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Statistically Speaking

Saturday, July 25, 2015

10-Year Anniversary: Dominance Points in the SEC

The final stop in our review of Dominance Points takes us to the mighty SEC. Want to know how good they are? Just ask em’. The SEC schools are listed below by Dominance Points. The 12 teams that made up the SEC when the league expanded in 1992 are listed first and the Big 12 teams that joined and stretched the concept of ‘southeast’ to its breaking point are listed next.
I don’t think many college football fans are surprised to see Alabama as the most dominant team in the SEC. What may surprise college football fans is that Alabama ‘only’ won three SEC titles in the past decade. In the same way that Ronald Reagan ‘only’ won 59% of the popular vote in 1984, this is both impressive and yet not quite as remarkable as you remembered. The leaderboard aligns closely with the number of conference titles. After Alabama’s trifecta, Auburn, Florida, and LSU all have a pair of SEC titles with Georgia adding a single championship. Alabama also has the most SEC Championship Game appearances with four. In 2010, South Carolina enjoyed a historic season by not only playing in their first SEC Championship Game, but also breaking the Florida/Georgia/Tennessee hegemonic hold on the SEC East. In the first 18 seasons of divisional play, some combination of the Gators, Bulldogs, or Volunteers captured every SEC East crown. And speaking of divisional crowns, in just three seasons of play in the SEC, Missouri has already won twice as many SEC East titles as Kentucky, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt combined. In the SEC Championship Game itself, the west has reeled off six consecutive victories (with five coming by at least 17 points). Before we close this chapter of Statistically Speaking, I will leave you with what I feel is an extraordinary piece of statistical minutia regarding the SEC. Since 2005, every SEC team (including newbies Missouri and Texas A&M) has had at least one season with at least four conference wins and one season with at least five conference losses (i.e. a .500 conference record and a losing conference record). Kentucky is the only team to not have a winning SEC record in that span (topping out at 4-4 in 2006). Do with that what you will. Until next time.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

10-Year Anniversary: Dominance Points in the Big 12 and Pac-12

In this look back on the last decade, we will examine the Big 12 and the Pac-12. What do both of these leagues have in common? Despite their nomenclature, it is certainly not the number of teams, but both conferences did offer a seat at the big boy table to a former Mountain West power, TCU and Utah respectively.

The Big 12 teams are listed below by Dominance Points. The 12 teams that made up the Big 12 from its inception through the 2010 season are listed first. The two teams that were thrown life preservers and granted access (or continued access) to big time football are listed separately.
The Big 12 was the only major conference to decline in membership following realignment (that is of course discounting the Big East and WAC, which lost all their members). While it could be argued the Big 12 is a better league since realignment, there is no question the league has become more egalitarian since the divisional format was scrapped following the 2010 season. During the six season span from 2005-2010, either Oklahoma or Texas won the conference each season (if we go back to the turn of the century, either the Sooners or Longhorns won the league in nine of eleven seasons). Perhaps not surprisingly, Oklahoma and Texas rank first in Dominance Points by a significant margin. However, since 2011 a new posse of barbarians has stormed the gate. In 2011, Oklahoma State won their first conference title since 1976, Kansas State shared the 2012 championship with Oklahoma, and former whipping boy Baylor won back to back titles in 2013 and 2014 with newbie TCU grabbing a share of the latter. Speaking of TCU, how has the former mid-major fared when going toe-to-toe with the big boys on a regular basis? The Horny Toads are a middling 14-13 in Big 12 play, but are coming off an 8-1 campaign and have the Heisman frontrunner under center heading into 2015. At the bottom of the standings, Colorado technically comes in last, but they have not played a Big 12 game since November 26, 2010. Kansas is your real cellar dweller. After going 11-5 in Big 12 games during the 2007-2008 seasons, the Jayhawks have gone just 4-48 in Big 12 play over the past six seasons and are on their fifth head coach with no respite in sight.

