A couple days ago, The Ringer published a piece titled “How to Quantify the NFL: Five Stats to better understand Football.” I hadn’t heard of toxic differential before, but among those five stats, I found it to be the most fresh and reliable predictor of success.
Toxic differential is ambitious and comprehensive; and while it may sound complex, it’s relatively easy grasp.
Toxic differential is calculated by adding turnover differential to “big play” differential.
Turnover differential is a pretty easy concept: takeaways minus giveaways. But you might not know that “big plays” are an objective statistic. Big plays, per most all NFL statisticians, are defined as running plays of 10 yards or more and passing plays of 25 yards or more, so the measure “big play differential is found by subtracting the number of big plays that your defense allows from the number that your offense generates. Basically, it favors teams who can walk the balance between risk and reward on both sides of the ball.
Unlike the NFL, college football has no pre-calculated statistical source that includes toxic differential (at least one that’s free), so I took it upon myself to work out the numbers for the Cats under coach Stoops. BP=”Big Plays”
The past two seasons have shown clear improvements in toxic differential (the slipback from ’14 to ’15 is definitely due turnover differential, a very important but sometimes luck-skewed measure) as compared to the horrendous 2-10 season, the Cats likely need to make that next step and jump into the net positive before we reach, or even (fingers crossed) break .500.
To ensure that we get there, a couple of things that need to happen:
- Barker throws as many, or more, TD’s than INT’s
- Defense catches some breaks/force a lucky turnover every once in a while
- running game continues to improve as all RBs/most OLs return
Obviously, the stat that matters at the end of the day is wins-losses, but toxic differential is something to keep in mind as the season progresses.