The biggest effects of the new kickoff rule through week 5 of the college football season were the decrease in the number of touchbacks and the increase in the percentage of kickoffs returned for a touchdown. Let’s take a look at the data through week 6 to see if anything has changed significantly from week 5.
As usual, we’ll start with the number of touchbacks of kickoffs from the 30 yard line this season compared to kickoffs from the 35 yard line in the 2005-2006 seasons.
|Season(s)||Kickoff Start||# Kickoffs||Kickoff Land Avg.||TB||TB %|
Touchbacks increased from 12.04% through week 5 to 12.76% through week 6, which is the highest percentage through any week so far this season. In week 6 only, 16.73% of kickoffs from the 30 yard line ended in a touchback. Of course, the touchback percentages are still down significantly from 29.90% in 2005-2006. The average landing spot of the kickoff did not change much, up from the 8.15 yard line through week 5 to 8.26 through week 6.
Here are the kickoff return numbers through week 6, based on the kickoff starting line.
|Season(s)||Kickoff Start||# Returns||Return Avg.||Return End Avg.||TD||TD%|
The average return length on kickoffs from the 30 did not change much from week 5 to week 6 — 21.89 to 21.86. The average ending spot of the return has increased from 30.24 to 30.39, which is the highest number through any week so far this season.
Last week the big mover was the percentage of kickoffs returned for touchdown. The percentage is up another 6.1% this week, moving from 0.99% through last week to 1.05% through this week.
The following table contains the week-by-week breakdown of returns of kickoffs from the 30 yard line.
|Kickoff Start||# Returns||Return Avg.||Return End Avg.||TD||TD%|
|2007 week 1||30||490||21.33||29.94||4||0.82%|
|2007 week 2||30||509||21.91||29.68||2||0.39%|
|2007 week 3||30||526||21.89||30.87||4||0.76%|
|2007 week 4||30||517||22.74||30.65||9||1.74%|
|2007 week 5||30||471||21.51||30.03||6||1.27%|
|2007 week 6||30||430||21.67||31.22||6||1.40%|
Week 6 had the highest kickoff return ending spot of any week this season, and the 2nd highest percentage of kickoffs returned for touchdown.
I think it’s interesting that the average field position at the end of kickoff and the percentage of touchdowns are at their highest levels so far this season, while at the same time the percentage of touchbacks is also at its highest level. Since fewer kickoffs into the end zone are being returned, that made me wonder about the data on kickoffs returned from the end zone.
The following table breaks down the returns on kickoffs from the 30 by the starting spot of the return.
|Return Start||# Returns||Return Avg.||Return End Avg.||TD||TD%|
|1-5 Yd Ln||917||23.97||27.09||7||0.76%|
|6-10 Yd Ln||735||23.22||31.07||13||1.77%|
|11-15 Yd Ln||418||21.53||34.41||4||0.96%|
|16-20 Yd Ln||191||16.95||34.64||2||1.05%|
|21+ Yd Ln||270||9.67||38.24||0||0.00%|
As you might expect, returns of kickoffs from the end zone have the highest average, but the lowest ending spot of the return. So with less returns from the end zone than earlier in the season, that’s part of the reason why the overall average ending spot is at its highest number so far. Note that kickoffs from the end zone have the 2nd highest percentage returned for touchdown of any of the other return start intervals.
It’s kind of hard to ignore the touchdown percentage of 1.77% (13 touchdowns) on returns that start between the 6 and 10 yard lines. That’s significantly higher than any of the other intervals. It seems like the safest place to kick the ball is between the goal line and the 5 yard line, since it has both the 2nd lowest average ending spot and the 2nd lowest touchdown percentage.
If you really don’t want the kickoff returned for a touchdown, your best bet is to kick it short of the 20 yard line since no kickoff has been returned for a touchdown from outside the 20 yard line this season. That makes sense because kickoffs that short are usually returned by one of the up men rather than the more dangerous deep men.