Fifty shades of football: Day 10

(We’re counting down to the first Saturday of college football, now 41 days away.)

Guess which SEC team lost the fewest starts to injury last season? That’s right, national champion Alabama. The Crimson Tide lost just nine starts, according to research by Phil Steele, to rank high among teams least affected by injury.

But I think the other end of the spectrum is where you can mine some data that might be interesting when trying to size up the 2012 season. It’s possible that teams which had a lot of injuries in 2011 might have fewer this fall, and that would help the bottom line – winning.

Memphis, an awful team, lost 44 starts to injury. But a bowl-bound Vanderbilt team lost 42 starts – and a significant improvement there might boost the Commodores’ chances of building on last year’s 6-6 regular season.

Starts lost in 2011 by other SEC teams: Tennessee 36, Missouri 36, South Carolina 35, LSU 31, Florida 29, Texas A&M 27, Georgia 22, Arkansas 21, Ole Miss 21, Kentucky 17, Auburn 15, Mississippi State 11.

Based on the 2011 sample, 21 starts lost to injury seems to be the average. So teams like Vandy and Tennessee that had losing seasons may find their rate of injury will decrease in 2012 – but so may teams that had good seasons, including LSU and South Carolina.

On the other end of the spectrum, Alabama and Mississippi State might be expected to have at least a few more injuries this season – while a bad team, like Kentucky, might have yet another obstacle to overcome if its injury rate increases.