Thursday, April 14, 2016

2015 Adjusted Pythagorean Record: Mountain West

Last week, we looked at how Mountain West 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 Mountain West 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, Mountain West teams are sorted by the difference between their actual number of wins and their expected number of wins according to APR.
Colorado State was the only Mountain West team to significantly outperform their APR numbers. The Rams actually allowed more touchdowns than they scored, but managed to win five of eight league games (their bowl game with conference rival Nevada is excluded from this analysis). The Rams won both of their one score league games and were outscored by significant margins in each of their league losses. Boise State, San Diego State, and Utah State beat the Rams by a combined 70 points.

Since APR didn’t give us a whole lot to discuss, let’s talk about something else, namely the Mountain West’s standing among mid-major (Group of Five) leagues. With the advent of the College Football Playoff, the current structure of haves (Power Five) and have nots (Group of Five) has been in place for just two seasons. The table below lists how each Group of Five conference, as well as the Group of Five independents (and BYU is considered Group of Five here) have fared against each other (regular season games only) in 2014 and 2015.
After faring well against their fellow mid-majors in 2014, the conference took a step back in 2015, winning just a third of their games against other Group of Five members. This could well be a one-year blip, so let’s look at things another way. This next table lists every current Mountain West team alphabetically and indicates the last season they finished ranked in the AP Poll and the last season during which they appeared in the AP Poll at any point.
Outside of Boise State, the results for the other Mountain West teams are not too great. San Jose State and Utah State each registered historic seasons in 2012, and while they have been contending for bowl games in the three seasons since, those were clearly outlier years. Similarly, Nevada rode Colin Kaepernick to a top-10 finish in 2010, but has not sniffed the polls since. While Fresno State flirted with a BCS bowl bid in 2013, they have not finished a season ranked in over ten years. I could go on. If the Mountain West wants to assert itself as the best mid-major conference it needs a team to join Boise State in the national conscience. San Diego State ran roughshod over the Mountain West in 2015, but the Aztecs stumbled in the non-conference, losing to California and Penn State as well to South Alabama of the Sun Belt. Group of Five teams are at a disadvantage when they go up against Power Five schools, but Mountain West teams can improve their national profile by winning more games in the non-conference against teams of similar regard.

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