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Statistically Speaking: August 2006

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Down In Mississippi and Up to No Good

At last. The long wait is over and the glorious college football season is upon us. I know its been beaten into the ground, but this season is one of the most wide-open college football seasons in recent memory. Hopefully it lives up to its potential. Here at Statistically Speaking, you can count on a stat heavy look at the sport this season. Today, I'll preview some of the more important and intriguing pre-weekend games.

South Carolina at Mississippi State
The Gamecocks roll into Starkville with designs on another upper-division finish in the SEC East. In order to accomplish that task, they need to take care of business against what can best be described as the dregs of the SEC. With that being said, the dregs of the SEC will probably be tougher than mos of South Carolina's non-conference opponents. Mississippi State return 8 starters to a defense that was pretty good at home last season (22.8 points allowed in conference home games versus 30 points allowed in conference road games). Unfortunately, aside from the drubbing they put on Ole Miss in the season finale last year, the offense was terrible everywhere. Expect more of the same in a defensive struggle that the Cocks eke out by about a touchdown.
Winner: South Carolina

Northwestern at Miami (Ohio)
What was to be a glorious homecoming, with Randy Walker leading his upstart Wildcats against his former Redhawks, is now a melancholy memorial for a coach, and a man, who left the game too soon. Northwestern, a deeply flawed team that wins with a gimmick offense and smoke and mirrors, must go on the road to face a legitimate MAC team while breaking in a new starting quarterback. The Wildcats still have super soph tailback Tyrell Sutton and will surely be playing with a ot of emotion. However, while many folks lend creedence to the idea that emotion is undefeated in college football play, I tend to take a more cynical view that 'emotional' teams fall just as often as they prevail. Miami is no pushover, and they'll knock off Northwestern in a minor upset.
Winner: Miami (Ohio)

Toledo at Iowa State
This is an intriguing game for the Cyclones. Toledo has emerged in recent years as a MAC power, and with a difficult Big 12 schedule ahead, Iowa State cannot afford a slip up here. Last year Iowa State opened the season at home against non-Division I Illinois State and won a closely contested battle 32-21. Later, in a non-conference road game at Army the Cyclones were locked in a mortal struggle, but survived 28-21. In between, they routed archrival Iowa at home. So there is precedent for taking some non-conference teams lightly in Iowa State's recent history. Still, with thir version of the triplets (Bret Meyer, Stevie Hicks, and Todd Blythe), Iowa State should have Toledo outmanned.
Winner: Iowa State

UTEP at San Diego State
A recent Conference USA power, and a Mountain West trendy sleeper get together late Thursday night. Carson Palmer's younger brother, Jordan, is quite a quarterback in his own right. He will look to help lead UTEP to the Conference USA title in his senior season. San Diego State has a pretty good quarterback themselves, unfortunately he will be on the sidelines the entire year, and most Aztec fans hope for years to come. Chuck Long seeks to lead the Aztecs back to a bowl game for the first time since 1998. At the very least, this game should be full of offensive fireworks. I'll take San Diego State since they're playing at home.
Winner: San Diego State

Nevada at Fresno State
The Wolfpack helped derail what could have been a great season for Fresno State. After narrowly losing to USC in an epic game, the Bulldogs stumbled at Nevada 38-35 the following week. Fresno was as unlucky as Nevada was fortuitous last season. Fresno was 0-4 in close games while Nevada was 5-0. A little regression and homefield advantage point to a win and an early lead in the WAC race for Fresno.
Winner: Fresno State

Be sure to check back on Friday morning for a new feature, Lines of the Night. Here, I'll give you the passing, rushing, and receiving lines of the night. They may not necessarily be the night's best lines, but rather some of the more unique passing, rushing, and receiving statistics.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Lightly Anticipated, Rarely Duplicated, Ill-fated College Preview

The college football season begins in 5 days, so its high time I put together a little preview. This preview is nowhere near as in depth as Phil Steele, The Sporting News, CNNSI, ESPN, College Football News, etc. al, but I think you will find some nuggets of knowledge that those guys may have left out. What follows is a conference-by-conference preview with the exception of th MAC (too many teams that I know nothing about), the Sun Belt (call me an elitist, but I just don't care that much who loses the New Orleans Bowl to a Conference USA squad), and Independents (because there's just 4 of them). I'll list my division/conference winners, one team guaranteed to be better than expected (Angels and Demons team), one team guaranteed to be worse than expected (Da Vinci Code team), and one interesting stat for each conference.

