Thursday, April 25, 2019

2018 Adjusted Pythagorean Record: Mountain West

Last week we looked at how Mountain West 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 Mountain West 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, Mountain West teams are sorted by the difference between their actual number of wins and their expected number of wins according to APR.
Using a game and a half as a line of demarcation, Hawaii was the lone team that saw their actual record differ significantly from their APR. The Warriors also exceeded their expected record relative to their YPP and we discussed a few reasons for this last week. Rather than rehash that, let's delve into another characteristic Hawaii has managed to maintain for the last decade or so.

Consistently Inconsistent
Hawaii’s appearance in the 2018 postseason was shocking. The Warriors entered 2018 fresh off a 3-9 season where they won just a single time in Mountain West play. Yet the Warriors opened the season by winning a road game for the first time in nearly a calendar year. They followed that road upset with a pair of home wins, and following a body-clock loss at Army won three in a row to stand 6-1. Their wins were a little fluky, and the Warriors came back to earth over the second half of the season, losing four of six to finish the regular season 8-5. Still, eight wins was a massive improvement and the Warriors ended up finishing 5-3 in the improved Mountain West. However, perhaps it shouldn’t have been so shocking. Two years previous, the Warriors were starting the 2016 campaign fresh off a winless conference season with a first-year head coach. They managed to grind out four conference wins and a surprise bowl appearance (and victory). In fact, the Warriors have been treating (torturing?) their fans with a year-to-year roller coaster ride for the past decade or so. Based on year-to-year differences in conference victories, Hawaii has been the most inconsistent mid-major team since 2007. To illustrate this, I have charted their number of conference wins below.
From 2007 to 2008, the Warriors went from eight conference wins to five, so their absolute difference in wins was three. From 2008 to 2009 they went from five conference wins to three, so their absolute difference in wins was two. Adding these absolute differences together produces a total absolute difference of five. Using this formula through the 2018 season yields an absolute difference of 33, which equates to an average of three wins per year difference in conference record. Only one other mid-major school has come close to being as inconsistent as Hawaii.
So the Mountain West is home to the most inconsistent team of the last decade. It is also home to the two most consistent teams, at least in terms of average difference between conference wins.
Boise State has consistently finished near the top of whatever conference they happen to be a part of, never winning fewer than five conference games since 1998. Nevada has consistently finished within one game of .500 in conference play with a few exceptions sprinkled in when Colin Kaepernick was under center (or more precisely in The Pistol). Heading into 2019, expect Boise State and Nevada to finish within about a game of their 2018 conference record. As for Hawaii, they should either go undefeated and challenge for a playoff spot or finish winless and be in the market for a new head coach.

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