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Revisiting the 2003 college football season, in which the BCS again couldn't fit 3 teams on 1 field

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It's time to play with the estimated S&P+ numbers some more!

Per the sidebar to the right, you can catch up on what I've done to date. The short version: using the same type of opponent adjustments and general "output vs. expected output" approach that I've created to set up the current S&P+ ratings, I used points scored and allowed to estimate S&P+ for years before 2005 (i.e. the years for which I don't have play-by-play data).

This data is pretty fun, though obviously by looking only at points scored and allowed (the only data points available), we lose quite a bit of the context that S&P+ provides -- we can't filter out garbage time data or return scores, we can't look at efficiency and explosiveness and the components that went into a given score line, etc. But we can still produce a reasonably effective, retrodictively predictive (you like that term?) set of numbers.

Last week, I looked at 2004. Let's flip the calendar one wee before that. Below are the estimated S&P+ ratings for 2003. Thoughts after the giant table.

S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
1 LSU 13-1 23.4 98.33% 34.2 13 10.8 1
2 USC 12-1 22.6 97.99% 41.1 2 18.5 19
3 Oklahoma 12-2 21.7 97.57% 40.0 3 18.3 18
4 Georgia 11-3 18.9 95.73% 29.9 34 11.0 2
5 Florida State 10-3 18.5 95.35% 33.7 17 15.2 8
6 Kansas State 11-4 18.4 95.25% 35.3 8 16.9 10
7 Michigan 10-3 17.1 93.99% 34.7 11 17.6 14
8 Miami-FL 11-2 15.9 92.57% 29.3 38 13.4 3
9 Texas 10-3 15.7 92.33% 39.2 4 23.5 43
10 Miami-OH 13-1 15.3 91.82% 38.9 5 23.6 44
11 Florida 8-5 14.8 91.07% 32.2 20 17.4 13
12 Iowa 10-3 14.6 90.75% 29.6 36 15.0 7
13 Arkansas 9-4 14.5 90.60% 35.8 7 21.3 28
14 Maryland 10-3 14.4 90.43% 30.1 31 15.7 9
15 Ohio State 11-2 13.8 89.46% 28.0 49 14.2 4
16 Clemson 9-4 12.9 87.88% 30.1 29 17.3 12
17 Auburn 8-5 11.7 85.60% 26.7 60 15.0 6
18 NC State 8-5 11.2 84.62% 38.8 6 27.6 68
19 Washington State 10-3 11.2 84.53% 30.6 25 19.4 22
20 California 8-6 10.9 83.95% 34.0 15 23.1 39
21 Oregon State 8-5 10.5 83.02% 33.9 16 23.4 42
22 Alabama 4-9 10.4 82.81% 30.7 24 20.3 26
23 Tennessee 10-3 10.4 82.74% 28.4 45 18.0 17
24 Virginia Tech 8-5 10.2 82.37% 35.0 9 24.8 52
25 Virginia 8-5 10.1 82.07% 29.2 40 19.1 21
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
26 Purdue 9-4 9.6 80.82% 26.8 58 17.2 11
27 Nebraska 10-3 9.5 80.72% 24.3 74 14.7 5
28 Ole Miss 10-3 9.4 80.35% 32.7 18 23.3 40
29 Utah 10-2 8.7 78.53% 28.2 47 19.5 23
30 Boise State 13-1 8.1 76.80% 34.0 14 25.9 61
31 West Virginia 8-5 8.0 76.75% 29.9 32 21.9 30
32 Minnesota 10-3 8.0 76.59% 34.4 12 26.4 62
33 Oklahoma State 9-4 7.5 75.22% 35.0 10 27.5 67
34 Texas Tech 8-5 7.3 74.57% 42.0 1 34.8 101
35 Notre Dame 5-7 7.2 74.42% 26.8 57 19.6 24
36 Bowling Green 11-3 6.7 72.84% 29.7 35 23.0 38
37 Wisconsin 7-6 6.6 72.61% 28.7 42 22.1 33
38 Michigan State 8-5 6.5 72.31% 28.5 44 22.0 31
39 Colorado State 7-6 6.4 71.95% 30.8 23 24.4 49
40 Pittsburgh 8-5 6.4 71.91% 30.1 30 23.7 46
41 Georgia Tech 7-6 5.8 70.18% 23.6 77 17.8 15
42 Boston College 8-5 5.8 70.13% 29.9 33 24.1 47
43 South Carolina 5-7 5.2 68.25% 26.8 56 21.6 29
44 New Mexico 8-5 4.7 66.44% 27.4 54 22.7 37
45 Missouri 8-5 4.3 65.29% 29.2 39 24.9 53
46 Oregon 8-5 4.2 64.83% 29.2 41 25.0 55
