F/+ ratings in the Big Ten, 2007 - 2012

Jonathan Daniel

A look at what the F/+ ratings can tell us about the Big Ten.

Let’s continue our tour of every major conference’s F/+ ratings. Last time, I took you through the SEC. This week, I’ll take you through the Big 10. A brief review:

  • The better a team's offense is, the further "north" they are on the chart.
  • The better a team's defense is, the further "east" you want to be.
  • The best teams reside in the NE corner.

The gray lines on the chart are percentile rankings for offense and defense: The 0, 20th, 50th, 80th, and 100th percentiles are represented on the chart. The corresponding F/+ ratings are shown at the bottom and left of the chart (for example, a team in the 80th percentile on defense has a +8.2% F/+ rating).

In the chart below, every black dot represents a Big 10 team from 2007 to 2012 (68 teams). The NCAA logo is the average for all FCS teams. It is (by definition) at the intersection of the 50th percentiles of offense and defense. The Big 10 logo is the average of all 68 Big 10 teams on this chart. I decided to toss in the SEC logo as a reference.

BREAKING: The Big 10 as a whole is better than the NCAA average, but the conference is not quite as strong as the SEC on average.

In the chart below, I kept all 68 dots but faded them to gray in order to highlight a few interesting points:

  • The "1" in the chart below represents the average F/+ offensive and defensive rating for every team who finished with the best record in the Big 10 over this 6-year period.
  • It's kind of striking how orderly the trendline is in the Big 10 (the SEC's chart had more variance between offensive and defensive strength).
  • A second-place or better finish in the Big 10 generally requires quite a bit of separation from the pack. I will be interested to see if this type of analysis can help us identify which teams are more closely aligned with previous conference champs during the middle of a season.

Now, here's a closer look at the Big 10 champions over this time period. The blue dot is the average of all eight of these teams (there was a three-way tie in 2010, although Ohio State was later forced to forfeit their share of the conference title).

Observations:

  • Only four of the conference champs are in the NE corner, or 50% of the eight league champs. As a contrast, all of the SEC champs in the same six-year period were in the NE corner.
  • The 2011 Wisconsin team has the best offense in all of college football over this time period. However, they managed to lose three games due to a just-slightly-above-average defense.
  • The best Big 10 team to not win a league title in this time span was the 2008 Penn State team (the lone gray dot north of the big blue dot). That team's only losses came by one point to an unranked Iowa team on the road and to No. 4 USC in the Rose Bowl.
  • Alternatively, you could make an argument that the best team to not win a conference title is the team with the best defense, the gray dot furthest towards the east. This was the 2009 Penn State team that somehow lost again to Iowa and to No. 12 Ohio State.

Okay, now it's time for a little fun. For each team in the Big 10, I used my "what have you done for me lately" ratings system: F/+ ratings for each team weighted this way:
  • 2012: 40%
  • 2011: 30%
  • 2010: 20%
  • 2009: 10%

I figure recruits kind of look at it this way. 70% of the rating is what has happened in the last two years...everything else is a foggy memory. Using this weighting system, I plotted the teams using the chart below.

Observations & notes:

  • In the SEC chart, it was abundantly clear that Alabama had the best team. I don't think any one team can make the same case in the Big 10. Ohio State has probably been the best overall team using my weighting, but Wisconsin, Michigan, and Michigan State can make a case.
  • Meanwhile, no one team has been clearly the worst team in the conference either. Purdue and Minnesota are the only teams below average in both offense and defense.
  • Iowa is the closest to the NCAA average, and they sit roughly alone in the middle of the Big 10.

Okay, one more thing. Let's take a look at the best and worst offenses in the Big 10 during this six-year period:

Observations:

  • Teams that appear on both top 10 lists: only Ohio State accomplished this feat...and they did it twice, in 2007 and 2010.
  • As I mentioned before, Wisconsin's +26.1% F/+ offensive rating is the highest offensive F/+ rating in all of college football over this time period.
  • Only Indiana's 2008 team appears on both bottom 10 lists. They eked out a single conference win over Northwestern.

Next up: the Pac 12.

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