Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Boise St and Oklahoma Ending: Clock Management

On a completely different topic, I'm sure you caught the end of the Boise State and Oklahoma game. There was one key play that I was thinking about as it was happening -- the score is tied with 1:16 left in the fourth quarter and Boise State has the ball at their 25 yard line. They throw an interception and Oklahoma is returning it for a TD with just 1:02 left. While I was watching it live, I thought to myself -- if I'm the Boise State QB, I would let the guy score rather than tackling him at the 1-yard line. And if I'm the CB, I'd down it at the 1 yard line after killing as much time as possible by pausing at the 2-yard line.

Why? Because I would rather have the ball with 60 seconds left and the chance to run time off the clock (remember, in college football the clock starts running after a change of possession) to leave no time left for Boise State to score again and to force them to burn their time outs.

Boise State had only 2 time outs left. So you have two scenarios:

A. Burn the clock and kick a game-winning FG with no time left to go up by 3. If you think you will successfully kick the FG 95% of the time, then this option wins 97% of the time.

B. Score and go up by 7 points, kick off, give Boise State a chance to tie the game with 65 seconds. Footballcommentary.com has a model for estimating the chances of scoring a TD with 60 seconds and 2 time outs left: from your own 10 yard line it's 15%, from your own 30 yard line it's 23%. If Boise State starts around the 20 yard line, then they have around a 19% chance of tying the game. This means they have around a 9% chance of winning the game in OT.

So, stepping out at the 1-yard line is the better choice. Stepping out wins 97% of the time; scoring a TD only wins 91% of the time. They essentially tripled Boise State's chances of winning by scoring rather than stepping out at the one yard-line.
Even if you just took a knee for 3 downs and then kicked a FG, I would rather be up 3 with virtually on time left than give Boise State a 20% chance to score a tying TD...


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