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.

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