WSJ: Myth of the Bye-Week Advantage

Submitted by Sextus Empiricus on October 14th, 2010 at 11:38 PM


Big 12 53-49 .520
Pac-10 56-56 .500
Southeastern 53-53 .500
Atlantic Coast* 51-56 .477
Big East* 29-35 .453
Big Ten 17-32 .347
TOTAL 259-281 .480
In the Big Ten in particular, byes seem to hurt more than they help. The Big Ten's 11 teams are a combined 17-32 since 2002 when playing conference games on extra rest.

This looks free - I logged out and could still see it.  Regardless this is just a teaser.  Somebody at WSJ is a Wolverine. 

SIAP - I google searched and paged back a few...honestly I lost my verve recently...something happened last weekend and I can't get rid of this headache.



October 15th, 2010 at 12:00 AM ^

I have always wondered this but had not cared enough to actually scour the stats and accumulate data.  Good info - thanks!

EDIT: I would also be curious to see the percentage of teams that had the extra week to prepare, and won, were actually the underdogs.  It doesn't do much for me to know that teams that should have won with one week of preparation, also did so with two weeks of preparation. 


October 14th, 2010 at 11:46 PM ^

Good because we play a team coming off a bye week. Bad because next week is a bye week for us. I always thought the extra rest would be beneficial but I guess not?


October 15th, 2010 at 9:43 AM ^

Is your b-day gift going to be a trip to Ann Arbor for a game when its possible?  If so, that's a bummer that it falls on a bye week this year.  Being from out-of-town, having a b-day in the fall would be an outstanding reason for my wife to "let" me head up for a game!


October 14th, 2010 at 11:53 PM ^

Preparing for Denard is like looking at the sun.  You try and take a glimpse to see what its all about, but once you spend too much time looking at it, you're just going to fry your retinas.


October 14th, 2010 at 11:52 PM ^

32 out of 49 losses is significantly different from chance (this occurs less than 2% of the time by chance according to the binomial distribution).  

But why should bye-week have a different effect in the Big Ten compared with elsewhere? 


October 14th, 2010 at 11:57 PM ^

Perhaps the style of play in the Big Ten has contributed to this phenomenon.  In the past, the "scheme" of the Big Ten has always been about strength, power, and execution.  Ultimately, as these things are going to be similar over both a one week or two week span, the extra week may not be of much value.  While in other conferences, preparing for a "scheme" that may be based on less static things than strength, such as play-calling, over a longer period of time may provide some sort of advantage?  This is just a guess to a seemingly unanswerable question.


October 15th, 2010 at 3:34 PM ^

But why should bye-week have a different effect in the Big Ten compared with elsewhere? 

Different coaches.  Conferences tend to be pretty insular.  Big Ten coaches may well discuss amongst each other how they handle bye weeks, and they've probably mostly followed the same course (which, I'm guessing, involves treating the bye like a minicamp and breaking up routine more than is probably necessary).    


October 14th, 2010 at 11:59 PM ^

There is no advantage - there are always pros and cons.  Iowa is probably the one at a disadvantage - waiting and wondering what we are going to show them.  We are the evolving unknown.


October 15th, 2010 at 12:00 AM ^

The numbers are really interesting.  It definitely seemed like, under Carr, we'd play a sloppy game coming off a bye.  Maybe it hurts you more by disrupting your routine than it helps you by getting healthy.


October 15th, 2010 at 12:17 AM ^

I would be interested to see a per-team breakdown.  I imagine there are some coaches who can really capitalize on the extra preparation time while others may do nothing significant with the time, and still others who might hurt their teams by trying to do too much or disrupting rhythms. 

Space Coyote

October 15th, 2010 at 2:08 AM ^

Typically, during a bye week, the team will get one or two days "off and away" from football (not always completely away, but maybe just film, weights, etc).  They typically spend most of the first week trying to get healthy and correct their own problems, mistakes, etc rather than actually scouting the opponent.  They might get a day or two of extra scouting in, but typically coaches don't want to get too much out of routine the week leading up to the game and usually want to correct their own mistakes (this is very difficult to do when you also have to prepare your team for your opponent with only 20 hours in a week, so most coaches take advantage of the bye week this way).  

I think what tends to happen is that the physical and speed of the game is changed for a game after a bye week.  Because teams are trying to get healthy they tend not to do much tackling and they spend a longer time going at practice speed rather than game speed (which is another reason coaches tend to take a few days off to not make make the speed of the game settle in too much).  Sometimes the Friday before the bye weekend a team will have a situation type scrimmage or something to try to keep up to speed, but again, it's usually just about their team, not scouting for the next week.

So basically, the bye has advantages and disadvantages that tend to break out about even.  Usually things like tackling and angles, timing of patterns, is a little off, but usually the game plan is pretty sound and the small mistakes (a lot of the time with blocking and assignments) is a bit cleaned up.  Coaches have different approaches, of course, but it's usually something along these lines.

Space Coyote

October 15th, 2010 at 8:31 AM ^

Which you pretty much take a bye week the same way (Friday night game vs. Saturday doesn't make much difference). 

I've spent enough time around college coaches and players to figure it out though (which is why I felt comfortable describing it above).  Sometimes they also will say stuff on TV along the same lines (especially with NFL teams during a bye week) if you listen closely enough and in the right places.  Like I said though, each coach has a different style, but so far, for the most part, regardless of level, it's been pretty much how I described.


October 15th, 2010 at 3:08 AM ^

Not rest and relaxation, but RichRod!

Seriously though, could someone get RR's WL after a gye week up here.  It'll at least give us some stats to look at while we wait two weeks.  Plus, it's on topic.


October 15th, 2010 at 7:48 AM ^

I can see why this would be a trend. As a player the one thing during the season that you hate is practicing with no game in sight. You get a bye week and now you have two weeks of uninspired practice. Not intentionally it's just the practicing during the bye week is a bit laid back and this usually carries over into the actual game week practicing. The bye week is damn close to a throw away week. The only advantage is you get to watch a bit more film on the other team.

Meeechigan Dan

October 15th, 2010 at 8:15 AM ^

Perhaps the orientation of the team determines the value of the bye week. If a team is predominantly a defensive power, then the opportunity for radical scheme changes is limited. For a team with an offensive orientation, then whole new packages can be rolled out and practiced using the extra time. Of course I say this so that both Iowa’s bye week and our upcoming bye week will both be positives for us.

But a couple data points that might support this (this comes from a quick look at schedules – not certified 100% accurate):

  • Iowa’s (defensive team) bye week record.
  • RR’s September/Opening Day performance (close loss to a good Utah team with a horrid team, mashed WMU, mashed UConn), He’s also 4-1 at WVU.
  • Looking at too few other data points, Penn State (defense) is 2-3 and OSU, strangely enough, is 1-1 (they don’t seem to like scheduling bye weeks). Florida (offense mostly) is 7-0. Skewed because of Florida’s inordinate success. Oregon is 6-0.

This is a potential diary, but not for me today. Calling all Mathletes.