## Thursday, August 27, 2020

### YPP Throwback: The 2012 Western Athletic Conference

After the rousing popularity of last week's post on the Sun Belt, I decided to take a look back at another forgotten conference, the final season of the WAC.

To refresh your memory, here are the 2012 WAC standings.
So we know what each team achieved, but how did they perform? To answer that, here are the Yards Per Play (YPP), Yards Per Play Allowed (YPA) and Net Yards Per Play (Net) numbers for each team. This includes conference play only. The teams are sorted by Net YPP with conference rank in parentheses.
College football teams play either eight or nine conference games (or six in this case). Consequently, their record in such a small sample may not be indicative of their quality of play. A few fortuitous bounces here or there can be the difference between another ho-hum campaign or a special season. Randomness and other factors outside of our perception play a role in determining the standings. It would be fantastic if college football teams played 100 or even 1000 games. Then we could have a better idea about which teams were really the best. Alas, players would miss too much class time, their bodies would be battered beyond recognition, and I would never leave the couch. As it is, we have to make do with the handful of games teams do play. In those games, we can learn a lot from a team’s YPP. Since 2005, I have collected YPP data for every conference. I use conference games only because teams play such divergent non-conference schedules and the teams within a conference tend to be of similar quality. By running a regression analysis between a team’s Net YPP (the difference between their Yards Per Play and Yards Per Play Allowed) and their conference winning percentage, we can see if Net YPP is a decent predictor of a team’s record. Spoiler alert. It is. For the statistically inclined, the correlation coefficient between a team’s Net YPP in conference play and their conference record is around .66. Since Net YPP is a solid predictor of a team’s conference record, we can use it to identify which teams had a significant disparity between their conference record as predicted by Net YPP and their actual conference record. I used a difference of .200 between predicted and actual winning percentage as the threshold for ‘significant’. Why .200? It is a little arbitrary, but .200 corresponds to a difference of 1.6 games over an eight game conference schedule and 1.8 games over a nine game one. Over or under-performing by more than a game and a half in a small sample seems significant to me. In the 2012 season, which teams in the WAC met this threshold? Here are WAC teams sorted by performance over what would be expected from their Net YPP numbers.
Louisiana Tech significantly exceeded their expected record, but the Bulldogs were not especially lucky in close games, finishing 1-1 in one-score conference games. The big disparity is primarily due to their defensive breakdowns in the second half of conference play. In their first three conference games, Louisiana Tech posted a respectable defense, allowing 5.79 yards per play (going against the three worst offenses in the WAC). However, when the schedule toughened, the Bulldogs were a sieve. Over their final three conference games, the Bulldogs allowed 7.83 yards per play. Despite boasting a strong offense of their own, it was not enough to overcome their defensive limitations.

Utah State Deserved a BCS-Bowl Bid
Last week's post on the 2005 Sun Belt got me to thinking about conferences in flux, and there was no league in more flux than the WAC in 2012. Join me as we pour one out for the gone, but not forgotten Western Athletic Conference.

In its 51 years of existence, the WAC accomplished a great deal. It was the home of the 1984 national champions, it created the first super-conference in 1996, and sent its champion to BCS bowl games three times in four seasons from 2006 to 2009. In addition, three of the original seven founding members are now in the Power Five (here's to social climbing). However, by 2012, the conference was running on fumes. The 2010 season saw two WAC teams finish in the top eleven of the final AP Poll, but Boise State jumped the sinking ship and moved to the Mountain West. Following a 2011 season that saw one team win more than seven games, Fresno State, Hawaii, and Nevada also left for the Mountain West. For the 2012 season, the WAC added FBS newcomers Texas State and Texas-San Antonio to fill out its roster. With seven members, the WAC forged on, and actually enjoyed a pretty successful season considering the circumstances. Four teams, including the Roadrunners from San Antonio won at least eight games, three teams spent time in the AP Poll, and both San Jose State and Utah State finished the season ranked. The top three teams in the conference, Louisiana Tech, San Jose State, and Utah State were also all coached by gentlemen that would go on to have less than stellar success in the Pac-12.
That's not a criticism of those coaches as much as it is a statement of fact. While they did not enjoy great success at their stops in the Pac-12, there is no question they did great work in 2012. So lets celebrate that. Despite the fact that none of the trio sniffed a BCS bowl bid (Louisiana Tech didn't even play in a bowl game), you can craft an argument the best non-BCS teams called the WAC home in 2012.