The Pac-12 teams are listed below by Dominance Points. The 10 teams that occupied the conference when it was known as the Pac-10 are listed first. Newbies Colorado and Utah are listed separately.
I figured Oregon and Southern Cal would be engaged in a much tighter race at the top. The reason Oregon is in front by a relatively comfortable margin has everything to do with expansion. Southern Cal and Oregon both won four Pac-10/12 titles. However, Southern Cal’s all came when the league had ten members, while two of Oregon’s came in the current 12-team incarnation. That means the Ducks get four additional points because a 12-team league is ostensibly harder to win than a 10-team league. In addition, there is a bigger penalty for not winning the conference once divisional play begins. If a team finished in second place in the old Pac-10, they could accrue up to nine points. However, in divisional play, the most a team could accrue without winning the conference is six points. These small tweaks to the conference, coupled with Oregon’s fantastic play over the past six seasons ensure the Ducks are prestigiously ranked as the most dominant Pac-10/12 team of the last decade by one random blogger with no press credentials and a Geocities quality website. Stanford’s high ranking may be somewhat surprising as the Cardinal were atrocious prior to Harbaugh’s arrival. However, since 2009, they have finished no lower than second in the conference or division and have captured a pair of Pac-12 titles. This may come as a surprise to you, but Cal and Arizona State have each won a share of a Pac-10 title in the last decade. Cal shared the 2006 crown with the Trojans and Arizona State, in their first season under Dennis Erickson, shared the title with the Trojans the next season. Of the original ten teams, the duo from the Evergreen State occupy the bottom of the standings. Washington has finished in the cellar of the conference or division thrice (but none since 2008), while their Apple Cup opponents have finished in that spot six times since 2005!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

10-Year Anniversary: Dominance Points in the ACC and Big 10

We have finished our survey of Dominance Points for the extinct and mid-major conferences. We now turn our attention to a pair of conferences that condescending SEC elitists might classify as mid-majors, the ACC and Big 10. And yet, which two conferences have produced the past two national champions (in de face!)?

The ACC teams are listed below by Dominance Points. The 12 teams that formed the core of the conference are listed first, even Maryland, The Betrayer. The three Big East schools they added (for whatever reason) are listed separately.
With three consecutive conference crowns, Florida State has been the most dominant ACC team since 2005. While the Seminoles are not anywhere close to their 90’s dominance of the conference, they have gone 23-1 against league foes since 2012. Both divisions have been dominated by a pair of teams. In the Atlantic, Clemson and Florida State have combined for seven of the ten division titles since 2005 (Boston College and Wake Forest account for the other three). Meanwhile, in the Coastal, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech have won nine of ten divisional crowns. Those four teams have combined to win nine of the first ten ACC Championship Games, with the other victor coming via Wake Forest in true Cinderella fashion in 2006. Despite a resurgence over the past two seasons, that included a division title in 2013, Duke was so poor in the early part of the decade they still rank last in Dominance Points.

The Big 10 teams are sorted below by Dominance Points. The 11 teams that formed the core of the conference are listed first. Newcomers, Nebraska, Maryland, and Rutgers are listed separately.
The top of the Big 10 heap is not a dramatic revelation. Prior to the conference expanding and splitting into divisions in 2011, Ohio State won at least a share of the first six Big 10 titles in the period we are examining. Since the league expanded, Wisconsin has the most Big 10 Championship Game appearances with three (although they won in 2012 thanks to sanctions in Columbus and State College) while Ohio State and Michigan State are tied with two. Nebraska has the other appearance. For those easily distracted by the new East/West division set up, during the first three years of divisional play (the Leaders and Legends fiasco), Ohio State and Wisconsin were actually in the same division. Whether that was the Leaders or Legends division is a question that should never be asked. Maryland and Rutgers acquitted themselves reasonably well during their respective preliminary forays into Midwestern football. For Rutgers, after slumming with gridiron peasants like Connecticut, South Florida, and Temple for the past quarter century or so, the guaranteed yearly battles with Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State likely have fans partying like its 1869.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

10-Year Anniversary: Dominance Points in the American

After sorting through a pair of extinct and four existing mid-major leagues, we will now examine the most nascent conference in college football, The American Athletic Conference.

