Saturday, February 24, 2007

SEC Rewind: SDPI

One way to look at team strength, taken from Eddie Epstein’s fantastic book Dominance, is to look at teams points scored and allowed relative to the league average and standard deviation. The more standard deviations they are from the mean, the better (or worse they are). For those unfamiliar with what standard deviation is here’s the wikipedia link. In the coming weeks, I will be looking at each Division IA conference and ranking each team in regards to their Standard Deviation Power Index in conference play. Keep in mind, the SDPI does not adjust for schedule strength for conferences such as the ACC where each team does not play each other and it ignores special teams which can play a significant role in both points scored and points allowed.

If you want the meat of the article, skip this next paragraph as it just gives an example of how the SDPI is calculated. The mean points scored and allowed for all SEC teams in conference play (championship game not included) was 166.83 points. The standard deviation for points scored was 36.46. The standard deviation for points allowed was 33.20. Arkansas scored 221 and allowed 134 points. Arkansas' offensive SDPI was 1.49 = ([221-166.83]/36.46). Their defensive SDPI was .99 = ([166.83-134]/33.20). Their total SDPI was 2.47 (difference due to rounding). In the 2006 SEC, that was good second, just a hair behind LSU.

First here's the link to the 2006 SEC Standings to refresh your memory.

Now here are the 2006 SDPI Standings.

LSU 2.54
Arkansas 2.47
Florida 1.54
Tennessee 1.08
Auburn 0.89
Georgia 0.46
South Carolina 0.08
Alabama -1.17
Kentucky -1.32
Mississippi -1.66
Vanderbilt -2.16
Mississippi State -2.75

Most folks will take one look at those numbers and immediately become close-minded since the third place team not only won the conference, but also the national championship. But remember, the Gators survived both Tennessee and South Carolina by one point apiece, Georgia by 7, and Vandy by 6. With a few bounces going the other way, the Gators historic season could have ended in the Outback Bowl.

Best Offense: Arkansas 1.49
The tandem of McFadden and Jones took the SEC by storm despite inconsistent play from the quarterback position.

Worst Offense: Mississippi -1.20
Even with Michael Oher, from The Blindside, a great book if you need some reading material, the Rebel offense struggled mightily. They broke 20 points only once in conference play--against Alabama.

Best Defense: Florida 1.29
Defense wins championships? Maybe so. Before the SEC Championship Game (which is not included) only one team broke 20 against them and that was on a defensive touchdown in the games final seconds.

Worst Defense: Mississippi State -1.66
Held two teams under 20 points, South Carolina and Alabama. Incidentally, the game against Alabama was their only win.

Best Team that Didn’t Go to a Bowl: Mississippi -1.66
This says more about the conference than the Rebels. When 9 of the conferences 12 teams play in the postseason, the teams that don't are usually pretty bad.

Worst Team that Went to a Bowl: Kentucky -1.32
The Wildcats were only marginally better than Mississippi, but benefited from the scheduling gods--two of their games against the SEC West were against dregs Mississippi and Mississippi State, and a close win over Georgia.

Toughest Schedule (ranked by sum of opponent’s SDPI): Tennessee 2.44
In their SEC West games, the Vols played the league's two best team (LSU and Arkansas) and Alabama while avoiding the weaker sisters (Mississippi and Mississippi State).

Easiest Schedule (ranked by sum of opponent’s SDPI): Georgia -4.30
Like Kentucky, they played the SEC West's two weakest teams (Mississippi and Mississippi State) and an Auburn team that was substantially worse than the West's top two teams.

Entire Schedule Strength (hardest to easiest)
Tennessee 2.44
Mississippi State 2.29
Alabama 1.95
Auburn 1.51
Vanderbilt 1.48
Florida 0.40
South Carolina 0.21
Kentucky -0.87
LSU -0.92
Mississippi -1.04
Arkansas -3.15
Georgia -4.30

Team(s) Likely to Decline: Kentucky, Arkansas, and LSU
The Wildcats were not nearly as good as their 4-4 conference record would portend. In 2007, only one of their home games looks winnable (Mississippi State). The others are against LSU, Florida and Tennessee. Their road games are against Arkansas, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Georgia. Kentucky will probably finish in the SEC East cellar. Unless Arkansas gets some much improved play from quarterback Casey Dick, expect the Hogs to fall to the middle of the pack in the SEC West. McFadden and Jones are still on the team, but the Hogs attack can't be as one-dimensional as last season if they want to get back to the SEC Championship Game. And don't forget about all the offseason drama--complete with forwarded emails, impromptu resignations, parental meetings, and transfers. Don't buy into the LSU=National Champion hype. The Tigers lost a key cog to their offense--JaMarcus Russell. As noted here and here, losing your starting quarterback hurts more than bringing him back helps.

