It’s a tradition like no other: the late-December Football Study Hall post in which I compliment myself. Here are the 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 editions. (It’s such a tradition that I’m basically plagiarizing myself in this intro!)
Here’s the annual disclaimer:
In my job, I aim for both quality and quantity. By my estimation, I write about 1.5 million words per year, and a lot of the pieces that hold those words are, to some degree, duds.
I like a lot of the pieces, though, and all I can really hope is that I look back at each passing year and think, “This was my best writing year yet.” Well ... this was my best writing year yet. I’m really proud of a lot of what I did, and as we reach the “year-end series” portion of the year, I wanted to share some of my favorites.
I can be awfully self-indulgent at times, so instead of sharing my 10 favorite pieces, I’m going to share far more than 10 favorites, based instead on 10 themes.
By my count, my 10 Best Things list has 60 things on it. Let’s get to it.
10. My annual paean to the previous season
The first Top 100 Games list happened basically on a whim. Now it’s a January tradition.
9. My annual paean to bowl games
Each year in mid-December, some coach ends up crying after a win in a supposedly meaningless bowl game, and I damn near end up crying right along with him.
8. Stats and thinky stuff
I didn’t do quite as much anti-amateurism ranting as I did last year (I covered most of what I wanted to say in last year’s commissioner series, so I had to let the well of new ideas fill back up, I guess), but I did unleash a pretty good one back in May, I think. Besides that, here’s some random stuff I found about stats and questions I felt like asking.
7. In-season analysis
So much of in-season work is just drinking from the firehose and giving quick reactions, but I really liked these pieces and think they hold up pretty well (even if Tua’s stats regressed after I wrote about them).
6. Not Football
I picked up a new sport of sorts this year ... but it was just another level of football. (We’ll get to that.) So the Not Football pile wasn’t all that large. Still, I liked these pieces. And hey, look! I figured out how to rail against mid-major disrespect in a sport besides college football!
4. The NFL
Yep, I started writing about the NFL this year, and it was my own volition — there’s no “blink twice if you need us to rescue you” kind of stuff going on here. I fell down a Bill Walsh rabbit hole at the beginning of the year, found an NFL data set to start tinkering with, discovered some (in my opinion) fascinating similarities between the different levels of the sport, and got rolling. And I have honestly enjoyed myself. I’m not blinking twice.
Here are some of the initial offseason data things I put together:
And here are some of my favorite in-season pieces:
3. New stats!
I introduced marginal efficiency and marginal explosiveness back in January and quickly incorporated them into most of what I do. I included those stats in this year’s college football stat profiles, and I used them to establish some college-to-pro findings above. (I also used them in some updated S&P+ ratings, but let’s not worry about that right now — I have even more S&P+ tweaks to introduce in January. I can’t help myself.)
Now to what I think are the meatiest two categories of the year.
I was able to hit pause and reflect on different historical goings-on this fall, and I got to collaborate with Matt Brown on a big piece about the history of the option. Granted, I didn’t write a book on CFB history this time around, but some of my favorite pieces of the year had a severely historical bent.
I’ve tried as hard as I can to get to know the coaching profession as well as possible in recent years, and I think it’s informed a lot of the stat work I’ve been attempting. My trip to Starkville was a highlight this year — and it jinxed MSU a lot less than my trip to Miami evidently jinxed The U. (Sorry about that, Canes fans.)
Meanwhile, I loved how that Ivy piece came together. It started as a random PAPN observation and morphed into me talking to all eight Ivy coaches. And there wasn’t much of a jinx! The Ivy was again one of FCS’ three (or so) best conferences, and Princeton would quite possibly be in the FCS finals right now if the league played in the postseason.
Big things ahead in 2019, by the way. Get ready.