Thursday, May 05, 2022

2021 Adjusted Pythagorean Record: Pac-12

Last week we looked at how Pac-12 teams fared in terms of yards per play. his 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 hereIf 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 2021 Pac-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, Pac-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 the standard to determine whether or not a team's record differed significantly from their APR. By that standard, Colorado significantly overachieved, while Washington significantly underachieved. Despite overachieving, Colorado was still bad in 2021. They did have a dominant win against Arizona, but their other two conference wins both came at home by three points apiece. By comparison, all six of their conference defeats came by at least fifteen points. Meanwhile, Washington was competitive in most of their conference games thanks to their defense. The unit held the Huskies first eight conference opponents to just over 19 points per game. Thanks to their offensive struggles, they were only able to win three of those games. Then, with their bowl dreams dashed and their coach fired, they let go of the rope in the season finale, allowing 40 points to their in-state rivals in The Apple Cup

The Best New Additions
We are on the precipice of another round of conference expansion at the Power Five level. Oklahoma and Texas will soon be members of the SEC while BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF will replenish the Big 12's membership in quantity if not quality. As we await this brave new world, lets take a moment to reflect on the previous round of realignment that began at the then BCS conference level in 2011 and continued through 2014. In all, twelve schools either switched BCS/Power Five conferences or moved up to BCS/Power Five conferences. An alphabetical listing of those teams in case you forgot: Colorado, Louisville, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, TCU, Texas A&M, Utah, and West Virginia. 

Which teams have brought the most to their new conference? I don't care about branding, regional penetration, or television markets. At this outpost on the internet, we care about on field performance. To answer that question, lets first look at conference play. The following table lists the twelve newcomers in order of their conference winning percentage. Their number of division titles (or conference championship appearances) and conference titles are also included. 
Only a third of the newcomers have posted winning conference records in their new leagues. A quarter of the newcomers have won conference crowns, but two of them did so in 2021 (Pittsburgh and Utah). If we ran these numbers last summer, TCU's shared title in 2014 would have been the only conference title. Newcomers have appeared in ten conference title games, but they are just 2-8 in such contests, losing by an average of fifteen points per game. 

Conference play is but one area of achievement. We also need to examine national performance. While it is far from a perfect measure, the AP Poll does a good job of capturing the national esteem of teams at a moment in time. Below, the twelve newcomers are sorted by ranked finishes in the top 25 of the AP Poll with top ten finishes also included.
Ten of the twelve teams have finished ranked at least once, with Maryland and Rutgers the lone holdouts. There were six total top ten finishes with schools from Texas (TCU and Texas A&M) accounting for five of them. 

So to answer our original question, which new addition has been the best? I think their are only two potential answers: Texas A&M or Utah. Texas A&M has more top ten finishes that Utah and has a slightly better conference record, but the Utes have more top 25 finishes and have won their division three times (three consecutive times in non pandemic shortened seasons). Texas A&M has a tougher path to a division title, but Utah's conference dominance since 2018 should be recognized (25-7 since the start of 2018). I'll throw my support behind Utah. While it may not be a great sign for the conference when a team with the recruiting profile of Utah is winning it, there is no doubt the Utes have been a good addition. I would also argue that while the SEC has benefited from the addition of Texas A&M, the Aggies have benefited more from their association with the SEC. As for the worst new addition? Hard to make a case for anyone other than Rutgers. 

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