Two weeks ago we looked at how Conference USA 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 Conference USA standings.
From the Penthouse to the Outhouse
Much was expected from North Texas in 2019. The Mean Green were coming off back-to-back nine win seasons and three consecutive bowl appearances. They returned a senior quarterback who was already the leading passer in school history as well as their head coach, who nearly took the open Kansas State job. It wasn’t just Mean Green season ticket holders that expected big things either. North Texas was the preseason consensus to represent the West division of Conference USA in the league championship game. Alas, the Mean Green were not able to meet those expectations. They finished 4-8, their worst record yet under Seth Littrell. In the process, they became the 24th team since 2005 to finish with a losing regular season record despite being the preseason consensus division or conference favorite. I know that’s a mouthful, but by looking at those teams from the past, we can get an idea of what to expect from North Texas in 2020.
Instead of calculating how much each preseason consensus favorite that finished with a losing record improved or declined the next season and tallying up the results, I decided to divide the previous 23 teams into Power Five/BCS and Group of Five/non-BCS buckets. College football is a hierarchical sport. If a Power Five team like Southern Cal finishes with a losing record despite lofty preseason expectations (which they did in 2018) it is inherently different than if it happens to North Texas. Since North Texas is mid-major program, we’ll start by looking at other mid-major teams. Since 2005 (excluding North Texas in 2019), fifteen mid-majors have finished with a losing record despite being the preseason consensus favorite in their conference or division. Their results the next season are pretty mixed.
Boise, Idaho, there is more parity at the lower rungs of FBS. The difference between North Texas and UAB or Southern Miss or Louisiana Tech is much less than the difference between Clemson and Louisville or NC State. The Mean Green have a much smaller margin of error than the Tigers. That being said, I still think North Texas is poised for a rebound in 2020. They probably shouldn’t be the division favorite again, but a return to the postseason should be expected. In addition, the lost 2019 campaign may allow them to hang onto their coach for a year or two longer than they otherwise would have.