Monday, May 31, 2010

Mountain West Recap: 2005-2009

Two weeks ago we looked at the WAC, a league that has been dominated for the past 5 years by one team. Now we turn our attention to the Mountain West, a league that has been dominated by a mid-major triumvirate.

First off, here are the combined Mountain West standings from 2005-2009.As you can see, BYU, TCU, and Utah have dominated the league over the last half-decade. In fact, the only other team with a winning record in that span is Air Force. BYU is the only Mountain West school that has posted a winning conference record each season since 2005. Utah and TCU both suffered through 4-4 seasons, with Utah's coming in 2005 and TCU's in 2007. Outside of records posted by BYU, TCU, Utah, and Air Force, there have only been 3 other winning conference seasons. Colorado State went 5-3 in 2005, Wyoming went 5-3 in 2006, and New Mexico went 5-3 in 2007. Against all conference foes not named TCU and Utah, BYU is 29-1 since 2005. Against conference foes not named BYU and Utah, TCU is 28-2 since 2005. Against conference foes not named BYU and TCU, Utah is 23-7 since 2005. I'll do the math for you. Since 2005, BYU, TCU, and Utah are a combined 80-10 against the rest of the conference.

Now here is the standard deviation of each team's conference record (in wins). Teams are ranked from the most inconsistent to the least.Colorado State has been the league's most inconsistent team over the past 5 seasons. They finished the 2005 season with a 5-3 record, but immediately fell on hard times in 2006, dipping to 1-7. They stayed near the bottom in 2007, finishing 2-6, before rebounding to post a 4-4 record in 2008. They then plummeted to the bottom of the standings once again in 2009, finishing 0-8. This marks the lone winless league record since 2005. UNLV has been the league's most consistent team, winning just a single conference games for 3 straight seasons (2005-2007) before winning 2 in 2008 and 3 in 2009.

Now here is each team's point differential in conference play since 2005.BYU owns the league's best record, but TCU has been the most dominant team in the Mountain West over the past 5 seasons. The main reason BYU has the better record is thanks to their sterling record in close games. Both BYU and TCU have played 11 one-score league games since 2005. TCU owns a decent 6-5 record in those games, but BYU is 9-2 in such contests, having not lost a close game to a conference foe since 2005. On the other end of the spectrum are the Rebels from UNLV. As noted earlier, UNLV has lost the most conference games of any Mountain West team since 2005 (32). Even worse, more than 70% of their losses (23) have been by double-digits.

With this being the end of the decade, here's the tally of conference titles.I bet you forgot about Colorado State. The Rams won 2 titles, early in the decade (2000 and 2002), continuing their solid run from the mid-90's. In the 9-season span from 1994-2002, the Rams won or shared 6 conference titles in the WAC and Mountain West. However, since 2002, the league title has been won by either BYU, TCU, or Utah. Over the past 6 seasons, the Mountain West champion has emerged with an unblemished league record (Utah in 2004, TCU in 2005, BYU in 2006 and 2007, Utah in 2008, and TCU in 2009).

And finally, what was the biggest takeway from the 00 decade in the Mountain West?
I would have to say its the rise, at least at the top, to almost a BCS-caliber league. Case in point, in the past 6 seasons, at least one Mountain West conference team has finished in the top-20 of the final BCS standings. On 3 separate occasions (2004, 2008, and 2009) the league has placed a team in the final BCS top-10. And twice more (2008 and 2009), the league has placed 2 teams in the final BCS top-15.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mountain West SDPI

7 down, 4 to go. This week, we'll review what happened in the Mountain West in 2009, the second year in a row the mid-major league placed a team in a BCS Bowl.

This first paragraph will explain how SDPI is calculated. So if you want the meat of this article skip on down. In the 2009 Mountain West regular season, conference play only, the average Mountain West team gained and allowed 2901.67 yards. The standard deviation for yards gained (offense) was 502.05 yards. The standard deviation for yards allowed (defense) was 541.12 yards. BYU gained 3455 yards and allowed 2712 yards. Their offensive SDPI was 1.10 = [(3455-2901.67)/502.05]. Their defensive SDPI was 0.35 = [(2901.67-2712)/541.12)]. Their total SDPI was 1.45. This number ranked 2nd in the Mountain West.

