2018 Big10 Football Post Season Analysis

I will start with final power rankings, which I see as this:

  1. Ohio State
  2. Michigan
  3. Penn State
  4. Iowa
  5. Northwestern
  6. Wisconsin
  7. Michigan State
  8. Purdue
  9. Nebraska
  10. Minnesota
  11. Indiana
  12. Maryland
  13. Illinois
  14. Rutgers

The most difficulty for me was which team, Michigan State or Wisconsin, should land in the #6 spot. They had comparable, but different regular seasons and in the end it mostly comes down to which metrics you tend to emphasize when comparing teams.

TeamW-LNet PtsSOSBlowout Ls
Michigan St7-560131
Wisconsin7-521532

I compiled these rankings based on a combination of computer and human analysis. The first thing I did was come up with a ranking formula that rates each team on a number of metrics including wins, SOS, close games, blowout wins and blowout losses.

Here are those results:

RankTeamWinsNet PointsClose LossesBlowout WinsBlowout LossesSOS RankRating
1Ohio State12231061452.21474
2Michigan10231071152.21057
3Penn State9175241361.29317
4Iowa8169340491.08886
5Northwestern8320070.81663
6Purdue65642130.67276
7Michigan State721211130.36126
8Wisconsin76013253-0.29206
9Nebraska4-1551120-0.36903
10Minnesota6704339-0.65981
11Maryland5-224516-0.75738
12Indiana5-4211217-0.78590
13Illinois4-16112558-2.43836
14Rutgers1-21521637-3.35546

As you can see, it’s quite close to the final rankings. Purdue is the only team that changes more than one spot. I have them two spots lower, at #8, which I will attempt to justify.

I need some sort of other analysis to compare against, or at least support/deny some of my thoughts around where these teams rank. I thought a cluster analysis would give me a better idea of which teams were comparable to each other in 2018.

I created two cluster plots using two different methods and the results are below:

The only difference between these is that in one Nebraska and Purdue are lumped together as similar, and in the other, Purdue joins a cluster with Northwestern, Michigan State, and Indiana.

Good to see everything else the same because it gives me more confidence that those teams are similar and should thus be grouped together.

This confirmed or taught me a number of things:

  1. Ohio State and Michigan had the best two seasons by a lot
  2. Although Northwestern had an impressive season and made it to the Big10 championship, Iowa and Penn State both appear to have had better overall performances throughout the season
  3. Rutgers is clearly the worst team
  4. Nebraska’s season was most comparable to Purdue

Once I finalized my rankings, I compared them to both the BTN final power rankings and the Sagarin Rankings for good measure and mine were not terribly different. So this gave me confidence in where the teams are positioned.

Nebraska Football’s Second Half 2018

Head coach Scott Frost has been quoted as saying Nebraska’s football team turned a corner after their game against Purdue on September 29:

“Something’s changed,” he started. “It really changed after the Purdue game [and] changed even more last week. I saw guys bonding together, having fun out there, everybody kind of excited to go to battle. I think getting to that turning point where the team wasn’t going to put up with any more of the culture killers and we’re going to become culture keepers and culture promoters. I see that happening.”

Source: https://hailvarsity.com/s/5030/nebraska-scott-frost-says-has-turned-a-corner

One week after these comments, the Huskers traveled to Northwestern (currently ranked #22) and lost in overtime. Since then, not only has Nebraska continually played better, but their record is starting to reflect the transformation as well:

WEEK OPPONENT RESULT
8 Minnesota W, 53-28
9 Bethune Cookman W, 45-9
10 Ohio State L, 31-36
11 Illinois W, 54-35
12 Michigan State W, 9-6

So in this time frame, they are 4-1 (3-1 in Big 10). And further analysis shows you can make an argument that the Big Red have been one of the best teams in the conference over the last five weeks, with Michigan clearly sitting at the top:

What does this all mean?

Well, it could amount to not much. You could argue Nebraska’s schedule strength has been middle of the pack in this time period and that it includes a cupcake game (no offense to B-CU). But it’s hard to deny when looking at the numbers, the wins, and noticing it on the field that Nebraska has made a tremendous shift late in the year.

They still have flaws to be sure — most notably they need to improve defensive pressure and special teams — but they are overall playing as well or better than most Big 10 teams right now. That means we should be coming up on a great matchup against Iowa on Friday and that good things are coming soon for the Big Red.

2018 Husker Football Targets

As a follow up to my last post, here is where the remaining targets for 2018 are located using a US heatmap. The darker blue means more targets in that state.

