Thursday, March 05, 2020

2019 Adjusted Pythagorean Record: Big 12

Last week we looked at how Big 12 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 2019 Big 12 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, Big 12 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 a line of demarcation to determine whether or not a team significantly over or under-performed relative to their APR and by that standard, no team saw their record differ significantly from their APR.

Mike Leach: Pretty Good Coach
That’s not a controversial statement. Definitely not click bait at all. Sure, as some Leach skeptics and cynics will point out, he has never won a conference title. However, Lubbock and Pullman are hardly locales with the resources, infrastructure, and recruiting advantages to win a one. Anyway, with Leach having left Lubbock a decade ago, I thought now would be a good time to compare his ten years at Texas Tech with the ten years following his ignominious firing.

Mike Leach coached the Texas Tech Red Raiders for ten seasons (2000-2009). Since his firing for player abuse, mainly against one particularly well-connected player, three men have coached Texas Tech. In chronological order, they were a former SEC coach with an undefeated season on his resume, a former Texas Tech and NFL quarterback who later became a sought-after college offensive coordinator and NFL head coach, and a coach that guided Utah State to their second ranked finish in fifty years. In other words, the men who followed him were all competent football coaches. Texas Tech was not captained by Mike Locksley or Chris Ash. That makes the success, or lack thereof, in the post-Leach era all the more amazing.

Let’s get things started with the basic won/loss record for the ten years with Leach and the ten years after Leach.
Under Leach, the Red Raiders won nearly twice as often as they lost. Under his three replacements, the Red Raiders won slightly fewer games than they lost. But I can hear the Leach counter arguments now: His teams feasted on non-conference patsies. Look at the Big 12 record. As you wish.
Under Leach, the Red Raiders never won a division title, but after a 3-5 conference record in his first season, they never finished below .500 in Big 12 play during the remainder of his tenure. In fact after beginning his Big 12 career 16-16, his last six teams averaged more than five conference wins per season (31-17). Contrast that with the three gentlemen that have succeeded him. I didn’t realize this until I was pulling the numbers, but Texas Tech has not finished with a winning Big 12 record since Leach was fired! In the last ten seasons, the only current Big 12 teams that have not finished with a winning conference record are Texas Tech and Kansas! You can make the argument that finishing with a winning record is somewhat tougher in the modern Big 12 since the league plays nine conference games and a true round-robin schedule. However, while divisional play and an eight-game league season theoretically made it easier to finish with a .500 record, keep in mind Leach coached Texas Tech during the time period that Oklahoma and Texas won two combined national titles and played for three others. During his time in Lubbock, he did avoid the ascendance of Baylor, but having the Longhorns and Sooners, not to mention the Aggies and Cowboys, as division rivals did not provide the Red Raiders an easy path to bowl eligibility.

Before we sign off for this week, let’s look at AP top 25 finishes for the Red Raiders under Leach and in the ten seasons since his departure.
Under Leach, the Red Raiders finished ranked during half of his tenure, with a peak finish of twelfth in 2008. Unsurprisingly, with the team topping out at 8-5 in both 2012 and 2013, the Red Raiders have not finished in the final polls since he left. In fact, Leach is responsible for nearly half of Texas Tech’s all-time ranked finishes (eleven total).

I don’t think Red Raider and college football fans in general appreciate what Mike Leach did at Texas Tech. Once a coach makes a college football outpost successful for several years, the natural assumption is the momentum will continue unabated without them. Texas Tech is a perfect counterexample to that line of thinking. A cursory look at his record does not do the Mike Leach era justice, but a closer examination shows just how much he accomplished at a difficult job.

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