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Adjusted Stats 2009 Year in Review Part IV

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This is the fourth in a series of posts that will review the 2009 season (as well as 2008) from an adjusted stats perspective.

Tentative Publication Schedule

Part I: Which Stats Correlate Best to Winning? - 6/24/10
Part II: Drilling Down and Regression Models - 6/28/10
Part III: Passing Efficiency Formula - 6/30/10
Part IV: Conference Strengths and Pace - 7/2/10
Part V: Testing Conventional Wisdom - 7/16/10
Part VI: Team Matchups - 7/20/10
Part VII: Year-to-Year Changes - 7/22/10
Part VIII: Points per Yard Efficiencies - 7/26/10
Part IX: Data Dump - Team Rankings - 7/28/10
Part X: Data Dump - Team Reports - 7/30/10

Conference Strengths and Pace

During the 2008 season the Big 12 conference, and in particular the Big 12 South, had an extraordinary year. The focus of this success seemed to be in offensive production, which led to the standard debate about whether it was good offenses or bad defenses. This debate has always seemed unfair to me at some level as conferences that average an inordinately low number of points per game are always assumed to have good defenses instead of poor offenses. Taken together, the standard media theory appears to be that defenses are all that matters in football and the scoring environment is determined pretty much solely by their ability regardless of the offenses’ ability. With the adjusted stats we could now compare teams more logically based on their opponents’ strength.

But there seemed to be more to it than that. Watching plenty of Big 12 South games that season there was something else that became very obvious (other than the fact that the Big 12 called far fewer holding penalties per play and passing attempt that season than any other conference); the teams seemed to play at a much faster pace. Oklahoma seemed to snap the ball with at least 15 seconds left on the play clock every down and the others weren’t much slower. With the media’s focus on points per game and yardage per game totals, wouldn’t having more snaps per game affect that disparity?

So I ran the numbers on a straight average basis for each conference for both the rate and pace stats. Without wasting any more time talking about them, the results for both 2008 and 2009 are given in the following tables. I’ve gone ahead and included power ratings as a category given that overall conference strength is also a frequent topic. The independent teams were included in the normalization calculation but are not included in the tables. As it turned out, Oklahoma was actually an oddball; the Big 12 as a whole was not nearly fast paced in 2008 as the Sooners. But Oklahoma’s success with the strategy apparently prompted their conference brethren to pick up the pace.