47 Southern Miss 9-4 3.9 63.91% 21.8 88 17.9 16
48 Wake Forest 5-7 3.7 63.03% 30.3 27 26.6 63
49 Syracuse 6-6 3.0 60.74% 27.4 52 24.4 51
50 Marshall 8-4 2.3 58.41% 26.7 61 24.4 50
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
51 Washington 6-6 0.8 52.80% 26.5 62 25.8 60
52 Penn State 3-9 0.6 52.30% 20.6 96 19.9 25
53 Northwestern 6-7 0.6 52.03% 22.9 81 22.3 35
54 Colorado 5-7 0.5 51.85% 30.2 28 29.7 77
55 Air Force 7-5 0.1 50.46% 23.4 78 23.3 41
56 TCU 11-2 -0.1 49.79% 25.2 67 25.2 56
57 BYU 4-8 -0.2 49.44% 20.9 92 21.1 27
58 UNLV 6-6 -0.3 48.93% 21.8 89 22.1 32
59 Memphis 9-4 -0.5 48.28% 24.4 71 24.9 54
60 Louisville 9-4 -0.8 47.10% 30.9 22 31.7 86
61 Rutgers 5-7 -1.1 45.99% 27.9 50 29.0 74
62 Arizona State 5-7 -1.1 45.96% 25.7 65 26.8 64
63 Hawaii 9-5 -1.6 44.08% 32.2 19 33.8 99
64 Toledo 8-4 -1.9 43.19% 27.4 53 29.2 75
65 UCLA 6-7 -2.1 42.50% 20.2 99 22.2 34
66 Connecticut 9-3 -2.4 41.31% 28.7 43 31.1 84
67 Fresno State 9-5 -2.8 39.92% 20.9 94 23.7 45
68 San Diego State 6-6 -2.9 39.76% 15.9 113 18.7 20
69 Northern Illinois 10-2 -3.2 38.49% 25.0 69 28.2 70
70 Texas A&M 4-8 -3.2 38.42% 30.5 26 33.7 98
71 Cincinnati 5-7 -3.3 38.20% 24.1 76 27.4 66
72 Wyoming 4-8 -3.6 37.11% 26.2 64 29.8 79
73 Navy 8-5 -3.8 36.55% 25.1 68 28.9 73
74 Duke 4-8 -4.0 35.97% 21.7 90 25.7 59
75 Kentucky 4-8 -4.3 34.92% 25.4 66 29.7 78
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
76 Stanford 4-7 -4.7 33.44% 20.8 95 25.5 58
77 Kansas 6-7 -5.0 32.41% 28.1 48 33.1 95
78 South Florida 7-4 -5.1 32.27% 19.3 101 24.4 48
79 Tulsa 8-5 -5.1 32.03% 26.9 55 32.0 87
80 North Texas 9-4 -5.2 31.88% 22.1 86 27.3 65
81 Troy 6-6 -5.4 31.20% 17.1 110 22.5 36
82 Louisiana Tech 5-7 -5.8 29.99% 26.5 63 32.3 90
83 North Carolina 2-10 -5.8 29.81% 29.5 37 35.3 102
84 Arizona 2-10 -6.2 28.75% 22.3 85 28.5 71
85 Temple 1-11 -6.4 27.95% 23.4 79 29.8 80
86 UAB 5-7 -6.7 27.20% 18.8 102 25.4 57
87 Houston 7-6 -6.8 26.92% 32.0 21 38.7 113
88 Vanderbilt 2-10 -6.9 26.65% 20.9 93 27.8 69
89 Nevada 6-6 -7.1 25.88% 22.5 84 29.6 76
90 Iowa State 2-10 -7.5 24.87% 22.8 83 30.2 81
91 Western Michigan 5-7 -8.0 23.31% 24.2 75 32.3 91
92 Kent 5-7 -9.2 20.22% 26.8 59 35.9 106
93 Illinois 1-11 -9.2 20.15% 19.5 100 28.7 72
94 Mississippi State 2-10 -9.3 19.93% 24.4 72 33.7 96
95 Akron 7-5 -9.4 19.62% 28.2 46 37.7 112
96 Tulane 5-7 -9.6 19.17% 27.6 51 37.2 111
97 Ball State 4-8 -9.7 18.99% 22.9 82 32.5 93
98 Rice 5-7 -10.8 16.42% 24.7 70 35.5 104
99 Middle Tennessee 4-8 -12.1 13.58% 24.4 73 36.5 108
100 Baylor 3-9 -12.8 12.23% 21.5 91 34.3 100
S&P+ Rk Team Record Est S&P+ Percentile Off. S&P+ Rk Def. S&P+ Rk
101 Utah State 3-9 -13.4 11.21% 17.4 108 30.8 83
102 Indiana 2-10 -13.5 11.02% 17.3 109 30.8 82
103 New Mexico State 3-9 -14.0 10.12% 18.1 106 32.1 88
104 Idaho 3-9 -14.8 8.91% 16.6 111 31.4 85
105 Ohio 2-10 -15.4 8.09% 20.3 98 35.7 105
106 Buffalo 1-11 -15.7 7.73% 18.0 107 33.7 97
107 San Jose State 3-8 -15.9 7.37% 22.9 80 38.8 114
108 UL-Lafayette 4-8 -16.5 6.63% 20.3 97 36.8 109
109 Central Florida 3-9 -16.8 6.39% 15.9 112 32.7 94
110 Eastern Michigan 3-9 -16.9 6.21% 15.6 114 32.5 92
111 East Carolina 1-11 -16.9 6.20% 18.4 104 35.3 103
112 Central Michigan 3-9 -17.4 5.64% 18.7 103 36.2 107
113 UL-Monroe 1-11 -20.0 3.46% 22.0 87 42.0 116
114 SMU 0-12 -21.1 2.76% 11.1 117 32.1 89
115 Army 0-13 -21.4 2.56% 15.5 115 37.0 110
116 UTEP 2-11 -23.8 1.52% 18.4 105 42.2 117
117 Arkansas State 5-7 -24.2 1.40% 15.4 116 39.6 115

