Sunday, March 31, 2013

2013 Big East SDPI

I know March Madness is ramping up and the Final Four is almost set, but lets go back and remember the legends of this past fall. Our second SDPI recap focuses on the Big East, a conference in flux in both membership and nomenclature. To get you on the up and up, here is a link to last year's Big East post.

First here are the 2012 Big East standings.

And here are the 2012 Big East SDPI standings. The standings are sorted by total SDPI with ranking for each category (out of eight) in parentheses.
Things were pretty tight at the top of the Big East in the real standings (more on that later) and the SDPI ratings. Four teams tied for the conference crown while three teams finished at least one standard deviation above average.

So Who Was Better Than Their Record Showed?
The Pitt Panthers opened the season by losing at home to IAA Youngstown State in grisly fashion. They one-upped that performance by opening conference play with three consecutive losses (to three of the four co-champions), but rebounded to win three of their final four conference games (all by at least three touchdowns) and give unbeaten Notre Dame a real challenge in South Bend. The Panthers were dominant over the final half of the Big East season, but theat performance could not make up for the huge hole they dug for themselves.

So Who Was Worse Than Their Record Showed?
Louisville is the easy answer here. The Cardinals were hardly a top-15 team, but an easy schedule, a 6-1 record in one-score games (3-1 in the Big East), and a bowl upset will have this team drastically overrated heading into 2013. Temple was also much worse than their record. While the Owls managed just two wins in their return to the Big East, things could have easily been much worse. Their two wins came by a combined twelve points, while their five losses came by 125 points.

Conference Superlatives:

Best Offense: Syracuse 1.46
Behind senior quarterback Ryan Nassib, the Orange won their second bowl game in three seasons and tied for the league crown. The job this team did in winning eight games cannot be understated. Of their thirteen games, twelve were against teams from BCS conferences and eight were against teams that qualified for bowl games.

Worst Offense: Temple -1.09
The Owls began conference play by racking up 37 points in a home win over South Florida. Over their final six conference games, they averaged just 15.2 points per game.

Best Defense: Pitt 1.31
In their 0-3 start against the three best offenses in the conference, the Panthers allowed 410 yards and 31 points per game. When the competition eased up, the Panthers put the clamps down, allowing just 248 yards and 12.5 points per game over their 3-1 finishing kick.

Worst Defense: Temple -1.74
The Owls were miserable over their final four league contests, allowing 496 yards per game.

More Ties than a Board Room and The World Cup Combined
The Big East accomplished something pretty special in 2012. Four teams, or exactly half of its membership, shared the league championship. Louisville, Cincinnati, Rutgers, and Syracuse all finished with identical 5-2 records. This was historic for several reasons. It marked the third consecutive year there has been at least a three-way tie atop the standings. In 2010, Connecticut, Pitt, and West Virginia all finished 5-2 with the Huskies, by far the worst of the three teams claiming the league's BCS bid thanks to having beaten both the Panthers and Mountaineers. In 2011, Cincinnati, Louisville, and West Virginia all finished 5-2 with a perfect rock/paper/scissors round robin result (Cincinnati beat Louisville who beat West Virginia who beat Cincinnati). West Virginia won the tiebreaker thanks to their loftier BCS ranking and annihilated Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Not only was this the third straight year the Big East had a mess at the top of the standings, but it was also just the second time in the BCS era (since 1998) that four teams finished tied atop the standings in a BCS conference. Care to guess when the other time was? It was another year of transition for the Big East conference. Miami and Virginia Tech pulled a Clarence Carter and slipped away to the ACC. Boston College was set to join them. The Big East had added Connecticut and was in the process of adding Cincinnati, Louisville, and South Florida whilst giving Temple the boot. Yes, 2004 was a strange time. The league had just seven teams, but amazingly, four teams (Boston College, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and West Virginia) all shared the league crown. In 2013, neither of those four teams will be members of the Big East. Look back with awe and reverence on the 2012 Big East. With the ACC, Big 10, Pac-12, and SEC all playing championship games, and the Big East set to follow suit in the near future, it may be a long time before we see another four-way tie in a major conference.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


We're back! After a brief hiatus, our offseason tour through each of the eleven IA football conferences has returned. For those who don't know what SDPI is, here is the Reader's Digest synopsis. SDPI measures how many standard deviations a team is above or below average at gaining and preventing yards. Since conference play occurs in a vacuum, teams are rated against their conference mates and not against the nation at large. We'll begin with a look at the ACC. Here is a link to last year's ACC post.

