Pythagorean Projections Redux

Many of our long-time readers will remember the Pythagorean Wins posts of the old RBR. For those unfamiliar, Pythagorean projections are a metric used to replace win %, since the data set for said stat is the equivalent of a pass/fail grade for 12-14 data points. In other words, winning % yields worthless results due to its small sample size. Further reading here.

Some seasons, Pythagorean projections yield data sets that seem to have no bearing whatsoever on on-field results. Other years, the resulting projections align squarely with the year-end outcomes. In 2012, the SEC hosted a handful of elite teams, along with a group of middling teams, and two very, very bad teams. Unfortunately, the data for 2012 shows that most teams performed about as expected, with no team being a drastic overachiever like Auburn in 2010 and 2011. Additionally, no team in 2012 vastly underachieved like Georgia in 2010 or Mississippi State in 2011.

The following table lists the Pythagorean projections for 2012 SEC conference play:

Team Points Scored Points Allowed Pythagorean Projection Actual Wins Difference Overachievement Rank
Alabama 335 118 8.48 8 -0.48 10
Arkansas 157 257 1.69 2 0.31 5
Auburn 81 272 0.3 0 -0.3 8
Florida 207 95 7.11 7 -0.11 7
Georgia 296 177 8.3 7 -1.3 13
Kentucky 89 291 0.325 0 -0.325 9
LSU 180 150 4.96 6 1.04 1
Ole Mis 224 239 3.65 3 -0.65 11
Miss St 202 223 3.48 4 0.52 3
Missouri 175 264 2 2 0 6
South Carolina 229 169 5.54 6 0.46 4
Tennessee 246 320 2.65 1 -1.65 14
Texas A&M 313 168 6.72 6 -0.72 12
Vanderbilt 177 168 4.28 5 0.72 2

From just a cursory glance at the data, we can see that LSU, with their inconsistent QB play (outside of the Bama game), overachieved by one full victory in the SEC. That can likely be attributed to stellar defensive play that kept games close enough for a deep stable of running backs to grind out the clock.

Conversely, the Sal Sunseri project was a spectacular flaming bag of dog excrement, as the Volunteers gave up more points in SEC play than even Johnny Football managed to score, resulting in Tennessee being the greatest underachievers of 2012 by more than a game and a half.

Quick hitters: Alabama scoring more than A&M in conference play should surprise most who get their information from the WWL, but with an underachievement of almost half a game, it's safe to say that most Bama fans are looking forward to that September 14th date in College Station. James Franklin is a very good coach, and will likely not be at Vanderbilt for much longer. Steve Spurrier is doing the best coaching of his career in Columbia. Maybe learning that his team overachieved will help John L. Smith to "SMILE" a little more? There is absolutely nowhere to go but up for Auburn and Kentucky, as I can't fathom it actually being worse than this for either team.

A parting gift: At a Pythagorean projection of 11.3 wins, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish overachieved at a rate higher than any team in the SEC.

Chime in below with any thoughts or comments.

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