The Two Point Conversion in High School Football
Ever since the advent of sports analytics, the analytics junkies have honed in on the choice to go for the extra point vs going for the two point conversion. The reason for this is likely due to the relative directness of the choice. If your conversion rate on the two point conversion is more than half that of your extra point attempts you should likely go for two.
NFL Two Point Conversion
The two point conversion in the NFL has gained more traction in the last past few years with the decision by the NFL to move the extra point distance from the 2 yard line to the 15 yard line. This has led many coaches, stats geeks and casual fans alike to wonder whether their team should now go for two.
In the two years prior to the change in distance NFL kickers were essentially automatic at the extra point - converting at a 99.5% clip or missing only 1 in every 200 kicks from that distance. In the two years since moving the kick line of scrimmage to the 15 yard line the kickers are missing at a much higher rate, converting only 94% of their kicks. In 2013 and 2014 combined NFL kickers only missed 13 extra points. In 2015 and 2016 combined they missed 147 extra points. This will certainly stop the hardcore football fan from flipping stations when the extra point comes up.
This decision to move back the extra point in essence reduced the point value of an extra point opportunity from 0.995 to 0.94 or in other words for every extra point attempt your team takes you should expect 0.055 less points. This might sound like a geek stat and for the most point you are correct, but its always best to cross your T's and dot your I's. So we will take a look at how this compares to the expected value of a two point conversion attempt. Comparing the success rates of the two point conversion from 2013 - 2016 in the NFL the success rate has been around 48% give or take a point. Since a two point conversion, is well, worth two points the expected value of a two point opportunity would be around 0.96 points (48% * 2 points).
Overall this means that a two point conversion may be slightly more valuable than an extra point (0.96 vs 0.94). You can see this taken into account by the NFL coaches by the fact that NFL two point conversion attempts have almost doubled from 69 in 2013 and 59 in 2014 to 94 in 2015 and 104 in 2016. While this is certainly a spike from the 2 yard line of scrimmage attempt, NFL coaches still choose to kick the extra point over 90% of the time with about 1,200 extra points being attempted per year.
NCAA Two Point Conversion
While the NFL has moved its extra point back due to the ridiculously high rate of success by professional kickers from the 2 yard line of scrimmage, the NCAA has not yet chosen to follow suit. This is likely due to the fact that NCAA kickers are not quite as prolific as their professional counterparts. In 2016 NCAA kickers made 2156 of their 2250 kicks or 95.8%. In addition, at the NCAA level two point conversions tend to be successful at a bit of a lower pace, roughly 42% of the time they are successful. Here the value of the extra point vs the two point conversion is a bit more clear with the extra point being more valuable (0.96 vs 0.84).
Another interesting tidbit of information from BackingThePack.com is that the extra point has become significantly more valuable as the skills of kickers has increased. In the late 50's NCAA kickers were only conversion about 70% of extra points and even as of the 70's they were only converting at 90%. This caused coaches to convert from having roughly half of their conversion attempts being 2 point conversions, to only roughly 5% or one in 20 attempts being 2 point conversion in the 00's.
What this Means for High School Two Point Conversion Strategy
Now to the part of the article all you high school football coaches, stat analysts and fans have been waiting for, what does this mean for high school. Really it comes down to situational awareness. Unlike in the NFL and even most NCAA situations, the high school football game is unique in that the skill set levels position by position and year to year can fluctuate greatly. Whereas in the NFL everyone has a kicker who could make the 2 yard line extra point with their eyes closed, not every high school team has the luxury of a kicker who is automatic for extra points.
While nation wide stats are not kept at the high school level, I would estimate that the conversion rate for extra points nation wide is not more than 80%, however some teams will have kickers that can make 100% of their extra points, whereas other teams may not have a kicker who can make more than half of their attempts. This will significantly influence your game planning for the point after attempt.
In addition other items need to be consider
What is the strength of your offense?
Do you have a highly effective run game or short passing game?
What are the strengths of your opponents defense?
Does the opponent have a good edge rush or sophisticated special teams game plan?
What is the current score in the game?
How much time is left in the game?
As a general rule, if you have a strong kicker, it is early in the game and you are not the underdog you will typically want to go for 1 point.
Later in the game the determination of going for 1 point vs 2 points will be more dependent on the score of the game, amount of time left and relative strength of your offensive capabilities and the opponents defensive capabilities.
In conclusion, while the NFL is a toss up between the expected value of the one point vs two point conversion and in the NCAA the value of the one point conversion is higher than that of the two point conversion, in high school football the value of the one point vs two point conversion is going to be very team and situational dependent and as a coach you should be game planning well in advance of the game so all coaches and players are aware of what the plan is going to be on the conversion attempt depending on the situation.