Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Historical SDPI: The Big 10

After running the SDPI numbers for all 11 conferences in 2006, I thought it would be an interesting sojourn through recent football history to look back at SDPI for the six BCS conferences throughout the entirety of the BCS era (98-06). It also gives me an excuse to add some pretty little graphs to the site. Don't know what SDPI is? Click here for an answer. Remember, its performance, not achievement, so years with the highest win totals may not actually be a certain team's best season. And its also only conference play, so any non-conference action, championship games, and bowl game are excluded. We'll continue with a look at the Big 10. After each team's graph, there is a paragraph of commentary followed by the number of first place SDPI finishes or if there are no such finishes, the highest SDPI finish.


A pair of Ron's have guided the Illini through the duration of the BCS era: Turner for the first seven seasons and Zook for the last two. Under Turner, the program saw both the highs (a conference title in 2001) and the lows (two combined Big 10 wins in his final two seasons). In Zook's first season, the program dipped to its lowest point--over four standard deviations below average with a winless Big 10 season in 2005, but improved substantially with an influx of talent in 2006 and are a team to be wary of entering 2007.

Best SDPI Finish: 2nd (2001)


Cam Cameron is responsible for the first four seasons, Gerry DiNardo the middle three, and Terry Hoeppner the last two. Cameron's teams were generally pretty pathetic up until 2001 (Antwaan Randle El's senior season), when the Hoosiers were actually quite solid and with a little luck could have gone bowling. The Hoosiers were 4-4 in conference play and 5-6 overall, but with a little better non-conference scheduling (they lost to NC State and Utah who were a combined 15-9) and some fortuitous bounces (they lost to Utah by two points) could easily have finished 6-5 or 7-4 and saved Cameron's job. I guess things have worked out for Mr. Cameron though. Cameron was replaced by former Vanderbilt and LSU coach Gerry DiNardo. In DiNardo's first two seasons, the Hoosiers went 3-9 and 2-10 respectively (1-7 in conference play both seasons), but things appeared to be looking up as 2004 opened. The Hoosiers destroyed Central Michigan 41-10 in their first game and pulled off one of the biggest shockers of the season when they ended Oregon's 21-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents (dating back to 1994). Looking back, it's easy to see why Indiana won, and it has a lot more to do with what the Ducks did--almost any team with a competent Division IA (especially BCS) caliber team would have beaten Oregon that day. The next week, the Hoosiers lost by 29 points to a Kentucky team that would finish 2-9. The Hoosiers won only once more on the season and that was the end of the line for DiNardo. His replacement Terry Hoeppner has led the Hoosiers to nine wins in two seasons and many feel Indiana has the look of a team on the rise. I don't but it. SDPI sees them as improving slightly, but mostly treading water in Hoeppner's first two seasons. The Hoosiers four Big 10 wins under his guidance (against 12 defeats) have come against teams with a cumulative record of 14-34. The Hoosiers have also lost to a IAA school and beaten another by just four points. While I have been wrong at least once before, don't bet on the Hoosiers finding their way into a bowl game this season.

Best SDPI Finish: 5th (2001)


1998 was the end of the Hayden Fry era. What a fantastic 20 years it was. Three Big 10 titles, 14 bowl games, and 143 wins are the highlights. He was succeeded by Kirk Ferentz, who has guided the Hawkeyes ever since. The Hawkeyes bottomed out in Ferentz's first season, going winless in conference play and finishing in the SDPI cellar as well. His teams steadily improved over the next three seasons culminating in an undefeated Big 10 season and Orange Bowl appearance in 2002. Looking closely at the 2001 team that finished only 7-5, their sudden jump to conference champion is not totally surprising. They outscored their opponents by 133 points and were a tough luck 2-4 in close games. In 2002, they returned the core of their team and improved in the luck department (3-1 in close games) enabling them to share the conference title. Since that 2002 season, the Hawkeyes have remained a contender in the Big 10 (even sharing another conference title and winning the SDPI crown in 2004). They dipped a bit in 2006, finishing 6-7 overall (2-6 in the Big 10), but were much better than their conference record (6th in conference SDPI). If they can find a suitable replacement for Andrew Tate at quarterback, they area a real darkhorse team in 2007.

First Place SDPI Finishes: 2002 and 2004


Lloyd Carr has been in charge of the Wolverines for the entirety of the BCS era. Michigan is the only Big 10 team to have been above average each season in the BCS era. They are also the only Big 10 team to not finish with a losing record in the BCS era. To say they been a consistent Big 10 power is an understatement. They have finished first three times, second once, third twice, fourth twice, and fifth once.

