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2014 Big 12: A Look At Predictive Analytics From 2013

It’s always fun to look at the big picture when evaluating college football teams to get an idea of where their season might be headed. There are some advanced metrics that can give us some insight into some of the “luck” that teams will have in the coming season based on these particular stats regression to the mean in most cases. For the discussion below, I use the following:

CLOSE GAMES: Games decided by 7 points or fewer
TURNOVER MARGIN (TO Margin)
PYTHAGOREAN: A theoretical winning percentage based on points scored & allowed; (PS*PS)/((PS*PS)+(PA*PA))
LUCK: The difference between Pythagorean & a team’s actual record

This doesn’t always mean that teams will trend opposite of what they did the previous year. You have to look at context and previous years to get a sense of where a team might be headed in the upcoming season. It also doesn’t mean that regression to the mean will be reflected in the overall record. A team could be 0-7 in close games with a TO margin of -25 and a Pythagorean suggesting they were 2.62 wins better than their win total from the previous season, but if the team is short on talent and has an extremely difficult schedule ahead without many opportunities for home wins, regressing might not mean that much in the win column.

Moving on to the Big 12 here are the overall trends for each team. Discussion follows:

TRENDING UP: Kansas St., Texas Tech, TCU, Iowa St.
TRENDING DOWN: Oklahoma St., Oklahoma, Texas
TREADING WATER: Baylor, West Virginia, Kansas

The Big 12 is really an interesting conference for what could have been. Given how Nebraska & Colorado have fared in the Big 10 & Pac 12 respectively, you wonder if those programs wouldn’t have been better off just staying in the Big 12? You can throw in Missouri here too. Given what Missouri did last year in the SEC, you’d have to think they might have won the Big 12 outright & potentially went 13-0 which would have set up a date with Florida St. in the national championship game! If the Big 12 was making a grab, why not keep their teams & go out and add TCU & West Virginia moving them to 14 teams in some variation. It’s an interesting though made all the more interesting because the Big 12 has quietly become a better conference than the Big 10 & ACC even though at first glance you wouldn’t think so largely because of defections and the downward spiral of Texas over the last couple of seasons. Even Phil Steele rates the Big 12 as the 3rd toughest conference behind the SEC & Pac 12 for 2014!

How did this happen? Mike Gundy showed you can compete for a national championship at Oklahoma St. back in 2011. Art Briles showed you could compete for one at BAYLOR OF ALL PLACES last season! Bill Snyder came back to Kansas St. and Kliff Kingsbury looks like a perfect fit at Texas Tech! If Texas can surge under Charlie Strong then all of a sudden the Big XII is top to bottom a great conference with their only one real weakness being Kansas, but even the Jayhawks should be a pretty good team this year although you might not see it in the W-L column. Can a conference lose some pretty heavy hitters (Nebraska & Missouri) & yet come out ahead? The Big 12 has seemingly done so.

Couple of points to talk about with respect to the trends. Baylor is an interesting team to watch because they are basically treading water yet went 11-2 last season! It’s hard to think Baylor will be as good as they were a season ago, but if Lady Luck has a big year in Waco, Baylor could actually be in the playoff hunt. TCU is the one I’d really keep my eye on. They had horrific predictive metrics last season showing they could be in for a huge step forward in 2014. This is Gary Patterson’s best team in Ft. Worth since joining the Big 12 and the schedule looks favorable. Oklahoma reminds me a bit of UCLA. They have an even better team than their 11-2 2013 squad but their metrics point towards regression. This is true for UCLA and you almost wonder if Oklahoma won’t have a solid 2-year spike in Lady Luck propelling them to a potential national championship in 2014 before the big regressions come in 2015 & 2016.

Teams are listed in descending order of their Pythagorean winning percentage. Following the chart are the raw numbers in each category.

