Bill Connelly is to college football stats about what Ken Pomeroy is to college basketball stats. If you aren’t a regular reader of Connelly’s Football Study Hall blog on SB Nation, fix that. We’ve used some of Bill’s projections here on STL before and they’re a valuable tool for projecting game winners throughout the year.
Today, Bill published a list of the coaches who—since 2005—have strayed the farthest from their number of projected wins. His list uses a concept he developed called “second-order wins,” which Bill describes thusly:
It takes the key stats from a given game (success rates, explosiveness, field position factors, and other factors that end up going into the S&P+ ratings), mashes them together, and says, "With these stats, you probably could have expected to win this game X percent of the time." Add those figures up over the course of a season, and you get a glimpse of what a given team probably could have expected its record to be.
It’s a concept Bill’s tweaked over the years, but he’s gotten it calibrated pretty well: Teams that overperform one season tend to regress downward the next, and vice versa for teams that underperform.
In Bronco Mendenhall’s 11 seasons at BYU, his teams achieved about a fifth of a win more per year than their statistics suggest they should have. Mendenhall’s win differential of +0.21 puts him 57th on Bill’s list, and fifth among active ACC coaches. (A lot of the names above Mendenhall’s are no longer coaching in FBS: Frank Beamer, Joe Paterno, Rich Brooks, Jim Tressel, etc.)
Mike London’s six years at Virginia? They netted UVA about a fifth of a win less per year than the stats indicate. Interestingly, Al Groh’s five years that are included in the stats here put him between Mendenhall and London, with a positive win differential (+0.09).
For comparison, Virginia Tech’s new head coach, Justin Fuente, ranks 15 spots below London with a negative win differential (-0.29). Mark Richt, the man many wanted in Charlottesville before he headed to Miami, is ten spots behind Mendenhall (+0.12).
All in all, coaching—as an independent, quasi-measurable statistic—doesn’t amount to much. Even the names at the very top of Bill’s list are only netting one extra win each year. Its effect is felt more directly as a component of other statistics. Nonetheless, from what we’ve seen and heard about the culture shift in Charlottesville, hopefully Virginia fans can expect positive movement in the Mendenhall era.