The current belief among many (actually, this could just be me), is that Baylor/Art Briles doesn’t care about field position. I have no idea if Briles cares or not about the Field Position Advantage (FPA), but I do know that it correlates to winning.
Bill Connelly understands this. He looked at all 2013 game data and found that teams that win the field position battle win the game 72 percent of the time. That's a big number. But not everyone plays offense, or defense for that matter, the way Baylor plays it with the constant threat of the deep ball. At this point, though, I’m not convinced that field position actually matters for us.
The High-Level View
Let’s look at it from a macro level. Here are the numbers from 2007 (the year before TGCAB joined the program) through the West Virginia game of 2014 taken from Football Outsiders. FPA is a measurement of the advantage your team has over their opponent in field position. So a rating of .500 would mean you both averaged the same starting field position. Less than .500 means you averaged worse than they did and vice versa.
One thing that stands out to me is that RG3 was a very good quarterback in 2011, but we all knew that. Our FPA was 88th in the country, yet we still got 10 wins, 3 more than the year before when we were ranked 8 spots better in field position advantage. That’s a lot of field to drive down and score.
Another thing you should immediately notice is that our Field Position Advantage has been steadily rising over the past 7-8 years. As have our wins.
Fine, you want proof there is a correlation:
Check out those r2 values. All indicate pretty strong linear regressions. The last graph is the best proof of a correlation. It plots the wins vs the FPA value in those seasons. RG3's heisman season is an outlier with 10 wins and an FPA value less than .500.
What does this mean? It means that wins and field position advantage are correlated. It does not mean this is the causative reason for our increase in wins. There are probably a lot of factors that contributed to that and I think we could all name most of them.
All that said, I do believe that field position is a factor that has helped increased our winning percentage.
But to really understand if Baylor wins and winning the field position battle are correlated, we will need to look at individual games instead of trends. That is the next step for me and is hopefully coming next week.