Restarting College Football From Scratch: Which 120 Schools Would Sponsor Football?

Is Your School One of the 120 Best Equipped to Play College Football?

Is Your School One of the 120 Best Equipped to Play College Football in Today’s Landscape?

Back in March, SB Nation’s Jason Kirk took a look at an interesting question: Where would you place a college football program if you were starting one completely from scratch? The considerations included current program geography, potential fan bases and to some degree, recruiting as well. Using these factors, both Jason and the commenters (myself included) recommended a flurry of current and hypothetical universities, with no clear choice above the rest. As it is the offseason, this is quite the entertaining exercise.

But taking that idea a step further, what if we decided to start the whole thing from scratch? Blow up the current college football landscape — structure, traditions, records, existing programs, etc. — and just completely start fresh. The only hard-and-fast rule? We’re choosing 120 schools, all of which either currently sponsor Division-1 or -II NCAA athletics and/or have an institutional endowment over $1 billion. Additionally, to narrow the consideration pool down a bit, I avoided all schools with less than 5,000 students, since it’s highly unlikely they’d be able to support football from a talent or fan standpoint (at the collegiate game’s highest level anyway).

Using these factors as guides, I built an available pool of 318 schools, and compiled the following information for each:

  • Endowment: In many cases, endowments are a nice measuring stick of a school’s ability to raise money. Since college football programs cost money and need similar fundraising to function, this should certainly come into play when considering a school’s ability to sponsor the sport.
  • Enrollment: It’s not the end-all, be-all of whether you can sponsor football, but fan support usually starts with students. If you don’t even have 7,000 students on campus, how are you supposed to draw more than 20,000 to Saturday’s game?
  • State Recruiting Ranking: This is a big one, because it examines how sustainable football is from a local recruiting level. If you’re a big school, but have no local base, that means you’re utilizing a national strategy. Likewise, if you’re a mid-size school, but exist in a large local base, you still have a significant chance of recruiting success.
  • Public/Private: Obviously, there are more public schools than private schools at the FBS level today, and in our setup, that’ll still be the case. Private schools won’t be eliminated from consideration at all, but if a decision must be made between a private school and public school, the public school will win out. Public institutions have an easier road toward attracting local talent, and in many cases support too, so that was taken into consideration on a few choice occasions.

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College Football 2012 Offensive Scoring Efficiency Ratings

Oregon's Offense Was High-Powered in 2012, But Was It Efficient?

Oregon’s Offense Was High-Powered in 2012, But Did It Score More Efficiently Than Others?

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been tossing around an idea: what does scoring efficiency look like for every college football team, and does that also correlate to victories? Admittedly, it’s not overly complicated, but nonetheless, certainly took a good deal of number crunching (aka, simple math) to come up with some figures. Additionally, while putting this all together, I thought it would be interesting to see if teams that ran or passed the ball more saw a higher scoring efficiency rate, higher win total or both.

You can feel free to peruse the full data set for all 124 FBS schools here (color-coded for conference affiliation) in this handy Google doc. Included are the total offensive plays run during the 2012 season, total points scored, the efficiency rating (we’ll discuss below), run percentage, pass percentage and total victories.

The crux of this exercise is the scoring efficiency metric, which is actually a pretty simple points-scored-per-play figure. Basically, we’re assuming that efficiency is scoring more points in less plays, while inefficiency is scoring less points in more plays. With that definition in mind, the top 10 most efficient scoring offenses were as follows:

Oregon 1059 645 0.609065156
Alabama 898 542 0.603563474
Kansas State 841 505 0.600475624
Louisiana Tech 1054 618 0.586337761
Oklahoma State 1014 594 0.585798817
Florida State 941 550 0.584484591
Georgia 924 529 0.572510823
Texas A&M 1025 578 0.563902439
North Carolina 898 487 0.542316258
Baylor 1072 578 0.539179104

Not a whole lot of surprise here. Some of the nation’s most highly regarded offenses (Oregon, Texas A&M, Baylor, Louisiana Tech) are all present, though admittedly, I’m a bit surprised to see Florida State and Georgia. While I wouldn’t exactly call Alabama an offensive machine, the have a knack for brutal efficiency in every aspect of the game, so it should not come as a shock to see them listed right under the Ducks’ attack, despite running 150 less plays in one more game than Oregon. Also of note, every one of these teams tallied at least eight wins last season, and six had 11 or more. In fact, when looking at the full, sorted efficiency list, the first 25 schools all had at least seven wins on the season, with the first losing team being no. 26, Tennessee (AIR IT OUT, TYLER BRAY!)