2012 was an odd year for non-BCS conference (otherwise known as mid-major) teams. The Kellen Moore era at Boise State had come to an end in 2011, so the Broncos were rebuilding somewhat. Former mid-major stalwarts TCU and Utah were now in BCS conferences. This led to a relative power vacuum and allowed some new blood to potentially qualify for a BCS bowl. Prior to 2012, six of the seven BCS bowl slots that had gone to non-BCS teams were gobbled up by that trio.
Eventually, the BCS bowl bid for non-BCS teams (remember non-BCS teams were not guaranteed a BCS bid) came down to the MAC Championship Game. In a thrilling overtime affair, Northern Illinois defeated Kent State to lock up an Orange Bowl berth. The Huskies acquitted themselves well for three quarters against Florida State, but tired from all that mushing in the fourth quarter, and eventually fell 31-10. Despite their solid showing for three quarters in the Orange Bowl, the Huskies were not the best non-BCS team in 2012. Not even close.

So which non-BCS team was some combination of best or most deserving to play in a BCS bowl in 2012? Heading into the postseason, there were five non-BCS teams that finished with two or fewer losses: Boise State, Kent State, Northern Illinois, San Jose State, and Utah State. Let's go to the tape.
Northern Illinois was the only non-BCS team to have less than two losses, so we'll give them a bye. First let's find the best of the remaining quartet. The easiest team to eliminate is obviously Kent State. The Golden Flashes were riding a ten-game winning streak heading into their showdown with Northern Illinois, but outside of a shocking upset of Rutgers their best wins were against a trio of bowl-eligible MAC teams. And their one loss...Yikes. The Golden Flashes were the last FBS team Kentucky beat under Joker Phillips and the game was not close. Obviously, the Wildcats are an SEC team, but that didn't stop them from losing to a seven-win team from the Sun Belt, so Kent State gets no credit for losing by almost five touchdowns. Next up, we can eliminate Boise State. The Broncos failed to beat a BCS conference team (in the regular season) for just the second time under Chris Petersen, and their season-opening loss to Michigan State ended up not being that impressive as the Spartans finished 7-6. They didn't record many impressive victories in conference play either, knocking off just two Mountain West teams that finished bowl-eligible, while losing to San Diego State. They did knock off BYU in non-conference play, but that game was on the Smurf Turf and the Broncos failed to record an offensive touchdown. That leaves the two WAC stalwarts, San Jose State and Utah State. The Spartans had the more impressive non-conference loss, falling by three to eventual Rose Bowl champ Stanford while Utah State lost by two to eventual Rose Bowl runner-up (and six-loss) Wisconsin. The Spartans also had more quality wins, beating three solid opponents (Navy, San Diego State, and Texas-San Antonio) on the road. However, on the field, the Spartans lost by three-touchdowns at home to Utah State, so we'll give the edge to the Aggies. So how do the Aggies compare to Northern Illinois? Pretty favorably. Northern Illinois also lost a tight game to a Big 10 opponent, but 2012 was not a vintage Iowa season. Sure the coaching staff probably made life miserable for black players, but the team managed just two additional FBS wins after escaping the Huskies in their opener. As for their wins, outside of Kent State, the Huskies don't have a whole lot of heft. They get credit for beating a BCS conference team in Kansas, but that game was very close, and the Jayhawks were very bad. In addition, while it is not captured in the table, the Huskies escaped a bad Army team in non-conference play. Add it all up, and Utah State was more deserving of that Orange Bowl bid than the Huskies. Could they have beaten the Seminoles? Well, that's not really the point. They enjoyed an historic season and were a few plays away from something really special. With the Aggies, along with the Spartans and to a lesser extent the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, the WAC went out a winner in 2012.

Next week we will switch things up a bit and look at past Adjusted Pythagorean Records (APR), starting with the SEC in 2007.