RANK TEAM COMMENTS
#1 It’s hard to finish the season 11-2 with a conference championship & not get a little bit lucky but the Bears weren’t as lucky as you would thing. Yes they were +13 in TO margin but they were just 1-0 in close games & their Pythagorean .832 suggests they were only 0.18 wins worse than their final record. Baylor shows trends of vacillating between TO margins from year to year so I’d expect some regression there, but the luck factor isn’t overwhelming. Baylor really was that good & the defense had A LOT to do with that. The defense will be down this year with just 4 starters back, but I don’t think Baylor will take a step back offensively with QB Bryce Petty under center again. Unfortunately Baylor drew both Texas & Oklahoma on the road so a repeat performance as Big XII champ might not be in the cards, but they could still win 10 games even with regression in TO margin.
#2 The Cowboys had another year dashed because of an unexpected loss. In 2011 the Cowboys were 10-0 when they went into Ames as 27-point favorites over Iowa St. only to come out with a 37-31 2OT loss! That killed their national championship hopes & they ended up 12-1 & ranked #3 in the nation! Last season OSU was a 19-point favorite going into Morgantown & came away with a 30-21 loss! It was only the Cowboys 4th game of the year so who knows how the season would turn but OSU had a chance to win the Big XII title & get to the Fiesta Bowl if they had beaten Oklahoma at home as 10-point favorites. They lost 33-24. OSU should regress this year. They were +15 in TO margin, 1-0 in close games & their Pythagorean of .766 shows they were 0.05 games worse than record. TO margin is key here but OSU returns 8 starters & the schedule is brutal. They could finish 6-6!
#3 Oklahoma is a pretty interesting squad. They look towards significant regression as their TO margin was +9 while their Pythagorean of .689 suggests they were 2.05 wins WORSE than their final 11-2 record. They were the luckiest team in the Big XII according to point differential. They were just 1-0 in close games. Normally you’d think significant regression here & you can’t help but think Oklahoma will regress down, but what’s interesting is that Oklahoma has a better team in 2014 than they did in 2013 and the schedule is a lot more forgiving. The Sooners draw Kansas St., Baylor, Oklahoma St., & Tennessee at home while the game against Texas is neutral. Their toughest road game will be at TCU. What stands out too about Oklahoma is they return 9 starters on defense so expect it to be one of the top units in the nation. Even with regression, this team will dabble with 12-0!
#4 Kansas St. is a team that could rebound in 2014. While the TO margin isn’t significant at ZERO, KSU was 1-2 in close games & their Pythagorean of .678 suggests they were 0.81 wins better than their final 8-5 record. Here is an interesting stat, since Bill Snyder came back to Manhattan, the Wildcats are 13-16 in games they are dogs in! Kansas St. is 12-3 against the spread when they are road dogs! Kansas St. might not be the kings of the Big 12, but they play HARD. Despite the possibility of an uptick in luck in 2014, the schedule hurts K-State quite a bit. They drew Oklahoma, TCU & Baylor as road games & have a non-conference game against Auburn! In the middle of their schedule they a 4-game stretch of @Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma St. & TCU! There are 7 wins here & if they can get a couple of upsets & play well at home, Kansas St. could pull an 8-9 win season.
#5 Texas Tech is another team that could benefit from Lady Luck in 2014. Texas Tech was just 1-0 in close games & their Pythagorean of 0.578 suggested they were 0.48 wins worse than their 8-5 final record. Those numbers are pretty inconsequential, but what sticks out is TT was -14 in TO margin. Even more predictive for regression is the fact they are -27 over the last 2 seasons in TO margin! The schedule also works well for the Red Raiders as they draw Texas & Oklahoma as home games & get Baylor on a neutral field. Their toughest game will be a road date at TCU. The offense returns 9 starters including QB Davis Webb from a unit that averaged 36PPG. They’ll be weak again defensively, but Texas Tech just wants to outscore teams. Texas Tech has a chance to start the year 7-0 like they did in 2013, but I think this year they won’t stumble & lose their final 5 games.
#6 Texas is one of the more interesting teams in the nation. The Mack Brown resignation to Charlie Strong entering the foray in Austin is interesting enough but Texas would seem to be a prime candidate for regression. They were 2-0 in close games & +4 in TO margin while their Pythagorean of 0.563 suggests they were 0.69 games WORSE than their final 8-5 record. The problem with saying the Longhorns will regress down is that those numbers aren’t huge in any direction & Texas brings back 15 starters & gets a very serious jolt of enthusiasm with Strong taking over. Texas ALWAYS has incredible talent so that won’t be an issue. Over the past 4 years UT is -3 in TO margin & 8-6 in close games so maybe regression looks a little shaky. The schedule is tough. Non-conference games against BYU & UCLA. Road dates with KSU & OKST. There are 10 wins especially with luck!
#7 If you are looking for a team primed to breakout in 2014 then look no further than TCU. The Frogs suffered bad luck last season going 1-4 in close games with a -2 in TO margin. Their .497 Pythagorean suggests they were 1.96 wins BETTER than their final 4-8 record! All of these signs point up for TCU, but what really helps them is their schedule & who they have coming back. This is HC Gary Patterson’s best team since joining the Big XII with 8 starters returning on both offense & defense. The schedule is decent, getting Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Texas Tech, & Kansas St. all in Ft. Worth! Baylor & Texas are the two tough road games, but keep in mind TCU was THIS CLOSE to Oklahoma & Kansas St. on the road last year. The final 4-8 record could have been 8-4 & TCU is better this season. Lady Luck is coming & Gary Patterson is a TREMENDOUS HC. They’ll contend.
#8 West Virginia has a mixed bag when it comes to predictive analytics from 2013. They were 2-1 in close games but -4 in TO margin. Their .384 Pythgorean suggests they were 0.61 wins better than their final 4-8 record. None of these really show much & WVU has been fairly stable in recent years. I don’t think things in Morgantown have gone like HC Dana Holgorsen envisioned. The Mountaineers have decreased their win total by 3 games in each year from when Holgorsen took the 2011 team to a 10-3 record. The WVU fan base needs to be patient because this year could be a long one. WVU has non-conference games against Alabama & @Maryland! They draw OU, Baylor, TCU & KSU at home! Potential wins against ISU & TT are road games. This is a superior team to the ’13 version but that schedule is BRUTAL. They’ll need a huge swing in luck to get to 4-5 wins.
#9 Lady Luck should be trending in the right direction for Iowa St. this season, but much like West Virginia, the schedule is set up in a way that the Cyclones might not be able to capitalize on it. ISU was -1 in TO margin & 0-4 in close games. Their Pythagorean of .322 suggests they were 0.87 wins BETTER than their final 3-9 record. These are similar numbers to what TCU brings back. Paul Rhoads is an excellent HC & will get the most out of this steam. With 10 returning starters on offense, ISU should average 30PPG & the defense has nowhere to go but up even with 5 starters returning. What gets ISU is the schedule. They draw Iowa, OSU, Texas & TCU on the road with Oklahoma & Baylor coming to Ames. This team plays extremely hard & even with the schedule could easily get back to a bowl game especially if Lady Luck shines on them, which I think happens for 7-8 wins.
#10 The Jayhawks are a squad treading water. In 2013, Kansas was +1 in TO margin & 1-0 in close games. Their Pythgorean of .188 suggests they were 0.74 games worse than their final 3-9 record. All of these numbers basically show us nothing because they aren’t extreme on any level. With 8 starters back on offense & 9 on defense, this will be the best team HC Charlie Weis has had in Lawrence. The problem for the most part though is that Kansas isn’t up to par with the rest of the talent in the Big 10 and their schedule isn’t kind either. Potential wins against Texas Tech & West Virginia are on the road. They even get a non-conference road game against Duke. Iowa St. does come to Lawrence but unless Kansas can pull some road upsets, this is looking like a 3 win team. This is a senior laden team & Lady Luck could shine making KU primed for delivering upsets.