First Place SDPI Finishes: 2000, 2001, and 2003

Michigan State

1998 was Nick Saban's final year in East Lansing, followed by four years of Bobby Williams and four years of John L. Smith. Saban's final team was a pretty pedestrian 4-4 in the Big 10 and 6-6 overall. However, they did ruin the national titles dreams of Ohio State on a cool November evening in Columbus, knocking off the Buckeyes 28-24. That was the only blemish on the the Buckeyes' record as they would win every other game by at least 10 points. Saban departed after the season, but the cupboard was stocked for his successor Bobby Williams. The Spartans ascended in 1999, winning 10 games and vying for the conference title. They regressed in 2000, rebounded a bit in 2001, and regressed some more in 2002. Seeking some stability, and not more up-and-down seasons, the Spartans replaced Williams with Louisville coach John L. Smith. As this video and this snippet show, Smith was anything but stable during his stint as head coach. Like Williams, Smith also peaked in his first season as coach and from then on his teams declined steadily exploded spectacularly. To be fair though, Smith will always have at least one game he remembers fondly.

Best SDPI Finish: 4th (1999, 2003, and 2004)


Glen Mason has been the only coach Minnesota has known during the BCS era, joining the Gophers in 1997. That will all change in 2007 as Tim Brewster takes over the program. Mason did a commendable job at Minnesota (to go along with his solid performances at Kansas and Kent State) taking the Gophers to seven bowl games in ten seasons. His teams were occasionally good, always competitive, and never great nor terrible. He could have done a lot worse. The Gophers do have tradition (six national titles--the last coming in 1960), but they don't really have recent tradition so Mason should not be fustigated for failing to turn Minnesota into Ohio State. Tim Brewster has a long way to go to come close to equaling his predecessor.
Does the dome make a difference?
Minnesota's Home Conference Record (98-06): 19-17 (.528)
Minnesota's Road Conference Record (98-06): 12-24 (.333).

Best SDPI Finish: 2nd (2003)


1998 was Gary Barnett's swan song in Evanston. Randy Walker was the head coach from 1999 through 2005 and Pat Fitzgerald just finished his first season as head coach. Barnett's final season was pretty bad, as was Walker's first season. Then just like they had done half a decade before, Northwestern had an inexplicably good season in 2000 (tying for the Big 10 title). The Wildcats struggled through two more down seasons before beginning a three-year run of improvement that culminated with a bowl big in 2005. The team regressed in 2006 partly because the 2005 team was quite lucky (4-1 in close games) and partly because of a sudden, tragic death.

Best SDPI Finish: 3rd (2000)

Ohio State

John Cooper is responsible for the first three seasons and Jim Tressel the last six. Looking back, its clear the Buckeyes made a good choice in hiring Tressel, but its clear if Cooper was to be fired, it should have been after the 1999 season. Ironically, Ohio State's national championship team has the second lowest conference SDPI of Tressel's six season. The reason for this is the 2002 team's incredible lack of dominance. They amazingly won seven of their 14 games by seven points or less. Luckeyes would be a more apropos name.

First Place SDPI Finishes: 1998, 2005, and 2006

Penn State

Joe Pa has led the Penn State program since 1966. In the BCS era, his teams have occasionally had a tough go of it. His Nittany Lions have been below average four times in nine seasons. However, in those four seasons, they were never really terrible. They were 4-4 in conference play in both 2000 and 2001, but failed to qualify for a bowl game either season thanks to a non-conference schedule that included games against Toledo (10-1) and at Pitt (7-5) in 2000 and a home date with eventual national champion Miami (12-0) and a trip to Virginia to close 2001. If they had played more Louisiana-Monroe's or Middle Tennessee's, instead of those challenging non-conference games their bowl streak would not have been interrupted. Until 2003 and 2004 when they were a combined 3-13 in conference games. However, that record is deflated by a 1-6 record in close conference games over those two seasons. A little better luck, and the Nittany Lions would have been a middle-of-the-pack team and not a cellar dweller.

Best SDPI Finish: 2nd (1999, 2002, and 2005)


Joe Tiller and his spread offense have revived the Purdue program since arriving in West Lafayette from Wyoming in 1997. Amazingly, Purdue has been below average only twice in the BCS era. Not bad for a program that had not posted a winning record in the twelve previous seasons before is arrival. Here's an interesting fact I stumbled upon while examining Purdue's performance under Tiller, and another point in the entry into the vagaries of winning close games. In Tiller's first five seasons (97-01) his teams posted a 14-11 (.560) record in close games. That solid record in close games, especially in 2000 (3-2 overall and 3-1 in conference play) helped the Boilers win a Big 10 title. In his five most recent seasons, his teams have compiled a 13-17 (.433) record in close games. Included in than span are the 2002 and 2004 seasons when Purdue went a combined 5-11 (4-8 in conference play) in close games. Despite being one of the better teams in the Big 10 both seasons, the Boilers only managed to go 14-11 overall (8-8 in the Big 10).