## Thursday, August 20, 2020

### YPP Throwback: The 2005 Sun Belt

This week, our YPP Wayback Machine takes us to 2005 and the SEC's little brother, the Sun Belt.

To refresh your memory, here are the 2005 Sun Belt standings.
So we know what each team achieved, but how did they perform? To answer that, here are the Yards Per Play (YPP), Yards Per Play Allowed (YPA) and Net Yards Per Play (Net) numbers for each team. This includes conference play only. The teams are sorted by Net YPP with conference rank in parentheses.
The 2005 Sun Belt was pretty compressed in regards to the actual standings and the YPP data. A trio of teams finished tied for first, but they were just three games better than the two teams that finished in the basement. The YPP numbers told a similar story. More on that in a bit.

College football teams play either eight or nine conference games (or in this case seven). Consequently, their record in such a small sample may not be indicative of their quality of play. A few fortuitous bounces here or there can be the difference between another ho-hum campaign or a special season. Randomness and other factors outside of our perception play a role in determining the standings. It would be fantastic if college football teams played 100 or even 1000 games. Then we could have a better idea about which teams were really the best. Alas, players would miss too much class time, their bodies would be battered beyond recognition, and I would never leave the couch. As it is, we have to make do with the handful of games teams do play. In those games, we can learn a lot from a team’s YPP. Since 2005, I have collected YPP data for every conference. I use conference games only because teams play such divergent non-conference schedules and the teams within a conference tend to be of similar quality. By running a regression analysis between a team’s Net YPP (the difference between their Yards Per Play and Yards Per Play Allowed) and their conference winning percentage, we can see if Net YPP is a decent predictor of a team’s record. Spoiler alert. It is. For the statistically inclined, the correlation coefficient between a team’s Net YPP in conference play and their conference record is around .66. Since Net YPP is a solid predictor of a team’s conference record, we can use it to identify which teams had a significant disparity between their conference record as predicted by Net YPP and their actual conference record. I used a difference of .200 between predicted and actual winning percentage as the threshold for ‘significant’. Why .200? It is a little arbitrary, but .200 corresponds to a difference of 1.6 games over an eight game conference schedule and 1.8 games over a nine game one. Over or under-performing by more than a game and a half in a small sample seems significant to me. In the 2005 season, which teams in the Sun Belt met this threshold? Here are Sun Belt teams sorted by performance over what would be expected from their Net YPP numbers.
No team significantly over or under-performed in regards to their expected record, although Louisiana-Monroe came close. The Warhawks finished 4-1 in one-score conference games, but with a chance to lock up an outright conference title, fell to their arch-rivals by 33 points.

2005 marked the fifth year of existence for the Sun Belt as a football conference. While the league was new, it was in flux. The conference debuted in 2001 with seven members: Arkansas State, Idaho, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Middle Tennessee State, New Mexico State, and North Texas. Those magnificent seven were either FBS newcomers or surviving members of the recently defunct Big West. In 2003, the league added Utah State, another Big West alum. In 2004, the league added three new members, with Florida Atlantic, Florida International, and Troy joining. The two Florida schools had just added their football programs in 2001 and 2002 respectively, while Troy was a Division II and FCS power looking to prove their bona fides with the big boys in FBS. After adding those three members in 2004, the league lost three in 2005, with Idaho, New Mexico State, and Utah State heading to (what appeared to be) a more stable conference in the WAC. Fifteen years later, the WAC no longer sponsors football, Idaho dropped down to FCS, and New Mexico State is a college football nomad playing as an Independent. I'm not here to criticize the decisions those three made, just give you some background regarding the environment surrounding the Sun Belt in 2005.

Perhaps due to the fact that four of its eight members had been playing football at the FBS level for less than a decade, the 2005 Sun Belt season was unique and for lack of a better descriptor, bad. We'll start with what made the conference unique and then touch on what made it bad.

Go back and take a look at the Sun Belt YPP numbers. Notice the top team (Arkansas State) posted a Net YPP of 0.89 while the worst team (North Texas) posted a Net YPP of -0.54. Since 2005, that is both the lowest Net YPP to lead a conference and highest Net YPP to finish last.