The American Athletic Conference teams are sorted below by Dominance Points. Since the league is entering its third season and has been in constant flux since the very beginning, I have listed each team together.
It’s hard to proclaim any bold truths after just a pair of seasons of play, but UCF is the early leader in the clubhouse. After a historic 2013 season when they upset presumed overlord Louisville and earned the league’s first and only BCS bowl berth, the Knights finished in a three-way tie atop the standings in 2014 with Cincinnati and Memphis. For Memphis, this represented a tremendous reversal of fortune, as the Tigers shared the cellar with Temple just a season before. Much like the Atlanta Braves a quarter century ago, the Tigers went from worst to first. They were also ranked in the final AP Poll (their first ever end of season ranking) and the second year in a row the American finished with a least one team ranked in the final poll. The American will experience another change in 2015 when Navy joins the conference (the first ever conference appearance for the Midshipmen) and the league adds a championship game. How long will the American remain in its current incarnation? The dog days of summer have seen rumors emerge (some credible, some incredible or is that uncredible) about another round of conference expansion. Enjoy this edition of the American while it lasts folks. The classic Tulsa/Navy intersectional matchup may not stand the test of time.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

10-Year Anniversary: Dominance Points in the Mountain West and Sun Belt

The 10-year anniversary celebrations continue. Any monetary contributions you would like to make to ensure this blog continues ad infinitum are greatly appreciated. In this episode, we’ll examine the Mountain West and the Sun Belt.

The Mountain West teams are sorted below by dominance points. The core teams (nine) that made up the Mountain West for the majority of the time since 2005 are listed first with their interloping brethren listed separately.
The dominance that TCU, BYU, and to a lesser extent Utah exerted over the Mountain West can still be seen. Despite playing in the Big 12 for three seasons, TCU ranks first among Mountain West members in terms of dominance points. BYU has been an independent since 2011, and yet they still rank fourth overall (and tied with TCU for the best per season average of the nine core teams). TCU, BYU, and Utah won each of the Mountain West championships during the seven seasons beginning in 2005 during which at least one was a member of the Mountain West. The only other member of the nine core teams to win the conference title was San Diego State. The Aztecs shared the 2012 title with Boise State and Fresno State.

The Sun Belt teams are sorted below by dominance points. The core teams (eight) that made up the Sun Belt for the majority of the time since 2005 are listed first with the newcomers listed separately.
The theme for the Sun Belt in the last decade has been one of sharing. Five of the league’s ten championships have been shared, including a three-way tie atop the standings in 2005. Only three teams, Troy, Arkansas State, and Georgia Southern this past season have won an outright conference title. Arkansas State ranks as the most dominant team of the last decade despite employing five different coaches. A few years ago, Troy would appear to have the dominance part locked up, but the Trojans have fallen on (relative) hard times in the past four seasons after winning five consecutive titles (three shared) from 2006-2010. Former Southern Conference powers Georgia Southern and Appalachian State enjoyed auspicious debuts in Sun Belt play, winning a combined 14 of their 16 league games and finishing first and third respectively. At the other end of the success spectrum, Georgia State is still looking for their first conference win after two seasons in the league.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

10-Year Anniversary: Dominance Points in Conference USA and the MAC

As I noted in the last post, this blog is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this summer. In that last post, I introduced the concept of ‘Dominance Points’ to determine who has dominated their respective conferences. This system is not designed to compare across conferences (say the Big 12 against the Big 10), but it is designed to compare within conferences (the Big 12 in 2005 versus the Big 12 in 2011). In the last post, we looked at two leagues that no longer exist. In this post we’ll examine a pair of extant conferences.

We'll begin with Conference USA. The Dominance Points for Conference USA teams from 2005-2014 are listed below. The core 12 teams that made up the conference for the majority of that time period are listed first with the eight new members listed separately.
Conference USA still exists, but it has undergone quite the makeover in the last decade. Seven of the twelve teams that populated the conference in 2005 (East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulane, Tulsa, and UCF) have moved on to the American Athletic Conference and one team has ceased playing Division I football altogether (at least temporarily). To replace the octet, Conference USA has called up teams from the Sun Belt, WAC, FCS, and in direct opposition to the laws of thermodynamics, from nothingness. While the teams that departed were of varying quality, with the four most dominant teams (East Carolina, Tulsa, UCF, and Houston) being joined by a pair of second division squads (Memphis and Tulane), the heft the league lost was significant. From 2005-2012, 14 of the 16 berths in the Conference USA Championship game were held by teams that are now members of the American Athletic Conference with Southern Miss (2006 and 2011) being the lone holdover who appeared in the title game in that span. And recently, the Eagles have gone through a bit of a dry spell. It is entirely too early to get a handle on how the neophytes will perform in the conference, but Middle Tennessee has finished as a runner-up in the East division during both of their campaigns.

