With week 2 of the 2007 college football season in the books, let’s look again at the new kickoff rule’s effect on the game. In the post after week 1, we found that the kickoff rule had not yet had a significant impact (at least statistically). The week 2 data is for games played through 09/08/2007.
Here is the average landing spot, number of touchbacks, and touchback percentage of kickoffs from the 35 in 2005-2006 and from the 30 in 2007.
|Season(s)||Kickoff Start||# Kickoffs||Kickoff Land Avg.||TB||TB%|
The touchback percentage is still much less in 2007 than the previous two seasons, and I’m sure this will be the case throughout the season. Comparing the numbers through week 2 of 2007 to week 1 of 2007, the touchback percentage has decreased from 12.39% to 12.05%, and the average landing spot has decreased from the 7.98 yard line to the 7.78 yard line. So the number of touchbacks declined slightly while the average kickoff landed slightly closer to the opponent’s goal line.
While watching games this weekend, I was paying special attention to the number of touchbacks on kickoffs. However it seemed that many of the kickoffs that went into the end zone were being returned instead of downed for touchbacks. So I decided to take a look at the number of kickoffs into the end zone that were being returned versus downed for a touchback.
This table shows the number of kickoffs into the end zone and the percentage of those kickoffs that were returned for the 2005-2006 seasons and the 2007 season.
|Season(s)||Kickoff Start||End Zone||Returned||Return%|
So far in 2007, a significantly higher percentage of kickoffs into the end zone are being returned rather than downed. So, not only are fewer kickoffs landing in the end zone this season, but more of the kickoffs that do land in the end zone are being returned. This tells me that teams have decided to be more aggressive in the return game because of the five extra yards of space provided by the new rule.
I broke down the 2007 season by week to see what difference there might be in returns out of the end zone from week 1 to week 2.
|Kickoff Start||End Zone||Returned||Return %|
|2007 week 1||30||133||60||45.10%|
|2007 week 2||30||149||79||53.02%|
It seems that teams were even more aggressive in returning kickoffs out of the end zone in week 2 than week 1. It will be interesting to see if this changes in week 3.
Now let’s take a look at the data for kickoffs that were returned.
|Season(s)||Kickoff Start||# Returns||Return Avg.||Return End Avg.||TD||TD%|
There is still not a significant difference between 2005-2006 and 2007. Comparing the numbers through week 2 of 2007 to week 1 of 2007, the average return was up slightly from 21.16 to 21.53, and average return end line was down from 29.78 to 29.71.
The touchdown percentage was down quite a bit from 0.82% to 0.60%. There have actually been eight kickoffs returned for touchdown in 2007. One kickoff that was returned for a touchdown was incorrectly scored as a kickoff from the 35 rather than the 30, so it’s not included in these numbers. If it was included, then the 2007 percentage would be 0.70%. The other kickoff returned for a touchdown in 2007 was returned on a kickoff from the 20 yard line. This was scored legitimately, since the kickoff came after a safety.
In last week’s post, I mentioned that I found about 50 instances where a kickoff was incorrectly scored as starting from the 35 yard line. So far in 2007, there have been 118 kickoffs scored from the 35 yard line. I haven’t looked at each kickoff individually (or written code to check), but I’m guessing at most 15% of those kickoffs actually started at the 35. So now we’re up to about 100 kickoffs that have been incorrectly scored.
These incorrectly-scored kickoffs are spread out over 18 games, but I just don’t have the time to send an email to each school to let them know about the problem. I did send one school an email about the problem last week, but I haven’t received any response, and the problem has not been fixed in the box score on their website. Perhaps they are too busy as well.
As a result of so many kickoffs being incorrectly scored, I’ve decided not to update the table of national leaders among kickers in touchback percentage. I received a couple of emails which pointed out that Ryan Harrison of Air Force would have been on the list last week had his kickoffs been scored correctly. I also noticed that one player who would have been on the list of leaders this week would drop off the list if all of his kickoffs had been scored correctly. For these reasons, I just decided it was better to not have the list since it was greatly impacted by the scoring problems.