In fact, the 2005 Sun Belt is one of only two conference seasons since 2005 to have its top team finish with a Net YPP of less than 1.00 and its bottom team finish with a Net YPP of greater than -1.00. The only other conference to match that feat was the Sun Belt the very next year.

While the Sun Belt was unique in 2005, it was also really bad. Excluding the lone postseason game the league participated in (Arkansas State lost to Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl played in Lafayette thanks to Hurricane Katrina), here are the teams Sun Belt members beat in non-conference action.
OK, that's not entirely true. I did leave one victory out, but I did it for dramatic purposes. Outside of that one victory, which we'll get to in a minute, Sun Belt members beat five FCS opponents (including future Sun Belt member Western Kentucky) in 2005. That ain't good. And here are the teams they lost to, starting with the non-BCS conference teams.
Yikes. Collectively Sun Belt members went 0-9 against non-BCS conference opponents and lost by an average of more than 22 points per game. There were some decent performances, with Louisiana-Lafayette losing by a field goal to a solid UCF team, but there were also blowout losses to Army and Eastern Michigan as well as a loss to an FCS opponent. Things were not any better against BCS conference teams.
That's an 0-17 record with the average margin of defeat coming by 32 points. Obviously, some of those losses are expected (Texas and the SEC bloc), but Sun Belt teams were also non-competitive against some mediocre to bad Big 12 teams.

Next week, we'll go back to the WAC as we close out the month of August.

## Thursday, August 13, 2020

### YPP Throwback: The 2007 Western Athletic Conference

Our throwback series continues. This week, we take a look at the 2007 iteration of the Western Athletic Conference.

First, here are the WAC standings from 2007.
If the years sort of run together for you, 2007 was the year a WAC team went undefeated in the regular season and qualified for a BCS bowl game. But it wasn't Boise State. No, that was the previous season. 2007 was the year of the Hawaii Warriors. The most geographically isolated FBS team rode a soft schedule, (but challenging logistically - more on that later) to an undefeated regular season and who's to say what happened in the bowl game? 2007 marked the second of five straight years a team from outside the BCS conferences would qualify for a BCS bowl game.
So we know what each team achieved, but how did they perform? To answer that, here are the Yards Per Play (YPP), Yards Per Play Allowed (YPA) and Net Yards Per Play (Net) numbers for each team. This includes conference play only. The teams are sorted by Net YPP with conference rank in parentheses.
Hawaii and Boise State finished a combined 15-1 in WAC play and they were also the top two teams in Net YPP. At the other end of the standings, Idaho, New Mexico State, and Utah State all finished at least one yard per play in the red in Net YPP and the three also combined for a 3-21 record in conference play.

College football teams play either eight or nine conference games. Consequently, their record in such a small sample may not be indicative of their quality of play. A few fortuitous bounces here or there can be the difference between another ho-hum campaign or a special season. Randomness and other factors outside of our perception play a role in determining the standings. It would be fantastic if college football teams played 100 or even 1000 games. Then we could have a better idea about which teams were really the best. Alas, players would miss too much class time, their bodies would be battered beyond recognition, and I would never leave the couch. As it is, we have to make do with the handful of games teams do play. In those games, we can learn a lot from a team’s YPP. Since 2005, I have collected YPP data for every conference. I use conference games only because teams play such divergent non-conference schedules and the teams within a conference tend to be of similar quality. By running a regression analysis between a team’s Net YPP (the difference between their Yards Per Play and Yards Per Play Allowed) and their conference winning percentage, we can see if Net YPP is a decent predictor of a team’s record. Spoiler alert. It is. For the statistically inclined, the correlation coefficient between a team’s Net YPP in conference play and their conference record is around .66. Since Net YPP is a solid predictor of a team’s conference record, we can use it to identify which teams had a significant disparity between their conference record as predicted by Net YPP and their actual conference record. I used a difference of .200 between predicted and actual winning percentage as the threshold for ‘significant’. Why .200? It is a little arbitrary, but .200 corresponds to a difference of 1.6 games over an eight game conference schedule and 1.8 games over a nine game one. Over or under-performing by more than a game and a half in a small sample seems significant to me. In the 2007 season, which teams in the WAC met this threshold? Here are WAC teams sorted by performance over what would be expected from their Net YPP numbers.
Fresno State significantly exceeded their expected record. The Bulldogs were only 2-1 in close conference games, but they also scored five non-offensive touchdowns while allowing none in their eight conference games. Non-offensive touchdowns are not predictive, but they can massively alter the win probability of a game. Meanwhile, Nevada and Idaho significantly under-performed relative to their expected record. Nevada, led by a soon to be famous (or infamous true freshman quarterback) finished 2-4 in one-score conference games while Idaho was 0-2 in such contests and had the worst in-conference turnover margin (-9) of any team.