ACC

Coastal Winner:
Miami
The Canes crushing loss to LSU in the Peach Bowl was an aberration. Before that game Miami had given up more than 20 points only once all season (in a triple OT game against Clemson). They get their toughest conference games (Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Boston College) at home. The only concern I have is the relative inexperience of the offensive line.

Atlantic Winner: Florida State
The Noles do have to travel to Miami and perennial thorn in the side NC State, but they get their two main division rivals (Clemson and Boston College) in Tallahassee. Quarterback Drew Weatherford was erratic at times last season, but should improve in his second year as the starter.

Winner: Miami
If Miami wins the conference, it probably means they beat the Noles twice. While this may be tough to do, it actually happened just three seasons ago.

Angels and Demons Team: Boston College
While no one is predicting a serious downturn for BC, most believe Clesmson and possibly even Maryland will usurp their position of Ed McMahon to Florida State's Johnny Carson in the Atlantic Division. It won't happen. BC gets both the aforementioned teams at home in Chestnut, and while they didn't get any favors from the scheduling gods (drawing Virginia Tech and Miami from the Coastal Division), three conference losses will have them sitting in second place all over again.

Da Vinci Code Team: Clemson
Its not that I think Clemson will be bad, I'm just not buying the hype of the Tigers possibly winning the Atlantic Division. Conference road games at Florida State, Boston College, Virginia Tech, and always tough Wake Forest, plus no real easy home dates (North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Maryland, and NC State) add up to at least 4 conference losses in my book.

Important Stat: Wake Forest has gone an amazing 4-8 in close games (8 points or less) the past two seasons. With a little bit of luck the Deacons could be bowling over the holidays for the first time in 4 years.

Big East

Winner:
Louisville
The Ville has only three conference road games with the only real challenge coming at Pitt. They return quarterback Brian Brohm and the other Bush (running back Michael) to one of the nation's best offenses. The do lose pass rush specialist Elvis Dumervil on th defensive line, but actually return their entire secondary and all but one member of the linebacking corps.

Angels and Demons Team: Connecticut
I definitely think Pitt has a chance to win the conference, but a multitude of other analysts also agree. So I'll take a team further down the standings that many are sleeping on...the UConn Huskies. The Huskies have an exciting player in quarterback DJ Hernandez. He played significantly in only two games as a true freshman (against Cincinnati and Louisville), but managed 5 touchdown passes and just 1 interception in those games. He is also a good runner who can make plays with his feet. In addition to this, the Huskies had 7 Pythagorean wins (as opposed to 5 actual wins) last season, so if things break their way they could be headed back to a bowl game.

Da Vinci Code Team: West Virginia
Forget about the team that squeaked by Georgia after nearly blowing a big lead in the Sugar Bowl and remember the team that got pasted by 17 at home against Virginia Tech. West Virginia was good last year, but not 11-1 good. With road tests at Louisville and Pitt the Mountaineers will not repeat as Big East champs.

Important Stat: Luck was certainly not evenly distributed in the Big East last season. West Virginia and Cincinnati went a combined 7-0 in close games, while Pitt, South Florida, and Syracuse went a combined 0-7. Look for West Virginia and Cincinnati to regress and fall in the standings. Pitt, South Florida, and Syracuse should have some better luck and impove their records this season.

Big 10

Winner:
Iowa
A 7-5 year was probably disappointing for most Hawkeyes fans, but lets examine the past two seasons. In 2004, Iowa went 10-2. However, their Pythagorean record was only 8.2-3.8. They were an amazing 5-0 in close games and were +13 in turnover differential. In 2005, they went 7-5, but actually had a better Pythagorean record than the season before (8.68-3.32). However, they were now 0-3 in close games and -1 in turnover differential. This season, the Hawkeyes get Ohio State at home and of their road games, only against Michigan should they be an underdog. They also return their entire backfield and 3/5 of the offensive line. On the other side of the ball, they have all their defensive linemen coming back. This season is tailor-made for Iowa to make some real noise.

