We have come to the end of our season recaps. We conclude by examining the Sun Belt, a mid-major conference that will be celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2011. If you feel like it, send them a gift of tin to their league office in New Orleans, Louisiana. For a primer on whats going on here, check the link to last year's SDPI post on the Sun Belt.
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 Sun Belt regular season, conference play only, the average Sun Belt team gained and allowed 3060.78 yards. The standard deviation for yards gained (offense) was 374.94 yards. The standard deviation for yards allowed (defense) was 138.99 yards. North Texas gained 2961 yards and allowed 3173 yards. Their offensive SDPI was -0.27 = [(2961-3060.78)/374.94]. Their defensive SDPI was -0.81 = [(3060.78-3173)/138.99]. Their total SDPI was -1.07. This number ranked 8th in the Sun Belt.
Here are the 2010 Sun Belt standings.Now here are the 2010 Sun Belt SDPI standings. The standings are sorted by total SDPI with ranking for each category (out of 9 teams) in parentheses.For the fifth straight season, the Troy Trojans claimed at least a share of the conference title. joining Ohio State as the only other IA team to accomplish that feat since 2006. For the first time in the league's short history, the Sun Belt sent three teams to the postseason, with Troy and Middle Tennessee State making their third and second consecutive trips, while Florida International made their maiden voyage. Elsewhere in the league standings, Western Kentucky broke a 26-game losing streak when they beat Louisiana-Lafayette in late October.
So Who Was Better Than Their Record Showed?
Speaking of the Hilltoppers, in their second season as full-time Sun Belt members, Western Kentucky managed only a pair of league wins, but they were oh so close in several others. The Hilltoppers were just 1-4 in one-score games, falling to Florida International, Louisiana-Monroe, Florida Atlantic, and Middle Tennessee State by a combined 14 points. The Hilltoppers were just a few plays away from finishing in the middle of the pack in the conference instead of the basement.
So Who Was Worse Than Their Record Showed?
Middle Tennessee State finished all alone in third place in the Sun Belt, behind co-champs Florida International and Troy, but their play was more indicative of a team with a losing record. In their three game winning streak to end the season, the Blue Raiders beat both Western Kentucky and Florida International by a single point to keep their bowl hopes alive.
Best Offense: Troy 1.48
The Trojans needed their offense to be spectacular in order to lay claim to another league title because their defense was among the worst in the conference.
Worst Offense: Florida Atlantic -1.55
Where oh where has Rusty Smith gone? The Owls were held below 300 yards in half their conference games, and for the season averaged just 310 yards per game against Sun Belt foes.
Best Defense: Western Kentucky 1.91
This was perhaps the biggest shocker during all the SDPI analysis I have done. While the Hilltoppers don't appear to be particularly stingy on defense (allowed 349 yards per game in league play), they were never really torched by anyone save Troy (491 yards allowed). In a league with a small defensive range (Florida Atlantic, the worst defense, allowed 52 more yards per game than the Hilltoppers), Western Kentucky did just enough to earn the number one ranking.
Worst Defense: Florida Atlantic -1.09
As mentioned above, all the defenses were very close in the Sun Belt last year. The Owls just happened to have the worst showing.
While it may not seem like it based on a cursory knowledge of the Sun Belt, over the last half-decade, the Troy Trojans have dominated their mid-major conference brethren in a similar fashion to Boise State. The Trojans have won at least a share of the Sun Belt title in each of the past five seasons, and in that span are seven games clear of the team with the second best record (Middle Tennessee State). How do the Trojans stack up in their dominance with leaders from the other ten conferences? Glad you asked.Only Ohio State and Boise have been more dominant in relation to the other teams in their respective leagues than Troy. Notice also that Oregon, not Southern Cal has posted the best Pac-10 record over the past five seasons.