Various and Sundry Musings on Hawaii
Hawaii finished unbeaten in the WAC in 2007 and that unbeaten record paved the way for the Warriors to play in the Sugar Bowl (to date only their second ever postseason trip to the mainland). In league play, the Warriors were dominant at home, winning their quartet of WAC homes games by a combined 71 points with the smallest margin of victory coming by seven points against Fresno State. However, their road trips were another matter. The Warriors beat Louisiana Tech by a single point in overtime (when the Bulldogs failed on a two-point conversion attempt), beat San Jose State by a touchdown in overtime, and beat Nevada by two points. You might expect this out of Hawaii since their travel is unique among FBS teams as they are isolated on some sort of land mass out in the Pacific Ocean. Hawaii was definitely better by Net YPP at home, but their road numbers were quite good.
If you have forgotten how the Net YPP shook out in the WAC and are too lazy to scroll back up, keep in mind their road number (+1.74) would have ranked first in the conference in 2007 even without their dominant home performance. In the interest of full disclosure, that road number is not unduly influenced by their beat down of Idaho. If we look at their other three road conference games (that they won by a combined ten points), their Net YPP numbers are still good.
Despite the fact that Hawaii was solid overall in their road games, they were usually digging themselves out of a big hole.

Hawaii played San Jose State and Nevada on Friday instead of Saturday in 2007. In the modern era of college football, this is not uncommon. There are typically a handful of games each Thursday and Friday and once the calendar turns to November, there might be games on Tuesday and Wednesday as well. However, what made those particular Friday night games unique is that Hawaii played both Friday road games six days after playing at home. Stating the obvious, this means Hawaii not only had less time to prepare, but also had the extra challenge of flying several thousand miles to the continental United States. Hawaii has played a short rest road game just nine times since the turn of the century and as you might guess, the results have not been great.
Hawaii is just 3-6 in those games, but the real story is the margin of defeat. Typically in short week road games, the Warriors have been pounded. The Warriors have been outsored on average by about 21 points per game. I'll also point out the Warriors are 3-3 in such games under June Jones and 0-3 when coached by anyone else.

Hawaii faced a very easy schedule (by strength of opponent) in 2007. There were two FCS teams on the slate, a bad UNLV team in the non-conference, a Power Five team that finished 4-9 (Washington), and eight mediocre to bad WAC teams. However, give the Warriors credit for pulling out those two short rest road games in a brutal scheduling spot. After their performance against Georgia (or lack thereof), some were of the opinion the Warriors did not deserve that BCS bid. On the contrary, with the logistical challenges Hawaii faces on the regular, along with the specific tough spots they were put in that season, I think an undefeated Warriors team was worthy of an opportunity to get the brakes beaten off of them by a motivated Georgia team.

In 2007, every conference did not have a championship game, but Hawaii was playing for their BCS berth on Championship Saturday. The Warriors hosted the Washington Huskies and played like shit for the first quarter. The soon to be 4-9 Huskies jumped out to a 21-0 lead and led 28-7 mid-way through the second quarter. However, the Warriors cut the deficit to seven by halftime and shut out the Huskies in the second half to win 35-28. The win marked the seventh home victory by the Warriors under June Jones against a BCS conference opponent. In fact, the Warriors were a respectable 7-7 in home games against BCS conference opponents under Jones (including bowl games).
However, I think we should discard a few of those contests. For example, the Warriors opened the 2005 season against a Southern Cal team ranked first in the country and riding a twenty-two game winning streak. Should they really get a demerit for losing to that stacked team? I don't think so. If we remove the games against ranked teams, the Warriors were 7-3 in home games against BCS conference opponents under Jones. For a team that did not win a game the year before he arrived, that ain't half bad. I know his career fizzled at the end of his SMU tenure and he is probably most remembered by NFL fans for a sideline outburst by his starting quarterback while coaching the Atlanta Falcons, but his nine seasons in charge of the Warriors were a master class in rebuilding and maintaining at a tough place to win.