Angels and Demons Team: Michigan State
There's not a more appropos moniker for a team like Michigan State. The epitome of helter-skelter. In 2004 they drubbed ranked teams Minnesota and Wisconsin while falling to Rutgers and Hawaii. In 2005, they upset Notre Dame early on, and then proceeded to lose by 35 to Northwestern. I think they put it all together this season. By that I mean have a solid, if unspectacular bowl team (say 8-5 or 9-4).

Da Vinci Code Team: Ohio State
No way they live up to expectations, especially with that schedule. At Texas in non-conference play, coupled with conference road games against Iowa and always dangerous Michigan State, plus home dates against Michigan and Penn State, equals at least 2 regular season losses. And lest we forget, two starters return on defense.

Important Stat: Over the last two seasons, Northwestern was 10-3 in close games. They gave up over 33 points per game last season. Their quarterback, Brett Basanez, graduated. Losing Randy Walker is a terrible tragedy, but this team would be destined to decline if Bear Bryant was coaching them.

Big 12

North Winner:
Colorado
The Buffs avoid the South's top team (Texas) and get one of the better teams (Texas Tech) at home. In their own division, they get to host one of their biggest threats (Iowa State), but have to hit the road to face the other (Nebraska). With Dan Hawkins at the helm, the Buffs will once again be fodder for the South champion in December.

South Winner: Texas
I wasn't really buying Oklahoma before Rhett Bomar was given the boot primarily because they actually outperformed their Pythagorean record (7.08-4.92) and had a solid record (4-2) in close games. Now I'm definitely all in with the Longhorns for the South title.

Winner: Texas
It won't be a 70-3 throttling like last season, but the Horns should handle the Buffs in the Big 12 Championship Game.

Angels and Demons Team: Texas A & M
The Aggies could pass Texas Tech in the standings (they get the Red Raiders at home). Plus they have their entire defensive secondary returning (they should improve on the 31 points per game they gave last season) and quarterback Stephen McGee looked like the real deal in the season finale.

Da Vinci Code Team: Missouri
Phil Steele has them third in the North?! No way. They lose their best player in quarterback Brad Smith and were actually better team in 2004. Their Pythagorean record in 2004 was 6.62-4.38. In 2005 it was 6.38-5.62. The prime culprit in their improvement was their record in close games. They improved from 2-2 to 3-1. If they go 3-1 in 2004, they finis 6-5 instead of 5-6 and qualify for a bowl. If they go 2-2 in 2005, they finish 5-6 and South Carolina fans don't have visions of Brad Smith running wild all offseason.

Important Stat: Defense will determine if Texas Tech and Nebraska are as good or better than last season. For all the talk about how the west coast offense is clicking in Nebraska, the Huskers actually scored fewer points per game in 2005 than they did in 2004. Their improvement was tied to their defense allowing 6 points per game fewer. Similarly, Texas Tech did improve their scoring by about 3 points per game, but more importantly their defense held opponents to about 8 points per game fewer in 2005 versus 2004.

Important Stat II: Consecutive 7-5 seasons may fool you into believing that Iowa State did not improve in 2005. But they did. In 2004 the Cyclones finished 7-5. They were outscored by 13 points on the year resulting in a Pythagorean record of only 5.63-6.37. They were a very solid 5-3 in close games. In 2005 they again finished 7-5. They outscored their oponents by 109 points resulting in a Pythagorean record of 8.58-3.42. They were a terrible 1-4 in close games. The only thing that will prevent them from winning the North this season is their schedule. They drew both Oklahoma at Texas for road dates against the South, as well as a home date agaunst Texas Tech. Within their own half, they must travel to Colorado to face the Buffs. Quarterback Bret Meyer, running back Stevie Hicks, and receiver Todd Blythe form a solid core, but the Cyclones have their work cut out for them if they want to finally win the North.

Conference USA

West Division Winner:
Tulsa
The western division is set to Tulsa time. Last season's Conference USA champs return 9 starters on defense and 7 on offense including quarterback Paul Smith. In conference play, they get division rival UTEP at home as well as East Division power Southern Miss. The Golden Hurrican were an amazing +19 in turnover margin last season so expect some regression, but not enough to derail another Conference USA title.

