The Luckiest Teams of 2011

Submitted by The Mathlete on December 30th, 2011 at 11:46 AM

After a year off, a review of the luckiest teams of the year is back. Two years ago I prepped the concept of “lucky.” It’s been a while so here’s a quick recap of how luck is defined for this exercise.

I define luck as what your record should have been with your full season performance and your schedule versus what your record actually was. It is not about injuries, having an easy schedule or even lucky bounces. Interceptions, punt returns and every relevant rush or pass are included in the full season team score. Fumbles, garbage time, interception returns and a few others play are excluded.

So the annual team score which is an average of up to 12 individual game scores (Championship and Bowl Games are excluded) and I take the schedule for the season and re-simulate it based on the actual quality of all the teams, not the pre-season expectation. I then compare actual records to projected records to find this years luckiest teams.

You could call this over or under-achieving and you would be partially right. The challenge is that over the last several years, I have been unable to find any teams that consistently bias one way by any real margin. You can point to grit, toughness, wanting it more and all the clichés, but with no record of teams being able to repeat, I just call it luck.

The Lucky

80 out of 120 FBS teams perform within 1 game of their projected total, leaving about 20 each in the real lucky and unlucky categories.

Team Conf Proj W Final W Vs Exp
Ball St MAC 2.6 6 3.4
Wyoming Mtn West 5.4 8 2.6
Kansas St Big XII 7.5 10 2.5
Virginia ACC 5.6 8 2.4
Auburn SEC 4.9 7 2.1
Virginia Tech ACC 9.0 11 2.0
Arkansas SEC 8.0 10 2.0
Baylor Big XII 7.1 9 1.9
Penn St Big Ten 7.1 9 1.9
Marshall C USA 4.2 6 1.8

Ball St is the clear-cut winner for luckiest team of 2011, winning 6 when their performance and schedule predicted less than 3. Kansas St, unsurprisingly is the luckiest BCS team going a full 2.5 games better than they “should” have. Going 9-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less will make you feel pretty lucky.

Sugar Bowl opponent Virginia Tech checks in at #6. As has been discussed elsewhere, the Hokies had a strange season. Got blown out by Clemson twice, several decent wins and some strange close games. Ultimately a weak schedule, blowout losses and narrow wins over four unranked opponents lands VT at 2 games better than expected.

RG3 earned his Heisman carrying the pathetic Baylor defense. Baylor’s overall rating was lower due to their horrendous defense, but the offense was good enough to win games giving 48, 31, 26, 39, 38 and 42 points in the regular season. Of course they cap it off by winning while giving up 56 last night.

Penn St surely doesn’t consider themselves lucky right now but 9 wins was nearly two more than they should have had. The Nittany Lions were the anti-Baylor, doing with a stout defense and a really weak offense. Penn St went 6-2 in Big Ten play despite being outscored and also beat Temple by 4 in a game they had no business pulling out.

The Un-lucky

Team Conf Proj W Final W Vs Exp
UCF C USA 8.0 5 (3.0)
Texas A&M Big XII 8.5 6 (2.5)
S Florida Big East 7.2 5 (2.2)
Temple MAC 10.1 8 (2.1)
Louisiana Mon Sun Belt 6.1 4 (2.1)
Vanderbilt SEC 7.9 6 (1.9)
Miami (FL) ACC 7.9 6 (1.9)
Florida St ACC 9.6 8 (1.6)
Fresno St WAC 5.4 4 (1.4)
Bowling Green MAC 6.4 5 (1.4)

Some familiar names show up. UCF is tops at 3 games worse than expected. UCF had BCS buster talk heading into the season and failed to even qualify for a bowl. Even the 8 projected wins would have been a disappointment but going 0-6 in games decided by a TD or less really hurts.

Texas A&M’s trials this season are well-documented. They blew leads like crazy, lost five games to bowl teams in OT or by 4 points or less. The Aggies have to feel like in some alternate universe their season and Kansas St’s is switched.

The Big Ten+

Team Conf Proj W Final W Vs Exp
Indiana Big Ten 2.4 1 (1.4)
Notre Dame Ind 9.2 8 (1.2)
Ohio St Big Ten 6.9 6 (0.9)
Illinois Big Ten 6.9 6 (0.9)
Wisconsin Big Ten 10.8 10 (0.8)
Minnesota Big Ten 3.6 3 (0.6)
Iowa Big Ten 7.1 7 (0.1)
Northwestern Big Ten 5.5 6 0.5
Michigan Big Ten 9.4 10 0.6
Michigan St Big Ten 9.3 10 0.7
Nebraska Big Ten 8.0 9 1.0
Purdue Big Ten 5.0 6 1.0
Penn St Big Ten 7.1 9 1.9

Michigan checks in at slightly lucky. They were a toss-up between 9 and 10 wins and hit the over. The Wolverines had only 3 games decided by a possession or less and went 2-1 in them.

Comments

burtcomma

December 30th, 2011 at 11:38 AM ^

Interesting, should not the raw computer analysis of someone like Sagarin, when the margin of victory is added in instead of being excluded as it is for the politically correct and inept BCS formulas, take this kind of information into account?

WolverBean

December 30th, 2011 at 11:42 AM ^

Virginia, Auburn, and especially Arkansas all seemed like teams that won more games than they had any right to win based on how they actually played this year, but who didn't have anything as obvious as TAMU's overtime gaffes to point to as evidence (maybe Auburn's squeeker against Utah State). Nice work as always, Mathlete.

Nickel

December 30th, 2011 at 3:40 PM ^

<quote>You could call this over or under-achieving and you would be partially right. The challenge is that over the last several years, I have been unable to find any teams that consistently bias one way by any real margin. You can point to grit, toughness, wanting it more and all the clichés, but with no record of teams being able to repeat, I just call it luck.</quote>

You've just destroyed the talking points of 99% of all sports talk-radio and 99.9% of the insight provided by people who call in to the shows.

Linguica

December 31st, 2011 at 12:08 AM ^

Dear Mathlete, I am curious for your opinion on Air Force's attempted 2-point conversion at the end of the Military Bowl.  My superficial analysis tells me that the choice between going for two and kicking the extra point was probably pretty close - 2 point conversions appear to work in college around 43% of the time, whereas kicking the extra point probably had a 47%ish chance of winning the game (95% chance of making the XP times the 50% chance of winning in OT).  But this doesn't take into account the chances of recovering an onside kick / quick score after the failed 2-point conversion, or the chances of Toledo scoring quickly after getting the ball back after the kickoff (there were 52 seconds left at the time of the 2-point try).  I'd like to see you apply your considerable statistical knowledge to determining if Air Force made the objectively correct decision in going for two at the end.