Power Ratings
2009 2008
Conference Power NORM Conference Power NORM
Southeastern 39.66 87.70 Big 12 36.29 83.35
Atlantic Coast 34.27 79.10 Southeastern 34.75 80.77
Big 12 33.51 77.88 Atlantic Coast 32.98 77.79
Pacific-10 30.87 73.66 Big Ten 31.96 76.07
Big East 30.69 73.38 Pacific-10 31.31 74.98
Big Ten 29.69 71.78 Big East 28.11 69.61
Mountain West 23.47 61.84 Mountain West 25.23 64.78
Western Athletic 17.29 51.98 Conference USA 18.86 54.10
Conference USA 16.86 51.29 Mid-American 16.70 50.47
Mid-American 13.23 45.48 Western Athletic 14.41 46.62
Sun Belt 11.02 41.96 Sun Belt 9.75 38.81
Offensive Yards per Play
2009 2008
Conference YPP NORM Conference YPP NORM
Southeastern 6.09 91.80 Big 12 6.14 98.75
Big East 5.74 77.12 Big Ten 5.64 78.06
Pacific-10 5.72 76.30 Pacific-10 5.59 75.93
Big Ten 5.69 74.95 Big East 5.46 70.41
Atlantic Coast 5.68 74.30 Southeastern 5.43 69.35
Big 12 5.59 70.88 Conference USA 5.25 61.64
Western Athletic 5.34 60.28 Mountain West 5.24 61.40
Conference USA 5.28 57.70 Atlantic Coast 5.21 60.16
Mountain West 5.18 53.65 Mid-American 5.10 55.52
Sun Belt 5.06 48.48 Western Athletic 5.05 53.52
Mid-American 4.93 43.19 Sun Belt 4.94 48.64
Defensive Yards per Play
2009 2008
Conference YPP NORM Conference YPP NORM
Southeastern 4.67 89.49 Southeastern 4.89 83.59
Big 12 5.02 79.59 Big Ten 4.92 82.46
Big Ten 5.10 77.36 Pacific-10 4.95 81.26
Big East 5.25 73.15 Atlantic Coast 5.15 74.66
Pacific-10 5.30 71.66 Big East 5.22 72.27
Atlantic Coast 5.30 71.62 Big 12 5.28 70.24
Mountain West 5.53 65.20 Mountain West 5.34 68.01
Mid-American 5.97 53.03 Western Athletic 5.82 51.58
Conference USA 6.07 50.24 Mid-American 5.90 48.69
Sun Belt 6.27 44.52 Conference USA 5.97 46.55
Western Athletic 6.28 44.43 Sun Belt 5.99 45.90
Total Passing per Attempt
2009 2008
Conference TPPA NORM Conference TPPA NORM
Atlantic Coast 6.93 84.88 Big 12 7.36 101.62
Southeastern 6.86 82.76 Big Ten 6.40 76.54
Big Ten 6.78 80.73 Pacific-10 6.24 72.37
Big East 6.53 73.61 Southeastern 6.11 68.97
Big 12 6.45 71.39 Mountain West 6.08 68.03
Pacific-10 6.40 69.97 Conference USA 5.87 62.62
Mountain West 6.16 63.17 Big East 5.81 61.13
Conference USA 5.73 51.33 Atlantic Coast 5.76 59.69
Western Athletic 5.72 51.04 Mid-American 5.72 58.83
Mid-American 5.49 44.57 Western Athletic 5.58 54.97
Sun Belt 5.47 43.88 Sun Belt 5.23 45.83
Total Passing Allowed per Attempt
2009 2008
Conference TPPA NORM Conference TPPA NORM
Southeastern 5.30 86.43 Pacific-10 5.42 85.26
Big 12 5.56 81.26 Big Ten 5.51 82.89
Big Ten 5.66 79.08 Southeastern 5.63 79.81
Atlantic Coast 5.91 74.11 Big 12 5.77 76.06
Big East 6.05 71.11 Atlantic Coast 5.88 73.03
Pacific-10 6.07 70.86 Big East 6.08 68.05
Mountain West 6.30 66.00 Mountain West 6.16 65.80
Mid-American 6.68 58.39 Western Athletic 6.55 55.60
Western Athletic 7.12 49.31 Conference USA 6.79 49.44
Conference USA 7.33 45.13 Mid-American 6.79 49.33
Sun Belt 7.46 42.51 Sun Belt 6.94 45.40
Total Rushing per Carry
2009 2008
Conference TRPC NORM Conference TRPC NORM
Southeastern 5.45 93.79 Big East 5.12 88.76
Pacific-10 5.18 82.81 Big Ten 5.03 83.63
Big East 5.12 80.65 Pacific-10 4.92 77.60
Western Athletic 4.83 69.03 Southeastern 4.86 74.60
Atlantic Coast 4.70 63.71 Big 12 4.81 72.04
Conference USA 4.68 63.18 Atlantic Coast 4.73 67.78
Big Ten 4.64 61.61 Mountain West 4.57 58.94
