Thursday, April 11, 2019

2018 Adjusted Pythagorean Record: MAC

Last week we looked at how MAC teams fared in terms of yards per play. This week, we turn our attention to how the season played out in terms of the Adjusted Pythagorean Record, or APR. For an in-depth look at APR, click here. If you didn’t feel like clicking, here is the Reader’s Digest version. APR looks at how well a team scores and prevents touchdowns. Non-offensive touchdowns, field goals, extra points, and safeties are excluded. The ratio of offensive touchdowns to touchdowns allowed is converted into a winning percentage. Pretty simple actually.

Once again, here are the 2018 MAC standings.
And here are the APR standings with conference rank in offensive touchdowns, touchdowns allowed, and APR in parentheses. This includes conference games only with the championship game excluded.
Finally, MAC teams are sorted by the difference between their actual number of wins and their expected number of wins according to APR.
I use a game and a half as an arbitrary measure to determine if a team over or under-performed relative to their APR. By that standard, in 2018, no MAC team significantly over or under-performed so we'll move on to a more interesting conversation.

The Dean of MAC Coaches
Mid-major (Group of Five) coaches at the FBS level typically follow one of two career paths. They succeed and move up to a bigger job (another mid-major or Power Five) or they fail and get fired and return to their previous life as an assistant coach. There are exceptions to the rule of course. Sometimes these coaches leave of their own accord to become assistants in the NFL or at a better college job, but for the most part these guys are promoted or fired depending on their success at the mid-major school. For this reason, you rarely see ‘lifers’ at mid-major programs. But in the closing act of Frank Solich’s career, he has become a mi-major lifer.

Beginning a half-century ago, Frank Solich certainly appeared to be a lifer. A Nebraska lifer. Solich played for legendary Nebraska head coach Bob Devaney in the 1960s, coached high school football in Nebraska until the late 1970s, and then became an assistant under another legendary Nebraska coach, Tom Osborne. When Osborne retired following the 1997 season, after winning three national titles in his four years, Solich succeeded him as head coach. Despite three-top ten finishes and a conference title in six seasons, Solich was Gene Bartowed following a 9-3 regular season in 2003. After a gap year, Solich returned to coaching in 2005 at Ohio. The Bobcats had gone just 11-35 in four seasons under Brian Knorr, but Solich had them in the MAC Championship Game in just his second season. The Bobcats dipped a bit in his third and fourth seasons (combined 10-14 record), but beginning in 2009, Solich has had the Bobcats bowl-eligible each of the past ten years. In that span, the Bobcats have made three additional appearances in the MAC Championship Game, won their first bowl game in school history (plus three more), and briefly appeared in the AP Poll for the first time since 1968.

While 2005 may not seem like that long ago, Solich is very close to becoming the longest-tenured MAC coach ever. Only four other men in history have lasted more than ten seasons as head coach at a MAC school. They are listed below.
First off, Ohio fans, don’t @ me. I know Bill Hess was the coach at Ohio from 1958-1977. However, in those first four seasons, Ohio was not an FBS school and the MAC was not an FBS conference. Northern Illinois fans, don’t @ me either. The Huskies were an FBS independent in Joe Novak’s first season (1996). Solich has been Ohio’s head coach for fourteen seasons, so if he is still the head coach in December of 2020, he will tie Hess and Herb Deromedi from Central Michigan as the longest tenured MAC coach. In addition, thanks to the twelve-game regular season, potential conference championship games, and the proliferation of bowl games, Solich already owns the MAC record for games coached and is just four wins shy of tying Deromedi for most wins all time as a MAC coach. However, thanks to Deromedi’s phenomenal conference record, Solich would probably need to coach at least four more seasons to tie or break the record for most MAC conference wins (he would be 78 in December 2022).

Solich has yet to reach the MAC mountaintop at Ohio, and realistically, he is probably running out of time to win Ohio’s first MAC title since 1968. I’d love to see the Bobcats win the MAC in the next year or two while simultaneously making Solich the dean of MAC coaches, not just in the present, but of all time.

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