Thursday, January 16, 2020

Published 10:19 PM by with 0 comment

Comparing College Football Conferences

Who is the #3 team in each conference and how do they compare? What about the #4 team?comparing college football conferences
To answer this, I took S&P+ ratings for the last 3 years to get an estimate of recent team quality. If you aren't familiar with S&P+ rating, it's a rating that measures a team's efficiency. The definition from the source I used is:

The S&P+ Ratings are a college football ratings system derived from the play-by-play and drive data of all 800+ of a season's FBS college football games (and 140,000+ plays). The components for S&P+ reflect opponent-adjusted components of four of what Bill Connelly has deemed the Five Factors of college football: efficiency, explosiveness, field position, and finishing drives. (A fifth factor, turnovers, is informed marginally by sack rates, the only quality-based statistic that has a consistent relationship with turnover margins.)

In theory, when two teams play at a neutral site, the team with the higher S&P+ rating is expected to win.

The table below is the 2017-2019 S&P+ (year-end) average score for each team in each conference, sorted high-to-low by relative position in the conference, and sorted left to right by relative (from my perception) conference strength:

comparing college football conferences
S&P+ averages from 2017 - 2019

The color-code there is my attempt at binning. Greenest are probably perennial playoff contenders. Reddest are the worst teams. You would expect some of the greenest in the playoffs every year, shouldn't be shocked by any of the next tier making it, and would probably be surprised if any other teams made it.

This seems to match expectations as I read through it. Alabama and Clemson are a tier above Texas A&M and Utah. Texas A&M and Utah are a tier above Ole Miss and Washington State. It isn't perfect, but it pretty concisely conveys the information in my opinion.

Another cool aspect of this is that you can read each row to see relative conference strength. Georgia has been #2 in the SEC. Miami has been #2 in the ACC. When comparing those conferences, those are the teams you'd compare. Doing this for all teams in all conferences, I came up with my column ordering. Left to right here is roughly 'best conference' to 'worst conference' (I stuck Independents in also without ranking them).

That's it...I just liked this presentation of the data.


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