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Statistically Speaking: May 2006

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Consistent

There are several different levels of consistentcy in college football. Some teams consistently win 6-7 games and go to a low-tier bowl, others win 10-11 and play in the BCS, while some are consistently pummelled by the opposition and win only 2-3 games. The Big 12 Conference has been around for 10 years. Which teams have been the most consistent in terms of winning percentage year in and year out, and which have run the gauntlet from also ran to greatness? Here are the 12 teams ranked by standard deviation of seasonal winning percentage from most consistent to least consistent.

Texas Tech .066
Baylor .103
Kansas .112
Missouri .129
Texas A&M .133
Oklahoma St. .141
Colorado .167
Nebraska .176
Texas .179
Kansas St. .200
Iowa St. .223
Oklahoma .258

The Red Raiders rate as the most consistent team with a standard deviation of only 6.6% in winning percentage. In their 10 years of play in the Big 12, they have never finished with a losing record, and have never won more than 9 games. Baylor is the second most consistent team, never posting a winning record and recording 4 seasons of 3 wins and 3 seasons of 2 wins. Texas Tech has been by far the most consistent team, as the difference in standard deviation between themselves and the second place Baylor Bears is nearly the same as the distance between Baylor and the sixth most consistent team (or team with about average consistentcy if that makes any sense), the Oklahoma St. Cowboys. Oklahoma has been the least consistent team. The primary reason for this is that they never won more than 5 games in the 3 seasons before Bob Stoops arrival. During his tenure in Norman, the Sooner have won more than 10 games 5 times, and have won at least twice as many as they have lost in all but one season. Iowa St. is the second most inconsistent team with finishes of 1-10, 7-7, and 9-3. I don't know how much insight this lends if any, but I just thought it was interesting.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Worst 10-win Team of the Last Decade

The worst 10-win team of the past decade is a category akin to the ugliest supermodel, and weakest strongman. A few days ago, I said Mississippi State circa 1999 may be the worst 10-win team ever. That was a dramatic overstatement. With neither the time nor the energy to traverse NCAA football’s long and storied history, I decided to take a look at the worst 10-win teams since 1996. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and examine some of these bad-good teams. Under each team, 6 characteristics will be listed: their record, their point differential, their Pythagorean record, their record in close games, their record against teams with winning records, and their opponent’s winning percentage.


Kansas
1995

Record: 10-2

Point Differential: +84

Pythag: 7.91-4.09

Close Games: 3-0

Winning Records: 4-2

Opp Win %: .515 (70-66-1)

In Glenn Mason’s penultimate season in Lawrence, the Jayhawks went 10-2 and won the Aloha Bowl. Kansas played six teams with winning records, but two of them were over Cincinnati and Texas Christian who both finished (6-5), as well as their bowl win over 7-5 UCLA. They did manage to beat 10-2 Colorado, but in their other two games against dominant teams (10-2 Kansas State and 12-0 Nebraska), they were beaten by a combined 82-10 score.


Army 1996

Record: 10-2

Point Differential: +155

Pythag: 9.32-2.68

Close Games: 1-1

Winning Records: 3-2

Opp Win%: .465 (53-61)

In their most recent winning season, Army posted a very solid point differential, but their schedule was very weak. Their opponent’s winning percentage does not include two games they played against non Division I-A opponents Yale and Lafayette. They also beat Duke (0-11), Tulane, and Rutgers (both 2-9). Their best win was over fellow service academy Navy (9-3). In their bowl game, they did give Auburn (8-4) all they could handle before succumbing by 3 points.

Wyoming 1996

Record: 10-2

Point Differential: +180

Pythag: 9.14-2.86

Close Games: 4-2

Winning Records: 3-2

Opp Win%: .429 (60-80)

Another team with a solid point differential, but weak schedule. Joe Tiller parlayed this solid season into a gig at Purdue. The Cowboys best win was over Colorado State (7-5). They did suffer close losses to San Diego State (8-3) and Brigham Young (14-1), but they also narrowly defeated Iowa State (2-9), Idaho (6-5), and Air Force (6-5). Other cupcake wins, albeit by a much large margin, were over Hawaii (2-10), UNLV (1-11), San Jose State (3-9), Western Michigan (2-9), Fresno State (4-7), and Southern Methodist (5-6). Although they were undefeated entering November (9-0), their loss to Brigham Young in the WAC Championship Game cost them a bowl bid despite the gaudy record.

