# Countdown to Study Hall: Finishing drives is a skill in itself (Part 1)

My first book, Study Hall: College Football, Its Stats and Its Stories, will be released in about a week!

Much of Study Hall is conversational. I brought to the table a variety of topics I find interesting -- formative games, playoffs and money, underdog tactics, head injuries, the coaches/fans use stats, etc. -- and attempted to chat about them with a variety of coaches, writers and nerds. But I did wonk out a bit in a chapter about finishing drives, an incredibly important topic (when it comes to winning games) that I hadn't really ever spent much time on. Chapter 11, entitled "Sometimes Clichés Are Clichés for a Reason," dives into the both importance of finishing drives and field position and the way coaches coach finishing drives and field position.

The crux of the drives data can be seen in this simple table:

 2012 FBS vs. FBS Possession Data(Games decided by 8 or fewer points) Average Winner Loser Points per game 27.7 30.0 25.4 Points per possession 2.1 2.3 2.0 Points per trip inside 50 3.5 3.6 3.4 Points per trip inside 40 4.2 4.3 4.0 Points per trip inside 20 5.4 5.4 5.3 Points per trip inside 10 6.1 6.1 6.0 Points per trip inside 5 6.5 6.6 6.3

That winning teams average more points per trip inside the [random yard line] should in no way be surprising. But the biggest gaps between winning and losing came when you cross inside the 40 and when you cross inside the 5. If you take fuller advantage of decent scoring opportunities, and if you score touchdowns instead of settling for field goals (or turning the ball over) inside the 5, you win.

To accompany this, I wanted to go ahead and share a data set I don't believe I've shared before: overall points per trip inside the 40. In the end, we can boil all of football down to two things: creating opportunities and converting those opportunities. Creation is technically more important than conversion (because it comes first), but in 104 FBS vs. FBS games last season, the team that created more scoring opportunities (i.e. trips inside the 40) lost because its opponent averaged more points per opportunity of its own. (Washington State lost four such games, and Ohio State won four such games). Below is a look at both creation and conversion. We'll look at defense in another post.

TCU was probably the biggest victim of failure to convert opportunities. The Horned Frogs crossed the opponent's 40 in 52 percent of their drives, 56th-best in the country. But their average of 3.65 points per trip was 106th. And yes, they lost three games by a touchdown or less. Boise State was also victimized in this way. Meanwhile, Ohio State mastered the art of taking advantage of every opportunity; and thank goodness, because the Buckeyes didn't give themselves just a ton of opportunities.