Best SDPI Finish: 2nd (1998)


Occasionally great, usually solid, rarely bad. That's been the modus operandi for the Badgers, first under Barry Alvarez and then under Bret Bielema. The Badgers only legitimately poor season came in 2001. They did finish below average and 2-6 in Big 10 play in 2002, but that was primarily due to a 1-4 record in close conference games.

First Place SDPI Finishes: 1999

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Historical SDPI: The Pac-10

After running the SDPI numbers for all 11 conferences in 2006, I thought it would be an interesting sojourn through recent football history to look back at SDPI for the six BCS conferences throughout the entirety of the BCS era (98-06). It also gives me an excuse to add some pretty little graphs to the site. Don't know what SDPI is? Click here for an answer. Remember, its performance, not achievement, so years with the highest win totals may not actually be a certain team's best season. And its also only conference play, so any non-conference action, championship games, and bowl game are excluded. We'll continue with a look at the Pac-10. After each team's graph, there is a paragraph of commentary followed by the number of first place SDPI finishes or if there are no such finishes, the highest SDPI finish.


Dick Tomey
is responsible for the years 1998-2000. 2001-2003 was the John Mackovic disaster, and since 2004 Mike Stoops has been in charge. The BCS era began quite well for Arizona as the Wildcats finished 1998 with a 12-1 record. They slipped to 6-6 and 5-6 the next two seasons (3-5 in Pac-10 play both years) and Dick Tomey was let go. Nevermind his track record of consistent success at Hawaii and Arizona. In came John Mackovic, who proceeded to win a grand total of four conference games in his three seasons. Next up was Mike Stoops who has steadily improved the program each season and now has the Wildcats back to mediocrity. Of course, that's where they were six years ago when Tomey was let go. While the Wildcats have been wandering through the desert in search of the promised land, Tomey has gone on to resurrect his third moribund program, this time at San Jose State.

Best SDPI Finish: 2nd (1998)

Arizona State

Bruce Snyder is responsible for the first three seasons and Dirk Koetter the last six. In all nine seasons, the Sun Devils have been neither very good, nor very bad. Ironically, even in their 9-3 season (5-3 in Pac-10 play), the Sun Devils were outscored by their conference opponents. Primarily because in two of their three conference losses, they were outscored by a combined 72-7 (by Southern Cal and Cal).

Best SDPI Finish: 4th (2000 and 2005)


From zero to respectability in...Jeff Tedford. The combined size and swiftness of the turnaround make it one of the most impressive in college football history. In 2001, Cal was awful--1-10 overall and 0-8 in Pac-10 play. They were a legitimate 0-8 too. They were over three standard deviations below average in conference play. The 9th place team (Arizona) was only about one and a half standard deviations below average. The next season, Cal was 7-5 (4-4) in conference play and had an above average SDPI. Two years later, Cal was the best team in the Pac-10. They have remained near the top of the standings since. They have not finished worse than third in SDPI since Tedford's first season (a pair of second place finishes, and a bronze medal to go along with the first and fourth place finishes previously mentioned).

First Place SDPI Finishes: 2004


Mike Bellotti has been the head man for the duration of the BCS era for Oregon (he took over for Rich Brooks in 1995). The Ducks are the only member of the old guard (Pac-10 powers in the late 1990's and early 2000's) to compete for conference titles in the latter part of this decade. Neither Washington, Stanford, nor Arizona have finished higher than fourth in SDPI since 2001. After winning the Pac-10 and nearly playing for the national title in 2001, the Ducks went into a mini-three-year swoon where they were below average (but not terrible each season). They rebounded in 2005 and finished second in the Pac-10 standings and in SDPI despite the loss of quarterback Kellen Clemens. They regressed back to about average in 2006, but remain a threat in the Pac-10.