Most notable are Florida, California, and Texas, but not much of a surprise there considering they have large populations and we have recruited heavily in these states in the past.

What really jumps out to me here is Georgia. There must be a connection there that I’m not aware of because we have 23 targets in that state. Wondering if this is related to Frost’s staff ties at UCF. Neighboring state, so it makes sense. Let me know in the comments.

A full list of targets can be found on Data Omaha: http://dataomaha.com/huskers/class/2018.

2018 Husker Football Commits by State

The map below shows where our current commitments are from, as of February 10, 2018. Data for the map was collected from Data Omaha.

The breakdown of scholarships/transfers/walk-ons looks like this:

Commitment Type Count
Scholarship 24
Transfer 2
Walk-on 15

Only one scholarship player is from Nebraska — four-star Tight End Cameron Jurgens out of Beatrice — but adding the 15 walk-ons from Nebraska makes it the most heavily committed state. Florida jumps out with seven commits, and interestingly, Georgia with four.

Count by state:

State Count
Nebraska 17
Florida 7
Georgia 4
California 3
Alabama, Texas 2
Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, South Dakota 1

UNO Basketball Having Bad Luck?

I noticed today (1/14/18) the Omaha Mavs men’s basketball team is ranked 267th (out of 351) on Kenpom in Luck, meaning they have been very unlucky this season. But what does that mean exactly?

On Kenpom.com, each team has projected wins/losses through the season. Luck is a measure of how many games a team was expected to win (via Kenpom’s model expectations) compared to the number of wins they actually received.

So is UNO having poor luck this season? This metric may be better viewed as they are under-performing their expectations rather than they’ve been unlucky. While this could be due to luck, the number doesn’t necessarily say why they haven’t won as many games as expected though, so the interpretation is up to you.

Here is the official explanation on Kenpom’s site: https://kenpom.com/blog/ratings-explanation/

Nebrasketball 2017 Win/Loss Splits by Location

2018 is approaching quickly and the Huskers men’s basketball squad is 9-5 overall. Their only home loss thus far being a missed buzzer shot against Kansas, which would have been a hefty accolade as they try to build a case for the NCAA tourney.

Below, I have built a split chart showcasing how those wins have come over the first 14 games.

Takeaways:

  • Nebraska has played very well at home. They are currently 7-1 at home with their only loss a tight game against an always-talented Jayhawks team.
  • They have not played as well in away games. Now, it must be noted they have only played three away games so far, but they are 0-3 in those games and lost by large margins. Also noteworthy is all of these were against talented teams: St. John’s, Michigan St., and Creighton. As of this post, both Michigan St. and Creighton are in the AP Top 25 and while St. John’s is not — they are ranked 19th in RPI.
  • At neutral sites, Nebraska is 2-1, so they can win away from Lincoln and need to during Big Ten play in order to build a worthy March resume. Go Big Red.

Husker Bowl Records by Coach

COACH W L Avg Score Diff
Mike Riley 1 1 -3
Bo Pelini 3 4 0
Bill Callahan 1 1 1
Frank Solich 3 3 7
Tom Osborne 12 13 1
Bob Devaney 6 3 9

Aside from Devaney who won 66% of the time, bowl records for each coach hovered around .500. Of course, this table doesn’t tell us the strength of schedule. You have to assume that for most of Coach Osborne’s career he was playing elite teams in every bowl game.

Still, it’s interesting how close bowl games are. The average score difference shows that the games were mostly pretty tight (on average).

More Throws, Lower Pass Rating Results in Losses

In games Nebraska won this season, Tommy Armstrong had a pass rating of 165.06 (more on that calculation below) and less than 28 pass attempts.

In losses, the Huskers attempted nearly 40 passes and Tommy Armstrong had a pass rating of 103.54.

Result Avg TDs Avg Int’s Avg Attempts Completion % Pass Rating
Wins 2.17 1.00 27.33 65.24% 165.06
Losses 1.50 1.67 39.67 48.32% 103.54

Looking at this data it is easy to conclude that when the Big Red call a more conservative game it puts the Nebraska in a better place to succeed. A prime example of this was the bowl game against UCLA in which Nebraska was very successful and did not abandon the run. It was also the fewest pass attempts in any game this season.

Passer Rating is defined using [(8.4 x Yards) + (330 x TDs) + (100 x Completions) – (200 x Interceptions)]/Attempts

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passer_rating (Yes, I used Wikipedia as a source!)