East Division Winner: Southern Miss
The Eagles will be breaking in a new quarterback after the departure of Dustin Almond, but return every other starter on offense save right tackle. The Golden Eagles also had some bad luck last season, finishing 1-3 in close games. Their schedule is tough (especially non-conference with dates at Florida and Virginia Tech as well as a home game against NC State), but they will represent the East in the second Conference USA Championship Game.

Winner: Tulsa
The Golden Hurricane will take care of the Golden Eagles for the second time on the season in the title game.

Angels and Demons Team: Rice
The Owls were horrible last season as other teams feasted on them by an average margin of almost 18 points per game. New head coach Todd Graham has experience turning teams around with West Virginia and Tulsa. In additon, the Owls had a -17 turnover margin last season. As long as they have warm bodies on the field they should improve upon that number. They won't make it to a bowl game, but they should triple and possibly quadruple last season's win total.

Da Vinci Code Team: Central Florida
George O'Leary deserves tremendous credit for taking the Golden Knights from a winless season in 2004 to an 8-5 record in 2005. However, the Knights allowed just as many points as they scored last season and finished a very good 4-1 in close games. Simple regression will prevent Central Florida from winning the East again.

Important Stat: UAB was 1-5 in close games last season. Without career passing leader DarrellHackney, expect the Blazers to impove on last season's record.

Mountain West

Winner:
Utah
The Utes came on strong last season by winning four of their last five games. Another season under Kyle Whittingham and the good fortune of getting the other two biggest contenders (TCU and BYU) at home should mean a second Mountain West title in 3 years.

Angels and Demons Team: Wyoming
A lot of folks have the Pokes pegged for last in the Mountain West. I think they could be a surprise mid-level conference team that contends for a bowl. Last season they had terrible luck with fumbles. They didn't fumble extremely often, but when they did they couldn't the ball back. They lost 13 of 15 fumbles. The NCAA average is about 50%. On defense, they recovered only 6 of 27 forced fumbles. A few fortuitous bounces and Wyoming is a 7-5 team this year.

Da Vinci Code Team: TCU
The Horned Frogs are a good team no doubt, but their fans should not have visions of a BCS invite. They were +11 in turnover margin last season, and an amazing 5-0 in close games. Those numbers will come down this season and TCU's record will follow suit.

Important Stat: In 22 seasons at Air Force, Fisher DeBerry has had 4 losing seasons. Half of them have come in 2004 and 2005.

Pac 10

Winner:
Southern Cal
The class of the Pac 10 until further notice. If their defense improves over last season, they could win the national championship.

Angels and Demons Team: Oregon State
This was a toss-up between the Beavers and the Cougars from Washington State. In the end, I went with the team that returns 9 starters on offense along with 7 on defense and had a terrible -14 turnover margin last season over the team that could not win a close game in 2005 (1-5).

Da Vinci Code Team: Arizona State
We've been hearing about how the Sun Devils are supposed to break out any year now. Until they play some defense, that won't happen. With only 4 starters returning on that side of the ball, don't expect much improvement this season. The Sun Devils have found the oasis in close games going 6-2 in close games the past two seasons. Any regression and the team could be out of a bowl game. That's the story, morning glory.

Important Stat: UCLA finished 6-2 in conference play last year. They were outscored in those games by 35 points. Expect some serious reversals in luck.

SEC

East Winner:
Florida
I'm definitely unsure about this pick. Urban Meyer's team usually dramatically improve offensively in his second season. However, Florida's schedule is unbelievably difficult. Aside from the 5 other teams from the East, they play at Auburn and host Alabama and LSU from the West. However, Georgia has Joe Tereshinski (of Cocktail Party fame or infamy as the case may be), Tennessee will still be inconsistent on offense, and South Carolina used a ot of smoke and mirrors last season. So I have to give it to the Gators by default.

West Winner: Auburn
They were probably the SEC's best team last season, and with quarterback Brandon Cox and running back Kenny Irons returning to anchor a powerful offense, they should be the cream of the crop once again.

Winner: Auburn
If they can avoid the slip ups to inferior teams from last season (at home to Georgia Tech and in the bowl game against Wisconsin) the Tigers could win the National Championship.