First Place SDPI Finishes: 2001

Oregon State

Four years are of Dennis Erickson are sandwiched between one year of Mike Riley and four years of...Mike Riley. When Riley left for the NFL after a successful (by Oregon State standards) 5-6 season in 1998, he was replaced by Dennis Erickson. Under Erickson, the program reached unimaginable heights, winning the schools first conference championship (tie) since 1964 in 2000, and coming within three points of an undefeated regular season. When Erickson left for the NFL following the 2002 season, Riley was immediately welcomed back. Since taking over for Erickson, Riley has consistently fielded solid teams (the Beavers have been above average three out of his five seasons), but has yet to return the program to the heights reached under Erickson. However, even a quick glance at the above graph reveals Oregon State's historic 2000 season was an outlier in Erickson's tenure as they were never more than one standard deviation above average during his other three seasons at the school. Riley's winning percentage at Oregon State is a rather pedestrian .528 (38-34). However, besides Erickson, he is the only Oregon State coach to have a winning record at the school since Tommy Protho. The other five coaches (excluding Erickson) who preceded him had a combined winning percentage of .282 (95-247-7).

First Place SDPI Finishes: 2000

Southern Cal

Since taking over for Paul Hackett in 2001, Pete Carroll has certainly awoken the sleeping giant that was Trojan football. Southern Cal did win or share six Pac-10 championships between 1980 and 2000, a number almost any other program would be more than happy with. However, in his six seasons, Carroll has won or shared five Pac-10 titles (five in a row). While the Trojans managed just a 6-6 record in Carroll's inaugural season, his team outscored it's opponents by 91 points and had a Pythagorean Record of 8.44-3.56. They were beset by a 2-5 record in close games (decided by seven points or less) and were actually the second best team in the conference behind Oregon. If I had been calculating SDPI five years ago, maybe their rise wouldn't have been so shocking.

First Place SDPI Finishes: 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2006


While Tyrone Willingham may have been a bad fit for Notre Dame, anyone who questions his coaching acumen need only look at what has happened to Stanford when he departed after the 2001 season. Since his departure, the Cardinal have gone 10-30 in Pac-10 play and not had an SDPI finish better than -0.82. In Willingham's four seasons featured in this analysis (he was actually there for three additional seasons not included here), his teams went 19-13 in conference play with two seasons where his teams were more than one standard deviation above average. Oh and he won a Pac-10 and SDPI title in 1999.

First Place SDPI Finishes: 1999


Bob Toledo is responsible for the first five seasons and Karl Dorrell the last four. Besides the first two seasons, when UCLA was one of the best and then one of the worst teams in the Pac-10, they have been consistently about average the past seven seasons. During those seven years, they have gone 30-27 in conference play and have finished 4-4 four times and 5-4 once. Interestingly, in their best season record-wise in that span (2005) when they were 10-2 (6-2 in Pac-10 play), they were actually outscored in conference play and had a negative SDPI. Not surprisingly, the team improved its performance in 2006, but its record declined.

First Place SDPI Finishes: 1998


After beginning the new decade with a fantastic season, culminating with a Rose Bowl win over an over matched Purdue team, the Huskies have finished below average every season in Pac-10 play since. That Huskie team also delivered Miami it's only loss over a 40-game span. If not for their five-point win over the Canes in September of 2000, Miami could have conceivably been aiming for its 3rd consecutive national title in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl. Say what you will about Rick Neuheisel and his knowledge (or lack thereof) of gambling on amateur events, but the man was the glue holding the Huskies together. Since his departure, the Huskies have gone from mediocre to terrible. Things may be changing though, as Tyrone Willingham's teams have shown improvements in each of his two seasons on the job.

Best SDPI Finish: 2nd (1999 and 2000)

Washington State

This graph begins in 1998, the season after Washington State's surprising run to the Rose Bowl behind Ryan Leaf. The Cougars would suffer through three straight desolate seasons (three consecutive cellar SDPI finishes and a 3-21 conference record) before rebounding in 2001. This time the Cougars were quarterbacked by Jason Gesser. Although he went undrafted, his pro career was probably marginally better than Leaf's. Head coach Mike Price left for Alabama following the 2002 season (when the Cougs actually won the conference tiebreaker over Southern Cal). He famously never got to coach a game for the Tide. He was replaced by Bill Doba. Washington State remained strong in 2003 before falling off in 2004. They improved in 2006 and were approaching an average team. 2007 will go a long way in determining the fortunes of both Doba and the Washington State program. The seat couldn't be much warmer.

Best SDPI Finish: 2nd (2002)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Historical SDPI: The SEC

After running the SDPI numbers for all 11 conferences in 2006, I thought it would be an interesting sojourn through recent football history to look back at SDPI for the six BCS conferences throughout the entirety of the BCS era (98-06). It also gives me an excuse to add some pretty little graphs to the site. Don't know what SDPI is? Click here for an answer. Remember, its performance, not achievement, so years with the highest win totals may not actually be a certain team's best season. And its also only conference play, so any non-conference action, championship games, and bowl game are excluded. We'll continue with a look at the SEC. After each team's graph, there is a paragraph of commentary followed by the number of first place SDPI finishes or if there are no such finishes, the highest SDPI finish.


