Thursday, March 02, 2023

2022 Adjusted Pythagorean Record: Big 12

Last week we looked at how Big 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 2022 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.
TCU and Oklahoma State significantly exceeded their APR while Iowa State significantly underachieved. TCU and Iowa State also over and underachieved respectively based on their YPP numbers and we went over some reasons for that last week. Oklahoma State actually played well for the first half of conference play. Through four games, the Cowboys were 3-1 in the league with their lone loss coming in overtime to TCU. However, they staggered home like a criminally over-served tavern patron, losing four of their last five with three of losses coming by at least two touchdowns and their lone victory coming by six points. 

Going Streaking
Brent Venables, regarded as one of the best defensive coordinators in college football, was expected to continue the lineage of elite teams at Oklahoma. The Sooners were the preseason favorite in the Big 12 and were ranked ninth in the preseason AP Poll. Oklahoma opened the season winning their three non-conference games by a combined 97 points culminating with a beatdown of former Big 8 rival Nebraska. Another Big 12 title and a potential CFP bid seemed on the horizon. Then the Sooners dropped their conference opener to Kansas State, lost their starting quarterback to injury against TCU, and without him suffered their worst defeat in Red River history. The Sooners stemmed the tide somewhat midseason, beating both Kansas and Iowa State, but lost three of four down the stretch to finish the regular season 6-6. But more importantly, at least for our purposes, they finished with a losing conference record for the first time since 1998. 

John Blake, a former Oklahoma defensive lineman under Barry Switzer, coached the Sooners for three seasons (1996-1998), neatly coinciding with the beginning of the Big 12. His tenure exacerbated the malaise that began under Gary Gibbs in the late 80's and continued with the forgettable single season of Howard Schnellenberger. The Sooners finished with losing records in each of Blake's three seasons and never finished better than 3-5 in Big 12 play. Venables arrived as an assistant on Bob Stoop's first staff in 1999 and the Sooners did not finish with a losing conference record until Venables returned as head coach in 2022. 

1998 serves as good inflection point in the history of college football. It was not the beginning of the modern era, but it did represent a more regimented segregation between the haves (BCS and later Power Five conferences) and the have-nots (non-BCS and Group of Five conferences). It was also the (theoretical) end of split national titles. So in the spirit of that inflection point, and in honor of Oklahoma's long run, which power conference teams in the BCS and CFP eras have endured the fewest losing conference records? Read on to find out. 
Like Oklahoma, Clemson also finished with a losing conference record in 1998 and fired the responsible party. Despite a losing overall record in 2011, they have not finished with a losing conference record since. Joining Clemson at the top and edging out Ohio State and Oklahoma is Georgia which finished 3-5 in SEC play in 2010, but has not had a losing league record in any other season of the BCS/CFP era. Cincinnati has an asterisk as they were only in a BCS conference for nine seasons (2005-2013). 

What about the other side of the coin? Which power conference teams have posted the most losing conference records? I bet you could guess most of them.
2007 and 2008. Those were the only seasons in the BCS/CFP era when Kansas did not finish with a losing conference record. The other teams that populate this list are a who's who of basement dwellers for the past quarter century. However, I must admit, I am a little shocked at Arizona's place on this list. Even Rich Rodriguez could only manage two winning Pac-12 records over his six seasons in Tucson.

Before we close, lets look at the most consecutive seasons without a losing conference record.
Clemson's streak is still active and baring an unforeseen set of circumstances, the Tigers should see their streak reach a quarter century in 2023.

And finally, the most consecutive seasons with a losing conference record.
Kansas is just a few years away from matching Indiana's streak of futility. Can the Jayhawks end the skid in 2023? Stay tuned to find out. 

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