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Advanced Stats: Coaches and Game Scores

Which Mountain West teams have coaches that constantly overachieve? Underachieve? Will certain teams finish to the 2014 season impact their start in 2015?

Helmets of the 12 members of the Mountain West Conference on display at the league’s football media days
Helmets of the 12 members of the Mountain West Conference on display at the league’s football media days
Ryan Howe - Times News

I love stats. You can use stats to pick apart just about any aspect of any sport. I also recognize that some stats mean absolutely nothing, but I found a couple that are very interesting.

Recently SB Nation's Bill Connelly looked at which football coaches consistently over- and underachieve using second order wins. There is a lot of information on what exactly that means in the linked article but for our purposes I'm not going into it. For the list below I included all available Mountain West coaches (and recent coaches) as well as a couple others for reference purpose. A simple explanation of what is included on the list:

Below, you'll find a list of coaches who have been head men for at least three seasons in the last 10 years. You'll also find the average difference between a team's wins and second-order wins. A negative number is bad -- it means your average win total is worse than the stats say it should be -- and a positive number is good.

Coach Current Team Seasons Avg. Difference per season
Todd Dodge N/A 4 Worst  -1.28
Gary Andersen Oregon State 6 -0.59
Mike MacIntyre Colorado 5 -0.55
Bob Davie New Mexico 3 -0.5
Bobby Hauck SDSU Asst 5 -0.47
Norm Chow Hawaii 3 -0.42
Chris Ault N/A 8 -0.18
Troy Calhoun Air Force 8 0.01
Nick Saban Alabama 8 0.13
Rocky Long SDSU 8 0.14
Chris Petersen Washington 9 0.34
Jim McElwain Florida 3 0.43
Tim DeRuyter Fresno State 3 0.47
Dave Christensen OL @ Texas A&M 5 0.91
Ken Niumatalolo Navy 7 Best   1.22

Quick note on why Saban was included, and why he is toward middle on the scale:

You can potentially distill coaching into two things: building a team that produces great stats and figuring out how to maneuver in tight games when neither team has a statistical advantage. The former matters above all (Nick Saban and Steve Kragthorpe, after all, are nearly even on this list ... and on no other list in existence), but if nothing else, this list might help us to understand which teams/coaches are good or bad at the latter.

It's hard to argue that Navy's Ken Niumatalolo doesn't constantly over achieved with a .626 winning percentage at Navy. Todd Dodge's lack of success has to have some UNLV fans worried (Last big name high school head coach to jump to Division I head coach.) The surprise on the bottom half of the list is Gary Andersen. Unfortunately there is no break down by year, but if I had to guess he overachieved at Utah State and underachieved at Wisconsin.  Mike MacIntyre, Bob Davie, Bobby Hauck, and Norm Chow have all struggled mightily as head coaches and this statistic seems to back that up.

Troy Calhoun is very nearly right in the middle, I believe his good seasons (2010, 2014) and equally out weighed by his bad ones (2012, 2013). Rocky Long, Chris Peterson, Jim McElwain and Tim DeRuyter for the most part have been really good coaches, so it makes sense they fall where they do on the list. Apparently in Dave Christensen's time at Wyoming he averaged almost a full win more than the stats would have suggested, which will look better to Wyoming fans every year Craig Bohl turns in below .500 seasons. Outside a couple surprises the list seems to fall in line. If you disagree feel free to voice your displeasure in the comments below.

The second stat I found interesting was the game rating or Quarterly Report.

The new S&P+ brings with it a Game Rating of sorts; it's similar to the Adj. Score that I've used in the past, though it gets a bit more complex. It also relates a team's single-game performance (adjusted for opponent) to a percentile figure, like a standardized test. Your Week 1 performance might have been in the 98th percentile, Week 2 in the 76th percentile, etc. Using these per-game percentile scores, we can pretty clearly look at who improved as the season went on and (though I won't mention Ole Miss by name, ahem) who fell apart.

Think of the following as a quarterly report of how an asset (your team) performs over all quarters of the season:

Team Week 1-4 Natl. Rk MW Rk Week 5-8 Natl. Rk MW Rk Week 9-12 Natl. Rk MW Rk Week 13+ Natl. Rk MW Rk Season Avg. Natl. Rk MW Rk
Boise State 71.50% 39 1 59.70% 45 3 72.60% 27 2 88.10% 7 1 73.90% 18 1
Utah State 38.80% 86 4 81.30% 9 1 58.90% 49 4 59.20% 49 3 58.00% 51 2
Air Force 42.00% 79 2 55.90% 53 4 66.90% 33 3 56.40% 53 4 55.30% 55 3
CSU 39.60% 85 3 61.00% 42 2 75.70% 21 1 39.60% 86 6 54.50% 56 4
SDSU 26.90% 109 9 44.10% 79 8 42.00% 81 8 68.20% 29 2 45.20% 80 5
Nevada 37.20% 90 5 46.90% 71 7 53.60% 60 5 42.40% 79 5 45.20% 82 6
New Mexico 27.20% 107 7 41.30% 83 9 42.20% 80 7 39.40% 87 7 37.70% 92 7
Fresno State 22.90% 113 10 50.30% 65 5 30.30% 99 9 37.00% 90 8 35.80% 95 8
Wyoming 36.30% 91 6 14.70% 124 12 45.70% 71 6 12.00% 120 11 29.20% 111 9
SJSU 27.20% 106 8 49.60% 66 6 24.30% 110 11 4.00% 127 12 28.00% 112 10
UNLV 20.50% 115 11 17.90% 118 11 25.90% 104 10 24.30% 108 9 22.20% 120 11
Hawaii 16.80% 121 12 29.40% 108 10 13.10% 123 12 13.10% 119 10 18.00% 126 12

This is a link to a prettier sortable excel version above

Unfortunately for the Mountain West as a whole four teams finished 111th (of 128) or worse. Wyoming's season looked like a roller coaster with major spikes and dips. New Mexico was surprisingly consistent after the first four week fluctuating only 3% over the last three quarters of the season. SDSU constantly improved their rating finishing the last four weeks as the second strongest in the conference. It will be interesting to see if that trend carries over into next season.

Colorado State was in the top three of the MW until the fourth quarter where a loss against Air Force and an ugly loss to Utah pulled them down. Utah State's best quarter came when they got wins at BYU and against Air Force. Boise State had one small dip with the horrible performance against Air Force, but then steadily increased before finishing on top of the MW and 18th in the nation. If the trends shown this year continue into next year SDSU and Boise State fans have more reasons to be excited.

If you are as into stats as I am make sure you check out Football Study Hall for the latest in different statistical ratings. Including an interesting piece looking at turnover "luck".