Wednesday, January 20, 2016

2015 Adjusted Pythagorean Record: AAC

Last week, we looked at how AAC teams fared in terms of yards per play. This week, we turn our attention to how the season played out in terms of the Adjusted Pythagorean Record, or APR. For an in-depth look at APR, click here. If you didn’t feel like clicking, here is the Reader’s Digest version. APR looks at how well a team scores and prevents touchdowns. Non-offensive touchdowns, field goals, extra points, and safeties are excluded. The ratio of offensive touchdowns to touchdowns allowed is converted into a winning percentage. Pretty simple actually.

Once again, here are the 2015 AAC standings.
And here are the APR standings sorted by division with conference rank in offensive touchdowns, touchdowns allowed, and APR in parentheses. This includes conference games only with the championship game excluded.
Finally, the AAC teams are sorted by the difference between their actual number of wins and their expected number of wins according to APR.
In 2015, no AAC team drastically over or under-performed their APR. East Carolina came close to significantly under-performing, but the threshold I set was a game and a half. Plus, we already delved into the reasons East Carolina failed to win as many games as we might expect from their underlying performance last week. With no teams performing significantly better or worse than we would expect from their APR, I decided to take a closer look at the South Florida Bulls.

Willie Taggart entered the 2015 season (justifiably) on the hot seat. After rebuilding Western Kentucky into a solid mid-major, he headed southeast to Tampa, and early returns were not promising. His first two South Florida teams posted a combined 6-18 record (5-11 in the American Athletic Conference), lost in blowout fashion to an FCS school, and had a real hard time moving the ball and putting points on the board. 2015 also began rather inauspiciously. The Bulls opened with an expected win over Florida A&M from the FCS and then were moderately competitive against the gold standard program in the Sunshine State. However, any goodwill quickly evaporated when the Bulls lost to Maryland by 18 points. Keep in mind this Maryland team was quite poor, firing their coach midway through the season and finishing just 3-9. In fact, their win over South Florida represented their largest win over an FBS opponent in 2015. The Bulls also lost their next game, although it was a sign of things to come as they were competitive against Memphis, one of the league’s better teams. Still, the Bulls scored only 17 points against the Tigers, continuing a discouraging offensive trend. The Bulls bounced back in their next contest, a home non-conference clash with former Big East member Syracuse. The Bulls put 45 points on the Orange, the most they had scored against an FBS opponent since dropping 52 on UTEP during their hot start to the 2011 season. Upon returning to league play, the Bulls would win three of their next four games, losing only to Navy, while averaging a healthy 26.3 points per game. Then, over the final three games of the regular season, the Bulls would reach another level. The Bulls scored a combined 153 points in victories against Temple, Cincinnati, and Central Florida to cap off an eight win campaign. Based on the way the Bulls were performing, they were practically playing a different game than when Taggart first arrived. Consider that in their first ten conference games under Taggart the Bulls scored a grand total of 141 points! I can’t really describe how much better South Florida was offensively in their third season under Taggart, so I will use a table. The table below gives data on the offensive touchdowns, yards per play, and points scored by South Florida in conference play during each of the three years of the Willie Taggart era. 
The Bulls scored more offensive touchdowns and total points in 2015 than they did in 2013 and 2014 combined. I certainly did not see this outburst coming, but the unpredictability of college football, and sports in general is what makes it great.

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