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Who was The Luckiest FBS Team Last Season?

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How "Lucky" was Your Favorite College Football Team Last Season?

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

One thing every college football fan says at some point is "they (or we) just got lucky!". The old adage of is it luck or just knowing how to win games is a debate that folks will have as long as there is a game to debate about. Having a site based on statistical analysis and predicting football games makes one look at a quantification of luck and what that means to the next game and even to the next season.

Part of the evaluation process of teams is to look at how they performed in their games and what their actual record is versus what their performance dictates. The calculation of luck has been modified from a formula with roots in baseball. Many folks have tried several methods to modify; the reasoning, baseball only has one run scored. Football has 6, 3, 2, and 1 points scored plus teams play a different number of games. This has been modified to account for these factors.

For this calculation, the data used was all drives (thanks to www.fbsdrivestats.com ), garbage drives and blowouts were eliminated, and only FBS opponents utilized.

Below are all FBS teams ranked in order of "Luck"

Rank

Team

Actual Record

FBS Opp Only

Record Based on Performance

W

L

Luck

W

L

1

North Carolina

6

7

3.57

2.4

10.6

2

Florida St.

13

1

3.43

9.6

4.4

3

Bowling Green

8

6

2.94

5.1

8.9

4

Illinois

6

7

2.52

3.5

9.5

5

Ohio

6

6

2.51

3.5

8.5

6

Maryland

7

6

2.40

4.6

8.4

7

Rutgers

8

5

2.40

5.6

7.4

8

North Texas

4

8

2.26

1.7

10.3

9

Wyoming

4

8

2.09

1.9

10.1

10

Northern Illinois

11

3

1.91

9.1

4.9

11

South Florida

4

8

1.86

2.1

9.9

12

Southern Miss

3

9

1.81

1.2

10.8

13

Arizona

10

3

1.69

8.3

4.7

14

Oklahoma St.

7

6

1.68

5.3

7.7

15

Utah

9

4

1.66

7.3

5.7

16

UCLA

10

3

1.66

8.3

4.7

17

Wake Forest

3

9

1.65

1.4

10.6

18

Vanderbilt

3

9

1.62

1.4

10.6

19

Fresno St.

6

8

1.62

4.4

9.6

20

Eastern Michigan

2

10

1.57

0.4

11.6

21

Old Dominion

6

6

1.47

4.5

7.5

22

Arkansas St.

7

6

1.46

5.5

7.5

23

Missouri

11

3

1.46

9.5

4.5

24

Middle Tennessee

6

6

1.38

4.6

7.4

25

Louisiana St.

8

5

1.37

6.6

6.4

26

Buffalo

5

6

1.36

3.6

7.4

27

Texas Tech

4

8

1.32

2.7

9.3

28

Syracuse

3

9

1.28

1.7

10.3

29

Kansas

3

9

1.19

1.8

10.2

30

Louisiana-Lafayette

9

4

1.06

7.9

5.1

31

Indiana

4

8

1.04

3.0

9.0

32

Oregon St.

5

7

1.01

4.0

8.0

33

Cincinnati

9

4

1.00

8.0

5.0

34

Hawaii

4

9

0.99

3.0

10.0

35

Kentucky

5

7

0.97

4.0

8.0

36

Northwestern

5

7

0.94

4.1

7.9

37

Georgia Tech

11

3

0.93

10.1

3.9

38

South Carolina

7

6

0.88

6.1

6.9

39

North Carolina St.

8

5

0.87

7.1

5.9

40

Akron

5

7

0.85

4.2

7.8

41

Nevada

7

6

0.81

6.2

6.8

42

Cal

5

7

0.78

4.2

7.8

43

BYU

8

5

0.78

7.2

5.8

44

New Mexico

4

8

0.75

3.2

8.8

45

UTSA

4

8

0.71

3.3

8.7

46

San Jose St.

3

9

0.67

2.3

9.7

47

UNLV

2

11

0.61

1.4

11.6

48

Texas St.

7

5

0.61

6.4

5.6

49

Air Force

10

3

0.58

9.4

3.6

50

Army

4

8

0.57

3.4

8.6

51

Tulane

3

9

0.56

2.4

9.6

52

Rice

8

5

0.54

7.5

5.5

53

Duke

9

4

0.53

8.5

4.5

54

Boise St.

11

2

0.53

10.5

2.5

55

Washington

8

6

0.52

7.5

6.5

56

Florida International

4

8

0.52

3.5

8.5

57

Purdue

3

9

0.52

2.5

9.5

58

Texas A&M

8

5

0.50

7.5

5.5

59

South Alabama

6

7

0.48

5.5

7.5

60

Troy

3

9

0.48

2.5

9.5

61

Marshall

13

1

0.47

12.5

1.5

62

SMU

1

11

0.47

0.5

11.5

63

Temple

6

6

0.46

5.5

6.5

64

Toledo

9

4

0.43

8.6

4.4

65

Tulsa

2

10

0.40

1.6

10.4

66

Connecticut

2

10

0.40

1.6

10.4

67

Auburn

8

5

0.40

7.6

5.4

68

Houston

7

5

0.36

6.6

5.4

69

Ohio St.

14

1

0.34

13.7

1.3

70

TCU

11

1

0.34

10.7

1.3

71

UAB

6

6

0.28

5.7

6.3

72

West Virginia

7

6

0.23

6.8

6.2

73

Mississippi St.

10

2

0.20

9.8

2.2

74

Minnesota

8

5

0.18

7.8

5.2

75

Central Florida

9

4

0.17

8.8

4.2

76

Kansas St.

9

4

0.12

8.9

4.1

77

New Mexico St.