Next week, we'll examine the Sun Belt circa 2005. If you have any requests for this series, let me know in the comments.

## Thursday, August 06, 2020

### YPP Throwback: The 2006 ACC

Greetings friends, since the college football season is looking less and less likely by the day, I have decided to post Yards per Play and Adjusted Pythagorean recaps of seasons gone by. This week, we look back at the ACC in 2006.

To refresh your memory, here are the 2006 ACC standings.
In case you have forgotten, 2006 was the year Wake Forest won the ACC for the first time since 1970. Obviously, when Wake Forest is winning the title, that is a reflection of the strength (or lack thereof) in the conference. When we get to the YPP numbers, you'll notice the Deacons were very fortunate to win not only the conference, but also their division as well. However, before we get to that, let me go through the sequence of events that conspired for Wake Forest to even win the Atlantic Division. You'll notice there was not a great deal of separation at the top of the division. Wake Forest finished 6-2 and a trio of teams finished a game behind them at 5-3. Of the Deacons six conference wins, four came by a combined seventeen points. the narrowest among them being the conference opener when they beat Duke (remember this is pre-Cutcliffe Duke) by a single point thanks to a blocked 27-yard field goal on the game's final play. They managed to beat two of the three teams that finished a game behind them (Boston College and Maryland), but lost to Clemson and needed the Tigers to choke the division away. And Tommy Bowden obliged. To go along with a blowout loss to Virginia Tech, the Tigers also gagged a pair of one-point losses to Boston College (thanks to a missed extra point) and Maryland (despite beating the Terps in yardage, penalties, turnovers, and time of possession). As for Boston College, the Eagles also dropped a pair of close games to give the division to the Deacons, losing to a bad NC State team and a Miami team that was about to fire Larry Coker. Once they won the division, the Deacons were fortunate not to have to play Virginia Tech (a team that had handled them in Winston-Salem in late November).  The Hokies closed the year as the hottest team in the ACC, allowing just 29 points in their final six regular season contests. Unfortunately, early season defeats to Georgia Tech and Boston College allowed the Deacons to face the more beatable Yellow Jackets. Keep in mind, this was before Georgia Tech instituted the triple option. The team did have Calvin Johnson, but Reggie Ball was his quarterback and Chan Gailey was his coach. A friend of mine in college once said those early to mid aughts Yellow Jackets were as enjoyable as taking The Eucharist. At the risk of eternal damnation, folks who watched the 2006 ACC Championship Game would probably agree. More on that later.

So we know what each team achieved, but how did they perform? To answer that, here are the Yards Per Play (YPP), Yards Per Play Allowed (YPA) and Net Yards Per Play (Net) numbers for each team.This includes conference play only, with the championship game not included. The teams are sorted by division by Net YPP with conference rank in parentheses.
Wake Forest finished a distant eighth overall in Net YPP and just fourth in the Atlantic Division! Statistically, Clemson was the best team in the conference and the Tigers buoyed that argument by beating both division winners by a combined 34 points! Elsewhere in the conference, Virginia Tech boasted a vintage Bud Foster defense, allowing under four yards per play to ACC opponents. Alas, the offense, quarterbacked by Sean Glennon (Mike's older brother), held the team back. The Hokies lost three games overall in 2006, and in two of those games (Boston College and Georgia in the bowl) they held future NFL quarterbacks (Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford) to a 50% completion rate. This was truly one of the forgotten elite defenses of the mid-aughts.