How'd the BCS do?

Despite the fact that there were no undefeated teams in 2003, the teams at the top were just about as impressive as those in 2004. There was nobody as good as 2004 USC, but each of the top three teams from 2003 could have would have finished No. 2 in 2004.

And once again, the national title race we witnessed on our TVs would have played out just about the same on paper. LSU, USC, and Oklahoma were almost impossible to separate, at least until LSU's win over Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl (i.e. the BCS title game).

If you remove bowls from the equation, though, you get an almost perfect tie between the top teams.

1. Oklahoma (+22.7, 98.0%)
2. LSU (+22.4, 97.9%)
3. Kansas State (+21.1, 97.1%)
4. USC (+20.5, 96.8%)

Jason White's injury potentially swung the balance of the national title game in LSU's favor, and USC's easy Rose Bowl win over Michigan moved the Trojans into the No. 2 slot. But as with 2004, the outrage over OU's selection was rather unfounded. USC lost to California (No. 20 in Est. S&P+), and while the Trojans boasted wins over two AP top-10 teams, neither was actually top-10 caliber -- Auburn ranked 17th here, and Wazzu ranked 19th. Those were certainly good wins, and USC was clearly an awesome team. But heading into the postseason, the Trojans were a step behind the two teams that ended up in New Orleans.

If there were a Playoff...

Of course, USC would have made it easily into a four-team playoff had one existed at the time. But once again the fourth spot would have been interesting. The only other one-loss team heading into the posteason was Miami (Ohio), a legitimately good team (10th in Est. S&P+) but one that wouldn't have gotten a serious sniff. Kansas State was awesome and smoking hot but had suffered three losses. Michigan and Georgia were fourth and fifth in the polls, but Michigan was only eighth in Est. S&P+.

I'm guessing Michigan would have gotten the nod, but in the balance between best and most deserving, I would have maybe gone with Georgia here.

Other thoughts

  • The Arkansas Memorial Award for best team with a mediocre record goes to either Florida or ... Arkansas. Fitting. Ron Zook's Gators lost to a bunch of strong teams -- No. 5 FSU, No. 8 Miami, No. 12 Iowa, No. 23 Tennessee, No. 28 Ole Miss -- and basically knocked Georgia out of title contention with a 16-13 win in Jacksonville. The Hogs, meanwhile, boasted a tremendous offense, took down No. 9 Texas, and lost only to No. 1 LSU (on the road), No. 11 Florida, No. 17 Auburn, and No. 28 Ole Miss (on the road).
  • Alabama, meanwhile: 4-9 and ... 22nd. NUMBERS HAVE A TIDE BIAS. Mike Shula's squad did lose to NIU and Hawaii, but their other losses were to  No. 1 LSU, No. 3 Oklahoma (by 7), and five other top-30 opponents. And their wins were all by easy, large amounts. Still ... that's a little bit of a strange ranking. While the SEC wasn't particularly amazing in 2004-05 (which hurt Auburn's 2004 BCS case, among other things), it was loaded in 2003.
  • 5-7 Arkansas State in last place? Directly behind six teams that combined to go 3-47? Yep. Their five wins came against UT-Martin, SE Missouri State, and three FBS teams (No. 103 NMSU, No. 104 Idaho, and No. 113 ULM) by a combined eight points. Meanwhile, their seven losses came by an average score of 43-9. Ouch.

2002 is up next.