## Tuesday, April 22, 2008

One of my favorite set of posts from last offseason was the conference recap using SDPI. SDPI is a statistic I borrowed from Eddie Epstein that he used in his book, Dominance, to rank pro football's all-time greatest teams. SDPI stands for Standard Deviation Power Index and looks at how teams performed relative to the league average (or conference average in this case) and standard deviation in terms of points scored and allowed. The more standard deviations a team is above the mean, the better they are, and vice-versa. Here is the link to last year's MAC post. As you can see, SDPI was a useful tool in predicting some of the rise and fall among the MAC's teams. In the interest of providing an even better offseason analysis, I will now be conducting another SDPI, this time for yardage. It is calculated in the same manner as the SDPI for points, but will obviously be measured against the conference mean and standard deviation for yards. Think of it this way: Points are the end result and yards are the means to that end. Thus, looking at both sets of data, we can get an even better idea about which teams are likely to improve or regress in 2008.

First off, I'd like to extend my middle finger to the MAC and their juvenile scheduling practices in 2007. If you didn't know, the MAC added Temple last season, boosting their membership to 13 teams. That wasn't the problem. The problem was that they decided to let some teams play 7 conference games, and others play 8. Not even every team in each division played the same number of games. The MAC decided to user inter-division games to determine which teams played in the MAC Championship Game. Those intra-division games? According to the MAC, those are pretty much glorified exhibitions. But the real reason the schedule irked me was because of the performance analysis aspect. Since each team did not play the same number of conference games, the numbers have to be averaged together. Instead of calculating SDPI by total points and total yardage, it is done based on averages. Thankfully, the MAC has gone to a complete 8-game schedule for everyone in 2008.

If you want the meat of the article, skip this next paragraph as it just gives an example of how the SDPIis calculated. The mean points scored for all MAC teams in conference play (Championship Game excluded) was 28.17 per game. The mean points allowed for all MAC teams in conference play (Championship Game excluded) was 28.07 points per game. The difference is due to rounding. The standard deviation for points scored was 7.42 per game. The standard deviation for points allowed was 5.31 per game. Bowling Green scored 33.875 points per game in MAC play and allowed 27.375. Their offensive SDPI was 0.77 = ([33.875-28.17]/7.42). Their defensive SDPI was 0.13 = ([28.07-27.375]/5.31). Their total SDPI for points (SDPIP) was 0.90 which ranked 4th in the conference. The mean yardage for all MAC teams in conference play (Championship Game excluded) was 394.75 yards per game. The mean yardage against all MAC teams in conference play (Championship Game excluded) was 393.05 yards per game. The difference is due to rounding. The standard deviation for yardage for was 60.20 per game. The standard deviation for yards allowed was 42.70 per game. Bowling Green gained 407.38 yards per game in conference play and allowed 405.75 per game. Their offensive SDPI was 0.21 = ([407.38-394.75]/60.20). Their defensive SDPI was -0.30 = ([393.05-405.75]/42.70). Their total SDPI for yards (SDPIY) was -0.09 which ranked 7th in the conference.

To refresh your memory, here are the 2007 MAC Standings.
Now here are the 2007 SDPI standings.

See why the MAC scheduling sucks? Miami of Ohio finished 5-2, technically a half game behind Bowling Green, yet still won the division thanks to a better record against divisional teams.

Best Offense: Central Michigan 1.98 (SDPIP) and 1.94 (SDPIY)
The offense didn't miss a beat wit the departure of Brian Kelly.

Worst Offense: Temple -1.44 (SDPIP) and -1.78 (SDPIY)
Held below 10 points 3 times in conference play.

Best Defense: Miami 1.79 (SDPIP) and 2.29 (SDPIY)
The Redhawks were outstanding in the regular season, allowing only 295 yards and 18.6 points per game to their MAC opponents. Central Michigan proceeded to shred them for 452 yards and 35 points in the MAC Championship Game.

Worst Defense: Toledo -1.87 (SDPIP) and -1.35 (SDPIY)
The second-best offense in the conference was wasted by a defense that couldn't stop anyone.

Schedule strength is not evaluated thanks to the MAC's decision to have some teams play 7 conference games, while others played 8, and to only count division games in the standings.

Looking ahead to next season, the prohibitive favorite should be...

East
Look to the Bottom of the Standings
In 2005, Ohio went 3-5 and finished in 4th place in the MAC East. Kent State was 0-8 in MAC play in 2005 ad dead last in the MAC East. In 2006, those teams finished 1st and 2nd respectively in the MAC East with a combined conference record of 12-4, with Ohio winning the division at 7-1. In 2006, Bowling Green finished 3-5 and tied for 3rd in the MAC East. Miami finished 2-6 and alone in 5th place. In 2007, both schools combined to finish 11-4 in MAC play and atop the standings. Look for a similar phenomenon to occur in 2008. Ohio (4-4) and Kent State (1-7) are two teams to look out for in 2008.

West
Central Michigan
What Brian Kelly hath begun, let not Butch Jones tear asunder. Jones did an admirable job replacing Kelly, leading the Chippewas to an 8-6 record, another MAC title, and a near upset of Purdue in the Motor City Bowl. The Chips once again dominated their MAC opponents, going 6-1 in the conference (7-1 if we count the MAC Championship Game) after a 7-1 season in 2006. However, there were some rough patches outside the league. Kansas beat them by 45, Purdue beat them by 23 in the first meeting, Clemson hung 70 on them, and Division IAA North Dakota State beat them by 30. The Chips have a host of positive indicators as they begin their quest to become the first 3-peat MAC Champions since Marshall completed a 4-year run in 2000. For one, the coaching staff is intact. Despite interviewing for the vacant West Virginia job, Butch Jones is back in the fold to begin his second season as head coach. Having a 3rd head coach in as many seasons would have made the 3-peat quest much more difficult. But perhaps most importantly, Dan LeFevour is back for his junior season. The poor man's Tim Tebow (+3600 yards and 27 TD's through the air and +1100 yards and 19 TD's on the ground) is back along with 8 other starters to lead an offense that should once again be the best in the conference. The defense which was rather porous in 2007 (9th in the MAC in yards allowed in conference play) returns 8 starters and merely needs to be competent to give the Chips a chance to win every week (against MAC foes). The Chips also get two of the better contenders in the MAC West (Western Michigan and Ball State) at home. However, aside from Eastern Michigan and Northern Illinois, any one of 4 teams (the aforementioned trio plus Toledo) could realistically be expected to walk away with the MAC West title.

The team(s) that will improve are...

Kent State, Northern Illinois, Ohio, and Western Michigan