## Varsity Numbers

For students majoring in breakdown of college football play-by-play

# VN: Moving Up, Moving Down, Staying The Same

by Bill Connelly

In 2010, I came up with an idea to communicate a team's in-season progress (or regression) in what I felt was a pretty easy-to-understand way. What if I took a team's single-game S&P+ score and translated it to something a lot more intuitive: the actual scoring curve?

That was the idea behind what I've simply come to call Adjusted Points. If your offense produces a 100.0 S&P+ in a specific game, you might not intuitively know what that means. But if you're told that it means they would be expected to score about 28.6 points (the current national average) against an average college defense, that starts to make a lot more sense. And if you look at each season's result as how a team would have performed against a perfectly average team with a perfectly average number of breaks, you can find who has played consistently well and who hasn't.

S&P+ itself is determined on a per-play and per-drive basis, so per-game averages are not taken directly into account for that. But Adj. Score has become a lovely way to figure out who is improving, who is regressing, who plays particularly well against good or bad teams, etc.

I tend to revisit the Adj. Score concept once or twice each season (here's last year's piece on the topic), then use it pretty heavily in the offseason. (It's at its best when each team has played as many games as humanly possible.) Because the averages for given teams and their opponents change each week, the Adjusted Scores do, too, so it's only so useful during the season. But as we start to figure out the national pecking order when it comes to the College Football Playoff, I thought it might be interesting to see who has played particularly well (or poorly) and who might be improving or regressing as the season hits its home stretch.

Below is a table that contains the following data: a team's adjusted points per game scored and allowed, its adjusted scoring margin, its adjusted record (its "record" against this perfectly average team), its actual record, its weighted scoring margin (which values each progressive game 10 percent more than the last one), and its momentum score (weighted scoring margin minus adjusted scoring margin).

Again, this is not a perfect reflection of the per-play and per-drive S&P+ ratings, nor is it supposed to be. Here are some of the more interesting tidbits I see here:

#### Miami Is Good

The Hurricanes trounced Virginia Tech last Thursday night, but that result shouldn't have been too surprising. They suffered a couple of relatively unlucky losses this season (on the road to a good Nebraska team and on the road against a solid Georgia Tech), but they have otherwise handled their business. At some point, Al Golden needs to break through in the win column, but he's putting a better product on the field this year. That's a start.

#### Better Watch Out, Ole Miss

Ole Miss is still No. 1 in the F/+ rankings and No. 4 in the adjusted scoring margin shown above. But the Rebels' weighted scoring average tells us they've begun to slip a bit in recent weeks. Only five FBS teams have a larger (bad) difference between adjusted and weighted margin. They have sprung some leaks, though a couple of those leaks should get plugged if players like defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and safety Cody Prewitt are healthy. They both missed a good portion of the second half in last week's loss to LSU.

#### Good Every Week

Here are the teams that have an undefeated adjusted record, meaning they've been better than average each week so far: Alabama, Auburn, Boise State, Florida State, Marshall, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Oregon, Stanford, TCU, Wisconsin. That list encompasses each of the top eight teams in the College Football Playoff rankings. Consistency is a good thing, huh?

One interesting team on this list: Marshall. My S&P+ ratings don't apply extra weight to games against better opponents. My idea has always been that it's not who you play, it's how you play. In that regard, you can see how Marshall ranks so highly in my overall S&P+ ratings (11th overall). They have played the softest schedule known to man, but they're dominating weak opponents like a top-15 team is supposed to dominate them. That obviously doesn't matter to the committee, which didn't even rank the Herd in their inaugural top 25, but maybe it should. If we go too far down the "punishing bad schedules" road, we might end up ignoring a team that is actually pretty good (and is being punished for its athletic director's scheduling techniques).

#### Victims of the Schedule (Or Bad Luck)

Then there's the opposite of Marshall. Here are some teams who have performed well enough to beat average teams ... but not some combination of the teams on their schedule and Lady Luck.

Adjusted record three games better than actual record: Arkansas, Indiana, Purdue, Stanford, Texas, Washington State.

Adjusted record two games better than actual record: BYU, Colorado, Florida, Miami, N.C. State, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Texas A&M, USC, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin.

And on the other side...

Adjusted record three games worse than actual record: Air Force, Bowling Green, Northern Illinois.

Adjusted record two games worse than actual record: Arizona, Arizona State, Ball State, Duke, East Carolina, Louisiana Tech, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Old Dominion, San Diego State, South Alabama, Southern Miss, Texas State, Tulane, UNLV, UTEP, Wyoming.

#### Hey There, Sparty

Here are some teams that A) were already pretty good and B) seem to be getting better: Michigan State (fifth in adjusted scoring margin, 12th in momentum), Ohio State (eighth, 36th), Miami (10th, 26th), Wisconsin (14th, 31st), Florida State (24th, 27th). I had certainly caught on about Ohio State, but it's good to see Florida State picking up steam. The Seminoles are pulling a 2012 Notre Dame, winning each game by just enough, but if they're going to end up in the playoff, they might as well be peaking when they get there.

#### Bottom Dropping Out

Other teams are regressing rather quickly. Here are the teams bringing up the rear in terms of momentum: Pittsburgh (fresh off of a seven-fumble performance), Texas A&M (fresh off of a 59-0 loss to Alabama and a quarterback change), Michigan (guh), BYU (which lost starting quarterback Taysom Hill to injury), and Penn State (which has seen an offensive collapse). Ole Miss and Baylor are wavering a bit.