The book says that first down is the most important in football, the foundation, the launch foot on the walking path to bliss.
Then again, when you get the part about the Hawkeyes and Hoosiers in 2016, the opening passage reads more like: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
To get to the root of the confusion, you have to start with the information that’s tracked over at CFBStats.com, which after 10 weeks rates Big Ten offenses on first down like this …
Iowa (5-4, 3-3 Big Ten) and Indiana (5-4, 3-3) rank Nos. 1 and 2 as of the first weekend of November, averaging 6.76 and 6.63 per first-down play, respectively. The Buckeyes (8-1, 5-1) and Wolverines (9-0, 6-0), the cream of the league, follow close behind at Nos. 3 and 4 with first-down totals of 6.53 and 6.34 per first down, respectively.
But here’s the funky part: Of the top four squads on first down in the Big Ten, only two — the power two, Michigan and Oho State — also rank among the league’s top 4 in third-down conversion percentage. The Hawkeyes check in at 11th (35.7 percent) out of 14; the Hoosiers rank No. 8 (38.6).
So there’s clearly a disconnect in there, somewhere. In fact, of the top five schools ranked in terms of first-down success, three were also among the bottom third in the Big Ten in third-down conversion rate.
How do the Hawkeyes seemingly to go from second-and-3 to fourth down and punting again? Fans in Iowa City are pretty sure that particular ‘how’ is on offensive coordinator Greg Davis:
I have a feeling Greg Davis is going to open it up tonight with a 5 yard screen pass on 3rd and 8 instead of the usual 3 yard. #Hawkeyes
— INeedAStiffDrink (@schuster11777) November 5, 2016
Good thing I gain an hour tonight because I’m just losing it watching a Greg Davis offense. #Hawkeyes
— Steven Weets (@steveweets) November 6, 2016
The book, to be fair, still isn’t quite sure what to make of Davis, or the 2016 Hawkeyes. But it’s fairly resolute in the notion that the best offenses, more often than not, are usually the ones capable of finishing whatever the heck they start. Usually.