently lumped into rushing attempts.

Rush Yards / Game

Rush Yards / Attempt

Rush Touchdowns / Game

Percentage of Possessions w / Rush TD – This is the percentage of possessions that an offense finishes the drive with a touchdown via a rushing play.

Pass Comp Percentage

Pass Yards / Attempt

Pass Yards / Game

Pass Touchdowns / Game

Percentage of Possessions w / Pass TD – Similar to the above number for rushing touchdowns, this is the same number but for passing touchdowns.

Pass Rating – This is the standard passer rating formula used far and wide in college football:

((8.4 x Yards) + (330 x TD) + (100 x Comp) – (200 x INT)) / Total Pass Attempts

Sacks / Game

Pass Attempts / Sack – Not all that different than the standard sacks per game, but the number of pass attempts per sack illustrates the rate at which a team is sacked to account for varying number of pass attempts from team to team. The larger the number the less often a sack is registered.

Percentage of Passes Broken Up, Intercepted, Sack – This is meant to be an all-encompassing number that shows how often the defense makes a play when the offense drops back to pass. It is simply the percentage of passing attempts where the defense notches a sack, breaks up the pass with a deflection, or gets the interception.

Pass Yards / Attempt

Pass Yards / Game

Pass Touchdowns / Game

Percentage of Possessions w / Pass TD – Similar to the above number for rushing touchdowns, this is the same number but for passing touchdowns.

Pass Rating – This is the standard passer rating formula used far and wide in college football:

((8.4 x Yards) + (330 x TD) + (100 x Comp) – (200 x INT)) / Total Pass Attempts

Sacks / Game

Pass Attempts / Sack – Not all that different than the standard sacks per game, but the number of pass attempts per sack illustrates the rate at which a team is sacked to account for varying number of pass attempts from team to team. The larger the number the less often a sack is registered.

Percentage of Passes Broken Up, Intercepted, Sack – This is meant to be an all-encompassing number that shows how often the defense makes a play when the offense drops back to pass. It is simply the percentage of passing attempts where the defense notches a sack, breaks up the pass with a deflection, or gets the interception.

Percentage of 1st Downs w / 4+ Yards Gained – The importance of keeping drives on schedule and success on first down is an area that could use more analysis from the common fan. This is the percentage of first downs where the offense gains at least four yards.

Average Yards Gained on 1st Down

Average 3rd Down Distance – Something you don’t see really anywhere else. It is another simple measure of an offense staying on schedule or a defense keeping the offense off schedule. It is a simple stat: the average distance to go to earn a first down calculated from every third down distance.

3rd Down Conversion Percentage

4th Down Conversion Percentage

1st Downs / Possession – The average number of first downs a team earns on a per possession basis. It gives an idea of ability to consistently move the ball though it can be skewed by extremely explosive offenses and/or offenses with a very favorable average starting field position.

Average Field Position – The starting field position shown in yards from a touchdown where the value of 60 means a team begins possession on their own 40 yard line on average.

Percentage of Possessions Made Red Zone – The frequency of possessions in which the offense drives in to the red zone (the final 20 yards of defensive territory). This is another number useful to sort out which teams are routinely threatening to score but can again be skewed by offenses that rack up long touchdowns.

Yards / Possession – Another measure of ability to move the ball on a consistent basis with total yardage gained divided by total possessions played.

Average Yards Gained on 1st Down

Average 3rd Down Distance – Something you don’t see really anywhere else. It is another simple measure of an offense staying on schedule or a defense keeping the offense off schedule. It is a simple stat: the average distance to go to earn a first down calculated from every third down distance.

3rd Down Conversion Percentage

4th Down Conversion Percentage

1st Downs / Possession – The average number of first downs a team earns on a per possession basis. It gives an idea of ability to consistently move the ball though it can be skewed by extremely explosive offenses and/or offenses with a very favorable average starting field position.

Average Field Position – The starting field position shown in yards from a touchdown where the value of 60 means a team begins possession on their own 40 yard line on average.

Percentage of Possessions Made Red Zone – The frequency of possessions in which the offense drives in to the red zone (the final 20 yards of defensive territory). This is another number useful to sort out which teams are routinely threatening to score but can again be skewed by offenses that rack up long touchdowns.

Yards / Possession – Another measure of ability to move the ball on a consistent basis with total yardage gained divided by total possessions played.

Plays / Minute – The average number of plays that are snapped in a given minute off of the game clock, which is perhaps the best measure of teams that truly try to play up-tempo.

Average Time on Field – The standard average time of possession in a given game shown in minutes.

Average Drive Time – The average time of possession divided by the total possessions played. This can show a team that plays fast or potentially a team that can’t move the ball and compounds that with quick punts or turnovers.