To refresh your memory, here are the 2009 Mountain West standings.
Now here are the 2009 Mountain West SDPI standings. The standings are sorted by total SDPI with ranking for each category (out of 9 teams) in parentheses.At the top of the league, the actual standings line up pretty well with the SDPI standings. When we get to the middle though, things are a little scattered. Wyoming, which was statistically one of the worst teams in the league (just a shade better than UNLV), broke even in conference play and actually won a bowl game. Similarly, Colorado State and San Diego State were statistically the class of the conference outside of the top-4, but both combined to win only 2 league games, with the Rams actually going winless in league play. The culprit as usual, was close games and turnovers. Wyoming was 3-0 in one-score conference games, besting UNLV, San Diego State, and Colorado State by a combined 7 points. The Cowboys were also pretty successful in the turnover department, going +4 in conference play, good for 3rd in the league. Meanwhile, Colorado State lost all 3 of their one-score league games, falling to Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming by a combined 10 points. The Rams also finished -6 in turnover margin, tied for 2nd to last in the league. San Diego State did not fare quite as poorly in close games, going 1-2 against their Mountain West foes, but they had by far the worst turnover margin in conference play finishing at -12.

Conference Superlatives

Best Offense: TCU 2.03
The Horned Frogs seemed to get better as the year progressed. After averaging 435 yards and 34 points in their first 3 conference games, TCU cranked those numbers up to 523 yards and 49 points over their final 5. They also hit the infamous 'double nickel' twice in wins over San Diego State and Utah.

Worst Offense: Wyoming -1.35
The Cowboys averaged under 300 yards per game in league play (278) and were held below 250 yards 5 times. Not surprisingly, the Cowboys went 1-4 in those games.

Best Defense: TCU 1.96
In an amazing feat, no Mountain West team topped the 300-yard mark against TCU. BYU came the closest, gaining 298 yards in their 31-point home loss to the Frogs.

Worst Defense: UNLV -1.26
Save for a stellar showing against New Mexico, when they allowed a season low (vs IA teams) 287 yards, other Mountain West teams had an easy go of it. Their other 7 conference opponents averaged 471 yards against the Rebel defense.

What's in Store for Next Year?
The battle at the top in 2010 should look much the same as it has for the past several seasons. TCU, BYU, and Utah should battle for league supremacy. TCU and Utah have the edge over the Cougars who are losing both their starting quarterback, who has exhausted his eligibility, and their starting running back, who violated the school's honor code. Air Force is once again poised to be the 4th bets team in the Mountain West, though its not inconceivable for them to overtake BYU if they catch some breaks. With 4 bowl slots likely spoken for, which team is most likely to rise from the mire and qualify for the postseason? I'd say take your pick from San Diego State, Colorado State, and if you're feeling very lucky UNLV. San Diego State and Colorado State were much stronger than their wins and losses showed last season. San Diego State brings back more talent on offense, but the Rams bring back more on defense. While UNLV was statistically the worst team in the league last season, they made one of the better coaching hires in the offseason by luring Bobby Hauck away from Montana. While at Montana, Hauck led the Grizzlies to the playoffs in each of his 7 seasons, thrice taking them to the I-AA Championship Game. Of course, the last successful Montana coach to come to the Mountain West (Hauck's predecessor as Grizzlies coach, Joe Glenn) didn't exactly work out. Elsewhere, Wyoming seems poised to take a dip after achieving far more than their middling peripherals would indicate. And finally, at the bottom of the league, we have Los Lobos. It wasn't that long ago that New Mexico was the clear cut 4th fiddle in the league, finishing bowl eligible for 7 consecutive seasons from 2001-2007 under Rocky Long. However, the Lobos suffered through some poor luck and finished 4-8 in 2008. Then in 2009, they were just plain poor, winning only a single game and dropping to 1-11. Their SDPI numbers didn't suggest they were much better and with a new quarterback throwing to inexperienced receivers, 2010 doesn't offer much hope.

Monday, May 17, 2010

WAC Recap: 2005-2009

We've blitzed through the 6 BCS leagues thus far in our 5-year recaps, so now we move to the little guys. We'll start with the WAC, a league that has been dominated not only for the past 5 seasons, but also for the past decade by Boise State.