Air Force 1997

Record: 10-3

Point Differential: +89

Pythag: 9.27-3.73

Close Games: 5-2

Winning Record: 4-1

Opp Win%: .493 (69-71)

Air Force had a solid point differential and Pythagorean record, but they played several close games and the only good team they beat was Colorado State (11-2). The other winning teams include non-bowl invitees Rice and Navy (both 7-4), Wyoming (7-6), and the Las Vegas Bowl loss (by 28 points) to Oregon (7-5). They also lost to Fresno State (6-6) and San Jose State (4-7).

Georgia Tech 1998

Record: 10-2

Point Differential: +131

Pythag: 8.46-3.54

Close Games: 4-0

Winning Record: 5-1

Opp Win%: .518 (72-67)

Probably the best of the worst 10-win teams if that makes any sense. Good point differential, but were 4-0 in close games and although they beat some good teams (Georgia, Notre Dame, and Virginia were all 9-3) they lost to Boston College (4-7), got annihilated by the only elite team they played (Florida State beat them by 27 in Atlanta), and four of their wins were over 3-8 teams (Wake Forest, Clemson, Maryland, and New Mexico State).

Miami (Ohio) 1998

Record: 10-1

Point Differential: +175

Pythag: 9.57-1.43

Close Games: 3-0

Winning Record: 2-1

Opp Win%: .384 (48-77)

Good point differential, but a ridiculously easy schedule. Their best win is a 3-point victory over North Carolina (7-5). Beat five teams with 3 or fewer wins including Kent State (0-11) and Ball State (1-10). However, they did play only 4 home games versus 7 road dates which has to count for something.

Boise State 1999

Record: 10-3

Point Differential: +153

Pythag: 9.61-3.39

Close Games: 4-1

Winning Record: 4-1

Opp Win%: .472 (59-66)

The Broncos also beat two non-Division IA opponents, further lowering their strength of schedule. Three of the teams with winning records they beat were mediocre at best: Louisville (7-5), Idaho (7-4), and New Mexico State (6-5). They played only 4 road games (the bowl game was played at home on the Smurf Turf) and lost 3 of them. Their losses were to UCLA (4-7), Hawaii (9-4), and North Texas (2-9). Their lone road win was a 6-point victory over Utah State (4-7).

Mississippi State 1999

Record: 10-2

Point Differential: +99

Pythag: 9.15-2.85

Close Games: 5-1

Winning Record: 1-2

Opp Win%: .464 (64-74)

As discussed a few days ago, Mississippi State beat one team with a winning record, and enjoyed a three-game stretch where they won by 2, 1, and 1 points respectively.

Brigham Young 2001

Record: 12-2

Point Differential: +194

Pythag: 9.93-4.07

Close Games: 5-0

Winning Record: 3-2

Opp Win%: .435 (70-91)

In early December 2001, Brigham Young was contemplating suing the BCS because they were likely to be on the outside looking in despite a 13-0 record. One 27-point loss to Hawaii later and the BCS could have sued the Cougars for impersonating a college football team. The Cougars played almost no one of note until their bowl loss to Louisville (11-2). Half of their wins came against teams with 3 or fewer wins. Give them credit for playing 7 road games in the regular season.

Illinois 2001

Record: 10-2

Point Differential: +105

Pythag: 8.13-3.87

Close Games: 4-0

Winning Record: 3-2

Opp Win%: .514 (72-68)

The Fighting Illini parlayed an easy Big 10 schedule (they played two league teams with winning records: Michigan and Ohio State) into a surprise Big 10 title. They lost to Michigan by 25, beat Ohio State, and squeaked by losing league teams Wisconsin, Penn State, and Northwestern by 7, 5, and 6 points respectively. They did manage to beat Louisville (11-2), whom you’ll see later, but lost their bowl game to the SEC Champion LSU Tigers. This season appears to be a fluke, as the Illini have a record of 11-35 since their Sugar Bowl appearance.

