Wednesday, February 15, 2017

2016 Adjusted Pythagorean Record: Big 10

Last week, we looked at how Big 10 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 2016 Big 10 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 Big 10 teams are sorted by the difference between their actual number of wins and their expected number of wins according to APR.
I use a game and a half as a line of demarcation to determine if teams drastically over or under perform their APR. By that standard, Michigan and Michigan State underperformed based on the touchdowns they scored and allowed while Nebraska fared better than the numbers suggested they should. Michigan State and Nebraska also boasted records that differed from their expected records based on YPP and we discussed the potential reasons for that last week. So, we’ll move on to Michigan, a team with the highest APR in the Big 10. How did the Wolverines win fewer games than would be expected based on their touchdowns scored and allowed? For starters, the Wolverines' two losses came in games during which they never trailed with time on the clock. Iowa beat then on a field goal at the gun and Ohio State famously edged them in double overtime. Plus, in the loss to Buckeyes, one of Ohio State’s scores came via an interception return, something that is not considered in the APR. In their seven conference wins, Michigan was typically dominant. Five of their seven victories came by double-digits with four coming by more than 30 points. Michigan was the most dominant Big 10 team in 2016, and arguably the best. However, they were done in by a pair of close road losses. If a few more plays in those games had gone their way, the Wolverines could have earned a berth in the College Football Playoff. As it is, they had to settle for an Orange Bowl bid.

When college football historians look back on the 10’s decade of the 2000’s, along with the unveiling of the college football playoff and the legitimate paying of players, the most discussed phenomenon will probably be conference expansion and realignment. Beginning with the 2011 season, at least one conference from the quartet of the ACC, Big 10, Pac-12, and SEC added a new member each of the next four seasons. The ripple effects across the rest of college football were deep and wide and their impacts are not yet fully known. As conferences expand, it seems there would be diminishing returns with each new member. If these teams were really that great, they would already be in these superior leagues right? Superior may mean better at football or simply more stable thanks to better television contracts in this case. Three Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big 10, and SEC) currently house 14 teams. These are the only Power 5 conferences with more than 12 members. How have the most recent additions (i.e., the ones after 12 for which we might expect diminishing returns) fared since joining their respective leagues? With a handful of seasons in the books could a conference have buyer’s remorse? While expansion has a variety of different drivers including television markets, recruiting grounds, and academic reputations, the focus of this blog has always been results on the field. With that in mind, the following table summarizes the gridiron accomplishments of the most recent additions. The distinctions between the three leagues are pretty stark and there is a clear gold/silver/bronze pecking order that has been established thus far.
While Missouri and Texas A&M have only managed a combined 40-40 conference record since joining the SEC, that number has been dragged down by Missouri’s 3-13 SEC mark over the past two seasons. The Tigers and Aggies own the only top-ten finishes of any team in this cohort and also have four top-25 finishes between them. Plus, despite their reputation as underachievers, Texas A&M has not finished outside the top 30 of the SRS since joining the SEC. Over in the ACC, Louisville and Pittsburgh have been welcome additions to the conference with the pair posting a combined 35-21 conference record. You can do the math and see that Syracuse has not pulled their weight, especially considering they actually tied for the Big East championship (granted it was a four-way tie) in their last season in the conference. The team from upstate New York has been particularly dreadful over the past three seasons, posting a 5- 19 conference record and averaging an 85th place finish in the SRS. As poor as Syracuse has played, the combination of Maryland and Rutgers has been nearly as bad. Neither team has posted a winning conference record since joining the Big 10, with Maryland’s 4-4 record in 2014 representing the high-water mark. Rutgers has won exactly one conference game over the past two seasons and neither the Terrapins nor the Knights have finished higher than 50th in the SRS since joining the league. Fortunes could be changing with Maryland’s recent recruiting renaissance and perhaps Rutgers has delivered the coveted New York City market, but thus far, the on the field exploits of Maryland and Rutgers have not been up to Big 10 standards.

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