We have all heard classic coach speak about the importance of starting field position, but just how important is it? We all know starting at your opponents 20 yard line is extremely significant as it almost guarantees at least three points, but how significant is starting at your own 37 yard line versus say your own 27 yard line? Very, and here is why. The average number of drives per team this year has been 14 drives. If the average starting field position differential is ten yards this represents a total of 140 yards, not an insignificant amount by any stretch.
As you can see from the below chart, teams who have won the average field position differential battle have won 72.91% of the time. Teams who have managed to win the average starting field position differential by more than 20 yards have not lost this year.
Here is a breakdown of the Scarlet Knights average starting field position versus their opponents. Rutgers has averaged better starting field position then their opponents in two games, winning both.
Penn State on average has won the average field position battle versus their opponents by 5.30 yards. Penn State has managed to win two out of the three games in which they lost the average field position battle; Minnesota (7-3; 4-3) and Indiana (5-5; 3-4), while loosing to Michigan (9-1; 6-1).
The below chart illustrates the Scarlet Knights offensive stats by field position. The offense has struggled inside their own twenty yard line as well as the red zone. In addition to offense, special teams plays an extremely important role in field position (kick returns, kick coverage), turnovers, etc.
Penn State on the other hand has been very productive inside their own twenty yard line, but has also struggled in the red zone. The Scarlet Knight’s defense needs to contain the Penn State offense inside the red zone and limit big plays when Penn State is pinned inside their own twenty.
Average starting field position is a very good indicator of a team’s overall performance as it is influenced by a lot of different and important factors. The Scarlet’s Knights struggles this season are well documented and the numbers don’t lie. With two games remaining in the season I am hoping the Scarlet Knights can improve upon these numbers. In order to do so special teams must improve, and the offense needs to limit the number of three and outs by improving third down conversion percentages.