Angels and Demons Team: Arkansas
They have gotten a lot of love from Phil Steele and I have to agree with him. The Hogs are 1-7 in close games the ast two seasons. That luck has to change. Plus they have a stud runner in Darren McFadden and whoever turns out to be the starting quarterback (freshman Mitch Mustain or sophomore casey Dick) will have a solid season. If Auburn doesn't win the West, Arkansas will.

Da Vinci Code Team: LSU
Don't read too much into the shellacking they laid on Miami. The Tigers were 5-1 in close games in Les Miles' first season. Their four conference road games are against Florida, Auburn, Arkansas, and Tennessee. They will finish no better than third in the West.

Important Stat: Under Spurrier, the Cock N Fire offense averaged roughly a point per game more than the conservative offense run by Lou Holtz. Will Blake Mitchell and Sydney Rice become the next great passing tandem under Spurrier?

WAC

Winner:
Boise State
Boise gets to host their biggest nemesis, Fresno State this season. Quarterback Jared Zabransky is a senior this season. As long as he doesn't channel Chris Rix as he did against Georgia last season, the Broncos should win the WAC. I can't predict an undefeated season thanks to a road game against Utah and a home date with improving Oregon State, but a WAC title should be in the bag.

Angels and Demons Team: Idaho
To the extreme they rock the dome like a vandal. With a home schedule that includes weaker WAC teams like San Jose State and New Mexico State, along with 9 returning starters o offense and 7 on defense, the Vandals should improve on last seasons 3 wins. A 1-3 record in close games also portends some improvement in the luck department. In addition to this, Dennis Erickson, for all his failures in the pro game, is a helluva college coach.

Da Vinci Code Team: Nevada
The Wolfpack finished last season with a 9-3 record, but only had a Pythagorean record of 6.48-5.52. They went 5-0 in close games last season. Boise and Fresno are the class of the WAC, and if the Wolfpack is not careful, they could be passed by both Hawaii and either Idaho or Louisiana Tech.

Important Stat: Hal Mumme's New Mexico State Aggies were buried at the bottom of Division I last season. A -23 turnover differential is partly to blame, so a little improvement in that area could lead to an extra win or two.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Blog Poll Roundtable I

1. What's the biggest ripoff in this preseason poll? Either pick a team that's offensively over or underrated, or you can rag on a particular voter's bad pick (hey, we're all adults here, we can handle it).

On the whole, I like the poll, with the exception of the top two spots. So we're supposed to believe a team returning 2 starters on defense that must travel to Texas, Iowa, and Michigan State along with hosting Penn State and Michigan is the nation's top team? Yeah the offense should be bang up this season, but they're coached by Jim Tressel, so you know he's gonna play it close to the vest a time or two against the better teams on the schedule. I can see top 5, but #1 overall? And the 'Horns at #2? With the loss of Vince Young, who was the difference maker in games against Ohio State, USC, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State, the Horns are a definite top 10 team as they have been for most of Mack Brown's tenure, but not the 2nd best team in the country. Without a player of Young's caliber, Texas could not have completed the stirring second half comeback over Oklahoma State last season.

2. What shold a preseason poll measure? Specifically, should it be a predictor of end-of-season standing (meaning that a team's schedule should be taken into account when determining a ranking), or should it merely be a barometer of talent/hype/expectations?

The preseason poll has to take schedule into account at least to some extent. If you believe two conference rivals are pretty even, the site of the game can be the deciding factor in ranking one team over another. However, schedule should not have a great influence over preseason rankings. For example, Florida will probably finish the season with more losses than Boise State thanks to a schedule that includes Tennessee, Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida State, but you'd be hard pressed to convince me Boise would beat them on a neutral field.

3. What is your biggest stretch in your preseason ballot? That is to say, which team has the best chance of making you look like an idiot for overrating them?

Iowa at #3 is definitely my biggest stretch. Being a numbers guy, I love their great point differential last season. With their poor showing in close games (0-3), a little regression (or progression) to the mean in the luck department along with the scheduling benefit of hosting Ohio State, I had to make them a top 5 team. However, I can foresee them losing to rival Iowa State, Ohio State, Michigan, and possibly one other road slip to finsih with a solid, but hardly top 5 8-4 record.

4. What do you see as the biggest flaw in the polling system (both wire service and blogpolling)? Is polling an integral part of the great game of college football, or is it an outdated system that needs to be replaced? If you say the latter, enlighten us with your new plan.