First here are the 2012 ACC standings.
And here are the 2012 ACC SDPI standings. The standings are sorted by division by total SDPI with ranking for each category (out of 12 teams) in parentheses.

The top of the ACC played out according to the SDPI ratings. Florida State and Clemson were the only two teams that finished with a total SDPI rating over 1.00. Perhaps not surprisingly, those two teams combined to go 14-2 in league play, and an even more impressive 13-1 when not facing each other (the lone loss came by a single point when the Seminoles visited NC State). Six of Florida State's seven league wins came by at least a touchdown and Clemson won all their conference games by double-digits. While the cream of the ACC resided on the Atlantic, the Coastal was more balanced. Teams ranked three through six by the SDPI metric were all housed in the Coastal. While the Atlantic and Coastal notched an even 9-9 record in the intra-division games, the four Atlantic teams outside of Florida State and Clemson were just 3-9 against their Coastal foes.

So Who Was Better Than Their Record Showed?
One season after winning five ACC games, the Virginia Cavaliers only manged to win a quarter of their contests in 2012. The Cavaliers lost three games by a touchdown or less and were in the red in turnover margin in all six of their conference losses. In the lone conference game where they won the turnover battle, Virginia dominated NC State in Raleigh 33-6.

So Who Was Worse Than Their Record Showed?
Duke won three games in the conference and qualified for their first bowl game since the Super NES and Sega Genesis were the consoles of choice. However, after winning their first two conference games (against Virginia and Wake Forest), the Blue Devils lost five of their final six and were outscored by 130 points in those contests. The Blue Devils also posted an in-conference best turnover margin of +10 and still managed just three wins. Of their six overall wins, only the home win over North Carolina (that clinched bowl eligibility) can be considered quality. Miami gets an honorable mention here as well. While the Hurricanes technically won the Coastal, and would have played in the ACC Championship Game if not for their self-imposed sanctions, they featured the second-worst defense in the conference and were fortunate to win five games in the league.

Conference Superlatives:

Best Offense: Clemson 1.54
For the second-consecutive year, the Tigers paced the ACC in offense. The Tigers gained at least 426 yards in every ACC game except one and twice went over 700 yards of total offense.

Worst Offense: Wake Forest -1.53
The Deacons opened league play with an impressive 426-yard effort in an upset of North Carolina. The Deacons would top 400 yards just once more in conference play, while being held below 300 yards five times.

Best Defense: Florida State 1.95
Clemson was the lone ACC team to eclipse 400 yards of total offense against the Seminoles.

Worst Defense: Duke -1.44
Wake Forest was the only ACC team not to eclipse 400 yards of total offense against the Blue Devils.

Is Florida State Back (For Real)?
Any preseason magazine that came out from say 2004 to 2010 absolutely declared that this was finally the year Florida State returned to the national elite. For the most part, those magazines were pretty wrong. In the twilight of the Bobby Bowden era, Florida State went from being the beast of the ACC and a national contender, to a middling ACC team that once lost three consecutive games to Wake Forest. The Seminoles finished the season ranked in the top-5 of the final AP Poll an incredible 14 consecutive times from 1987 to 2000. However, until the past season (a span of 12 years), the Seminoles did not finish in the AP top-10. With their first top-10 finish since the turn of the century, I think its fair to ask the question: Is Florida State really back? To answer that question, I decided to look at a few different metrics from the end of the Bowden era through the first three years of the Jimbo Fisher era that are summarized in the following table. 'Final AP' is pretty self-explanatory--it is the final ranking of the team in the AP Poll. 'Adj Pythag' is a metric of my own creation that takes touchdowns scored and touchdowns allowed within conference play and makes an estimation at the number of games a team would be expected to win. The number in parentheses is the conference rank for that particular year. Finally, 'SRS' stands for Simple Rating System and in a rudimentary way attempts to relay how many points above or below average a team is. The number in parentheses is the national rank for that particular year.

There is no doubt the Seminoles have improved after putting the old figurehead out to pasture. Florida State has finished the season ranked in the AP Poll for three consecutive years after finishing unranked in three of Bowden's final five seasons. The Seminoles have also consistently been among the best teams in the ACC during Fisher's brief tenure, ranking either first or second in Adjusted Pythagorean Record. Finally, the Seminoles have finished in the top-20 of the SRS for three consecutive years after accomplishing this just once in Bowden's final five seasons. While they may not be the devourer of worlds they were in the late-90's, the Seminoles have at least returned to a state of contention, both in the ACC and nationally.