Mike Dubose was the head man for the first three seasons featured here, taking the Tide to an SEC Championship in 1999. The 2000 squad that got him fired (and finished 3-8) was not nearly as bad as their record would indicate. They were a tough luck 0-3 in close games and played only one team, Vanderbilt (3-8), that finished with a losing record. Consequently, his successor, Dennis Franchione, was hardly stepping into a deplorable situation. After a 3-5 start in his inaugural season (2001), the Tide won their last four games, included amongst them a 24-point throttling of arch-rival Auburn and an exciting 14-13 Independence Bowl win over Iowa State. In Franchione's second and final season at Alabama, the Tide were actually the best team in the SEC, but thanks to probation were ineligible for postseason play. He left for what he thought were greener pastures at College Station following the 2002 season and was replaced by Mike Shula. For most of his tenure, Shula fielded average teams that were beset by terrible luck. His 2003 team was 0-6 in close games, the 2004 squad was 0-3, and his final team in 2006 was 3-5. In between he had a stroke of good luck as the 2005 Tide went 3-1 in close games in rout to a Cotton Bowl win.

First Place SDPI Finishes: 2002

Best Non-Probation SDPI Finish: 4th (1999 and 2005)


Houston Nutt has been the head man for all nine seasons pictured. Until 2006, his best season was his first, as the Hogs were merely one stumble away from playing for the SEC Championship and derailing Tennessee's national title hopes. In the years between 1998 and 2006, Nutt kept the Hogs competitive in the SEC. They were never very much above or below average save for 2000 when they were roughly only the 10th best team in the SEC. They finished 3-5 in conference play, not winning any game by more than 11 points, but still qualified for a bowl with thanks mostly to a non-conference slate consisting of Missouri State, Boise State, and Louisiana-Monroe. If the Hogs were much worse than their final record in 2000, they were much better in both 2004 and 2005. The Hogs were a combined 9-13 over those two seasons (5-11 in SEC play), but most of that is due to a 1-7 record in close games (1-6 in SEC play).

Best SDPI Finish: 2nd (2006)


Terry Bowden and Bill Oliver share culpability for the 1998 season and Tommy Tuberville has been in charge for every season beginning in 1999 when he came over from division rival Ole Miss. Bowden struggled a bit in his first and third seasons, but has had the Tigers above average every other season. The Auburn program is certainly in much better shape than it was when Tuberville first arrived. After surviving the attempted palace coup in 2003, Tuberville had his best teams, going a combined 15-1 in SEC play in 2004 and 2005.

First Place SDPI Finishes: 2004 and 2005


Care to guess which seasons Steve Spurrier is responsible for? The decline of the program once Spurrier departed is really quite amazing. Perhaps Urban Meyer will return the Gators to consistent SEC title threat, but the 2006 season, despite it's ultimate finish should be seen for what it was. The Gators could just as easily have been playing in the Outback or Capital One Bowl if one or two breaks didn't go their way. The BCS Championship Game is one point in Florida's favor that they were the best team (and a large point). However, the one point win over Tennessee, the one point win over South Carolina, the five point win over Vanderbilt, a pair of seven point wins over Georgia and Florida State, and the loss at Auburn are counterpoints in that argument.

First Place SDPI Finishes: 2000 and 2001


Since taking over for Jim Donnan in 2001, Mark Richt has turned the Dawgs into a consistent threat to win the SEC Championship. While he has yet to have the best team in the conference, he has finished worse than 3rd only once, in 2006. In his other five seasons at the helm, Georgia has finished 2nd three times and 3rd twice.

Best SDPI Finish: 2nd (2002, 2003, and 2004)


Hal Mumme is the coach for the first three seasons, Guy Morriss the next two, and Rich Brooks the last four. Mumme, with his air raid attack, guided the Wildcats to middling seasons in 1998 and 1999, guiding them to bowl appearances in both seasons. The bottom fell out in 2000 and Mumme was replaced by Guy Morriss. Kentucky's decline in 2000 has a lot to do with what I like to theorize as 'The Rule of 4'. It's pretty intuitive: Only four teams in a given division at any one time can hope to have a successful season in leagues with two divisions. In 2000, South Carolina rose from their doormat status and became a solid SEC team. With Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee remaining strong, Kentucky had nowhere to go but down. The lone exception in my perusing of recent standings would be the SEC in 2006. Incidentally, don't be fooled by Kentucky's 2006 team. They really weren't that good. A beneficial intra-division schedule and some good luck got them to bowl eligibility. But I digress. The Wildcats improved in Morriss' first season and were even better in his second, nearly becoming a league average team and finishing with a winning record, but no bowl bid thanks to probation. If not for the LSU miracle, the Cats would have doubled up their loss total and finished 8-4. Coincidentally or not, the Cats unexpected rise coincided with a decline in Columbia keeping the Rule of 4 in equilibrium. Morriss left for Baylor after the season and was replaced by Rich Brooks. The Cats fell off a bit in 2003, then bottomed out in 2004. They have improved incrementally in the succeeding two seasons. They may improve performance-wise in 2007, but don't expect an uptick in their conference record. They are not an SEC East sleeper.

