Numbers back Winston winning Heisman

December, 13, 2013
12/13/13
11:19
AM ET
Heading into Saturday’s 2013 Heisman Trophy ceremony, it’s seemingly a foregone conclusion that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston will take home the award. The advanced metrics support Winston as a winner, and recent precedent based on these metrics shows it should be pretty lopsided.

College football Total QBR data goes back to 2004 (as far back as we have play-by-play data), and there have been seven Heisman-winning quarterbacks since that year. All of those ranked in the Top-8 in opponent-adjusted QBR prior to the Heisman ceremony (i.e. not including the bowl games), with each of the last five quarterbacks winners ranked in the Top 3.

But there’s actually another QBR-related statistic that correlates more strongly with winning the Heisman in that span – points above average (QB PAA, or just PAA).

While QBR is designed to measure per-play efficiency, PAA – which is calculated from QBR – measures total production above an average quarterback (QBR of 50), taking into account both efficiency and overall usage.

The relationship between PAA and QBR is similar to that between yards and yards per attempt, where one is a cumulative total and the other is on a per-play basis.

To simplify, QBR measures how efficient a quarterback is, while PAA measures how productive a quarterback is relative to an average quarterback with the same amount of action. It makes sense that the more productive players, in terms of points added, should get preference for end-of-season awards based on the total value provided to the team over the course of the year.

A quarterback with a lower QBR than someone else but more action plays could have contributed more points above average than his counterpart because he was involved in more of the offense. For example, Johnny Manziel ranks sixth this year in opponent-adjusted QBR, but moves to third in opponent-adjusted PAA because he had many more action plays than three of the guys ranked above him in QBR.

Of those seven Heisman-winning quarterbacks since 2004, each ranked in the top seven in Opp Adj PAA entering the bowl season, with four of the last five winners being tops in that category.

The only exception was Robert Griffin III, who trailed Russell Wilson in PAA prior to the Heisman ceremony in 2011.

Winston ranks No. 1 in FBS with +102.9 Opp Adj PAA to go along with his top ranking in opponent-adjusted QBR.

The three previous quarterbacks to rate as both the “most efficient” and “most productive” quarterback going into the Heisman ceremony since 2004 all won the trophy by a fairly wide margin, so it’s reasonable to think Winston will do the same.

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