Do you ever feel like your team’s quarterback chokes away the game’s biggest moments, or that he is a “baller” and elevates his game in the last two minutes? Well you’re in luck. I looked at just that, to see which QBs play differently given the situation they’re in in the game.
I looked at some basic QB stats like success rate, completion rate, and interception rate, and then broke them down based on some game situations like playing down, close games (10 or less point-differential), final two minutes, and quarter to see which players were the most and least consistent in different situations. My guess was that the best players in college football would either be the same or elevate their game in these situations.
You may notice that some of college football’s biggest stars from 2020 (Justin Fields, Mac Jones, Trevor Lawrence, etc.) are missing from many of these graphs. That’s because they didn’t find themselves in a lot of these situations too often, thanks to the dominance of their teams. Rarely did they trail in games, or have to pass in the last two minutes. So therefore, they’ve been excluded for having so few attempts in many of these situations.
First, we’ll start by looking at who plays well (and poorly) while losing a game. I’ve taken each player’s change in completion rate when losing a game compared to when they’re winning a game on the x-axis, and their change in interception rate when losing compared to when winning on the y-axis, meaning that players who are throwing more incompletions and interceptions than normal when they start losing will be in the top left, and players who throw less interceptions and complete more passes will go to the bottom right.
A lot of players increase their interception rate when they’re losing, indicating that they’re taking more risks to try to catch up. Very few actually throw fewer interceptions. Below is the same graph, but the most consistent players are highlighted instead.
Another way of looking at this could be with change in success rate on the y-axis instead. As a quick refresher, success rate is the rate of plays deemed successful, meaning gaining 5+ yards on 1st down, 70% of the yards to go on 2nd down, and all of the remaining yards to go on 3rd and 4th downs.
A few guys stand out above the rest here in playing better when down and, unsurprisingly, they were three of the biggest names in College Football last year: Feleipe Franks, Ian Book, and D.J. Uiagalelei.
Here is the same graph, but looking at the difference in stats between playing in a close game or not. I defined a close game as anything within 10 points or less separating the teams. Here are some of the outliers when it comes to playing better (or worse) in a close game.
And below, you’ll find who the most consistent players are whether the game is close or not.
Here, we’re looking at QB play in the final two minutes of regular time. This graph has considerably fewer players because there weren’t as many quarterbacks who had thrown at least 10 passes in the last two minutes last season. Most teams that are winning will run the ball in the last two minutes, so that leaves only the QBs that trailed, and likely trailed more than once, late in games. Throw in a shortened season and our opportunities to collect this data last season were limited. Still, we see a good representation of players who stepped up, or crumbled, in the final two minutes.
Quarter to Quarter
Last, I looked at success and completion rates from quarter to quarter to see if anything stood out. The darker boxes show greater variation in consistency from one quarter to the next. This first one shows success rate.
And last but not least, here’s how each QB’s completion rate changes by quarter.