Louisville 2001

Record: 11-2

Point Differential: +171

Pythag: 10.32-2.68

Close Games: 2-0

Winning Record: 4-1

Opp Win%: .486 (69-73)

Add a victory over a non-Division IA team to the Cardinals strength of schedule. They did beat a flawed 12-2 Brigham Young team, but their best win in the regular season is either Colorado State or Cincinnati (both 7-5).

Marshall 2001

Record: 11-2

Point Differential: +143

Pythag: 8.90-4.10

Close Games: 3-1

Winning Record: 4-2

Opp Win%: .512 (64-61)

Two of Marshall’s 11 wins were over non-Division IA competition. Three of the winning teams they beat were Northern Illinois and Kent State (both 6-5) and Miami of Ohio (7-5). In their lone game against an elite team, they lost to Florida (10-2) by 35. They also lost to Toledo (10-2) who you’ll read about later.

Syracuse 2001

Record: 10-3

Point Differential: +87

Pythag: 8.73-4.27

Close Games: 2-1

Winning Record: 5-3

Opp Win%: .571 (88-66)

Syracuse’s opponents had a very good record, but this is skewed by Miami of Florida (12-0) and Tennessee (11-2). They lost those games by a combined score of 9-92, showing they were not ready for prime time. The winning teams they beat were pedestrian at best: Central Florida (6-5), Auburn (7-5), Pittsburgh (7-5), Virginia Tech (8-4), and Boston College (8-4). Besides Miami, the Big East was down in 2001, and the Orangemen took advantage by turning in a second-place finish that is not as strong as it looked at the time.

Toledo 2001

Record: 10-2

Point Differential: +110

Pythag: 8.14-3.86

Close Games: 5-1

Winning Record: 3-1

Opp Win%: .418 (56-78)

Holy Toledo! The Rockets played a large number of close games, and won almost all of them. Besides the aforementioned Marshall (11-2), the other winning teams the Rockets knocked off were Cincinnati (7-5) in the Motor City Bowl and Northern Illinois (6-5). Four of their wins were over teams with 3 wins or less, including winless Navy. They also lost to 5-6 Ball State.

Colorado State 2002

Record: 10-4

Point Differential: +86

Pythag: 8.86-5.14

Close Games: 7-2

Winning Record: 4-3

Opp Win%: .520 (93-86)

Nine of their 14 games could have gone either way. They won just about every one. They do have some impressive victories over Virginia and Colorado (both 9-5), but they also squeaked by some run of the mill squads. These include Louisville (7-6) by 3, Nevada (5-7) by 4, Wyoming (2-10) by 8, and New Mexico (7-7) by 8. They also lost to UNLV (5-7).

Hawaii 2002

Record: 10-4

Point Differential: +113

Pythag: 9.05-4.95

Close Games: 3-2

Winning Record: 1-3

Opp Win%: .463 (76-88)

Hawaii also beat a non-Division IA team to further lower their strength of schedule. The only winning team they beat was Fresno State (9-5). They left the islands for only 5 of their 14 games. Two of their wins were over Tulsa (1-11) and UTEP (2-10). They also lost to Brigham Young (5-7).

Marshall 2002

Record: 11-2

Point Differential: +142

Pythag: 9.19-3.81

Close Games: 5-0

Winning Record: 4-1

Opp Win%: .443 (66-83)

The Thundering Herd added a win over a non-Division IA team. In their only encounter with an upper-echelon team, they lost to Virginia Tech by 26. They won every close game they played, including a 5 point win over Central Michigan (4-8) and a 3 point win over Ohio (4-8). The four winning teams they beat were pedestrian at best: Central Florida (7-5), Miami of Ohio (7-5), Toledo (9-5), and Louisville (7-6). Besides Virginia Tech, they also lost to Akron (4-8).

Michigan 2002

Record: 10-3

Point Differential: +96

Pythag: 8.78-4.22

Close Games: 6-2

Winning Record: 6-3

Opp Win%: .602 (100-66)

This team is probably one of the weaker Lloyd Carr coached Michigan teams. The Wolverines played a ton of close games, and despite the fact that their Big 10 schedule allowed them to engage several winning teams; very few of them were elite. Ohio State (14-0), Iowa (11-2), and Notre Dame (10-3), we’ll talk about them soon, skew the strength of schedule. It’s no surprise Michigan lost all three of these games. The other six winning teams they played (and beat) were Washington (7-6), Penn State (9-4), Purdue (7-6), Minnesota (8-5), Wisconsin (8-6), and Florida (8-5).