Team(s) Likely to Improve: Alabama and South Carolina
The Tide were only 2-4 in close conference games last season so expect some improvement in that department. They return a very competent starting quarterback in John Parker Wilson. And some guy named Saban is now coaching the team. Saban will probably get too much credit for the turnaround as Bama had a lot of positive indicators for an improvement even if Shula remained the coach. Check the schedule too. Vandy, Mississippi, and Mississippi State as three of the four conference road games. Four tough teams (Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, and LSU) do come to Bryant-Denny, but the schedule is built for Bama to win the SEC West. Initially, I though South Carolina had a chance to win the East, what with Spurrier being in his third season with a stellar recruiting class. The schedule is just too tough to send the Gamecocks to Atlanta. Roadies at Georgia, LSU, Tennessee, and Arkansas and a home date with Florida is a lot to overcome. Their other three home games are likely wins (Mississippi State, Kentucky, and Vandy), so they will definitely improve on their 3-5 conference mark.


Brainstorm said...

You ought to include Ole Miss in teams likely to improve. They were one of the three youngest teams in Division 1, and their true freshmen probably got more playing time than freshmen in any other program.

Anonymous said...

I guess you have proved, once again, that give a monkey a calculator and some time and you can invent whatever statistics support your biases.

You're a student in Columbia, South Carolina.

So, are you still sore about UF beating USC that you have to make yourself feel better with statistics.

You're a sad man.

Anonymous said...

I found it amusing if not down right silly that you would pick Alabama to win the West just because Saban is the coach. When Bama is again the whipping boy of Auburn, LSU, and Georgia I guess your formula will have been proven wrong.

Anonymous said...

I don't really see how these stats are USC-bias, since the same formulas put Clemson at a generous second place.

matt said...

Actually, if you read on down, I'm a Wake alum, and I believe I did a pretty un-biased post on the ACC a few weeks ago. And I did get my Master's from USC, but I wouldn't call myself a diehard Gamecock fan. I don't believe anything I wrote is untrue. If you don't believe they will win more than 3 conference games, I'll take you up on some sort of wager. As far as Bama, I wrote that they would improve if Shula was still the coach. Having Saban is just icing on the cake.

matt said...

If Ole Miss is to improve, Brent Schaeffer will have to drastically improve and I just don't see that happening. He completed just 47% of his passes, and in the few games I watched he seemed way to eager to leave the pocket before even surveying the field.

Anonymous said...

Granted, LSU does lose JR @the QB spot. But last year, despite their high year-end ranking, they only finished 3rd in the SEC West with two conf road losses (out of 4 huge conf road games.) This year all those same games are at home with only BAMA being possibly tough on the road. Decline? Do you really think they'll drop 3 SEC games? Rather than Bama, I'd say LSU has the schedule set up for SEC West champ. I can't imagine they won't be favored going into the season. Bama will be underdogs to Tenn, LSU, Auburn and toss-up w/ Arkansas & Georgia. If you're a betting man, come back in August with your derivatives and your wallet. We'll work something out.

matt said...

Actually, if you look at by the rankings, LSU was the best team in the SEC last season. I see them losing at least two conference games but not being as dominant as they were last season. I think the Tigers will miss Russell much more than you think. Come summer, Alabama will have much longer odds than LSU to win the West (prob at least 12 to 1). LSU on the other hand will probably have 3 or 4 to 1 odds. I think the smarter money is on the long shot Alabama. Oh, and no derivatives were used in this analysis.

matt said...

Correction, that should have read longer odds to win the SEC.

Anonymous said...

LSU is losing more than just JaMarcus Russell. Two of their best receivers Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis are seniors. One of the big RBs, either Alley Broussard or Justin Vincent, is out. LaRon Landry (an expected top 10 draft pick) is gone at the Saftey position. Not often thought of, but still important, both kickers Chris Jackson and Ryan Gaudet are graduating as well. By all conventional statistics, LSU had the best Offense and Defense in the SEC last year. Thankfully most of the big-time talent on Defense are juniors and should be returning, but I'd be suprised if we didn't see a significant drop in output from the Tigers' offense. Because of this I expect LSU to have a tough time winning the SEC, if only because their offense will probably let them down at least once.

Anonymous said...

LSU will dominate on both sides of the ball for obvious reasons. Both of our lines will be intact and 2 deep. 4 of 5 starters return on the o-line and several competing for starting positions. D line will be scary.
We have 2 QBs that can start for ANYBODY. We are loaded at receiver and RB is 5 deep. I pity whomever we line up against.