Pace-of-play vs. injury stats back Pinkel; faster is safer
According to data provided by CFBMatrix.com, the SEC once again produced the slowest pace of play among the power conferences in 2013, but sustained the highest injury rate.
Those numbers are consistent with the data CFBMatrix has recorded dating back to 2009, despite the fact that schools like Missouri, Ole Miss and Auburn are using a lot of fast-paced, sugar huddle stuff on offense.
To refresh your memory, coach Gary Pinkel had this to say at SEC Media Days about the “risks” associated with up-tempo offenses, based on his experiences in the Big 12 and SEC: “You know what’s amazing? I never had our team physician, our trainer, our defensive coordinator, a player, any defensive coaches ever walk in my office and say, ‘Coach, I’m worried about the welfare of our team. The safety of our team.’
“Never happened. Ever. So honestly, I think this is all fiction.”
According to the numbers, the SEC produced 2.60 plays per minute in 2013, easily the slowest conference in FBS ahead of the Mid-American (2.67) and Sun Belt (2.66). The Big 12 (2.87) and Pac-12 (2.86) were the two fastest conferences in 2013 as measured by pace of play.
That small difference per minute equates to a huge discrepancy when played out over the course of an entire season for every team in each conference. In other words, a Big 12 or Pac-12 player saw, on average, 16 more plays per game than someone from the SEC, assuming they stayed on the field for 60 minutes. Even by cutting that by more than half to account for offense/defense and substitutions, at six per game, that’s still more than 60 extra plays per season, conservatively, or an extra full game for an active starter.
Yet the SEC has had more starts lost due to injury than any other conference in the country, according to CFBMatrix. The SEC also fields, on average, the largest players in the country, as opposed to the Big 12, which is the smallest among power conferences.
This suggests an alternative theory: The size of the players, not the pace of play, is a bigger influence on the injury rate. It’s just one set of numbers, although it’s a detailed and thorough set. But lightning-fast offenses that snap the ball frequently encourage smaller defenders who can keep up with quick skill players and remain on the field when substitution chances don’t present themselves. So, in theory, faster-paced offenses actually lessen the injury risk rather than increase it.
After months of discussion without any real figures to back it up, it’s nice to have something somewhat objective to introduce to the argument.
If you’re scoring at home, the point goes to Pinkel.