Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sun Belt Recap: 2005-2009

Believe it or not, this is the final league we will examine in our half-decade retrospective! That means that the beginning of the regular season is right around the corner (50 days).

First off, here are the combined Sun Belt standings from 2005-2009.As you can see, Troy has dominated the league. The Trojans have won outright or shared the last 4 conference titles. Amazingly though, every team in the Sun Belt has had at least one losing conference season since 2005! Even mighty Troy was not immune to this as they went 3-4 in 2005. There has only been one undefeated season in Sun Belt play since 2005. Surprise, surprise, it was Troy that accomplished that feat (in 2009). North Texas and Florida International are the only teams to not post at least one winning season in conference play since 2005. North Texas never finished better than 2-5 (2005 and 2006), while Florida International managed a 3-4 record in both 2005 and 2008.

Now here is the standard deviation of each team's conference record (in wins). Teams are ranked from the most inconsistent to the least.Surprisingly, the league's 2 best teams have also been its most inconsistent. Middle Tennessee has balanced a pair of one-loss league seasons with a pair of losing conference records to make them the most inconsistent team. Arkansas State and North Texas have been the most consistent teams in the league, with North Texas being consistently bad and Arkansas State being consistently mediocre. Western Kentucky has only played one season of league ball, so obviously, they were not included in this evaluation.

Now here is each team's point differential in conference play since 2005.Again Troy has not only been the best team in the conference, they have been the most dominant. In fact, if you add up the point differentials for the other 3 teams that have outscored their opponents in league play since 2005 (Middle Tennessee, Florida Atlantic, and Louisiana-Monroe), they barely eclipse Troy's (452 to 448).

With this being the end of the decade, here's the tally of conference titles.The Sun Belt did not begin league play until 2001, so there are only 9 titles to divvy up instead of 10. Before the wheels fell off beginning in 2005, North Texas was the resident league overlord from 2001-2004. The Mean Green posted an amazing 25-1 record against their league foes in that span! Of course, since then, the Mean Green have been the worst team in the league posting a putrid 6-30 record leaving them exactly even at 31-31 since the league's formation. In between the North Texas and Troy dynasties, Arkansas State won the league in 2005 and Florida Atlantic made a surprise run to the league title in 2007.

And finally, what was the biggest takeaway from the 00 decade in the Sun Belt? The league's improvement in the postseason. In the first 5 years of the league's existence (2001-2005) the Sun Belt teams participated in 6 bowl games. Those teams were 1-5 in the bowl season and posted a scoring margin of -76. All 5 of the losses were by double digits and the lone win was a 5-point decision by North Texas over Cincinnati in 2002. In the past 4 seasons (2006-2009) Sun Belt teams have participated in 7 bowl games. Those teams have posted an 4-3 record with a scoring margin of +31. Only a single loss has come by double digits. The other 3 losses have come in overtime. Meanwhile, 3 of the 4 wins have come by double digits. The Sun Belt has gone from token representation in the bowl structure to a threat to every postseason game they play.


Anonymous said...

You left out that ULM also won a conference title in 2005, a 3-way shared with ULL and Arkansas State.

matt said...

I only count the designated conference champ. Since ASU got New Orleans Bowl bid, they are listed as the champ. Similarly, MTSU won a share of the title in 2006 with Troy and Troy shared the title with FAU in 2007. However, Troy beat MTSU to earn the tiebreaker in 2006 and FAU beat Troy the following season