Notre Dame 2002

Record: 10-3

Point Differential: +73

Pythag: 8.65-4.35

Close Games: 6-1

Winning Record: 6-3

Opp Win%: .563 (94-73)

The quintessential phrase ‘luck of the Irish’ rings true for this team. They began the season 8-0, beating several strong teams, albeit by the slimmest of margins. That all changed when they finally lost a close game to Boston College. They ended the season by showing they did not belong among college footballs upper class, but rather among the proletariat, by losing to Southern Cal (11-2) and NC State (11-3) by a combined score of 72-17. Early on the Irish also struggled to put away mediocre Purdue (7-6), as well as also-rans Michigan State (4-8) and Navy (2-10), winning those games by 7, 4, and 7 points respectively. Proving they were playing way over their heads, the team slumped to 5-7 in 2003.

Texas Christian 2002

Record: 10-2

Point Differential: +139

Pythag: 9.12-2.88

Close Games: 3-2

Winning Record: 5-0

Opp Win%: .434 (66-86)

The winning record category is deceptive. Those winning teams they beat include Sun Belt Champion North Texas (8-5), Louisville (7-6), Southern Mississippi (7-6), Tulane (8-5), and Colorado State (10-4) who was discussed earlier. Their 2 losses were to Cincinnati (7-7) and East Carolina (4-8).

Iowa 2004

Record: 10-2

Point Differential: +81

Pythag: 8.20-3.8

Close Games: 5-0

Winning Record: 6-2

Opp Win%: .582 (82-59)

Iowa skated through their Big 10 schedule through the thinnest of margins. They defeated Penn State (4-7), Purdue (7-5), and Minnesota (7-5) all by 2 points. Out of conference they beat Iowa State (7-5) by 7 and in the Capital One Bowl they knocked off Louisiana State (9-3) by 5. In their 2 losses, they were soundly thumped by Arizona State (9-3) and Michigan (9-3) by a combined score of 74-24. Like most teams that win a lot of close games one year, the Hawkeyes regressed the next season to 7-5 by going 0-3 in close games.

Navy 2004

Record: 10-2

Point Differential: +96

Pythag: 8.29-3.71

Close Games: 4-0

Winning Record: 1-0

Opp Win%: .354 (40-73)

Head coach Paul Johnson helped Navy to a 10-win season in 2004. It was probably the worst 10-win season on this list, but I don't think you will hear too many Navy fans complain. Navy played one team with a winning record all season, New Mexico (7-5) in the Emerald Bowl, whom they defeated. They also beat 2 non-Division IA teams. Their losses were to Notre Dame (6-6) by 18 points and to Tulane (5-6) by 32 points.

Tennessee 2004

Record: 10-3

Point Differential: +83

Pythag: 8.36-4.64

Close Games: 6-1

Winning Record: 4-2

Opp Win%: .549 (84-69)

The 2004 incarnation of the Tennessee Volunteers are probably the luckiest team on this list. They were an amazing 6-1 in close games, losing only to Notre Dame by 4 points. Their other 2 losses were both to Auburn (13-0) by 24 and 10 points respectively. The blowout win over Texas A&M (7-5) in the Cotton Bowl raised expectations heading into 2005, but like most teams that win a lot of close games one year, their luck changed the following year. The Vols finished 5-6 in 2005, highlighted by a mediocre 3-3 record in close games. Incidentally, one handsome devil predicted the fall of Tennessee.


UCLA 2005

Record: 10-2

Point Differential: +59

Pythag: 6.95-5.05

Close Games: 4-0

Winning Record: 4-1

Opp Win%: .482 (67-72)

An early November game against Arizona (3-8) says all there is to say about UCLA. Coming off a narrow win over Stanford (5-6) and standing 8-0, the Bruins were stomped by the Wildcats by 38 points. Two weeks later, the Southern Cal Trojans demolished them 47. UCLA was a decent team that lucked onto a 10-win season. They are certainly destined to sink like the Titanic in 2005.