PYTHAGOREAN WINNING PERCENTAGE

Baylor: .832
Oklahoma St.: .766
Oklahoma: .689
Kansas St.: .678
Texas Tech: .578
Texas: .563
TCU: .497
West Virginia: .384
Iowa St.: .322
Kansas: .188

LUCK

Oklahoma: +2.05
Kansas: +0.74
Texas: +0.69
Texas Tech: +0.48
Baylor: +0.18
Oklahoma St.: +0.05
West Virginia: -0.61
Kansas St.: -0.81
Iowa St.: -0.87
TCU: -1.96

TURNOVER MARGIN

Oklahoma St.: +15
Baylor: +13
Oklahoma: +9
Texas: +4
Kansas: +1
Kansas St.: 0
Iowa St.: -1
TCU: -2
West Virginia: -4
Texas Tech: -14

RECORD IN GAMES DECIDED BY 7 POINTS OR FEWER

Texas: 2-0
Baylor: 1-0
Kansas: 1-0
Oklahoma: 1-0
Oklahoma St.: 1-0
Texas Tech: 1-0
West Virginia: 2-1
Kansas St.: 1-2
TCU: 1-4
Iowa St.: 0-4

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July 14, 2014 - Posted by | Analytics, Baylor, Big XII, Iowa St., Kansas, Kansas St., Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Predictions, Previews, Rankings, Statistics, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia

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