Big 12 4.57 58.55 Sun Belt 4.53 56.90
Sun Belt 4.53 57.12 Conference USA 4.46 53.07
Mountain West 4.34 49.57 Western Athletic 4.32 45.33
Mid-American 4.14 41.74 Mid-American 4.29 43.96
Total Rushing Allowed per Carry
2009 2008
Conference TRPC NORM Conference TRPC NORM
Southeastern 4.01 89.96 Southeastern 4.12 86.26
Big East 4.36 78.38 Big Ten 4.25 81.38
Pacific-10 4.45 75.13 Big East 4.30 79.75
Big Ten 4.49 73.98 Atlantic Coast 4.36 77.59
Big 12 4.56 71.74 Pacific-10 4.56 70.77
Atlantic Coast 4.62 69.62 Mountain West 4.59 69.61
Mountain West 4.85 61.94 Big 12 4.81 61.93
Conference USA 4.94 59.21 Western Athletic 5.14 50.16
Sun Belt 5.26 48.33 Mid-American 5.20 48.29
Mid-American 5.42 43.18 Sun Belt 5.23 47.24
Western Athletic 5.44 42.59 Conference USA 5.26 46.00
Plays per Game
2009 2008
Conference PLPG NORM Conference PLPG NORM
Big 12 76.10 89.39 Big 12 75.20 80.81
Sun Belt 75.65 84.15 Conference USA 75.10 79.79
Conference USA 75.19 78.93 Big Ten 74.63 74.83
Big Ten 74.38 69.69 Sun Belt 74.38 72.30
Mountain West 74.27 68.39 Pacific-10 74.15 69.81
Pacific-10 73.82 63.26 Mountain West 74.07 69.01
Mid-American 73.81 63.23 Western Athletic 74.04 68.71
Atlantic Coast 73.43 58.90 Mid-American 73.90 67.24
Southeastern 73.39 58.40 Atlantic Coast 73.16 59.52
Western Athletic 73.23 56.55 Big East 72.94 57.23
Big East 72.98 53.73 Southeastern 72.64 54.03
Possessions per Game
2009 2008
Conference PsPG NORM Conference PsPG NORM
Sun Belt 12.25 85.18 Pacific-10 12.26 82.19
Big 12 12.18 81.13 Western Athletic 12.26 82.16
Big Ten 12.06 74.15 Conference USA 12.18 77.70
Pacific-10 11.98 69.26 Big Ten 12.17 77.18
Conference USA 11.92 65.67 Sun Belt 12.08 72.17
Mid-American 11.91 65.44 Southeastern 11.99 67.30
Mountain West 11.89 64.20 Atlantic Coast 11.90 62.47
Southeastern 11.89 63.88 Big East 11.90 62.02
Big East 11.89 63.87 Big 12 11.78 55.84
Western Athletic 11.85 61.58 Mountain West 11.77 54.82
Atlantic Coast 11.82 59.90 Mid-American 11.75 53.83
Time per Offensive Play
2009 2008
Conference TPP NORM Conference TPP NORM
Sun Belt 22.31 83.25 Mountain West 21.27 99.37
Big 12 22.39 82.12 Conference USA 22.41 82.31
Conference USA 22.66 78.49 Southeastern 23.00 73.35
Mountain West 23.06 72.89 Western Athletic 23.38 67.67
Mid-American 23.45 67.59 Mid-American 23.66 63.43
Western Athletic 23.57 65.90 Big 12 23.96 59.02
Pacific-10 23.65 64.82 Big East 24.17 55.79
Big Ten 23.79 62.86 Atlantic Coast 24.31 53.62
Southeastern 23.96 60.50 Sun Belt 24.42 52.02
Atlantic Coast 24.24 56.63 Big Ten 24.42 51.99
Big East 24.29 55.95 Pacific-10 24.45 51.56

Looking at the tables, the Big 12's ridiculous performance in the offensive passing game in 2008 stands out. It was a combination of a lot of good passing offenses along with, in my opinion, tacit if not explicit approval of holding in pass protection from the league office. The Big 12 called over 25% fewer holding penalties per pass attempt than any other BCS conference in 2008. When the rate of holding calls moved sharply back to the mean in 2009 (along with injuries to and graduation of star quarterbacks) the league's passing performance dropped sharply. Other notes are that the SEC is indeed the best defensive conference but probably not by as much as many believe. Now it's off to Disney World for the Huckleberry clan. Wish us luck.


We're gonna need it.