Plays / Possession – Another way to look at a team’s ability to stay on the field and drive, which is good, though a higher number means a less explosive offense. This can be a good measure defensively for teams that try to utilize “bend but don’t break” principles that tend to have elongated drives as opponents slowly move down the field.

Possessions / Game – The average number of drives the offense or defense plays each game. Extremely relevant to calculate many scoring, turnover, and yardage stats down to the same baseline to compare teams but it is also another measure of tempo similar to plays per minute. Some methodical teams will often average around 11 or 12 possessions per game while faster, more explosive offenses can be upwards of 16 or 17 possessions per game.

Average Time on Field – The standard average time of possession in a given game shown in minutes.

Average Drive Time – The average time of possession divided by the total possessions played. This can show a team that plays fast or potentially a team that can’t move the ball and compounds that with quick punts or turnovers.

Plays / Possession – Another way to look at a team’s ability to stay on the field and drive, which is good, though a higher number means a less explosive offense. This can be a good measure defensively for teams that try to utilize “bend but don’t break” principles that tend to have elongated drives as opponents slowly move down the field.

Possessions / Game – The average number of drives the offense or defense plays each game. Extremely relevant to calculate many scoring, turnover, and yardage stats down to the same baseline to compare teams but it is also another measure of tempo similar to plays per minute. Some methodical teams will often average around 11 or 12 possessions per game while faster, more explosive offenses can be upwards of 16 or 17 possessions per game.

Yards / Game

Plays / Game

Yards / Play

Percentage of Available Yards Gained / Allowed – By using average starting field position for an offense this value shows how the total yards gained relates to the maximum possible of yards that could have been gained with a percentage.

Plays / Game

Yards / Play

Percentage of Available Yards Gained / Allowed – By using average starting field position for an offense this value shows how the total yards gained relates to the maximum possible of yards that could have been gained with a percentage.

Percentage of Pass INT – Percentage of pass plays that end with an interception.

Percentage of Plays w / TO – Better than the standard turnovers per game number because it is a rate on a per play basis to equally compare team to team turnover numbers based on possible instances for a turnover to occur.

Percentage of Possessions w / TO – Based on the total number of possessions for a given team this shows the percentage of drives that ended with a turnover. This is different and more crucial than the turnovers percentage of plays.

Plays / Penalty – This levels off the team to team comparison for penalties by comparing them to the possible instances for a penalty to have been committed.

Penalty Yards / Penalty

Percentage of Plays w / TO – Better than the standard turnovers per game number because it is a rate on a per play basis to equally compare team to team turnover numbers based on possible instances for a turnover to occur.

Percentage of Possessions w / TO – Based on the total number of possessions for a given team this shows the percentage of drives that ended with a turnover. This is different and more crucial than the turnovers percentage of plays.

Plays / Penalty – This levels off the team to team comparison for penalties by comparing them to the possible instances for a penalty to have been committed.

Penalty Yards / Penalty

TD 20+ Yards / Possession – This shows the percentage of possessions that end with a touchdown that was longer than 20 yards, a good way to zero in on offenses that are the most explosive.

Red Zone TD Percentage – The percentage of times a touchdown is scored when a team enters the red zone. A very vital number for capitalizing on opportunities to put points on the board when the chance is there.

Field Goal Percentage

Yards / Point – How efficiently a team can score its points, the smaller the number the better. Perhaps the best way to think of it is in terms of how hard an offense has to work to score its points. It indirectly encapsulates the ability of a team to put points on the board, to earn favorable starting field position, and to do well in the turnover battle.

Points / Minute – This is another measure of scoring explosiveness that considers how many points a team scores per minute of offensive possession.

Percentage of Possessions w / Points – How many offensive drives end with either a touchdown or a field goal.

Percentage of Possessions w / TD – The percentage of total drives where the offense scores a touchdown.

Points / Game

Points / Possession – Total points scored divided by total drives for the offense. It is the best way to analyze scoring because it boils the equation down to compare the points scored to the opportunities to score those points.

Red Zone TD Percentage – The percentage of times a touchdown is scored when a team enters the red zone. A very vital number for capitalizing on opportunities to put points on the board when the chance is there.

Field Goal Percentage

Yards / Point – How efficiently a team can score its points, the smaller the number the better. Perhaps the best way to think of it is in terms of how hard an offense has to work to score its points. It indirectly encapsulates the ability of a team to put points on the board, to earn favorable starting field position, and to do well in the turnover battle.

Points / Minute – This is another measure of scoring explosiveness that considers how many points a team scores per minute of offensive possession.

Percentage of Possessions w / Points – How many offensive drives end with either a touchdown or a field goal.

Percentage of Possessions w / TD – The percentage of total drives where the offense scores a touchdown.

Points / Game

Points / Possession – Total points scored divided by total drives for the offense. It is the best way to analyze scoring because it boils the equation down to compare the points scored to the opportunities to score those points.