On our sojourn through the 2009 college football season we now head west, to the Big 10. Don't look now, but the Big 10 may have been the best conference in 2009. Here's the link to last year's SDPI post on the Big 10.
As usual, this first paragraph will explain how SDPI is calculated. So if you want the meat of this article skip on down. In the 2009 Big 10 regular season, conference play only, the average Big 10 team gained and allowed 2843.273 yards. The standard deviation for yards gained (offense) was 287.49 yards. The standard deviation for yards allowed (defense) was 428.63 yards. Illinois gained 2825 yards and allowed 3163 yards. Their offensive SDPI was -0.06 = [(2825-2843.273)/287.49]. Their defensive SDPI was -0.75 = [(2843.273-3163)/428.63]. Their total SDPI was -0.81. This number ranked 9th in the Big 10.
To refresh your memory, here are the 2009 Big 10 standings.
Now here are the 2009 Big 10 SDPI standings. The standings are sorted by total SDPI with ranking for each category (out of 11 teams) in parentheses.There's not a great deal of disconnect between the actual and SDPI standings. I suppose the biggest difference is Penn State. The Nittany Lions ranked as the best team according to SDPI, yet they lost to the 2 teams that finished directly ahead of them in the standings, at home no less. No ranking system is perfect, but it should be noted that in their other 6 conference games, Penn State was very dominant, winning by an average of 20.5 points per game. Meanwhile, Ohio State lost to Purdue and made up for their modest yardage differential by leading the conference in turnover margin (+12 in league play) and scoring 4 non-offensive touchdowns, including 3 in their win over Wisconsin. Iowa was the master of winning ugly. Their 6 Big 10 wins came by an average of 9.2 points. Iowa and Ohio State are underrated by this system primarily because their defenses were so good (just ask Oregon and Georgia Tech) and because this system does not give any weight to special teams or turnovers, 2 key elements that can swing any football game. Conversely, Penn State is a little overrated because outside of those 2 contests (and the defense actually played very well against Iowa), the Nittany Lions were not really challenged in Big 10 play.
Best Offense: Penn State 1.26
When they weren't being suffocated by the league's 2 best defenses (508 combined yards against Ohio State and Iowa), the Lions carved up Big 10 defenses to the tune of nearly 450 yards per game.
Worst Offense: Minnesota -1.67
Can't we all just admit you made a mistake in letting Glen Mason go? At least when the Gophers were a fledgling Big 10 team, they were fun to watch. Remember Laurence Maroney, Marion Barber, and Gary Russell? To be fair, the Gophers were without super star receiver Eric Decker for the last half of their Big 10 schedule. However, the Gophers actually averaged more yards per game over their last 3 conference games (326) than their first 5 (277) when Decker was healthy.
Best Defense: Ohio State 1.45
At this point, its only surprising when Ohio State doesn't field the best defense in the Big 10. The Buckeyes narrowly edged Iowa for this honor, allowing 11 fewer yards over the course of 8 Big 10 games.
Worst Defense: Michigan -1.36
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. It should be noted that Michigan was 10th last season (ahead of only Indiana). Rich Rod has now presided over the 2 worst Michigan defenses in the program's history.
What's in Store for Next Year?
Surprise, surprise. The favorite for next year according to all of the preseason magazines and this blogger extraordinaire will be Ohio State. Ohio State is seemingly underrated by SDPI each season thanks to Tressel's ultra-conservative nature. The Buckeyes take very few risks on offense and usually rank in the bottom half of the Big 10 in yards per game. However, they create a lot of turnovers and use their fine special teams to produce a field position advantage (or actual defensive or special teams scores) that help them win games. The chart below illustrates what I'm referring too. When this happens consistently over the course of time, it's a trend. If Indiana or Purdue or Minnesota does it for one season, it's a fluke and they are not likely to be as fortunate the next season. Judging from past returns, Ohio State will probably field a mid-level Big 10 offense in 2010, but with help from a superb defense and special teams play, should finish at or near the top of the league in scoring. The only issue standing against the Buckeyes and yet another Big 10 title is their road schedule. While the Buckeyes get key rivals Penn State and Michigan at home, they must travel to Madison to take on the Badgers and Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes. Those 2 teams are your 2 best bets to dethrone the Buckeyes. Iowa loses some key players from their fantastic defense, including leading tackler linebacker Pat Angerer, but should be poised to do their best Ohio State-lite impersonation and win a lot of low-scoring blue collar battles. SDPI saw Wisconsin as the 2nd best team in the Big 10 last season. With the emergence of quarterback Scott Tolzien, receiver Nick Toon, and tight end Garrett Graham the Badgers finally had a passing offense to compliment their always potent running game. Graham has exhausted his eligibility, but Tolzien and Toon remain along with running back John Clay who rushed for over 1500 yards last season. Elsewhere in the Big 10, Penn State should be bowl bound again, but will likely struggle to compete with the league's elite thanks to the loss senior quarterback Daryll Clark. Purdue was much better than their record in Danny Hope's first season as coach and could return to the postseason for the first time since 2007 despite the loss of senior quarterback Joe Elliott. The rest of the league is very muddled. Michigan seemed to be back on track early in 2009 behind hot-shot quarterback Tate Forcier, yet the Wolverines still finished only 9th in the league in offense to go along with their poor showing on defense. Still, its Michigan, so a 3rd straight bowl-less winter would be unthinkable. Minnesota has been playing like the worst team in the Big 10 for a few years now, and their actual record may end up matching it in 2010. Northwestern will likely take a step back after losing what amounted to their entire offense in the person of quarterback Mike Kafka. Illinois has and always will be an enigma. After a solid performance in 2008 than belied their poor conference record, the Illini backed it up with a putrid showing in both categories in 2009. Who knows what the Zooker has in store for us in 2010? Indiana has typically been the league's whipping boy, but the Hooisers showed signs of life in 2009, losing 3 conference games by a combined 7 points. With a senior quarterback at the helm, they could get back to a bowl for the 2nd time in 4 seasons.