Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wednesday's Wisdom

Is the B1G that historically bad?

It seems that no matter where you turn these days you're hearing about how bad the B1G is this season. The Bleacher Report gave us a multitude of reasons why the league may be suffering this season. Hinton highlighted a stupendous week for the B1G two weeks ago. Even in this space we've admitted that the B1G is bad, man. So I set out to find out if, indeed, the Big Ten is experiencing some kind of historically horrendous season.

With limited time and actual statistical analytic ability, I relied on what I could get my hands on at They are the resource I use for most, if not all, of my stats. They provide numbers going back to 2007. Since we are only through September, I looked at the conferences performance for this year and the first month and a half of each of the past six season. Of course, since Nebraska only has two years in the B1G, I only used their data from this year and last.

Certainly the league has gotten beat up over the years. So what makes this year's opinion of the B1G so much more degrading over previous year's? Is it lack of ranked or quality teams? Quality of the opponents? Losses to those crappy opponents? On field performance? It's hard to say really. So I decided to take all of those things into account in my analysis.

Let's begin.

Ranked or Quality Teams
I think it's safe to say that using a Poll is widely accepted across the college football landscape as a measurement of quality teams. And, it is also safe to say that an undefeated B1G team at this point in the season is going to appear in at least one of the Polls, right? So in an effort to see if there is a lack of "quality" teams this season I reviewed the the number of undefeated B1G teams after week 5 since 2007.

2012 - 2
2011 - 4
2010 - 6
2009 - 3
2008 - 2
2007 - 3

Based on records, you could argue there is a lack of "quality" teams in the B1G this season. But, it certainly isn't isolated as the worst start in recent history. This season is statistically no different than 2008 whenthe B1G also had only two undefeated teams after 5 games.

Historic lack of "quality" teams? Not even close. Not even the lowest in the last six years based upon my findings.

Win Percentage
Okay ranked teams is one thing, but what about Win Percentage? Teams are losing man! They're losing! Alright, let's take a look at win percentages.

2012 - 68.4%
2011 - 73.9%
2010 - 80.9%
2009 - 67.4%
2008 - 72.0%
2007 - 69.1%

Well, it looks like 2009 was the year for bad win percentages. And aside from 2008, this season's doesn't seem that far off the average for this point in the season.

Historic bad winning percentage? Not quite.

Loss to Non-Quality Opponents
Fair enough, but what about who the conference is playing? I already addressed this in last week's Wisdom when I showed that the overall strength of schedule for the B1G was actually better than the rest of the major conferences. But, as we showed, that can be argued.

Instead let's look at the number of losses to FCS schools and non-automatic qualifying FBS schools. I'm not going to say that there haven't been some ugly losses (I'm looking at you Illinois), but again this is about a historically bad season here, right. I also won't shy away from the fact that an FCS team has once in a while come away with more than a paycheck (yes, yes Appalachian St). So let's see how many FCS loses this season has produced.

2012 - 0
2011 - 1
2010 - 1
2009 - 0
2008 - 0
2007 - 1

Huh? None on the year. I thought for sure there would have been 3.

Yeah, but what about crappy-conference teams?

Okay, let's take a look at non-AQ losses and the percentage of the total those losses represent. Maybe I should've included the Big East in this group too, but that's for another time and discussion.

2012 - 4 for 22.2%
2011 - 5 for 41.6%
2010 - 2 for 25.0%
2009 - 2 for 14.3%
2008 - 2 for 14.3%
2007 - 2 for 11.7%

Well, it may not be pretty, but its certainly not the worst. The percentage of "bad" losses isn't even the worst it's been. It's even better than 2008 when the conference had its best win percentage.

On-Field Performance
Let's see if we can take it all in one pass, shall we? To get in the ballpark of on field performance I looked at  conference averages for four factors: Total Offense, Total Defense, Scoring Offense and Scoring Defense. This isn't perfect, but it gives us a comparison across the years.

2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
Avg Total O 411.88 412.94 438.26 389.95 399.28 415.42
Avg Total D 348.05 317.63 320.66 340.49 328.34 338.49
Avg Scoring O 29.69 32.66 33.74 29.22 31.06 30.84
Avg Scoring D 20.03 17.37 17.97 21.51 19.28 20.27

Looking at this data set, I think you have to admit that maybe 2009 was a little worse than 2012. Again, this isn't perfect, but it's something. At the very least you can say it's about on par as the rest of the past six seasons.

Historically bad on-field performance? Ehh, not so much.

So where does that leave us?
To recap:
2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
Undefeated Teams 2 4 6 3 2 3
FCS Loses 0 1 1 0 0 1
Win Percentage 68.42% 73.91% 80.95% 67.44% 72.00% 69.09%
Non-AQ Loses 4 5 2 2 2 2
Non-AQ Loses as % of Total Loses 22.22% 41.67% 25.00% 14.29% 14.29% 11.76%
Avg Total O 411.88 412.94 438.26 389.95 399.28 415.42
Avg Total D 348.05 317.63 320.66 340.49 328.34 338.49
Avg Scoring O 29.69 32.66 33.74 29.22 31.06 30.84
Avg Scoring D 20.03 17.37 17.97 21.51 19.28 20.27

Looking over all the information, I'd have to say that the B1G isn't in some historically bad state. Are they passing the eye test week in and week out? Probably not. Is it a rough year? No doubt. There are lots of new coaching staffs and two of the top teams have been hit hard by NCAA sanctions. It's not pretty, but it's  not historically bad.

From what I've seen, the B1G is pretty much on par with where it has been the past six season. Has the B1G been struggling for the past six seasons? That, my friends, is an argument for another time. Until then, maybe we take a breath and back off the Legends and Leaders a bit.

At least until bowl season.

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