BTBS Bonus: Goal-To-Go

LINCOLN NE - OCTOBER 30: Missouri Tigers quarterback Blaine Gabbert #11 get crunched by the Nebraska Cornhusker Defense near the goal line during second half action of their game at Memorial Stadium on October 30 2010 in Lincoln Nebraska. Nebraska Defeated Missouri 31-17. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)

A lot has been made in the last two weeks about Missouri's goal-to-go success level, or lack thereof.  Against both Oklahoma and Nebraska, the Tigers failed to punch it in despite facing first-and-goal from the 1.  Obviously this cost us -- against Oklahoma, Mizzou settling for a field goal allowed the game to stay within one possession for a while longer.  Against Nebraska, it allowed Mizzou to only cut Nebraska's lead to 14 in the third quarter instead of 10.  We now have anecdotal evidence that Mizzou struggles in this area.  Overall, how much of a problem is this?

Looking at goal-to-go situations, Missouri's offense currently ranks 71st in the country with a 44% success rate ("success rate," in this case, is not the scoring percentage, but the actual FO "success rate" measure).  That's not very good.  Conference mates Nebraska (69.2%, 2nd), Oklahoma State (62.5%, 9th) and Iowa State (58.8%, 22nd) do not have the same issues.  Mizzou currently ranks 8th in the Big 12 in this statistic, and it is costly -- Texas (35.2%, 97th) having to settle for five field goals in the red zone against Baylor hurt them dearly, for instance, even though they made all five kicks.

Obviously the goal is to be good at everything, but if you have to have a problem, this is a pretty good one to have.  Here are the Top Ten teams according to overall Offensive S&P+, listed along with their goal-to-go success rate and rank:

  1. Auburn (37.8%, 93rd)
  2. Boise State (61.8%, 12th)
  3. Michigan (69.4%, 2nd)
  4. Missouri (44.0%, 71st)
  5. Alabama (44.7%, 68th)
  6. Oregon State (58.6%, 23rd)
  7. Ohio State (52.3%, 40th)
  8. Pittsburgh (34.4%, 101st)
  9. South Carolina (62.5%, 8th)
  10. Oklahoma State (62.5%, 9th)

Meanwhile, here are the Top Ten teams according to Goal-To-Go Success Rate, listed along with their overall Offensive S&P+ rank:

  1. Middle Tennessee (103rd)
  2. Michigan (3rd)
  3. Nebraska (11th)
  4. South Florida (53rd)
  5. UCLA (36th)
  6. Washington (24th)
  7. Kentucky (39th)
  8. South Carolina (9th)
  9. Oklahoma State (10th)
  10. TCU (31st)

Which list would you rather occupy?  The top one, of course.  Missouri has absolutely struggled in goal-to-go situations, but guess what: so have Cameron Newton and Auburn.  So have Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Alabama.  And Dion "Sophomore Slump" Lewis and Pittsburgh.  And Terrelle Pryor and Ohio State.  It happens.

A few offenses have figured out how to be good in both areas (Michigan, South Carolina, Oklahoma State, Boise State), but while Missouri's goal-to-go struggles may be a result of the spread offense mentality ... they sure do also move the ball pretty well with the spread.  If you face a lot more scoring opportunities, that's a good thing, even if you blow a few.

(That doesn't mean it's okay to blow opportunities, of course -- Mizzou clearly needs a little more confidence, both in terms of play-calling and execution.  It's just that, on the list of problems to have, this one isn't bad.  But if they would just start automatically going with James Franklin and the Wild Tiger inside the 5, I wouldn't complain one bit.)

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