Josh Kendall

Kendall’s Morning Meeting: Third down statistics are lying to us

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

As most of you know, I’m kind of a stats geek, and Matt Connolly’s story about South Carolina’s red zone problems got me to thinking about another stat.

Third down conversions. We hear coaches all the time talk about how important third down conversions are in football, and we’ve all seen it with our own eyes. I’ll argue that Connor Shaw is the winningest all-time at South Carolina because he was the best quarterback the Gamecocks have ever had at turning third downs into first downs one way or another.

So I went and looked up this year’s third down numbers and something weird is happening.

Auburn, one-and-three-in-the-SEC Auburn, is first in the conference in third down conversions (46.74). Arkansas, which sits only one spot above the Tigers in the SEC West cellar, is No. 2 in third down conversions (45.65). Tennessee (fourth in the East) and Vanderbilt (fifth in the East) are Nos. 4 and 5 in third down conversions.

Alabama, which is in second place in the SEC West, is 12th in the SEC in third down conversions (33.63). Florida, which leads the SEC East, is ninth (38.46).

South Carolina is 11th in the conference in third down conversions (34.41).

Not that it matters apparently.