 Offense Total Drives Trips inside 40 Pct of drives Rk Pts/Trip Rk Record Off. F/+ Rk Oregon 184 112 60.9% 10 5.38 1 12-1 5 Ohio State 157 76 48.4% 73 5.29 2 12-0 13 Clemson 179 98 54.7% 38 5.27 3 11-2 7 Georgia 185 98 53.0% 47 5.17 4 12-2 4 Central Florida 167 89 53.3% 44 5.13 5 10-4 45 Louisiana Tech 173 117 67.6% 1 5.09 6 9-3 14 Texas A&M 171 110 64.3% 3 5.06 7 11-2 1 Oklahoma 165 94 57.0% 22 5.01 8 10-3 6 Alabama 162 104 64.2% 4 5.01 9 13-1 2 Arkansas State 155 89 57.4% 21 4.98 10 10-3 24 UL-Monroe 163 84 51.5% 60 4.93 11 8-5 57 Kansas State 153 94 61.4% 9 4.93 12 11-2 19 Michigan 153 78 51.0% 62 4.91 13 8-5 16 Marshall 163 98 60.1% 12 4.90 14 5-7 31 Georgia Tech 164 93 56.7% 24 4.87 15 7-7 22 Northern Illinois 179 110 61.5% 8 4.86 16 12-2 38 Baylor 175 113 64.6% 2 4.86 17 8-5 3 Nevada 165 100 60.6% 11 4.85 18 7-6 30 Wyoming 151 65 43.0% 101 4.85 19 4-8 62 San Diego State 155 80 51.6% 59 4.84 20 9-4 56 Louisville 153 84 54.9% 36 4.81 21 11-2 10 Oklahoma State 185 118 63.8% 5 4.81 22 8-5 12 Indiana 167 75 44.9% 88 4.80 23 4-8 42 UL-Lafayette 172 93 54.1% 41 4.78 24 9-4 44 Texas Tech 164 98 59.8% 14 4.77 25 8-5 25 Offense Total Drives Trips inside 40 Pct of drives Rk Pts/Trip Rk Record Off. F/+ Rk Utah State 172 93 54.1% 41 4.74 26 11-2 48 West Virginia 173 103 59.5% 15 4.74 27 7-6 15 North Carolina 161 95 59.0% 16 4.74 28 8-4 20 Tennessee 169 88 52.1% 54 4.73 29 5-7 27 Texas 155 93 60.0% 13 4.72 30 9-4 18 Ole Miss 180 85 47.2% 79 4.67 31 7-6 34 Oregon State 173 90 52.0% 55 4.66 32 9-4 17 Arizona 185 104 56.2% 25 4.64 33 8-5 11 Duke 174 81 46.6% 81 4.63 34 6-7 50 Florida State 180 113 62.8% 7 4.63 35 12-2 23 Eastern Michigan 154 55 35.7% 118 4.62 36 2-10 105 South Carolina 154 80 51.9% 57 4.61 37 11-2 29 East Carolina 167 83 49.7% 67 4.59 38 8-5 77 Rice 172 84 48.8% 70 4.57 39 7-6 86 Wisconsin 180 88 48.9% 69 4.56 40 8-6 28 Nebraska 193 101 52.3% 52 4.54 41 10-4 8 San Jose State 171 92 53.8% 43 4.54 42 11-2 26 Central Michigan 158 80 50.6% 63 4.50 43 7-6 73 Tulsa 207 103 49.8% 66 4.43 44 11-3 59 Northwestern 165 85 51.5% 61 4.41 45 10-3 37 UTSA 125 63 50.4% 64 4.40 46 8-4 98 Arizona State 184 106 57.6% 20 4.39 47 8-5 51 Purdue 176 80 45.5% 85 4.36 48 6-7 92 Cincinnati 164 92 56.1% 26 4.36 49 10-3 35 Colorado State 148 53 35.8% 117 4.34 50 4-8 120 Offense Total Drives Trips inside 40 Pct of drives Rk Pts/Trip Rk Record Off. F/+ Rk UCLA 198 105 53.0% 46 4.32 51 9-5 39 Fresno State 185 101 54.6% 39 4.31 52 9-4 58 Mississippi State 162 85 52.5% 49 4.28 53 8-5 72 Ball State 163 103 63.2% 6 4.26 54 9-4 49 Pittsburgh 154 80 51.9% 57 4.25 55 6-7 54 Air Force 149 82 55.0% 32 4.24 56 6-7 82 Kent State 184 96 52.2% 53 4.24 57 11-3 68 Akron 167 71 42.5% 106 4.23 58 1-11 91 Houston 182 89 48.9% 68 4.21 59 5-7 83 Navy 137 72 52.6% 48 4.21 60 8-5 87 Western Kentucky 149 82 55.0% 32 4.21 61 7-6 