Thus far we have examined the 2010 ACC and Big East races through the refractive lens of SDPI. We now turn our attention to a league that will be getting a makeover when the 2011 season starts, the Big 10. Here is the link to last year's Big 10 post if you are so inclined.
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 2010 Big 10 regular season, conference play only, the average Big 10 team gained and allowed 3034.91 yards. The standard deviation for yards gained (offense) was 410.32 yards. The standard deviation for yards allowed (defense) was 478.90 yards. Iowa gained 2770 yards and allowed 2895 yards. Their offensive SDPI was -0.65 = [(2770-3034.91)/410.32]. Their defensive SDPI was 0.29 = [(3034.91-2895)/478.90]. Their total SDPI was -0.35. This number ranked 7th in the Big 10.
Here are the 2010 Big 10 standings.
Now here are the 2010 Big 10 SDPI standings. The standings are sorted by total SDPI with ranking for each category (out of 11 teams) in parentheses.
While there was three-way ties at the top of the league standings, SDPI sees through the pseudo-reality and rightly crowns Ohio State as the King of the Midwest. Ohio State's lone league loss came on the road at SDPI runner-up Wisconsin. The good news going forward is that there will no longer be any more three-way ties (at least not for the privilege of representing the conference in the BCS, it could still be possible when it comes to representing the conference in the Big 10 Championship Game). Leaders and Legends, rejoice!
So Who Was Better Than Their Record Showed?
How about Illinois? The Illini actually rated out slightly better than co-champ Michigan State. Yet somehow, the Illini did not even manage a winning record in Big 10 play. How can this be? The usual suspect, turnovers, cannot be blamed for this one. The Illini actually had a solid differential of +8 in league play. The culprit here is clutch play in tight games. The Illini played in just two conference games decided by less than a touchdown. They lost them both. Contrast that to their four league wins that each came by at least 20 points. If lady luck had been more partial to the Illini, they could well be talked about as a potential darkhorse candidate to capture the inaugural Big 10 Leaders Division.
So Who Was Worse Than Their Record Showed?
No Big 10 teams exceedingly outperformed their SDPI numbers in 2010, but if we must choose one team that was not quite as good as their record indicated, it would have to be Michigan State. While they were a shade below average on offense, the Spartans boasted the best defense in the conference this side of Ohio State. They were able to hoist (at least a share of) their first conference crown since 1987 thanks to their unblemished mark in one-score games. The Spartans were also the beneficiary of a schedule that did not include league overlord Ohio State. The Spartans proved they were not quite ready for prime time in their two losses, when they were embarrassed by a solid, but not spectacular Iowa team and again by Crimson Tide, who took out their Iron Bowl frustrations on them in the Capital One Bowl (outscored by a combined 73 points in those two games).
Best Offense: Michigan 1.77
In his swan song at Ann Arbor, Rich Rod finally fixed the offense. We'll see in a minute why despite this success, he is no longer employed.
Worst Offense: Purdue -1.93
The Boilermakers won their first two league games during which they averaged 336 yards and 24 points per game. They lost their last six during which they averaged 262 yards and 16.8 points per game.
Best Defense: Ohio State 2.06
The Buckeyes held six of their eight league opponents under 300 yards. Michigan gouged them the most with 351 yards. Had the Buckeyes allowed that many in every game, they still would have owned the third best defense in the league.
Worst Defense: Michigan -1.55
Outside of a solid showing against Purdue (256 yards allowed), the Wolverines were incapable of stopping any team. Somewhere, Lloyd Carr is smiling.
Leaders Versus Legends: Balanced Divisions?
The Big 10 will be undergoing a dramatic shift beginning in 2011 when they add the Nebraska Cornhuskers from the Big 12. The addition of Nebraska means the Big 10 will move to a division format and stage a championship game the first weekend in December to determine which teams earns the conference's automatic BCS bowl bid. The names of the divisions, Leaders and Legends, leave a little to be desired, but as a famous poet and playwright once said, what's in a name? The real question is, are the divisions balanced, or will it play out like the Big 12 where the South division winner emerged victorious in the Big 12 Championship Game nine of the last eleven years. On the surface, it appears the Leaders Division, consisting of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, and Wisconsin would be the stronger of the two. Ohio State is the preeminent program in the conference, while Penn State and Wisconsin have shared the conference crown with the Buckeyes twice in the last three seasons. However, when we look at how the teams have fared versus teams slated to be in the opposite division over the past four seasons, we can see that outside of Ohio State, the Legends have held their own against the Leaders. The Leaders do have a 10-game edge in games played between what will soon be the two divisions since 2007, but if we remove Ohio State and their pristine, unblemished record, the Legends are actually 43-39 against the Leaders. Combine with that the fact that the Legends will be adding a Nebraska team that has won their division in the Big 12 the past two seasons, and the divisions are much more balanced than they appear at first glance.