Here’s the tail of the tape. Below is the worst of each team in each category (or best in terms of close games which indicate a fair amount of luck).

Point Differential: +59; UCLA 2005

Pythag: 6.95-5.05; UCLA 2005

Close Games: 5-0; Brigham Young 2001, Marshall 2002, and Iowa 2004

Winning Record: 1-0; Navy 2004

Opp Win%: .354 (40-73); Navy 2004

I have to anoint the 2004 edition of the Naval Academy as the worst 10-win team of the last decade. They played one team with a winning record and had an awful strength of schedule (especially when you include their 2 wins over non-Division IA teams). As far as the worst 10-win team from a BCS conference, well that honor goes to the 2005 UCLA Bruins. Your thoughts?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Is Dick Vermeil a Hall of Fame Coach?

The Crying Game

The retirement of players, the recent departure of Jacksonville receiver Jimmy Smith a perfect example, often gives rise to a debate over whether that particular individual is worthy of enshrinement into the Hall of Fame. Well, it seems we know a lot about what makes a Hall of Fame player in most sports, but what about a Hall of Fame coach? I decided to try and tackle this question by looking at the career of the recently retired Dick Vermeil and comparing his resume to the other 13 modern-era coaches in the Hall of Fame. Each coach will be listed with their regular season record, regular season winning percentage, # of division titles, # of conference titles, # of league titles (Super Bowls and NFL/AFL titles prior to the Super Bowl), playoff record, and playoff winning percentage.

George Allen
Record: 116-47-5
Win %: .705
Division: 3
Conference: 1
League: 0
Playoff Record: 2-7
Playoff Win %: .222

Paul Brown
Record: 166-100-6
Win %: .621
Division: 7
Conference: 3
League: 3
Playoff Record: 4-8
Playoff Win %: .333

Weeb Ewbank
Record: 130-129-7
Win %: .502
Division: 4
Conference: 3
League: 3
Playoff Record: 4-1
Playoff Win %: .800

Joe Gibbs
Record: 140-76
Win %: .648
Division: 6
Conference: 4
League: 3
Playoff Record: 17-6
Playoff Win %: .739

Bud Grant
Record: 158-96-5
Win %: .620
Division: 10
Conference: 4
League: 0
Playoff Record: 10-13
Playoff Win %: .435

Tom Landry
Record: 250-162-6
Win %: .605
Division: 12
Conference: 5
League: 2
Playoff Record: 21-16
Playoff Win %: .568

Marv Levy
Record: 143-112
Win %: .561
Division: 6
Conference: 4
League: 0
Playoff Record: 11-8
Playoff Win %: .579

Vince Lombardi
Record: 96-34-6
Win %: .728
Division: 6
Conference: 5
League: 5
Playoff Record: 10-2
Playoff Win %: .833

John Madden
Record: 103-32-7
Win %: .750
Division: 7
Conference: 1
League: 1
Playoff Record: 9-7
Playoff Win %: .563

Chuck Noll
Record: 193-148-1
Win %: .566
Division: 10
Conference: 4
League: 4
Playoff Record: 16-8
Playoff Win %: .666

Don Shula
Record: 328-156-6
Win %: .676
Division: 14
Conference: 6
League: 2
Playoff Record: 19-17
Playoff Win %: .528

Hank Stram
Record: 131-97-10
Win %: .571
Division: 4
Conference: 3
League: 2
Playoff Record: 5-3
Playoff Win %: .625

Bill Walsh
Record: 92-59-1
Win %: .609
Division: 6
Conference: 3
League: 3
Playoff Record: 10-4
Playoff Win %: .714

And finally our man, Dick Vermeil
Record: 120-109
Win %: .524
Division: 3
Conference: 2
League: 1
Playoff Record: 6-5
Playoff Win %: .545

