This week we give the preeminent mid-major conference the SDPI treatment. The Mountain West has only been in existence since 1999, but already it has promoted two schools (TCU and Utah) to the 'big leagues' with a third (Boise State) to follow after the 2012 season is complete. For 2012, the conference will add three additional teams to replace the departing Horned Frogs (Fresno State, Hawaii, and Nevada). All three are consistent bowl teams, but will have their work cut out for them to unseat Boise State at the top. To see last year's post on the Mountain West, click here.
This first paragraph will explain how SDPI is calculated. So if you
want the meat of this article skip on down. In the 2011 Mountain West
regular season, conference play only, the average Mountain West team
gained and allowed 2692.375 yards. The standard deviation for yards
gained (offense) was 624.30 yards. The standard deviation for yards
allowed (defense) was 342.69 yards. Air Force gained 3002 yards and
allowed 2531 yards. Their offensive SDPI was 0.50 =
[(3002-2692.375)/624.30]. Their defensive SDPI was 0.47 =
[(2692.375-2531)/342.69]. Their total SDPI was 0.97. This number ranked 3rd in the Mountain West.
Here are the 2011 Mountain West standings.
Now here are the 2011 Mountain West SDPI standings. The standings are sorted by
total SDPI with ranking for each category (out of 8 teams) in
TCU defeated Boise State by a single point in mid-November to decide the Mountain West championship. The win likely cost the Broncos a shot at the national championship. Perhaps not surprisingly, TCU and Boise rated as the best teams in terms of SDPI in the Mountain West by a significant margin. They were also extremely close, with the Broncos edging the Horned Frogs by just .03 standard deviations. If this blog were CNN, the race between those teams would be too close to call. In the aforementioned TCU/Boise clash, the Horned Frogs inflicted just the third defeat on a Boise State team quarterbacked by Kellen Moore, one of the best college players of recent memory. In fact, the Horned Frogs can take great pride in beating Moore twice. Perhaps the most amazing fact about Moore's career is that his three total losses came by a combined five points. His Broncos lost to the Horned Frogs twice (by a point each time) and to Nevada in 2010 in overtime by three points. While Moore was quarterback of the Broncos, no team outscored them by more than a single point in regulation. Genuflect dear readers on true greatness!
So Who Was Better Than Their Record Showed?
Air Force pounded the dregs of the conference, beating Colorado State, New Mexico, and UNLV by a combined 94 points. Unfortunately, the Falcons could not break through and beat any of the league's stronger teams, losing to Boise State, TCU, and San Diego State by a combined 41 points (not a terrible margin considering the competition). The Falcons also failed to beat Wyoming, falling at home by eight points. The Falcons had the misfortune of playing extremely well against teams they were much better than and playing not as well against teams they were either on equal footing with or moderately worse than. Consequently, they ended up with a losing conference record despite solid peripherals.
So Who Was Worse Than Their Record Showed?
The Wyoming Cowboys did one thing extremely well in 2011. Unfortunately, the thing they did well is more a result of random chance than anything within their control. The Cowboys managed a flawless 5-0 record in one-score games in 2011 (3-0 within the conference). I suppose I was a bit premature in declaring the Cowboys only did one thing well. They also forced a ton of turnovers, leading the conference with 19 forced in their seven league games. This proclivity at forcing turnovers led to a league-leading +10 turnover margin in conference play and helped propel the Cowboys to five wins in the conference.
Best Offense: Boise State 1.37
The Broncos started conference play with a bang, rolling up 742 yards against Colorado State. They never returned to that lofty stratosphere, but they did manage to gain at least 416 yards in every remaining conference game.
Worst Offense: New Mexico -1.58
The good news for the Lobos is that they didn't finish ninth in the Mountain West like they did in 2010. The bad news is there were only eight teams in the Mountain West in 2011.
Best Defense: TCU 1.53
After being torched by the future Hesiman winner in the season opener, the Horned Frogs rebounded to post the best defense in the Mountain West for the fourth year in a row.
Worst Defense: Colorado State -1.22
To be fair, outside of their evisceration at the hands of Boise State (allowed 742 yards), the Rams were relatively average on defense. They allowed 395 yards per game in their other six conference games. If they had posted an average defensive performance against the Broncos, they would have finished a respectable fifth on defense in the Mountain West.
24 and Counting
The TCU Horned Frogs play their first ever Big 12 game on September 15th at Kansas. They will enter that contest with a rather impressive 24-game conference winning streak. The last time TCU lost a conference game was November 6, 2008 at Utah. The Horned Frogs lost that game 13-10, and the Utes wound up finishing the year unbeaten and ranked number two in the AP Poll. Had the Horned Frogs won that game, they would currently be riding a 33-game conference winning streak. Unfortunately, that game happened and the Horned Frogs have to be content with 24 in a row. How impressive is this in regards to recent history? To answer that question I looked at every conference win streak since the beginning of the BCS era (1998). There have been six instances (in addition to TCU's current active streak) of teams winning at least 20 conference games in a row since 1998. They are in chronological order: Florida State 24 games (1998-2001), Miami 27 games (1999-2003), Boise State 31 games (2001-2005), Southern Cal 27 games (2003-2006), Ohio State 20 games (2005-2007), and Boise State 22 games (2008-2010). To determine the relative 'impressiveness' of each streak, I calculated each team's average points scored and allowed in the streak, the number of close games they played (those decided by eight points or less), and the number of above-average teams they beat in the streak. I defined above-average as having an SRS score of greater than 0. The SRS, or Simple Rating System is a quick and dirty rating method utilized by College Football Reference that takes into account margin of victory and strength of schedule. The table below lists the merits of the seven streaks of at least 20 wins and also includes the team that ended the streak.