During the 2014 college football season I attempted to keep score of each team’s and each conference’s overall body of work by assigning a point value for each win. Each week teams and conferences had chances to add to their total, the intended use to be to assess which conference and which team did the most impressive work from start to finish. I call it the McGuire Metric, because a part of me does have an ego. It is completely experimental and I was curious to see how this number worked out compared to the actual results we see on the field at the end of the season and in the rankings.
With the bowl season now in the books and a lesson has been learned, I figure it is time to take a look at the final results to see how things played out. Today, let’s start with a look at how the conferences fared at the end of the season.
Big Ten At The Top
The first season of the McGuire Metric was very kind to the Big Ten, a conference that was essentially written off by many after two weeks of the season. A solid postseason record (6-5 in bowls and playoff games) helped push the Big Ten to the top of the pecking order with 109.5 cumulative points in non-conference games. Ohio State accounted for 39.0 points in the College Football Playoff games with neutral site victories over Alabama (19.5 points) and Oregon (19.5 points). The weight of those wins is significant. Heading into the bowl season, the Big Ten was ranked fourth in the McGuire Metric behind the ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin winning bowl games against ranked opponents helped change the outlook dramatically.
The SEC Fourth?
Some say numbers never lie, but I even want to take issue with the idea the SEC is a distant fourth in the conference pecking order. The conference took a hit with four losses by the SEC West in postseason play, but the SEC West went undefeated and the conference finished with seven bowl wins. Combine that with early season victories in non-conference match-ups, and the SEC’s finish in the McGuire Metric may be surprising. How did the SEC fall into fourth?
It starts with the poor record against the ACC in the final week of the regular season, which helped to boost the ACC number in a big way. Florida State, Louisville, Clemson and Georgia Tech all won games against the SEC in the final week of the regular season.
Of the top 20 performers in the individual school version of the McGuire Metric, eight hail from the SEC, more than any other conference. As I have explained before though, because the numbers are based on AP rankings the numbers may be skewed a little bit. Texas A&M finished ranked No. 12 in the McGuire Metric, for example. Auburn, with five losses, finished No. 14.
I know I should probably go to the grave defending a mathematic formula bearing my name, but I simply refuse to admit the SEC is the fourth best conference in the country. However, when comparing overall body of work, to suggest the SEC did not do as much as the other power conferences (except the Big 12) is a fair argument to make.
Is The ACC Really THAT Good?
I have been saying all season long the ACC is a better conference than it tends to get credit for being. Part of that has come from the dominance by the SEC over the years. But if you think the ACC is Florida State and everybody else, take a closer look at how some of the other members did this season.
Georgia Tech finished with the 11th best McGuire Metric score, thanks to the strength of two wins against ranked SEC foes in the final games (Georgia, Mississippi State). The ACC continued to be given a boost by the early-season victory by Virginia Tech at Ohio State as well. The Hokies finished in the top 25 of the McGuire Metric basically because of that one win.
The ACC did not fare very well in postseason play, outside of Clemson and Georgia Tech. The ACC was 0-2 against the Big Ten, 0-2 against the Pac-12 and 1-2 against the SEC. The McGuire Metric shows the ACC to have accomplished the second most this season, but that number looks to be slightly inflated.
The Consistent Pac-12
For much of the season the Pac-12 was one of the top conferences in the McGuire Metric. The postseason helped to back that idea up. Though the Pac-12 went 1-2 in the major bowl games and playoffs, the Pac-12 seemed to be the most consistent conference from start to finish this season. The final McGuire Metric sees the Pac-12 finish in third place, but a possibly inflated ACC score should be of note for this first experimental season.
Though Oregon was defeated in the championship game, the Pac-12 turned in the highest winning percentage in postseason bowls with a 6-3 record. In the entire season, no conference had more wins against power conference opponents (11, tied with Big Ten after bowl season) and no power conference had more true road wins (neutral site games not included) in non-conference play.
The Myth of The Big 12’s Depth
Going into the 2014 season there was a thought seemingly shared by many the Big 12 was one of the deepest conferences and perhaps a solid third best in the nation. If the 2014 season teaches nothing else, it may have been the Big 12 was extremely top-heavy with a very good TCU and Baylor.
According to the McGuire Metric, the Big 12 had the sixth most successful season in terms of body of work. The biggest win of the regular season for the conference was TCU’s home win against Minnesota. If not for TCU blasting Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl, the Big 12’s final score would have been even farther behind the power conferences and the Mountain West Conference. Few would argue TCU was not one of the best teams in the country, but when the selection committee has to weigh the bodies of work against other options, TCU (and Baylor’s) biggest hurdle may be the strength of the Big 12. It looks as though the conference as a whole needs to focus on improving results in non-conference play, and scheduling tougher games as a conference would help as well. This point was driven home easily with Baylor being left out of the playoff, but the theory can be shared for the entire conference.
TCU finished third overall in the McGuire Metric, and Baylor finished No. 8. West Virginia was the next best Big 12 school at No. 21 and Kansas State finished just outside the top 25 of the McGuire Metric.
Now that we are in the offseason, I should have some time to dig deeper into the McGuire Metric. My plan is to spend time breaking down each conference for a year-in-review, as well put together an adjusted McGuire Metric based solely on the final AP ranking. I think there is some interesting findings in the first year of this and I do intend to do it again in 2015. There will likely be some changes to this before the start of next season, but I need to take some time to figure out how to adjust it a bit. I might expand the point value a bit, but that will come later.
In the meantime, let me know what you think in the comments. Is there anything noteworthy here? What would you change for next year?
Top Performers in 2014 (up to date)
Most Valuable Wins of 2014 (does not include bowl games)