And what about the least efficient scoring teams in the country? Your bottom 10:

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Syracuse Can Still Win the Big East… Here’s How

Syracuse, Once Left for Dead in the Big East Race, Could Claim a Share of the Conference Title This Week

First of all, congratulations to the Syracuse Orange football team for finishing the regular season 7-5 (5-2 Big East). Given the rocky start, that’s a very strong finish indeed!

Now, the IDEAL scenario for this season would be for Syracuse to win the Big East and bring the hardware with them to the ACC next season. On the other hand, it would be another black eye for the ACC if Rutgers were to go home with the Big East trophy (just how many eyes does the ACC have, anyway?). If Louisville wins it, that may still work out pretty well for the ACC (wink wink).

Back to Syracuse: for them to even have an outside shot at the Big East title, the Orange needed two things to happen this weekend: (1) Pittsburgh had to beat Rutgers, and (2) Connecticut had to defeat Louisville. Both of those things happened! So now what? And how can Syracuse win it when their season is over, you ask?

The regular season may be done for the Orange, but Louisville and Rutgers still have a game against each other. and that’s where the possibilities get pretty interesting. You see, at the moment these are the standings atop the conference:

  1. Rutgers 9-2 (5-1)
  2. Louisville 9-2 (4-2)
  3. Syracuse 7-5 (5-2)
  4. Cincinnati 8-3 (4-2)

That sets up a final game between Louisville and Rutgers for the Big East conference championship — but it’s not winner-take-all. Now bear with me for a minute. If Louisville beats Rutgers in the finale, both teams would finish 5-2 in conference — the same record as Syracuse already has. It would be a three-way tie. If Cincinnati also beats UConn, they too would be 5-2 in conference, making it a four-way tie for first place.

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College Football’s Most Overrated and Underrated Teams of the Past Decade

Unfortunately for the ACC, Members Such as Florida State and Miami Rank Among College Football’s Most Overrated

Over on SB Nation, Bill Connelly brought up an interesting point the other day: Has Florida State underachieved this year? It’s a fair question when looking at the overall weakness of the ACC, coupled with the talent FSU possesses on both sides of the ball and their continual refusal to dominate weaker in-conference opponents. The bigger issue here, however, is in the question itself. How do we define “underachievement” in college football? The best measure would likely be the polls, despite obvious flaws. How does a team annually stack up against its expectations that are set by preseason polling? And better, if we want to get a significant sample size, how does a team stack up to expectations over the span of a decade (2003-2012)?

We decided to take on that question, by digging through the last 10 years of the ESPN/USA Today Coach’s Poll. For each season, we took a look at every team’s preseason and postseason rankings (except for 2012, where the most recent rankings are used), and measure the distance between expectation and reality. To get even more data, we also included teams that “also received votes” and listed them in order, as if the polls continued past 25. If a team appeared in the preseason poll (let’s say there were 50 teams altogether), and not the postseason poll, that team’s postseason rank would be 51 — one past the total number of teams. This is repeated for each additional team in that situation so we can get the differentials, even for teams that fail to be included in both polls. Lastly, we averaged the differentials for each team based on however many years they appeared in the polls, and that gets you a picture of just how “overrated” or underrated these teams may be. In general, if it’s within five full spots or so on the poll, a team can be considered “accurately” ranked.

We’ll start with the “underrated” teams, before the yelling starts later on for the “overrated” ones:

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Conference Realignment: Examining the Effects on Teams After the Move (Part 2)

How Will Syracuse and Pittsburgh Fare Once They Move to the ACC in 2013?