Here are the Dominance Points for MAC teams. Once again, the core teams are listed first, with a pair of teams that have been members at different times in the last decade listed separately.
Northern Illinois has dominated the MAC, particularly in the recent past. The Huskies have an active streak of five consecutive West division titles (six overall) and three championships. Central Michigan has also captured three MAC championships, emerging victorious in each of their championship game appearances. In the East division, things have been a little different. Four teams have won the MAC from the East (Akron, Bowling Green, Buffalo, and Miami). Each winner also engineered a mild to massive upset in the MAC Championship Game. Ohio has reached the limits of how dominant a team can be without ever quite reaching the mountaintop. The Bobcats have been consistent winners under coach Frank Solich since his second season in 2006, owning three East division titles. However, the Bobcats have never been able to break through and win the MAC Championship Game, losing twice to Central Michigan and once to Northern Illinois. Bowling Green is the only school from the East division to win consecutive division titles. Temple enjoyed a brief productive period in the MAC, first under Al Golden and then under Steve Addazio before returning to the Big East and later the American Athletic Conference. The Owls never played in the MAC Championship Game, but they did tie for the East division crown in 2009 (with Ohio) and finish a strong second to the Bobcats in 2011.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

10-Year Anniversary: Dominance Points in the Big East and WAC

It’s hard to believe, but at the end of July, this blog will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary. As someone who starts a lot of things and rarely finishes them, I am quite surprised I have been able to keep this up for a solid decade. If you’re into nostalgia, or simply a Tennessee hater, here’s a link to my first post (it proved quite clairvoyant). In the interest of celebrating the anniversary, I wanted to come up with a theme I could post about over the course of the summer. I decided to look at each conference and determine which team dominated that conference over the past decade. One way to do this would be to simply look at won/loss record or championships or divisions won. However, I have a lot of free time, so I decided on something a little different. We’ll call them ‘Dominance Points’ and here is how they are calculated. For a conference without divisions, take the number of teams in the conference and award the champion(s) that many points. The larger a conference is, the more points that champion receives as it is ostensibly harder to win an 11-team conference that it is an eight-team conference. Take the second place team and award them the number of teams minus one. Take the third place team and award them the number of teams minus two. Continue on. For example, TCU and Baylor tied for the Big 12 title in 2014. Since the Big 12 had ten teams, both Baylor and TCU receive ten points apiece. Kansas State finished third (there was no second place team since Baylor and TCU tied) so they receive eight points. At the other end of the standings, last place Iowa State gets credit for participating and receives a single point. But what about conferences that have divisions? Give the division champion(s) points equal to the number of teams in the division. So in a six-team division, first gets six, second gets five, third get four, etc. However, if that division champion also wins the conference, give them points equal to the total number of teams in the conference. No double-booking though. Northern Illinois, the 2014 MAC champion, gets 13 points for winning the conference, not 19 for winning their division and the conference. Bowling Green on the other hand, receives 7 for winning their division against six other teams. No attempt is made to break conference or division ties. If three teams tie for a division title, each receives the max number of points, regardless of the team that actually appeared in the conference title game.

With that out of the way, let’s delve into a pair of conferences that did not survive realignment, the Big East and the WAC. Both these conferences ceased to exist following the 2012 season. However, they both live on in my memories and as a pair of basketball leagues.

We'll start with the Big East. Here are the Dominance Points for Big East teams for the period 2005-2012. The eight teams that formed the Big East for the majority of this time period are grouped together, with Temple (a former conference member) listed separately as they were only a member for one season.
West Virginia easily accrued the most dominance points despite leaving the conference following the 2011 season. The Mountaineers never finished lower than second place in seven seasons during this time period. The Mountaineers and Bearcats tied for the most conference titles in this span with four (some shares) apiece. The final season of the Big East featured the always exciting four-way tie at the top of the standings, meaning that of the eight core Big East members, each except South Florida earned at least one share of a conference title from 2005-2012.

Moving on to the WAC. Once again, I have listed the nine core members separately from the Lone Star neophytes who were present for just a single season.
Amazingly, Boise State did not accrue the most Dominance Points, primarily because they were only in the WAC for six seasons. Nevada enjoyed an extra year in the conference and still only edged the Broncos by a single point. After the heavy hitters departed, leaving the WAC a shell of itself in 2012, the Aggies from Utah State won their first conference title since the sharing the Big West championship in 1997 (interestingly, that was also a micro-conference).
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