First off, here are the combined WAC standings from 2005-2009.Boise State is a robust 10 games clear of the the second best team since 2005. The largest gap between a first and second place team from the BCS conferences in this same span is 7 games (Ohio State over Penn State in the Big 10). Boise is also an amazing 33 games better than last place New Mexico State. Similarly, the largest gap between a first and last place team from the BCS conferences in this span is 27 games (Ohio State over Indiana in the Big 10 and Virginia Tech over Duke in the ACC). I guess what I'm trying to get at is that Boise has been really, really good against their league. Outside of Boise, the 3-team upper class of Nevada, Hawaii, and Fresno have performed very well. If we remove games against each other (and Boise), those 3 teams are a combined 64-11 against the bottom 5 teams in the conference since 2005.

Now here is the standard deviation of each team's conference record (in wins). Teams are ranked from the most inconsistent to the least.Hawaii has been the most inconsistent team over the past 5 seasons. They have been great (8-0 in 2007), very good (7-1 in 2006), pretty good (5-3 in 2008), average (4-4 in 2005), and kinda bad (3-5 in 2009). Boise State has been the most consistent team in the conference, winning either 7 or 8 games in each season. New Mexico State has also been very consistent, albeit on the other end of the winning spectrum. The Aggies have rolled off 3 consecutive single win conference seasons.

Now here is each team's point differential in conference play since 2005.In an average conference game for Boise State over the past 5 seasons, the Broncos have won by a shade more than 25 points. Their scoring margin is nearly more than double that of the second best team. The scoring margins for the WAC teams line up identically with their position in the aggregate conference standings meaning no team has been exceptionally lucky or unlucky over the past 5 seasons.

With this being the end of the decade, here's the tally of conference titles.Boise State joined the WAC prior to the 2001 season. In 9 seasons of WAC football play, the Broncos have won 7 league titles (6 of them outright). Hawaii broke up their streak in 2007. Louisiana Tech captured the title in 2001, the Broncos first season of play in the WAC, and TCU (remember them?) won the WAC title in 2000 on the back of LaDainian Tomlinson. The Horned Frogs bolted the WAC after their league title and began playing in Conference USA before joining the Mountain West prior to the 2005 season.

And finally, what was the biggest takeway from the 00 decade in the WAC?
Without a doubt, its the dominance of Boise State. In 2001, the WAC opened its doors and allowed a relatively unknown school from Idaho into the fold. True, Boise State had posted consecutive 10-win seasons as a member of the Big West conference prior to joining the WAC, but its doubtful anyone could have envisioned what Boise would become by the end of the decade. Since joining the WAC, the Broncos have gone 102-15 overall, finished undefeated in the regular season 4 times, and won a pair of BCS bowl games. However, Boise's most impressive accomplishment since joining the WAC is their record at home against WAC foes. The Broncos have not lost a conference game at home, compiling a gaudy 36-0 record against the WAC. And with rare exceptions, they have not been challenged in doing so. The average home game against a WAC team has seen Boise score 50.1 points and their opponents score 15.8. Only thrice has a team come within one-score of Boise. Tulsa lost by 7 in 2003, Hawaii fell by 7 in 2006, and Nevada came the closest in 2007, losing by 2 in a 4 overtime classic (on a Sunday night no less). When a WAC team comes to Boise, rest assured, the lumber will be laid.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


We've exhausted our coverage of the big boys in our sojourn through the 2009 college football season. Now we move on to the mid-major leagues. We'll start with examining the WAC, home of the biggest household name outside of the BCS leagues--Boise State.

This first paragraph will explain how SDPI is calculated. So if you want the meat of this article skip on down. In the 2009 WAC regular season, conference play only, the average WAC team gained and allowed 3315.33 yards. The standard deviation for yards gained (offense) was 765.77 yards. The standard deviation for yards allowed (defense) was 342.31 yards. Fresno St gained 3393 yards and allowed 3391 yards. Their offensive SDPI was 0.10 = [(3393-3315.33)/765.77]. Their defensive SDPI was -0.22 = [(3315.33-3391)/342.31]. Their total SDPI was -0.12. This number ranked 5th in the WAC.

