Wednesday, March 16, 2016

2015 Adjusted Pythagorean Record: Conference USA

Last week, we looked at how Conference USA 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 Conference USA 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 Conference USA teams are sorted by the difference between their actual number of wins and their expected number of wins according to APR.
No team significantly over or under performed relative to their expected record based on APR. That being the case, let's talk about offense in Conference USA.

With Western Kentucky enjoying a phenomenal offensive campaign (and season in general) culminating with their first ever finish in the final AP Poll, I decided to look back at the eleven years of Conference USA YPP and APR data I have collected to determine the best offense Conference USA has seen 2005. The following table lists the top team for each season since 2005 in Conference USA in Yards per Play and Offensive Touchdowns. The actual number of yards per play and touchdowns are also listed. Since Conference USA has played an eight-game league slate for the entire period (2005-2015), there is no need to adjust the touchdowns to a per game basis. I decided to use both metrics as the best offense should be able to move the ball well and pay off drives by scoring touchdowns.
Some teams were able to do one or the other, but the best should be proficient at both. For example, in 2005, UAB, quarterbacked by Darrell Hackney and coached by lesser Mack Brown moved the ball efficiently, but only scored 29 offensive touchdowns in their eight league games (fourth best in the conference). Failing to finish drives is one reason the Blazers managed just a 3-5 conference record despite their moving the ball well. Similarly, SMU in 2010 advanced to the Conference USA Championship Game and led the league in yards per play, but scored just 28 touchdowns (seventh in the league). That being said, the best offense in Conference USA should probably be tops in their respective season by both measures. Western Kentucky in 2015 certainly fits that bill. Led by quarterback Brandon Doughty, the Hilltoppers averaged nearly eight yards per play against league foes and scored more than six touchdowns per game (or more than one and a half per quarter). However, even those phenomenal numbers pale in comparison to the ones posted by Houston in 2011. The Cougars, with future NFL players Case Keenum and Patrick Edwards and coached by Kevin Sumlin averaged more than eight yards per play and scored seven touchdowns per game against Conference USA foes! Plus, the Cougars did this in a stronger league. With Conference USA losing members to the American Athletic Conference and resorting to poaching ersatz schools from the Sun Belt, WAC, and FCS, the Hilltoppers did not face nearly as much resistance from their conference opponents.

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