Best SDPI Finish: 8th (1998 and 2002)


Nick Saban's five season run on the Bayou is sandwiched between two from Gerry DiNardo and two from Les Miles. DiNardo fielded an average team in 1998 and then promptly ran the program into the ground in 1999 at which point he was fired. Saban immediately improved the Tigers' his first season and they held steady as an average to above average SEC team his first three seasons. Then in his fourth, they made the leap to conference power, and won a national title along the way. The team has remained strong under Les Miles and actually had their best conference season in the BCS era in 2006.

First Place SDPI Finishes: 2003 and 2006


Tommy Tuberville is responsible for the first season, David Cutcliffe the next six and Ed Orgeron the last two. While the program had its share of ups and downs under Cutcliffe (it was at least one standard deviations above and below average twice), it also enjoyed its greatest recent success under him. Firing him just one season removed from a 7-1 conference record does not make a great deal of sense especially when you consider the caliber of programs the Rebs must contend with in the SEC West--Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and Arkansas all have equal or greater tradition, both recent and contemporary than Ole Miss. Hell, even Mississippi State has played in an SEC Championship Game. The Rebs have not won a conference title in over 40 years (1963). Orgeron may still do great things on the Grove, I'm all for giving new coaches a chance, but firing Cutcliffe was definitely the wrong move.

Best SDPI Finish: 4th (2003)

Mississippi State

The fall for Mississippi State has hard and it was fast. In 1998, Jackie Sherrill's charges won the SEC West and participated in the SEC Championship Game. It was the schools first conference title of any kind since 1941. The next season Mississippi State won ten games and in 2000, the Bulldogs doubled up their losses by going 8-4. The Bulldogs performance actually declined each season, but even the most pessimistic Bulldog fan could not have foreseen the impending collapse. In 2001, the Bulldogs dipped to 3-8 (2-6 in SEC play). They were bad (more than one and a half standard deviations below average), but they were also unlucky going 2-5 in close games (2-4 in close conference games). With that in mind, 2001 could easily be seen as a small bump in the road, especially considering Jackie Sherrill's track record at the school, which included six bowl appearances and seven winning seasons in eleven years up to that point. It wasn't a bump in the road. It was a major blowout that forced the Bulldog bandwagon to careen into oncoming traffic where they were T-boned by their conference rivals. Mississippi State won three games again in 2002, but they were much worse. They were 0-8 in SEC play, with the closest loss a seven point defeat to Arkansas. They lost every other conference game by at least twelve points and their three wins were over Troy (4-8), Memphis (3-9), and Jacksonville State (non-IA). Then the roof collapsed in 2003. The Bulldogs did win one conference game (a 30-21 decision over a 2-10 Vanderbilt team), but they were nowhere near competitive in their seven SEC losses. Every SEC loss was by at least 25 points and six were by at least 30. Sherrill and Mississippi State parted ways after the 2003 season and Sylvester Croom was brought in to replace him. The team improved under Croom from awful to merely bad in 2004, but they have been merely been treading water since.

Best SDPI Finish: 3rd (1999)

South Carolina

1998 marks the end of the Brad Scott era in Columbia. The team was bad, going 1-10 and losing their final ten games after a season opening win over Ball State. Still, Scott does own the distinction of being the head coach when the Gamecocks won their first bowl game in 1994. Lou Holtz took over for the 1999 season, and before he raised the program in 2000, he razed the program in 1999. That 1999 team finished 0-11. The defense while not good by any means, was close to adequate. They allowed 25.27 point per game (27 per game in conference play). The offense on the other hand, was simply atrocious. They scored 87 points in eleven games. The 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers, one of the best college football teams (probably the best) of the past quarter-century, scored over 70 twice and over 60 four times. South Carolina was shut out twice, held to single digits six times, and scored more than ten points only twice (with a high of 21 in the season finale against arch-rival Clemson). The Gamecocks immediately improved in the two subsequent seasons, posting consecutive Outback Bowl wins over Ohio State in 2000 and 2001. It looked like the Gamecocks were hatching into an SEC power at the turn of the century, but that was not to be. The team slumped in 2002 and 2003, finishing over one standard deviation below average both seasons, before improving to league average in 2004. Holtz left after the 2004 season, and Steve Spurrier took the spurs. Both Spurrier's teams have been about league average with his 2006 team actually besting the 2005 squad in terms of performance, but not conference record, thanks to a better record in close conference games in 2005 (4-1 in 2005 versus 1-4 in 2006).

