Skip to main content
Publish date:

Jimbo vs. Kiffin this weekend will feature two coaches on opposite sides of how to use analytics

This weekend's match up with Ole Miss will feature two offensive head coaches who have differing opinions on how analytics should be used when it comes to fourth-down decisions.

This weekend, Jimbo Fisher and the Aggies will face off with Lane Kiffin's Rebels in one of the most anticipated games of the weekend.

Both are considered among some of the finest offensive minds in college football, but the two head honchos have different approaches when it comes to one of the hottest emerging trends over the last five to ten years.

That trend? Analytics.

On one hand, Jimbo has gone for it just six times in his nine games this year, still holding on to some of his old-school roots when it comes to those types of decisions, as he shared on last week's SEC teleconference.

"There are times to do it and times not to do it," he explains. "I think it's feel, and I think it's coaching."

"I don't think there's a book that tells you, I promise you that. At least not in my mind."

Then there's Lane Kiffin, who while he's not on the opposite side of Jimbo completely, literally gets a thick report that could be mistaken for a book with data based off the opponent for the week, their tendencies, along with data that takes into account how the Rebels have been playing.

Kiffin's Rebels lead all of college football in the amount of successful fourth down conversions (24) and have gone for it on fourth down 35 times this year. That works out to just under four times per game. 

That aggressiveness can be attributed to an approach based on metrics and analytics to help drive decisions on fourth down.

Earlier this year, after a few fourth down attempts backfired against Alabama in a high profile game, Kiffin shared that he gets "a report card" based on analytics after each game that goes over every situation, and verifies what you should have done, and whether you did it.

Kiffin, via 247, shared after their Alabama loss game that his approach is a more of a mix of analytics and a feel for the game. When a critical situation comes up in a game, he asks what the analytics say, but that isn't the end-all-be-all.

"I have the analytic at that point told to me and I usually follow that. There is a feel sometimes to a game, and sometimes you even go above it, which we did this year. There was a time we were supposed to punt, we were playing so well on offense we went for it and you weren't supposed to and it worked. So there is a feel to it, yeah,"

Again, they're not on completely opposite sides here, but Kiffin is at least asking what the "book" says in those key moments, while meanwhile Jimbo says "it's coaching" and there isn't a book out there for those kinds of decisions.

Fisher was asked in his press conference earlier this week how Ole Miss' tendency to be aggressive on fourth down changes things for defensive Mike Elko and his defensive unit, and Jimbo shares that it definitely changes their approach a bit.

"Yeah. The play calling on defense, you're going to know in certain situations where he'll [Kiffin] do it at. You've got to think, after first down is over, second down becomes first down to you. 

"When you're up on third down, you're thinking it's second down in certain field positions and places, he does that, no doubt, so you've always got to be aware with your play calls."