August 16, 2017

Best Teams & Coaches as Favorites

One measure of the strength of a program is if the team wins when it should win, meaning when they are favored.

Not all favorites are the same, of course.  Being a field goal favorite is not the same as being a 21 point favorite, nor is a being a home favorite always the same as being a road favorite.

In the tables below, which looks at games between FBS teams from 2011 to 2016, these distinctions are not made – the data includes all favorites, whether they were 1 point or 21 point favorites. There’s all kinds of rabbit holes you can examine in this type of exercise, but I chose to stay at the top level in this instance.

The results are generally what was expected, specifically near the top, though I admit Kansas State at the apex surprised me a bit.

When you think about the best coaches in college football the names of Snyder, Swinney, Saban, Fisher, Petersen and Meyer are among the first off the tongue.

If we look specifically at coaches (at current/last school) the order would be:

The winning percentage as a whole was 77.3%, so the cutoff was Tennessee – everyone below that is below average.

One team stands out in a negative way.  Virginia Tech has lost 18 times as a favorite in the last 6 seasons, an average of 3 times per season.  Most of that obviously, was during the waning years of the Beamer era, but the Hokies did lose twice as favorites in 2016 (substantial favorites at that) despite winning the ACC Coastal.

SUR data to be used during Harvard symposium

I’ve always wanted to be accepted in the Ivy League and with the help of Edward Egros, a sports analytics journalist with the Fox affiliate in Dallas, I’ll finally make it. Kind of.

Over the last year, Edward and Charles South, a statistician who is passionate about sports, have been working on a study applying advanced statistical models to determine what’s the best way to forecast the outcome of games (and as an extension, how to pick games against the spread).

A few weeks ago their findings were presented for an R Users Group in Dallas, and next month they will present a poster at the New England Symposium on Statistics in Sports (NESSIS) at Harvard University.

The Seldom Used Reserve database contains over 4,300 college football games and is used by many visitors to this site and a large group of Reddit users to model systems for predicting college football games, as well as in research and master’s level projects.

Over the years I’ve heard from degenerate gamblers, graduate students, fantasy football players, statisticians, mathematicians and, now, a journalist who will use the data at an Ivy League institution.

Thank you to Edward and Charles for their work and including Seldom Used Reserve.

5 Biggest ACC Games of 2017

Five biggest ACC games of 2017.

Featured image courtesy gwinndavisphotos.com

5 Biggest Non-Conference Games for ACC Teams in 2017

5 biggest non-conference games for ACC teams in 2017.

8 Plays: Linebackers

Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware (10) celebrate the fourth down stop. GWINN DAVIS / FOR POST AND COURIER

8 plays from the Clemson linebackers.

 

Previous Editions:

8 plays from Jordan Leggett

8 plays from Wayne Gallman

8 plays from the defensive backfield

8 plays from Mike Williams

CFB Trends: Part 6

Other than points, perhaps the most important metric in college football – yards per play. Out of all the metrics I track, none has a higher winning percentage than winning the yards per play advantage over your opponent – not even winning the turnover battle.  The gap has held relatively steady – starting at 1.25 in 2011 and sitting at 1.26 in 2016, though there have been some swings (2013!) along the way.

But again, year in and year out, the fact remains – more plays, more yards and especially more yards per play = winner.

Previously in Series:
CFB Trends Part 1 – Home field advantage?
CFB Trends Part 2 – Vegas knows – favorites win
CFB Trends Part 3 – You’re not imagining it – scoring is up
CFB Trends Part 4 – Everybody runs 70 plays a game
 CFB Trends Part 5 – Yards, yards and yards

CFB Trends – Part 5

Yards matter. Sure, there’s games where the team with less yards win, but it’s more likely that the team with more yards is going to win the game – which makes the stat we just looked at – plays per game – important and the one up next – yards per play – even more important.  The graph below makes the big picture clear: Teams that gain more yards than their opponents win.

Not only that, but the margin is getting larger.  In 2011 there was a 100 yard difference on average between winners and losers.  By 2016 that number had grown to 104.1.

Previously in Series:
CFB Trends Part 1 – Home field advantage?
CFB Trends Part 2 – Vegas knows – favorites win
CFB Trends Part 3 – You’re not imagining it – scoring is up
CFB Trends Part 4 – Everybody runs 70 plays a game
 

College Football Trends – Part 4

The numbers below are derived from 4,339 college football games between 2011-2016 that involved 2 FBS teams.

Remember when Chad Morris came to town and said 70 plays means Clemson wins?  Turns out he was right the vast majority of the time, but now “everybody” runs 70+ plays a game in college football.  One thing, however, has been consistent: Teams that run more plays on offense win more than than teams that run less.

Previously in Series:
CFB Trends Part 1 – Home field advantage?

CFB Trends Part 2 – Vegas knows – favorites win

CFB Trends Part 3 – You’re not imagining it – scoring is up

 

College Football Trends: Part 3

The numbers below are derived from 4,339 college football games between 2011-2016 that involved 2 FBS teams.

Does it seem like scoring is up in college football? Well it is as 2016 saw more points scored per game than any season since I began tracking in 2011. One could argue that 3.4 points per game is not that much. All the plays (coming soon in a chart), wild offenses, crazy formations and….3.4 points more per game?  That’s a 6.2% increase over 6 years.  Maybe it’s me, but 1% a year doesn’t sound as earth shattering as some would want you to believe.

On the other hand, 2016 saw a full point more per game than 2015 and the trend is definitely up and to the right on a graph.

Previously in Series:

CFB Trends Part 1 – Home field advantage?

CFB Trends Part 2 – Vegas knows – favorites win

College Football Trends – Part 2

The numbers below are derived from 4,339 college football games between 2011-2016 that involved 2 FBS teams.

Vegas generally knows what they’re doing, despite the spreads in the Fiesta Bowl and National Championship games.  If you’re team is favored, you’re likely to win that day.  The numbers below are for all point spreads and as you can imagine the bigger the spread the more likely it is that the favored team wins.

Previously in series:

CFB Trends Part 1 – Home field advantage?