As with any voting system, the biggest problem is an uneducated electorate. Of course, I believe the blog poll is much more informed than the AP writers or coaches, I still don't think voters understand just how much influence random chance has over individual games. Because Team A beats Team B on a last second field goal, doesn't necessarily mean Team A is the superior squad. There is a lot of 'noise' that goes in to determining who wins and loses a football game. I think its important to look at other factors besides the final score, such as yardage, penalties, location, previous schedule, turnover differential, etc. to determine if the game was an accurate portrayal of both teams. I realize each of these aspects is highly subjective, but I think sometimes we put too much stock in the end result (final score) without considering the means with which that end was acheived.

5. You're Scott Bakula, and you have the opportunity to "Quantum Leap" back in time and change any single moment in your team's history. It can be a play on the field, a hiring decision, or your school's founders deciding to build the campus in Northern Indiana, of all godforsaken places. What do you do?

Well, being a Wake Forest fan, it would take much more than one single event to change the fortunes of our program (although I think we are in good hands under Jim Grobe), but the one thing I would change would be not firing Douglas 'Peahead' Walker after the 1950 season. I know it was a completely different era, but under Walker (1937-1950) our cumulative winning percentage was .597 (77-51-6). Maybe if he had stuck around in the second half of the century we would have a little better tradition.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Preseason Blog Poll

It's that time of year again. Children are going back to school, the days are slowly getting shorter, and the NFL is taunting its fans with preseason football. Its also time for predictions. Around this time of year, everyone is an expert, tossing around bold predictions and the like. I am no different, except that my predictions are here for all to read. That being said, here is my preseason Blog Poll Ballot. First a few things:
1) I ranked teams on how good I think they are, not what kind of record they will finish with
2) I really have no idea what I'm doing-- aside from believing USC will reload, Arkansas and Pitt will surprise, West Virginia and Notre Dame will disappoint, I really am not sure what to expect this season
3) Who is the 3rd best team in the Pac 10? In my opinion, USC and Cal are easly 1 and 2, but I have no idea what to expect from everyone else. Without further adieu, here's the ballot.

1. Southern Cal-- picking up where they left off
2. Auburn-- Kenny Irons, sleeper Heisman candidate?
3. Iowa-- solid point differential belied their mediocre record
4. Miami-- bowl loss a fluke
5. Texas-- I think they'll miss that Vince Young fellow
6. Ohio State-- offense will be good, but where's the D?
7. Louisville-- the other Bush will shine this year
8. Virginia Tech-- got a little feeling this could be similar to 2001-2003 when VT started out highly ranked and sank like a stone once the schedule toughened up
9. Georgia-- always seem to be in the top 10
10. Notre Dame-- be very wary of the Jackets on Labor Day weekend
11. Florida-- killer schedule
12. Cal-- big test opening up in Knoxville
13. Arkansas-- sleeper
14. Florida State-- bold prediction: won't lose 5 games this season
15. Pitt-- sleeper #2
16. Oklahoma-- not buying them as a legitimate national threat
17. Michigan-- also won't lose 5 games again
18. LSU-- Miles away from where they were under Saban
19. Clemson-- will they win 10 games? my man Frank says yes, I disagree
20. West Virginia-- sell, sell, sell
21. Utah-- best of the mids
22. Texas A&M-- time for a rebound
23. Purdue-- Joe Tiller won't go for consecutive losing seasons
24. Boise State-- fun to watch
25. Colorado-- will win the Big 12 North (again)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Worst BCS Bowl Teams


With the addition of an extra BCS game this season, the chance that an undeserving school sneaks into the BCS has just increased by roughly 25%. With that in mind, I decided to take a look back to see which teams were the worst to ever play in a BCS bowl game. In my opinion, there are four teams that were truly undeserving of their BCS invitation. The countdown...

#4
Purdue 2000
Record: 8-3
Pt Differential: +125
Pythagorean Record: 8.09-2.91
Record Vs Teams with Winning Records: 4-1
Record in Close (8 pts or less) Games: 3-2
Road Record: 2-3
opponent's Record: 65-64 .504

Purdue won the Big 10 in 2000 with a 6-2 conference record. They managed to defeat their closest competitors in the standings (Michigan, Northwestern, and Ohio State), but slipped at Penn State (5-7) in the first year of their recent slide and Michigan State (5-6). Besides their loss to Notre Dame (9-3), their non-conference slate was softer than Bonecrusher's midsection with wins against hapless MAC squads Central Michigan (2-9) and Kent State (1-10).

