We head to the heartland of America this week and examine the Big 10. Here are the Big 10 standings.
Northwestern) and very (Michigan State) disappointing 2016 campaigns by coming through in the clutch. Michigan State and Northwestern combined to go 8-1 in one-score conference games with the Spartans (5-1) consistently edging their opponents. In fact, the lone close loss between these two came in their October matchup when the Wildcats upset the Spartans in triple overtime. Outside of that game, the teams combined for a perfect 7-0 record in one-score conference games. The Spartans and Wildcats also finished first and second in in-conference turnover margin (+8 for Michigan State and +7 for Northwestern). Meanwhile, Illinois cannot blame close games as only one of their nine conference defeats came by fewer than ten points. The Illini did finish last in in-conference turnover margin (-7), and as we will soon see, they are no stranger to under-performing their peripherals.
Illinois finished winless in Big 10 play in 2017 and just 2-10 overall. This was obviously a huge disappointment to Illini fans and anyone foolish enough to bet on them winning more than 3.5 games. Generally though, teams with the Illini’s YPP profile tend to win about a quarter of their conference games. Based on those YPP numbers, the Illini undershot their conference winning percentage by about .275. If you’ll recall, the Illini also failed to hit their expected conference winning percentage last season as well. They didn’t miss the mark by quite as much, but their under-performance by about .195 was among the worst in the Big 10. Cumulatively, the Illini have undershot their expected
conference winning percentage by .470 in Lovie Smith’s two seasons (roughly four wins). How (poorly) does this stack up in recent history? I have YPP data going back to 2005, so I decided to look at all BCS/Power 5 teams that have undershot their expected conference winning percentage by at least .400 over two consecutive seasons. The results are summarized below. Two teams met the threshold this season, with Arizona joining Illinois.
Alright, so the Illini have a penchant for under-performing, but what can we expect going forward? Are the Illini due for an incredible rebound? Excluding the current Illinois and Arizona teams, I looked at how the other 18 teams performed in the year immediately following their two consecutive years of under-performance. I compared this to the average conference record the team put together in the under-performing years and calculated the difference. The results are summarized below chronologically.