Best SDPI Finish: 4th (2000)


Tennessee has the distinction of being one of only two SEC teams (Florida is the other) to be above average every season in the BCS era. That should give Phil Fulmer some pull at his next contract negotiation. Cue the Imperial March. The Vols have been at least one standard deviation above average six times in nine seasons (again tied for most with Florida). I'm not a Tennessee fan per se, but the 2004 incarnation does hold a special place in my heart as it was the inspiration and subject of my very first blog post. Like Tom Petty famously sang, even the losers get lucky sometime.

First Place SDPI Finishes: 1998 and 1999


Woody Widenhofer was the is the head coach for the first four seasons and Bobby Johnson for the last five. Woody's tenure at Vanderbilt was a far cry from his successful run as a linebackers coach and defensive coordinator for the Steel Curtain in the 1970's. His successor, Bobby Johnson, is notable both because he was at the helm for the best season in Vanderbilt's recent history and for his uncanny resemblance to 'The Jerk'.

Best SDPI Finish: 9th (2005)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Historical SDPI: The Big 12

After running the SDPI numbers for all 11 conferences in 2006, I thought it would be an interesting sojourn through recent football history to look back at SDPI for the six BCS conferences throughout the entirety of the BCS era (98-06). It also gives me an excuse to add some pretty little graphs to the site. Don't know what SDPI is? Click here for an answer. Remember, its performance, not achievement, so years with the highest win totals may not actually be a certain team's best season. And its also only conference play, so any non-conference action, championship games, and bowl game are excluded. We'll continue with a look at the Big 12. After each team's graph, there is a paragraph of commentary followed by the number of first place SDPI finishes or if there are no such finishes, the highest SDPI finish.


It has not been a pretty run in the Big 12 for the Bears. In fact there have been very few bright spots since Grant Teaff left in 1992. In the BCS era, Dave Roberts (1998) begot Kevin Steele (1999-2002) who begot Guy Morriss (2003-current). The Bears have finished last in SDPI five times in nine seasons and second to last three more times. Morris has done an admirable job, nearly getting Baylor to bowl-eligibility in 2005, but even then they finished ahead of only a rebuilding Oklahoma State team in the SDPI rankings.

Best SDPI Finish: 10th (1998)


Whether or not you agree with the decision to fire Gary Barnett based on his misogyny, general douche-baggary, ridiculous play calls, or lack of institutional control, its pretty clear the program was slipping under his watch. His four Big 12 North Division titles in five years have more to do with luck (SDPI ranks Colorado behind Nebraska in 2001, Kansas State in 2002 and Iowa State in 2005) and a supreme concentration of power in the Big 12 South (4-4 won the North Division in 2004 and 5-3 turned the trick in 2005) than any football Renaissance in Boulder. After a disappointing first year under Dan Hawkins, look for the Buffs to rebound in 2007.

Best SDPI Finish: 3rd (2002)

Iowa State

The Cyclones have certainly run the gamut in the Dan McCarney era, finishing last three times, but also as high as second. If the Cyclones manage to permanently turn the corner under Gene Chizik, hopefully McCarney's contributions will still be remembered. It's unfortunate the Cyclones happened to have terrible luck during their best season. In 2005, they were the second best team in the Big 12, but thanks to an 0-3 record in close conference games, the Cyclones only managed a 4-4 conference record and missed out on a date in the Big 12 Championship Game.

Best SDPI Finish: 2nd--tied (2005)


After Glenn Mason's departure in the mid-1990's, Jayhawk football was more or less something to kill time before hoops season began. While Jayhawk football will certainly never attain the level of popularity the basketball team enjoys (heck, the inventor of the game coached there), it has seen distinct improvement in the five seasons Mark Mangino has been on the job. What he may lack in aesthetics, he has more than made up for in on-field performance. In fact, the Jayhawks just enjoyed their best season in the Big 12 in the BCS era. Don't be shocked if they are even better in 2007.