2

10

0.11

1.9

10.1

78

UTEP

7

6

0.10

6.9

6.1

79

Michigan

5

7

0.10

4.9

7.1

80

Oregon

13

2

0.10

12.9

2.1

81

Georgia St.

1

11

0.03

1.0

11.0

82

Iowa St.

2

10

0.03

2.0

10.0

83

Iowa

7

6

0.02

7.0

6.0

84

Louisiana-Monroe

4

8

0.00

4.0

8.0

85

Arizona St.

10

3

-0.02

10.0

3.0

86

Georgia

10

3

-0.06

10.1

2.9

87

Michigan St.

11

2

-0.07

11.1

1.9

88

Central Michigan

7

6

-0.12

7.1

5.9

89

Georgia Southern

9

3

-0.12

9.1

2.9

90

Appalachian St.

7

5

-0.14

7.1

4.9

91

Western Kentucky

8

5

-0.14

8.1

4.9

92

Wisconsin

11

3

-0.16

11.2

2.8

93

Florida Atlantic

3

9

-0.28

3.3

8.7

94

Kent St.

2

9

-0.33

2.3

8.7

95

Alabama

12

2

-0.36

12.4

1.6

96

Boston College

7

6

-0.36

7.4

5.6

97

Utah St.

10

4

-0.45

10.5

3.5

98

Notre Dame

8

5

-0.46

8.5

4.5

99

Louisville

9

4

-0.47

9.5

3.5

100

Washington St.

3

9

-0.48

3.5

8.5

101

Penn St.

7

6

-0.56

7.6

5.4

102

Memphis

10

3

-0.57

10.6

2.4

103

Western Michigan

8

5

-0.58

8.6

4.4

104

Nebraska

9

4

-0.60

9.6

3.4

105

Colorado St.

10

3

-0.62

10.6

2.4

106

USC

9

4

-0.63

9.6

3.4

107

Baylor

11

2

-0.71

11.7

1.3

108

Navy

8

5

-0.71

8.7

4.3

109

Florida

7

6

-0.76

7.8

5.2

110

Virginia Tech

7

6

-0.77

7.8

5.2

111

Miami (OH)

2

10

-0.77

2.8

9.2

112

San Diego St.

7

6

-0.95

7.9

5.1

113

Clemson

10

3

-1.05

11.0

2.0

114

Tennessee

7

6

-1.09

8.1

4.9

115

East Carolina

8

5

-1.16

9.2

3.8

116

Ball St.

5

7

-1.21

6.2

5.8

117

Idaho

1

11

-1.43

2.4

9.6

118

Virginia

5

7

-1.44

6.4

5.6

119

Colorado

2

10

-1.50

3.5

8.5

120

Texas

6

7

-1.51

7.5

5.5

121

Massachusetts

3

9

-1.56

4.6

7.4

122

Arkansas

7

6

-1.82

8.8

4.2

123

Mississippi

9

4

-1.82

10.8

2.2

124

Pitt

6

7

-1.83

7.8

5.2

125

Louisiana Tech

9

5

-1.85

10.8

3.2

126

Miami (FL)

6

7

-1.95

7.9

5.1

127

Stanford

8

5

-1.95

9.9

3.1

128

Oklahoma

8

5

-2.15

10.2

2.8

What you can see is a definite mix of teams, in terms of their actual records. What is evident are the number of teams that are considered very good, were not as lucky as one might think. Below is a chart of the top and bottom half (ranked by Luck) FBS teams’ win percentage.

The difference in winning percentage from the top to bottom half is pretty significant (statistically speaking and otherwise).

The really good teams were relatively unlucky; here are some possible story lines if certain teams finished as well as they performed.

FSU…… The off the field issues for the ‘Noles have taken their toll.

UNC….. Larry Fedora is on the hottest of hot seats. (Imagine UNC going 2-10)

UCLA …. The last season was a rebuilding for the Bruins at 8-5.

UK…. Kentucky was lucky to be 5-7.

Can you imagine the story lines on relatively lucky 3-9 Southern Miss and Vanderbilt if they lost more? Whoa!

On the flip-side:

Oklahoma….. With a few breaks, the Sooners make the playoffs. (Actually, not reality as Oklahoma is chronically over ranked in the preseason and the Big 12 was not strong enough on its own to produce a playoff participant.)

Tennessee….. Poised to win the SEC East?

Miami (FL)……. Are the Hurricanes back on top in 2015?

One thing that is used from this, once normalized, is to indicate who trends up and down the next season. Couple that with recruiting and player development, there is a reasonable model in place to look at teams in the preseason.

Look at the bottom 25 teams in "Luck" and look at the possibilities for them this upcoming season. For example, Georgia was the unluckiest team in the FBS. So if anything, they should trend up with the returning players (before recruiting and development is factored in).

The odd thing from all of this is where the 4 playoff teams finished:

Florida State – 2nd (+3.5 Wins)

Ohio State – 69th (+.34 Wins)

Oregon – 80th (+.1 Wins)

Alabama – 95th (-.36 Wins)

One thing to keep in mind is strength of schedule; just like odds, a team can be stronger than their opponents by a larger margin than other teams and still have a worse record than those other teams. If a team beats the relatively weak opponents on their schedule handily, and lose a close one or two, they are considered unlucky. The opposite also holds true. Ohio State, for example, lost to Virginia Tech early in the year; they played the balance of the season like a team possessed and won the NC. They are considered to be relatively unlucky.

Luck has a place in the analysis of teams for the current and upcoming seasons. The fun part is for the fans to continue the debate about "who got lucky", "who got the bad call", and "they just know how to win". That’s the beauty of this great game of college football.