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July 23, 2014

"All Indicators Pointing Upward" (Unless Under Richt)

For whatever reason, forecasting statistics which
accurately measure most of today's college football
teams, and UGA squads under old coaching regimes,
have had little relevance during the Richt era.  
Like many college football enthusiasts, I've delved into my copy of Phil Steele's College Football Preview since its release about a month ago.  And, recently reading Georgia's section, the next-to-last sentence in "Phil's Forecast," just before Steele claims the Bulldogs are a "legitimate contender in the SEC East," caught my attention: "[The Bulldogs] are a +3.0 on the Stock Market, were -7 in TO's (turnovers) and had -4 net upsets LY (last year) all indicators pointing upward."

By the way, Steele certainly has Georgia pointing upward compared to a year ago, picking the Bulldogs to win the SEC East and finish ranked 7th in the nation, while declaring they are his No. 1 "Surprise Team" of all those belonging to the power conferences.  However, I'm hoping Steele based these favorable prognostications on much more than his statistical indicators.  As I've shown before, and then again, there are certain stats which evidently do a fine job of gauging the success of seemingly every other college football team except, for whatever reason, Georgia.  But, let's see how the three new "indicators" have done.       

Stock Market: Perhaps the best way to explain Steele's Stock Market Indicator is if a team had an over- or underachieving season in year 3, it should have similar success in year 4 as it did in year 1 and 2.  For Georgia, it won 10 games in 2011, 12 in 2012, and then a disappointing 8 a year ago.  For year 4, if the win total of year 3 is subtracted from the average of year 1 and 2, a +3.0 indicator is calculated for the Bulldogs, a "Bull Market" team entering 2014.  On the contrary, Auburn, which won 8, 3, and 12 games respectively the last three years, is a "Bear Market" team in 2014 with an indicator of -6.5 ((8+3)/2-12), or the lowest/worst in all of FBS football.

According to Steele, of all teams since 1990 entering a season with a +1.5 Stock Market Indicator or higher, 65 percent wound up with a better record, or the exact same mark at worst, than they had the season before (+3.0 indicator or higher is 74% better/same record).  As for Georgia, I went all the way back to the beginning of the Vince Dooley era, and found 14 of the 50 teams entering the 1964 through 2013 seasons with a +1.5 indicator or higher.  Similarly to college football on the whole since 1990, 9 of those 14 Georgia teams, or 64 percent, finished with a better/same record as the year before.  Notably, of the 9 of 14 teams winding up with a better/same record, the Dooley-Goff-Donnan era was a stellar 8 of 11, Richt just 1 of 3.

Turnovers: According to Steele, another indication of a team improving is if it had a significantly low turnover margin, like Georgia's -7 in 2013, the season before.  From 1964 to 2013, 10 Bulldog teams entered their season having a TO margin of -2 or worse the year before, and just four improved their record; however, all four were during the Dooley-Goff-Donnan era (4 of 7), while Richt is 0 of 3 under the same circumstances.

Net Upsets: The final indicator is the number of net upsets, or the number of wins by a team as an underdog minus its number of losses as a favorite.  As mentioned, Georgia had a minus-4 in net upsets in 2013.  The Bulldogs didn't win any games as an underdog last season, but lost four games as a favorite; therefore, according to Steele, Georgia should seemingly rebound in 2014.  For what it's worth, 2013 was the third season in the Bulldogs' last seven the team was minus-2 or worse in net upsets, which immediately followed a remarkable 11-year run (1997-2007) of not having a single minus-2 or worse campaign.  Entering the 50 seasons, 15 Georgia teams were minus-2 or worse in net upsets the season before and 11, or 73 percent, wound up having a better/same record (Dooley-Goff-Donnan 10 of 13, Richt 1 of 2).

It's been 23 years since UGA entered a season
with at least a +2.0 Stock Market, and had at least
a -2 TO margin and was -2 in net upsets the season 
before. And, in 1991, behind the running of Garrison
Hearst, and coaching of Ray Goff, the  "pointing
upward" Dogs improved +4.5 games from '90.   
In summary, a high Stock Market Indicator entering a season, and lowly turnover margin and net upsets the previous year are all indeed indicators of pointing upward for the vast majority of college football programs, including Georgia'sthat is, prior to the mid-2000s.  If all three indicators above are combined, the Bulldogs wound up with a better/same record in 22 of 31 instances (71%) during the Dooley-Goff-Donnan era, but just 2 of 8 (25%) under Coach Richt.

Simply based on past victory totals, turnover margins, and net upsets, Georgia isn't necessarily pointing downward in 2014 and heading for a worse record than a year ago.  Personally, I think the Bulldogs are at least two wins better this upcoming season.  I also think very highly of the hard-working Phil Steele, and his forecasting statistics.  There's good reason why he has been the most accurate prognosticator in the sport for years.

But, when it comes to those forecasting statistics, they may accurately measure the fates of most college football teams, and for roughly 40 years, such stats were a legitimate gauge for the Bulldogs, as well.  However, during the Coach Richt era, for whatever reason, they've proven to curiously be  just a bunch of meaningless numbers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting, though I would say the small sample sizes on a number of the indicators could mean that those indicators have not regressed to the mean... At least let's hope so.