Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Friedgen Formula

The Friedgen Formula is the first thing I track for both teams during the game and analyze afterwards. In my next post, I'll give you how GT did with this formula.

From the Washington Post:

"That's winning it for us; there's no doubt about it," Friedgen said. "It has at every level I've coached at. It's something I believe in very strongly, and it's one of the reasons we won our first year here."

The statistic is derived by adding a team's interceptions, fumbles, dropped passes, sacks and penalties during a game and dividing that by the team's total number of offensive plays. The key is to keep the result under 12 percent -- meaning that the team is committing a human error on 12 percent or less of its plays.

Maryland has been outgained each time during its five-game winning streak. But the Terrapins have stayed under the 12 percent threshold four times, winning despite a 12.7 percent rating against Clemson.

Through the years, Friedgen said the formula's accuracy is around 95 percent. In the past two years at Maryland, its accuracy has been closer to 90 percent.

Since his days as offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech, Friedgen has tinkered with various new statistics to measure errors. He came up with a similar stat while with the Yellow Jackets.

"It was kind of along the same lines as that, but we weren't smart enough to divide it into the number of plays," Friedgen said. "The year we won the national championship, we didn't make many errors either. It goes a long way to winning football games."

The stat caught the attention of former Georgia Tech basketball coach Bobby Cremins, who invited Friedgen to sit on the bench for a game in hopes of applying the concept to a turnover-prone point guard. But Friedgen didn't start using the formula in its current form until he joined the Chargers' coaching staff. He picked up the statistic from another NFL assistant coach who had used it with other teams, and he has been a believer ever since.

This season, the formula has helped the Terrapins thrive despite what Friedgen called "limitations."

"If you don't beat yourselves, you give the opportunity to the other team to beat themselves," Friedgen said.

To that end, Friedgen virtually deleted the seven-step drop from the offensive playbook, placing an emphasis instead on getting the ball out of Hollenbach's hands faster, a move that has cut down on sacks and interceptions. Friedgen has opted for more short- and medium-range passes to replace the riskier deep ball.

The formula took on an even larger significance this season because of NCAA rule changes that have shortened games. Teams around the country are running fewer offensive plays compared with last season, and Friedgen said that puts more of a premium on maximizing offensive chances.

"I think that's a factor in this whole thing," Friedgen said. "There's a whole lot less plays being run right now than there used to be, probably 11 or 12 a game. When you have a turnover now, I think it's an even bigger thing for you that it was then."

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