Yesterday we looked at teams who have recently switched conferences to see how well they have fared. We determined that the “big boys” like Nebraska and Texas A&M have done just fine. But some of the other schools who have made “lateral” moves — Colorado, Missouri — have had some difficulty adjusting. Finally, the teams which have “moved up” in competition — West Virginia from the Big East and former “mid-major” teams like Utah and TCU — have struggled with the grind of their new “power conference” schedules.

So, what can Pittsburgh and Syracuse expect next year when they move to the ACC? I don’t think anyone would suggest that the ACC is as big a step up for them as the Big 12 was for West Virginia, but will they expect to struggle for awhile?

To get an idea what to expect, let’s look at the last time a Big East team joined the ACC. In fact, let’s look at the last three, since they all switched in a two-year period: Virginia Tech, Miami, and Boston College.

Oddly enough, VaTech actually performed better after the move. Looking at the seasons just prior to the move, it seems to me that the Hokies were simply in a down year their last season in the Big East. By contrast, Miami declined by one win in-conference and by two wins overall that same year.

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Conference Realignment: Examining the Effects on Teams After the Move (Part 1)

Texas A&M’s Fared Pretty Nicely Since Moving From the Big 12 to the SEC, But Has Every Program Made Out As Well?

There was lots of discussion this spring about teams jumping conferences… Lots of discussion! TCU and West Virginia actually did make the move to the Big 12, and there were rumors about Florida State and Clemson jumping ship as well. But for those who actually changed conferences, was it the right move? From a broader view, how has it worked out in general for teams which have changed conferences in recent years? Can even the best “mid-major” teams survive the so-called “grind” of a major conference schedule?

In the distant past (i.e. before 1990), when a team changed conferences it was generally to join one which was a better academic or geographic fit. Think Georgia Tech leaving the SEC to eventually join the ACC (via independence), or South Carolina doing the reverse. Today it’s a different story. Money generated by athletics has grown to the point where a school will actually consider joining a conference which is further away in order to grab yet more money. Imagine that – major universities motivated by money!

So we’ve seen several teams shift to/from major conferences in the past couple years:

  • Nebraska: from Big 12 to Big Ten
  • Utah: from Mountain West to Pac-12
  • Colorado: from Big 12 to Pac-12
  • Texas A&M: from Big 12 to SEC
  • Missouri: from Big 12 to SEC
  • TCU: from Mountain West (by way of Big East) to Big 12
  • West Virginia: from Big East to Big 12

Obviously there’s a pattern here, as one conference (Big 12) has been involved in the majority of these moves. But I digress…

How did these teams fare after the conference changes, though? To answer that, let’s look at before & after win/loss numbers in-conference and overall:

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Tajh Boyd’s Progress and Clemson’s Success Should Be Given More Credit

Despite Clemson and Tajh Boyd’s Respective Success, Neither Get the Respect They Deserve

Clemson’s offensive resurgence over the past two years is due to the influence of Chad Morris, the highest-paid coordinator in college football for a reason. But Morris has an impressive set of tools to work with, and none has been more essential than quarterback Tajh Boyd.

Although he came to Clemson as a highly-touted recruit, Boyd’s redshirt year was followed by an unimpressive showing in garbage time in 2010 (33 of 63, four touchdowns, three interceptions) capped by a disastrous appearance in the final minutes of the Meineke Car Care Bowl to replace graduating starter Kyle Parker.

Benefiting from Morris’s tutelage and system, Boyd grew into one of the nation’s best in 2011. Even with the Tigers’ late-season implosion, he finished 20th in passing yards per game at 273.4. Boyd is on track for an even better finish this year; he’s currently 14th at 292 yards per game, above big names like Landry Jones, Matt Barkley and Johnny “Football” Manziel. His passer rating of 163.92 is good for tenth in the nation.

Most people could look like a decent quarterback with Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins catching their passes, but Boyd truly is one of the best. His development from last year has been very encouraging, and he’s making better decisions. There have been a few moments that looked uncomfortably like this pick against Florida State, or his attempted throw out of bounds against Virginia Tech that went backwards and was only saved when the officials ruled his knee down. But for the most part he’s kept a good head on his shoulders.

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