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Why Does ACC Officiating Hate Georgia Tech?

ACC Officiating can be kind of...well..."Hokie"
ACC Officiating can be kind of...well..."Hokie"

Today I delve into a topic that, for some reason, doesn't cause the uproar it deserves. When Georgia Tech lines up every week for ACC Conference play...we are in fact squaring off against two opponents. That second opponent, of course, is the ACC officiating crew.

Now, as we all know, game officials are going to screw up every now and then. Occasionally, they will completely flub the potential game-changing penalty (look at about 4:00 left in the 3rd quarter). I mean, haven't you always wanted to see what would happen when the Defensive Lineman is allowed to take the handoff from the QB?? Idiot Line Judges aside, the vast majority of ACC referees are competent, impartial, and intent on calling games the right way. I truly believe that.

However, the data overwhelmingly shows a different story. Tech's ACC opponents get called for fewer penalties/yards when playing the Yellow Jackets than they do against the rest of the ACC. Since 2008, Tech has been dead last every year in opponent penalties/yards against. DEAD. LAST. EVERY. YEAR. And before you suggest "it's the Triple-Option's fault"...let's take a closer look at the data. That and some hypotheses after the jump...

Opponent Penalties Against - Per Game
Opp versus Tech Opp Season Avg
Season Pen/G PenYds/G Pen/G PenYds/G
2008 3.6 27.7 5.4 47.3
2009 5.3 43.4 6.4 55.7
2010 4.6 39.3 6.3 53.2
2011 4.5 31.3 4.9 40.4

You can instantly see the disparity in penalties called against the opposition per game, where the opposition has had fewer penalties called against them in games versus Tech than in their ACC season average. Tech, as mentioned above, has ranked dead last (almost always) out of 12 ACC teams in opponents penalties and yards against every year starting in 2008. Interestingly enough, in 2007 Tech ranked 10th in penalties against and 7th in penalty yards against per game. Let's assume, however, that per game metrics might be skewed by the possession-oriented Triple-Option.

So the frequency of plays between opponents' penalties is probably equal to the rest if the ACC right? Since GT strives offensively to keep the game to 10-12 possessions per game, you might think that we are last in offensive plays run? Think again. Tech, per game, performs in the upper half of ACC teams in most offensive plays run. Tech's middle of the pack in plays run against. If we combine them into snaps per game (ignoring special teams for now), here's a comparison of total plays run between opponents' penalties between Tech and the rest of the ACC...

Opponent Penalties Against - Frequency of Plays per Penalty
Season ACC average versus Georgia Tech
2008 24.4 35.8
2009 22.8 26.7
2010 22.2 27.5
2011 27.4 30.5

What it means is simple...the opposition gets fewer penalties, per capita, called in games versus Tech than it does in games versus the rest of the ACC. But is this a bi-product of the Triple-Option scheme?

The typical penalties called on a defense, aside from personal fouls, are Offsides and Pass Interference/Defensive Holding. In an offense that rushes the ball about 80%-90%, opportunities for pass interferences are minimized. That might explain some disparity, although consider that GT always leads the NCAA in yards per attempt (YPA)...longer passes generally have more pass interference potential than short passes.

Not having the time to research the standard breakdown of penalties between offense, defense, and special teams for all ACC teams...this analysis is not validated (it requires going through every boxscore since individual penalty data isn't available). It just doesn't feel right, and the numbers bear that out. It's the "why" that bugs me. Anecdotally speaking, my observations has always been that Tech's defense usually doesn't draw a lot of holding penalties against the opposing offense.

What's your take? Is the ACC Officiating crew giving us the business, or is the reasoning buried somewhere in the data?