## Thursday, February 07, 2019

### 2018 Yards Per Play: Big 10

We now move to our third conference in the offseason recaps. After this week, the recaps will be one quarter done. Here are the Big 10 standings.
So we know what each team achieved, but how did they perform? To answer that, here are the Yards Per Play (YPP), Yards Per Play Allowed (YPA) and Net Yards Per Play (Net) numbers for each Big 10 team. This includes conference play only, with the championship game not included. The teams are sorted by division by Net YPP with conference rank in parentheses.
College football teams play either eight or nine conference games. Consequently, their record in such a small sample may not be indicative of their quality of play. A few fortuitous bounces here or there can be the difference between another ho-hum campaign or a special season. Randomness and other factors outside of our perception play a role in determining the standings. It would be fantastic if college football teams played 100 or even 1000 games. Then we could have a better idea about which teams were really the best. Alas, players would miss too much class time, their bodies would be battered beyond recognition, and I would never leave the couch. As it is, we have to make do with the handful of games teams do play. In those games, we can learn a lot from a team’s YPP. Since 2005, I have collected YPP data for every conference. I use conference games only because teams play such divergent non-conference schedules and the teams within a conference tend to be of similar quality. By running a regression analysis between a team’s Net YPP (the difference between their Yards Per Play and Yards Per Play Allowed) and their conference winning percentage, we can see if Net YPP is a decent predictor of a team’s record. Spoiler alert. It is. For the statistically inclined, the correlation coefficient between a team’s Net YPP in conference play and their conference record is around .66. Since Net YPP is a solid predictor of a team’s conference record, we can use it to identify which teams had a significant disparity between their conference record as predicted by Net YPP and their actual conference record. I used a difference of .200 between predicted and actual winning percentage as the threshold for ‘significant’. Why .200? It is a little arbitrary, but .200 corresponds to a difference of 1.6 games over an eight game conference schedule and 1.8 games over a nine game one. Over or under-performing by more than a game and a half in a small sample seems significant to me. In the 2018 season, which teams in the Big 10 met this threshold? Here are Big 10 teams sorted by performance over what would be expected from their Net YPP numbers.
The two Big 10 Championship Game participants (Northwestern and Ohio State) significantly exceeded their expected record based on YPP (Northwestern by an historic margin) while Rutgers, Nebraska, and Maryland all fell short of their expected record. As is typically the case, results in close games are largely to blame. Northwestern and Ohio State finished a combined 8-1 in one-score conference games while Rutgers, Nebraska, and Maryland finished a combined 1-8.

Is Maryland Even Trying?
In early December, Maryland named Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley its newest football coach. Having an Alabama coordinator take the reins of a Power Five program would not normally inspire me to type many words on the subject. But Locksley is not just any Alabama coordinator. In fact, he has been a head coach before.