To refresh your memory, here are the 2009 WAC standings.
Now here are the 2009 WAC SDPI standings. The standings are sorted by total SDPI with ranking for each category (out of 9 teams) in parentheses.Not surprisingly, Boise State rates out as the best team in the WAC, followed closely by Nevada. These numbers probably overrate Nevada a bit because they dominated the lesser teams on their schedule to such a degree. Unlike Boise, Nevada was unable to hang with the better teams they faced outside the WAC, losing to Notre Dame, Missouri, and SMU by a combined 80 points. The teams with the biggest discrepancies between the actual and SDPI standings are Louisiana Tech and Hawaii. The Bulldogs and Warriors ranked 3rd and 4th respectively in SDPI, yet both had identical 3-5 conference records. For Louisiana Tech, the culprit was close losses. 3 of their 5 losses came by a combined 5 points. In addition, their 3 conference wins all came by at least 21 points with an average margin of just over 31 points per game. For Hawaii, the culprit was turnovers. In league play, the Warriors boasted a turnover margin of -9, which was second to last. These turnovers (21 in league play) severely hampered their offense. Despite the fact that they finished 4th in the conference in yards gained, they were 7th in points scored.

Conference Superlatives

Best Offense: Nevada 1.41
Outside of their struggle (relatively speaking against Boise State), the Wolfpack curbstomped every other WAC team. They never gained fewer than 496 yards against another WAC foe and averaged over 573 yards in those other 7 games. They topped 600 yards in 3 of their 8 conference games.

Worst Offense: New Mexico St -1.87
The Aggies fielded perhaps the worst offense in all of Division IA. The Aggies peaked as an offense in their first game, when they rolled for 342 yards against Idaho. In their other 7 WAC games, they averaged 220 yards per game. And of course, who can forget their showing against Ohio State in Columbus, when they finished the game with 62 yards of total offense.

Best Defense: Boise State 1.69
As always, the Broncos do it with defense. Of course, that's not to say the Broncos were flawless on this end. Fresno State and Idaho both topped 500 yards against Boise. Fresno via the ground game (320 yards) and Idaho through the air (305 yards). In their other 6 conference games, Boise allowed their WAC foes an average of only 286 yards per game.

Worst Defense: New Mexico St -1.19
The Aggies pulled double duty at the bottom of the WAC. Their defense was not quite as bad as their offense (Idaho was was very close to them in terms of defensive ineptitude, while no one was close in terms of offensive performance), but that's damning with faint praise.

What's in Store for Next Year?
The race for first place in the WAC probably won't be very exciting. With a plethora of returning starters, Boise State looks poised to continue their dominance of the WAC. However, the race for second may end being quite contentious. Reigning silver medalist Nevada, returns 9 starters from the league's best offense and looks to continue Pistol-whipping their WAC foes. The biggest challenger to Nevada may end up being Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs featured the second best defense in the WAC last season, but in 2010 they may unveil the league's most improved offense. Not only did they acquire Sonny Dykes, who helped run the spread at Texas Tech and who revived a dormant offense at Arizona, to replace Derek Dooley as head coach, but they also pried noted spread aficionado Tony Franklin from Middle Tennessee State where he helped drastically improve the Blue Raider offense in just one season. Louisiana Tech was also better than their record would indicate last season, so look no further than Ruston, Louisiana for your 2010 WAC sleeper. Another school that could challenge Nevada is Hawaii. The Warriors were also better than their poor conference record last season and with quarterback Bryant Moniz gaining valuable experience last season, the offense should be able to put more points on the board in 2010. Fresno State has long had the reputation of an elite WAC team, but the Bulldogs only have the 4th best WAC record since 2005 (stay tuned for more on this next week). The bad news for Fresno is they lose 3 of their top-4 receivers as well as running back Ryan Matthews who led the nation in rushing yards per game and decided to forgo his senior season to enter the NFL draft. Like Fresno, another team likely to take a step back in 2010 is Idaho. The Vandals were one of the best stories of the 2009 college football season, racking up 8 wins after winning just 9 in the previous 4 seasons. Still, the Vandals were a little lucky, going 5-1 in one-score games, and they still bested only New Mexico State in terms of defensive acumen in WAC play. And speaking of the Vandals, if there is one team poised to make an Idaho-like jump from obscurity to the postseason, its Utah State. The Aggies had a very tough non-conference schedule last season, losing to Utah, BYU, and Texas A&M all on the road. Within the league, they rated out as the 7th best team, but were within shouting distance of 2 teams that qualified for bowl games (Idaho and Fresno State). 2010 will mark the senior campaign for one of the best unknown quarterbacks in the nation, Diondre Borel of Utah State. Borel threw 17 touchdown passes against just 4 interceptions last season, and could end up being the best quarterback in the league outside of Kellen Moore (Boise State) and Colin Kaepernick (Nevada) this season. The rear of the WAC should be brought up by San Jose State and New Mexico State. The Spartans are replacing Dick Tomey who did pretty good things in his 5 years at the school. Tomey took the Spartans to one bowl, and had them bowl eligible in another season. Unfortunately, he could never quite get the offense going, and its doesn't appear new coach Mike MacIntyre (former Duke defensive coordinator) will be able to do any better in his first season. DeWayne Walker had a pretty miserable first season as head coach of New Mexico State. Year 2 will likely be a little better, but the Aggies should still be one of the WAC's worst teams on both sides of the ball.

