Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Historical SDPI: The ACC

After running the SDPI numbers for all 11 conferences in 2006, I thought it would be an interesting sojourn through recent football history to look back at SDPI for the six BCS conferences throughout the entirety of the BCS era (98-06). It also gives me an excuse to add some pretty little graphs to the site. Don't know what SDPI is? Click here for an answer. Remember, its performance, not achievement, so years with the highest win totals may not actually be a certain team's best season. And its also only conference play, so any non-conference action, championship games, and bowl game are excluded. We'll begin with a tour through the ACC. I'm using the current membership of the ACC, so Boston College, Miami, and Virginia Tech are included here. After each team's graph, there is a paragraph of commentary followed by the number of first place SDPI finishes or if there are no such finishes, the highest SDPI finish.

Boston College

Tom O'Brien is responsible for all of these seasons having been the head man at BC since 1997. If O'Brien has been anything, its steady. He's never had a bad season nor a tremendous season. Since 2001, the Eagles have been above average every year save 2003, peaking in their last season in the watered-down Big East (2004) and again in O'Brien's final season this past year.

Best SDPI Finish: 3rd Big East (2001 and 2004), 4th ACC (2006)


Tommy West is the first season and Tommy Bowden is every data point thereafter. In eight seasons, the Tigers have been at least one standard deviation above average (which implies residence in the top third of the conference) half the time. Bowden has also kept the program from the depths it experienced in West's final season.

Best SDPI Finish: 2nd (1999 and 2006)


Duke was awful under Fred Goldsmith in 1998, awful under Carl Franks until 2003, and awful under Ted Roof since then.

Best SDPI Finish: 8th (2000 and 2002)

Florida State

That's about as clear as a trend can be. The first three seasons are with Mark Richt as offensive coordinator. Immediately after he left following the 2000 season, there was an immediate decline from Ruthian powerhouse to Molitorian autocracy where the Seminoles remained for the next four seasons. Then the bottom fell out in 2005 and 2006 when Florida State entered their Erstadian phase. Will one man, Jimbo Fisher, be the savior for the Nole program and return them to their perch atop the conference standings?

First Place SDPI Finishes: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003

Georgia Tech

The first four seasons are George O'Leary and the final five are Chan Gailey. O'Leary had the Jackets above average every season with him at the controls, while Gailey has turned the trick only once. This past season was on par with Tech's best under O'Leary (1998 and 2000) despite having Reggie Ball quarterbacking the team.

Best SDPI Finish: 2nd (1998 and 2000)


The first three seasons are the messy end to the Ron Vanderlinden era. If nothing else, Vanderlinden certainly left 'The Fridge' some good players to work with as his best work came with the old regime's players. After a three-year run in the top third of the conference, the Terps have struggled to regain their footing finishing below average the past three seasons. Believe it or not, the Terps were not as good as their 5-3 conference record in 2006 record would indicate.

Best SDPI Finish: 2nd (2001, 2002, and 2003)


The Canes started out as a solid Big East team and kept improving under Butch Davis. When he departed in 2001, the team held steady under Larry Coker for two seasons before falling off a touch in 2003. Coker kept the team near the top of the new ACC for two seasons before falling on hard times (relatively) in 2006 thanks to an impotent offense.

First Place SDPI Finishes: Big East (2000, 2001, and 2002)

Best SDPI ACC Finish: 2nd (2005)

North Carolina

The Tar Heels were decidedly mediocre under Carl Torbush, which is a pretty damning reflection on him. Clearly the Tar Heels had talent during his tenure (1998-2000) since Mack Brown had just left town following consecutive 10-win seasons. His successor, John Bunting, for all his faults (not starting Willie Parker foremost among them) could coach talent. His first season (2001) was by far the Tar Heels best in the BCS era. That also happened to be the senior season for most of the players Mack Brown had begun recruiting. However, things turned ugly quickly as the Tar Heels fell into Duke-level suckitude in 2002 and 2003. They rebounded to post an average season in 2004 and before dipping again in 2005 and bottoming out in 2006.

Best SDPI Finish: 3rd (2001)

NC State

The first two seasons are Mike O'Cain's penultimate and final years and the remainder are the duration of the Chuck Amato era. O'Cain's firing is understandable, though not necessarily justifiable, after his team's poor showing in 1999. Amato's teams improved steadily through his first three seasons, so it was not unreasonable to fancy the Wolfpack as a legitimate threat to win the ACC in Phillip Rivers senior season (2003). NC State fell off a bit in 2003 and continued falling off for the next three seasons. Interestingly, their bowl winning season of 2006 was actually worse than 2004 when they finished 5-6. That's what happens when you swap Ohio State for Southern Miss in the non-conference schedule. Chuck Amato without Phillip Rivers is like Wham! without George Michael. NC State's average SDPI with Amato and Rivers: 0.385. NC State's average SDPI with Amato and without Rivers: -0.83.

Best SDPI Finish: 3rd (2002)


The first three seasons are the end of the George Welsh era. The rest are Al Groh's handiwork. It does appear the program was in the midst of decline in Welsh's final few seasons. Still, the man coached one of the finest public institutions for 19 years and suffered only two losing seasons while guiding them to 12 bowl games. And the coup de grace, Virginia had never been to a bowl game before his arrival. Groh bottomed out in his first season in Charlottesville, but immediately brought the Wahoos back into relative contention. They regressed again in 2005, but appear to be heading back in the right direction.

Best SDPI Finish: 3rd (1998)

Virginia Tech

They might not have the rep of the Seminoles, but the Hokies run in the BCS era is second only to the Seminoles in any BCS conference. The Hokies have been above average every season. They have been at least one standard deviation better than the average of their league counterparts eight times in nine seasons. They have been two standard deviations above average four times and three standard deviations above average twice.

First Place SDPI Finishes: Big East (1999), ACC (2004, 2005, and 2006)

Wake Forest

Jim Caldwell is responsible for the first three seasons and Jim Grobe the remaining six. Caldwell coached a bad Deacs team, an average Deacs team, and a terrible Deacs team. Grobe has had the Deacons competitive since Day One, always hovering a little above or below average with the exception of 2004 when Wake was unluckier than Joe Btfsplk, going 1-6 in conference games decided by seven points or less. They saved up some karma from that season and cashed it in in 2006 when they were 4-0 in those same games (5-0 if the all important ACC Championship Game is included). This allowed them to win the league despite being only about the fifth best team.

Best SDPI Finish: 5th (1999, 2002, and 2006)

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