Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sun Belt 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 Sun Belt teams in conference play was 131.75 points. The standard deviation for points scored was 49.87. The standard deviation for points allowed was 27.54. Troy scored 177 and allowed 136 points. The Trojans' offensive SDPI was 0.91= ([177-131.75]/49.87). Their defensive SDPI was -0.15 = ([131.75-136]/27.54). Their total SDPI was 0.75 (not 0.76 due to rounding). This was the fourth best mark in the Sun Belt in 2006.

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

Now here are the 2006 SDPI Standings:

Middle Tennessee 2.89
Louisiana-Monroe 1.29
Florida Atlantic 1.10
Troy 0.75
Arkansas State -0.52
Louisiana-Lafayette -0.81
North Texas -1.67
Florida International -3.02

After squeaking by Florida International in the opener 7-6, the Blue Raiders dominated the league, winning their next five conference games by at least 14 points. However, they technically did not win the league thanks to a one point setback to Troy. The Trojans also finished 6-1 in conference play, but were not nearly as dominant.

Best Offense: Middle Tennessee 1.45
After scoring only seven points in their opening win against Florida International, the Blue Raiders averaged 32.8 points per game over their last six Sun Belt contests.

Worst Offense: Florida International -1.56
The Golden Panthers were shut out twice, held to single digits five times, and peaked with 22 points scored in conference play.

Best Defense: Middle Tennessee 1.44
In Rick Stockstill's first season, the Blue Raiders dominated the Sun Belt on both sides of the ball. They never allowed more than 21 points in any conference game.

Worst Defense: Florida International -1.46
In Don Strock's final season, the Golden Panthers were dominated by their Sun Belt opponents on both sides of the ball. After somehow holding Middle Tennessee to seven points in their first game, no Sun Belt opponent scored fewer than 17.

Best Team that Didn't Go to a Bowl: Louisiana-Monroe 1.29
The Warhawks were a pretty good Sun Belt team (second best) that was beset by bad luck (more on that later).

Worst Team that Went to a Bowl: Troy 0.75
The Trojans were much better than the four teams below them in SDPI, but were extremely lucky to win the Sun Belt. They also caught a break in their bowl matchup, playing Rice who was vastly inferior to Middle Tennessee's opponent--Central Michigan.

Schedule Strength: No need to rank schedule strength since everybody plays everybody in the 8-team league.

Team(s) Likely to Decline: Middle Tennessee and Arkansas State
The Blue Raiders were far and away the Sun Belt's best team in 2006. They do return 8 starters on defense which is vital since they are losing their starting quarterback and running back. They should still be in contention for the Sun Belt title, but not be anywhere near as dominant as last season. The Arkansas State Indians finished 2006 with a 6-6 record and a 4-3 mark in Sun Belt play despite being outscored (both overall and in conference play). The Indians were 4-0 in close games, so they could easily have gone 2-10 or 3-9. Expect some regression in close games in 2006 and a losing Sun Belt record.

Teams(s) Likely to Improve: Louisiana-Monroe and Florida International
Despite ranking second in the Sun Belt in 2006 in SDPI, Louisiana-Monroe finished just 4-8 overall and 3-4 in conference play. The Warhawks were 0-5 in close games in 2006. They lost close conference games to Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State, and Troy, but they also played some BCS schools tough on the road. They lost by two points at Kansas and at Kentucky. They bring back nine starters on offense (including quarterback, running back, and all five offensive linemen) and six on defense. The Warhawks are a real dark horse to win the Sun Belt in 2007. To be true, the Golden Panthers were awful in 2006, finishing 0-12. However, they paired extreme futility with poor luck as they were also 0-5 in close games in 2006. Another winless season is not in the cards for 2007.

Best Chance to Crash the BCS: No one. The talent must significantly improve in this league (the coaching talent is already there in some places) if anyone is to ever crash the BCS.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You're dreamin' dude. Shame, not even a mention of FAU, and we will take it all in the Sun Belt. GO OWLS!