#3
Syracuse 1998
Record: 8-3
Pt Differential: +199
Pythagorean Record: 8.67-2.33
Record Vs Teams with Winning Records: 3-3
Record in Close (8 pts or less) Games: 1-2
Road Record: 2-2
opponent's Record: 71-58 .550

Donovan McNabb's senior season at Syracuse was very weird. The team opened up with a one point defeat to eventual national champion Tennessee in the Carrier Dome. They followed that up with a win over Michigan (10-3) in Ann Arbor. After a breather against Rutgers (5-6) the Orange got run out of Raleigh by a mediocre Wolfpack team (7-5) by 21 points. They followed that up with three wins over teams with 2, 4, and 2 wins respectively. Then they lost a close game to a solid West Virginia squad (8-4). After that something clicked as the Orange sandwiched a shellacking of Temple (2-9) around a hard fought victory over Virginia Tech (9-3) and a 53 point beat down of Miami (9-3). However, Syracuse earns a place on this list because the Big East as a whole was down in 1998 with no dominant teams emerging, and because they beat three teams with only two wins (Temple, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh).

#2
Pittsburgh 2004
Record: 8-3
Pt Differential: +65
Pythagorean Record: 6.95-4.05
Record Vs Teams with Winning Records: 2-1
Record in Close (8 pts or less) Games: 5-2
Road Record: 3-2
opponent's Record: 56-59 .487

Everybody remembers Walt Harris' final Pittsburgh team. They won the extremely watered down Big East and were the sacrifice at the altar of the mid majors against Utah in the Fiesta Bowl. Truly, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. The Panthers played three teams with winning records, losing to Connecticut (8-4) and knocking off their biggest Big East challengers Boston College (9-3) and West Virginia (8-4). In non-conference action they lost to the worst Nebraska team in recent memory (5-6) and barely squeaked by Division IAA Furman by 3 points.

#1
Stanford 1999
Record: 8-3
Pt Differential: +62
Pythagorean Record: 6.56-4.44
Record Vs Teams with Winning Records: 1-2
Record in Close (8 pts or less) Games: 3-2
Road Record: 3-2
opponent's Record: 60-70 .462

Narrowly edging out the Pitt Panthers for the top spot. Tyrone Willingham's 1999 Stanford Cardinal played three teams with winning records in a very down year for the Pac 10. They beat Oregon State (7-5) and lost to Washington (7-5) in conference. The scheduling gods allowed them to avoid the Pac 10's best team Oregon (9-3). In non-conference action, a solid but not great Texas team (9-5) stomped them by 52 points. The game that seals Stanford's place in this pantheon is their non-conference loss at home to San Jose State (3-7) a WAC school whose other wins that season were over Tulsa (2-9) and St. Mary's (non-Division IA).

That's my take. What's yours?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Consistent Part Tres

After examining consistency in the Pac 10 and Big 12, it's high time we delve into the SEC. In the past 10 seasons (1996-2005) the SEC has produced of the 12 national champions. Ironically, two of the champions (Florida in 1996 and LSU in 2003) finished the season with a loss, while Auburn finished undefeated in 2004, yet was not able to play for the national championship. Here are the 12 teams ranked by standard deviation of seasonal winning percentage from most consistent to least consistent.

Vanderbilt .1141
Florida .1147
Georgia .1306
Tennessee .1470
Arkansas .1483
Mississippi .1511
Kentucky .1605
Auburn .1934
Alabama .2089
LSU .2111
Mississippi State .2285
South Carolina .2372

The 'Dores are the most consistent team in the SEC from the past decade never winning more than 5 games nor fewer than 2. The top 4 consistent teams in the SEC are from the East. Vanderbilt consistently finishes at the bottom and the Big 3 of Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee consistently finish st the top. However, the most inconsistent team in the SEC also comes from the Eastern Division. In the past decade South Carolina has truly been everywhere. In 1999, they won no games and just two seasons later they went 9-3.
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