Where does Vermeil stack up in each category? He actually has more total wins than Bill Walsh, John Madden, Vince Lombardi, and George Allen. However, he significantly trails each man in winning percentage. In fact, the only Hall of Fame coach who has a worse winning percentage than Vermeil is Weeb Ewbank. Of course, Ewbank did coach three championship squads (1958 and 1959 Baltimore Colts and the 1968 New York Jets). Vermeil has won the fewest division titles of any coach on this list, but those titles came with three different franchises so that has to count for something. Vermeil won more conference titles than both John Madden and George Allen, and won those titles with two different franchises. He was one league championship, giving him more than George Allen, Bud Grant, and Marv Levy. He has more playoff wins that Paul Brown, Weeb Ewbank, George Allen, and Hank Stram. It should be noted in those days that often one playoff win was all that was required for a championship since only the two best teams advanced to the postseason. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, Vermeil has more postseason wins that George Allen on this list but no one else. Vermeil's postseason winning percentage is also better than both George Allen and Paul Brown. So, let's return to the question posed in the heading: Is Dick Vermeil a Hall of Fame Coach? On the one hand, he has a Super Bowl title, but so does Barry Switzer. He has taken three teams to the postseason, including two to the Super Bowl. Hall of Famer Marv Levy was never able to get the Chiefs to the playoffs when he coached them before arriving in Buffalo., so there is something to be said for that. The Eagles and Rams were both doormats before he took over. When the Eagles made the playoffs in his thrid season (1978) it was their first postseason appearance since 1960 and their first winning season since 1966. The Rams Super Bowl triumph in his third season (1999) was their first playoff berth since 1989 and first winning season in the same span. So he does have a history of revitalizing franchises (or at least being there when they happen to revitalize). On the other hand, his career winning percentage is very low and he made only six postseason appearances in 15 seasons. Additionally, you have to factor in the slew of contemporaries he has coached against who will also be eligible for the Hall of Fame one day. Would you take him over Bill Belichick, Bill Cowher, Mike Holmgren, Bill Parcells, Tony Dungy, Jeff Fisher, Mike Shanahan, Marty Schottenheimer, Andy Reid, or Jon Gruden? In my opinion, Vermeil narrowly misses the cut for the Hall of Fame.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Worst 10-win Team of All-Time

I know I've been critical in this space of the 2005 incarnation of the UCLA Bruins, going so far as to call them the worst 10-win team of all-time. Well, I may have been a little hasty in giving them that distinction. Here's a quick rundown of the 1999 Mississippi State Bulldogs. By 1999, Jackie Sherrill had revived the football program in Starkville, Mississippi. Heading into his ninth season at the school, the Bulldogs had participated in 4 bowl games and had 5 winning seasons. Prior to his arrival, they had not played in a bowl game since 1981. Mississippi State began the 1999 season 8-0 and rose to #10 in the BCS rankings. They would finish the season with a final record of 10-2, concluding with a victory over Clemson in the Peach Bowl. Here in no particular order are the reasosn why the team was not that strong.

1. They played 4 road games. Mississippi State's four road games were against Vanderbilt (5-6), Auburn (5-6), Alabama (10-3), and Arkansas (8-4). They lost to 'Bama and Arkansas and defeated Auburn by two points.

2. They performed very well in close games. The Bulldogs were 5-1 in games decided by 7 points or less. This includes a remarkable three-game streak where they defeated Auburn by 2, Louisiana State by 1, and Kentucky by 1 point.

3. Their point differential is very small. They outscored their opponents by 99 points on the year (255-156). This gives them only 9.14 expected wins instead of the 10 they had. If we include only conference games, they outscored their opponents by only 35 points (156-121). They went 6-2 in conference play but had only 5.17 expected wins.

4. Their schedule sucked. They played 3 teams with winning records. The aforementioned losses to Alabama and Arkansas along with a 3 point win over rival Ole Miss. The other teams they played include: Middle Tennessee State (3-8), Memphis (5-6), Oklahoma State (5-6), South Carolina (0-11), Vanderbilt (5-6), Auburn (5-6), Louisiana State (3-8), Kentucky (6-6), and Clemson (6-6).

There you have it. They may not have a medal for their efforts, but the 1999 Missisippi State Bulldogs might be the worst 10-win team ever. Look for a post shortly where I examine all the weak 10-win teams of the past decade or so. Any ideas on what the 'winner' of this derby should be known as?
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