78 Texas State 145 77 53.1% 45 4.19 62 4-8 80 UAB 163 77 47.2% 77 4.18 63 3-9 95 LSU 167 84 50.3% 65 4.17 64 10-3 41 Ohio 172 96 55.8% 28 4.15 65 9-4 67 Wake Forest 165 51 30.9% 124 4.14 66 5-7 113 Florida 163 77 47.2% 77 4.12 67 11-2 32 Temple 137 63 46.0% 83 4.11 68 4-7 76 UNLV 162 67 41.4% 109 4.09 69 2-11 101 Iowa State 172 74 43.0% 102 4.08 70 6-7 65 Minnesota 161 67 41.6% 108 4.07 71 6-7 93 Syracuse 166 92 55.4% 30 4.07 72 8-5 21 Colorado 164 51 31.1% 123 4.06 73 1-11 119 Boise State 152 89 58.6% 18 4.04 74 11-2 40 Notre Dame 149 82 55.0% 32 4.04 75 12-1 9 Offense Total Drives Trips inside 40 Pct of drives Rk Pts/Trip Rk Record Off. F/+ Rk Miami 151 87 57.6% 19 4.03 76 7-5 46 USC 169 96 56.8% 23 4.03 77 7-6 33 Florida International 160 71 44.4% 90 4.03 78 3-9 99 Western Michigan 164 86 52.4% 51 4.01 79 4-8 66 Miami (Ohio) 149 69 46.3% 82 4.00 80 4-8 71 New Mexico 143 75 52.4% 50 4.00 80 4-9 79 Penn State 151 84 55.6% 29 4.00 80 8-4 47 Troy 163 90 55.2% 31 3.99 83 5-7 53 Utah 150 64 42.7% 105 3.98 84 5-7 89 N.C. State 196 86 43.9% 94 3.95 85 7-6 74 Middle Tennessee 138 75 54.3% 40 3.95 86 9-3 90 Auburn 147 51 34.7% 119 3.94 87 3-9 111 New Mexico State 151 55 36.4% 116 3.93 88 1-11 118 Stanford 183 88 48.1% 75 3.92 89 12-2 36 Toledo 164 90 54.9% 37 3.91 90 9-4 55 SMU 179 82 45.8% 84 3.90 91 7-6 96 Virginia 159 68 42.8% 104 3.88 92 4-8 88 BYU 166 93 56.0% 27 3.86 93 8-5 52 Virginia Tech 187 81 43.3% 99 3.85 94 7-6 75 Maryland 164 60 36.6% 115 3.82 95 4-8 116 Vanderbilt 169 93 55.0% 35 3.81 96 9-4 69 Tulane 162 65 40.1% 111 3.77 97 2-10 112 Arkansas 158 77 48.7% 71 3.69 98 4-8 43 Rutgers 165 64 38.8% 113 3.69 99 9-4 84 Buffalo 165 66 40.0% 112 3.68 100 4-8 108 Offense Total Drives Trips inside 40 Pct of drives Rk Pts/Trip Rk Record Off. F/+ Rk California 166 72 43.4% 98 3.68 101 3-9 81 South Florida 141 68 48.2% 74 3.68 102 3-9 64 Bowling Green 168 74 44.0% 92 3.68 103 8-5 100 Washington 171 80 46.8% 80 3.66 104 7-6 63 Memphis 146 71 48.6% 72 3.65 105 4-8 115 TCU 179 93 52.0% 56 3.65 106 7-6 70 Illinois 153 51 33.3% 122 3.63 107 2-10 117 North Texas 157 69 43.9% 93 3.62 108 4-8 102 Army 136 80 58.8% 17 3.55 109 2-10 60 Southern Miss 148 61 41.2% 110 3.52 110 0-12 114 Missouri 165 74 44.8% 89 3.50 111 5-7 85 Florida Atlantic 152 67 44.1% 91 3.49 112 3-9 110 UTEP 155 67 43.2% 100 3.48 113 3-9 106 Michigan State 169 76 45.0% 87 3.39 114 7-6 61 Boston College 162 68 42.0% 107 3.37 115 2-10 97 South Alabama 173 74 42.8% 103 3.27 116 2-11 122 Kentucky 144 63 43.8% 96 3.27 117 2-10 104 Iowa 144 63 43.8% 96 3.25 118 4-8 94 Washington State 160 76 47.5% 76 3.18 119 3-9 109 Kansas 153 67 43.8% 95 3.16 120 1-11 103 Idaho 170 58 34.1% 121 3.16 121 1-11 121 Connecticut 160 61 38.1% 114 3.03 122 5-7 107 Massachusetts 153 53 34.6% 120 2.81 123 1-11 123 Hawaii 163 74 45.4% 86 2.80 124 3-9 124