Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Three Kinds of Lies: Statistics on BYU Football

I have been fascinated with the quarterback controversy that plagued BYU this season between the hyped phenom Jake Heaps and the grizzly "gamer" Riley Nelson.  While Nelson had much better traditional statistics than Heaps, Heaps played against a tougher schedule. The author of a the BYU sports blog asked me if it were possible to statistically correct for the difficulty of the defenses Heaps and Nelson played to compare them on level ground.  Being a football fan and a math nerd, I dove right in.  The results are written up in a post over at, so if you feel like delving into the statistical rabbit hole, go check it out.


  1. On the other hand there's also the big game that decided things: the Utah State game.  Nelson played great (although he took some big chances and got lucky) while Heaps had lost it by then.

    I'm actually really sympathetic to the idea that a lot of the problem was Doman and the type of overly complicated routes he wanted to run. It caused a rift and, I think, really through Heaps out of his game. That said though the fundamental problem was that Heaps was no where near as good as he thought he was. I think where-ever he ends up we'll see that. (Part of me is really hoping he ends up in Utah - it'd serve them right to get the guy as QB they made fun of the past two years)

  2. I think Heaps was done it by a combinations of factors.  Mendenhall encourages a gritty, overachiever-type of mentality while Heaps was the hyped new kid that was handed the keys to almost from day 1.  Doman had a hard time early in the season, particularly establishing the run game.  I think Heaps also had a tough time dealing with failure because he had never really experienced it.  But whatever the reason, Heaps was decidedly sub-par this season and Nelson was a serviceable QB, so I think it was really a no-brainer for the coaches to decided to stick with Nelson.

  3. Very cool! I loved it. I haven't followed BYU football as diligently this season as I was distracted by current school's successes. We're going to the Sugar Bowl! Neener neener!


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