Monday, May 03, 2010

SEC Recap: 2005-2009

In our half-decade retrospective, we've looked at all 6 BCS conferences save one. It's time to see how things have gone down in the deep south over the past 5 seasons. Or as it may one day come to be known, the Urban Era.

First off, here are combined SEC standings from 2005-2009.The Gators have dominated the SEC since Urban Meyer started coaching them, racking up 3 SEC East titles in his 5 seasons as coach. Alabama has made quite a run in the past 2 seasons, winning 16 straight league games to move into 2nd place after a ho-hum 12-12 mark from 2005-2007. Florida and Alabama are the only 2 teams to have gone undefeated in league play since 2005. Alabama did it in 2008 and both teams accomplished the feat in 2009. Meanwhile, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt are the only 2 teams to go winless in league play in that same span. Ole Miss did not win a single SEC game in 2007 before rebounding to win 5 in 2008. Vandy went winless this past season.

Now here is the standard deviation of each team's conference record (in wins). Teams are ranked from the most inconsistent to the least.The most inconsistent teams in the SEC have all played out west. All 6 teams from the West have had both a losing conference record since 2005 and at least a .500 mark in league play as well. If we remove Mississippi State from the equation (the most consistent team in the West), the other 5 SEC West teams have all had at least one losing and one winning conference record. Contrast this to the SEC East, where only South Carolina and Tennessee have had both a losing and winning conference record since 2005.

Now here is each team's point differential in conference play since 2005.Florida's dominance reveals itself even more when we examine point differential. The Gators' differential of +544 (13.6 per game) is nearly equal to that of the 2nd and 3rd place teams combined (+568). The point differentials line up exactly with the conference standings until we get to the bottom. Vanderbilt has an almost identical point differential with Kentucky, yet trails them by 4 games in the standings. The Commodores also have a much greater point differential than Mississippi State, yet trail them by a game in the standings.

With this being the end of the decade, here's the tally of conference and division titles.Florida and LSU won 6 conference titles between them this decade and also 4 BCS national titles. Not a bad decade. What's even more amazing is that 2 different coaches for each team won a conference title, and in LSU's case a national title as well. As for division titles, every team that won a division title in the 2000s won at least 2. However, Tennessee and Arkansas were unable to make their SEC Championship Game appearances count, going a combined 0-5 in the big game in the Georgia Dome.

And finally, what was the biggest takeaway from the 00 decade in the SEC?
I'm inclined to say its how competitive Vanderbilt has become. In 8 seasons under Bobby Johnson, the Commodores are still an SEC bottom-feeder, having gone just 12-52 against the league since Johnson took over prior to the 2002 season. However, in the 8 seasons before Johnson's arrival, the Commodores won only 7 conference games. Johnson has nearly doubled that output in his tenure. He has also made the Commodores much more competitive as the table below illustrates.In 5 of Johnson's 8 season, the Commodores have posted a better conference point differential than they did in any season in the previous 8. Johnson made the Commodores relevant for 5 consecutive seasons beginning in 2004, and culminating with their first bowl bid in a quarter century in 2008. The team slipped a little in 2009, but their point differential would have been an average season for the team in the late 90's and early 00's. Vandy is no longer an assured win on any team's schedule.