College football teams play either eight or nine conference games. Consequently, their record in such a small sample may not be indicative of their quality of play. A few fortuitous bounces here or there can be the difference between another ho-hum campaign or a special season. Randomness and other factors outside of our perception play a role in determining the standings. It would be fantastic if college football teams played 100 or even 1000 games. Then we could have a better idea about which teams were really the best. Alas, players would miss too much class time, their bodies would be battered beyond recognition, and I would never leave the couch. As it is, we have to make do with the handful of games teams do play. In those games, we can learn a lot from a team’s YPP. Since 2005, I have collected YPP data for every conference. I use conference games only because teams play such divergent non-conference schedules and the teams within a conference tend to be of similar quality. By running a regression analysis between a team’s Net YPP (the difference between their Yards Per Play and Yards Per Play Allowed) and their conference winning percentage, we can see if Net YPP is a decent predictor of a team’s record. Spoiler alert. It is. For the statistically inclined, the correlation coefficient between a team’s Net YPP in conference play and their conference record is around .66. Since Net YPP is a solid predictor of a team’s conference record, we can use it to identify which teams had a significant disparity between their conference record as predicted by Net YPP and their actual conference record. I used a difference of .200 between predicted and actual winning percentage as the threshold for ‘significant’. Why .200? It is a little arbitrary, but .200 corresponds to a difference of 1.6 games over an eight game conference schedule and 1.8 games over a nine game one. Over or under-performing by more than a game and a half in a small sample seems significant to me. In the 2006 season, which teams in the ACC met this threshold? Here are ACC teams sorted by performance over what would be expected from their Net YPP numbers.
The two participants in the ACC Championship Game, as well as the team Wake Forest beat in a de facto Atlantic Division title game all exceeded their expected record. The trio combined for a sterling 13-1 record in one-score conference games (during the regular season) and were a perfect 12-0 in one-score games not involving each other. At the other end of the spectrum, Clemson and Florida State under-performed relative to their expected record and for Florida State, the reason was their close game performance. The Seminoles finished 1-4 in close ACC contests. However, for Clemson, nothing really stands out. The Tigers were not terrible in close games (2-2 record in the ACC) and their in-conference turnover margin was middle of the pack (+1). Nothing really stands out as to why the Tigers under-performed...other than head coach Tommy Bowden.

I only have YPP data for three full seasons of the Tommy Bowden era (2005-2007). In all three of those seasons, the Tigers finished no worse than third in the ACC in Net YPP and twice finished as the top team in the Atlantic Division. However, the Tigers never won the Atlantic and posted a rather middling 14-10 conference record in that span.
It probably won't surprise you to know that Clemson finished that three-year run with the worst average difference between their actual record and their expected record.
For reference, under-performing by .128 percentage points equates to about one full game over an eight-game conference slate. Think an extra win in either 2005, 2006, 2007 would have come in handy? Spoiler. It would. The Tigers finished a game back in the Atlantic each season. Thanks to that under-performance and a slow start in 2008, the Tigers canned Tommy Bowden. I suppose you can argue that things have worked out pretty well since then. In a nice coincidence, I actually attended the last game Tommy Bowden coached at Clemson. It ended up being a defensive battle (or clash of offensive ineptitude depending on your point of view) and looked a lot like the 2006 ACC Championship Game, which segues nicely into...

The Lowest Scoring Conference Title Games
The 2006 ACC Championship Game did not have any real national ramifications. Wake Forest entered the game ranked 16th in the AP Poll and Georgia Tech was barely holding on at 23rd. A slot in the Orange Bowl was up for grabs, but with the game kicking off at Noon in Jacksonville, most college football fans were probably only halfway paying attention. And once the game started, you couldn't really blame them. There was nary an offensive touchdown scored in the game, with Wake Forest outlasting Georgia Tech behind three Sam Swank field goals. Until 2018, this result stood as the lowest scoring conference championship game in FBS history.
It was undercut by the 2018 Pac-12 Championship Game in terms of total points, but Wake still has the distinction of being the lowest scoring winner of a conference title game. While this game rightly made the ACC and its nascent championship game a punch line for a few years, I was never prouder to be a Demon Deacon.

Thanks for reading. Next week, we'll look at YPP from 2007 in the Western Athletic Conference. If there is a conference you want to see examined via YPP or APR, let me know in the comments.