Best SDPI Finish: 7th (2006)

Kansas State

With my unabashed man-crush on Bill Snyder, it was good to relive the glory days of the Kansas State program in the late 1990's. For more on my infatuation click here. Clearly though, the program had slipped in his last few seasons at the helm. Ron Prince arrived in 2006 and the team promptly improved--slightly. The slight uptick in performance belies their rather large improvement in achievement (from two Big 12 wins to four). Keep that in mind when prospecting forward to 2007.

First Place SDPI Finishes: 1998, 1999, and 2002


Larry Smith is responsible for the first three seasons (1998-2000) and Gary Pinkel the last six. Smith guided the Tigers to their best season in the BCS era in 1998. Unfortunately, Mr. Smith lost a ton of talent to graduation following the 1998 season (including Corby Jones--a great college quarterback) and the Tigers won only one conference game in 1999. After another down season in 2000, Smith was canned and Pinkel was tabbed to replace him. Pinkel had previously coached at Toledo where he guided the Rockets to an undefeated season in 1995. In his six seasons at Missouri, the Tigers have been neither great nor terrible. That may change in 2007 as Pinkel probably has his best team yet at Missouri.

Best SDPI Finish: 4th (1998, 2003, and 2006)


Frank Solich kept the Huskers near the top of the college football world (though not quite the heights reached under Tom Osborne) for four seasons. The wheels came off in 2002, but Solich seemed to reverse the teams trajectory in 2003 before being fired despite a 10-3 record. Bill Callahan took over in 2005 and promptly guided the Huskers to their first losing season since 1961. The Huskers improved and were an average team in 2005. They improved yet again in 2006 and may be on their way to recovering their place in the Big 12 pecking order.

First Place SDPI Finishes: 2000


To Sooners' fans, Bob Stoops is the reason God made Oklahoma. Since mercifully ending the John Blake era following the 1998 season, Oklahoma has been at least one standard deviation better than their average conference brethren seven times in eight seasons.

First Place SDPI Finishes: 2003 and 2004

Oklahoma State

Bob Simmons is the coach for the first three seasons shown here, Les Miles the next four, and Mike Gundy the final two. After taking the Pokes to the Alamo Bowl in 1998, Simmons could not muster more than three conference wins in any of the three succeeding seasons. Once Miles came on board, the team immediately improved. Although they didn't qualify for a bowl game in his first season (2001) they did knock off their arch-rivals in Norman and end their national title aspirations. Following three consecutive bowl seasons, Miles left for the greener pastures of LSU and handed the reigns to Mike Gundy. In his first season, it appeared as if Gundy was pissing away all the progress made under Miles as the Pokes were the worst team in the Big 12 in 2005. Gundy and the Pokes bounced back in 2006, giving more credence to the notion that patience is crucial. Look out for the Pokes as a sleeper in the Big 12 South this season.

Best SDPI Finish: 5th (2002, 2004, and 2006)


Mack Brown is responsible for every season shown here. He came to Austin from Chapel Hill prior to the 1998 season, replacing John Mackovic after a disappointing 4-7 campaign in 1997. The graph shows an interesting pattern for Brown's Texas teams. His teams appear to peak over a four-year period, peaking in the fourth season, and then falling off a bit the following season. Be on the lookout for another Longhorn national title in 2009.

First Place SDPI Finishes: 2001, 2005, and 2006

Texas A&M

RC Slocum is responsible for the first five seasons and Dennis Franchione the last four. After participating in and winning the Big 12 Championship Game in 1998, Slocum's Aggies fell off a bit, but were still a solid Big 12 team; finishing below average only once. The decline is partly due to the resurrection of Big 12 South powers Texas and Oklahoma. Since the Aggies hired coach Fran to revive the program, he has yet to enjoy the heights reached by Slocum and has had two dreadful seasons in College Station. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to hire a coach whose got a lot of leavin' left to do.

Best SDPI Finish: 2nd (1998)

Texas Tech

Spike Dykes is responsible for the first two seasons and Mike Leach the last seven. Dykes had a good 13-year run in Lubbock, taking the Red Raiders to six bowl games (he coached the Red Raiders in seven because he took over prior to the Independence Bowl in 1986) before his ouster following the 1999 season. While he may not get the accolades a certain other money-sport coach in Lubbock enjoys, Leach has done a terrific job. The Red Raiders have won at least seven games each season, been above average in regards to SDPI every year save Leach's first, and steadily improved, peaking in 2004 and 2005. In addition, Leach has also led the Raiders to some memorable bowl wins: the dismantling of Clemson in 2002, the upset of a 10-win Cal team in 2004, and the improbable comeback against Minnesota in 2006.

Best SDPI Finish: 2nd--tied (2005)