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December 7, 2014 / busmasterjones

The Case for Baylor…falls short

Let me state my loyalties upfront so there is no confusion.  I am not a fan of the Baylor Bears.  They were decent in the 1979-1980 where they had platooning QBs, but after that they were a punching bag for the Southwest Conference.  When the Big XII was formed, politics — not performance — landed Baylor a spot at the table.  They dragged down the prestige of the conference.  It took a full decade before Baylor could muster 2 conference wins in the Big XII.  Baylor graduated two groups of recruits that only won a single conference game.  They wanted at the big boy table and then they wet themselves.  Repeatedly.

Meanwhile, in Fort Worth, the TCU program which was left in the cold after sporting a resume very similar to Baylor in the SWC, was left to lick their wounds.  After spirling for a couple of years in the WAC, they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.  What Dennis Franchoine ignited, Gary Patterson poured gasoline on and fanned the flames.  From a non-power conference, TCU built a program block by block, adding one bowl win to the next until they broke through with a Fiesta Bowl appearance and a Rose Bowl victory.

To their credit and after years of choking on their silver spoon, Baylor hired Art Briles and things started to change.  They took full advantage of their weakened conference and started to fill the power void left by teams like Nebraska, Texas A&M, and Missouri jumping ship.  With a Texas program that was tripping over its own feet, Baylor was on the rise.  And good for them.  They had every advantage and they finally put things together while TCU did it much sooner with less in their toolbox.  So when push comes to shove, I’m biased towards TCU as the historical underdog in the fight against TCU.  Mojo favors the Frogs.

Fast forward to this season, which objectively, is all that matters.  The argument for Baylor is that they played the same conference schedule as TCU and in beating TCU, they have settled everything on the field that they should go instead of TCU to the top 4 promised land.  Not a bad argument!  Settle it on the field is what we have yelled for years.  Ah, but wait!  There is a small fly in the ointment of that reasoning.  If we look purely at wins and losses we will see that Baylor is not superior to TCU. In fact, they have the same record.  Hmm.  That means Baylor suffered a loss at some point.  It was to currently unranked West Virginia on the road.  TCU beat West Virginia by the tiny claw of their horned frog feet which means by a last second field goal.  Should we dismiss that game?  Baylor lost by 14 to West Virginia.

What’s an person to do to objectively evaluate the results of these two teams?

Fortunately, I have a method.  I have taken the time to break down the TCU and Baylor games with common opponents into groups.  These weigh a few factors, but in essence each game is placed on the following scale:

  • Win: Route – generally a win of 28 points or more
  • Win: Solid – 14-24 point win
  • Win: Good – 8-13 point win
  • Win: Close – <7 point win
  • Loss:  Close – <7 point loss
  • Loss:  Good – 8-13 point loss
  • Loss:  Solid – 14-24 point loss
  • Loss: Route – a loss by more than 28 points

The edge cases will all be examined to see if they should be upgraded or downgraded.  For example, Baylor lost to West Virginia by 14 points.  By definition that is a Solid Loss, but the score was tied going into the 4th quarter, so I downgraded the loss to a Good Loss which will help the Impression Points as you will see.

In looking at the TCU and Baylor schedules for common opponents you’ll see there are 10 of them which is a large sample size.

Opponent  

@/vs

TCU Score TCU Impression TCU/Baylor BU @/vs Baylor Score Baylor Impression
SMU @ 56-0 Win Route = @ 45-0 Win Route
OU 37-33 Win Close B @ 48-14 Win Route
Baylor/TCU @ 58-61 Loss Close B 61-58 Win Close
OSU 42-19 Win Route T 49-28 Win Solid
TT 82-27 Win Route T @ 48-46 Win Close
WV @ 31-30 Win Close T @ 27-41 Loss Solid*
KSU 41-20 Win Solid T 38-27 Win Good
KU @ 34-30 Win Close B 60-14 Win Route
tu @ 48-10 Win Route T @ 28-7 Win Solid
ISU 55-3 Win Route T @ 49-28 Win Solid

Note a * by Baylor/WV, Although this is technically a Solid Loss by the books, the game was tied heading into the final quarter, so I downgraded the loss to a Good Loss.

I then added a scoring system to this classification method. Each Route win is worth 4 points, a solid win is 3, good is 2, and close is 1. Each loss has the same point totals, but with a negative sign, so a close win is +1 and a close loss is -1.

TCU

W Route 5 x 4 pts = 20
W Solid 1 x 3 pts = 3
W Good 0 x 2 pts = 0
W Close 3 x 1 pts = 3
L Close 1 x -1 pts = -1
TOTAL 25

Baylor

W Route 3 x 4 pts = 12
W Solid 3 x 3 pts = 9
W Good 1 x 2 pts = 2
W Close 2 x 1 pts = 2
L Good 1 x -2 pts = -2
TOTAL 23

By summing the points we find that TCU has 25 Impression Points and Baylor has 23 Impression Points. Comparing game to game, TCU had 6 games with a better impression, Baylor had 3 (OU, TCU, KU), and one was a push (SMU). When you start to pull in other factors, you see that TCU has the edge in things like the ranking of the teams when TCU/Baylor played them. While it was the same team, TCU faced a #4 ranked opponent and won a close game and Baylor faced a #15 ranked OU and routed them. At the time of each game, the relative rankings matter. A #25 TCU playing a #4 OU is expected to lose, but they won by 4 points. Impressive! A #12 Baylor team might be a push or slightly favored over a #15 OU team. While Baylor routes OU (surprise!) they were expected to win.

Let’s take a more pronounced example. OCt 18 #4 Baylor plays unranked WV on the road. It is a tough road game, but you expect a Baylor win. Oops, they lose by 14. Wow! Bad impression. Nov 1 #7 TCU makes the same road trip but they face a surging #20 WV. While TCU is the higher ranked team, a close game is expected. The result holds to that expectation and TCU escapes with the win. That is a +1 for TCU and a -2 for Baylor. When you factor in the relative rankings, you would widen that a bit in favor of TCU.

Fact is that TCU played 5 teams that were ranked going into the game and in 2 cases those teams were ranked higher than TCU. They were 4-1 in those games which is impressive. Baylor faced three ranked teams and none of them were higher ranked than Baylor when they met. Baylor was 3-0, but that was to be expected. They lost to an unranked team whereas TCU lost to a team ranked higher than themselves on the road. A road game is worth three points to the home team. It is like starting the game down 3-0. If you factor that in you have TCU playing Baylor dead even on the road because they lost by 3 points. All of those factors — the entire “body of work” — could override the head-to-head Baylor victory over TCU.

Take all of that one step further. If TCU grades out better than Baylor, what about TCU vs Ohio State. Ohio St ended up with 21 Impression Points with routes over MD, Rutgers, IL, and WI, close wins over Penn St and MN, and a solid loss to Va Tech. Michigan St was a good win and I downgraded 2 other wins (IN and Mich) from solid to good because those games were tied after 3 quarters or were within a TD at that point. That gives OSU 21 Impression points. Factor in the intangibles – OSU played 3 ranked teams and went 3-0 with only one of those being higher ranked than OSU at game time (Mich St). They destroyed Wisconsin, but that was accounted for with he 4 route points. They might get 1-2 bonus points for killing WI and beating higher ranked Mich St, but that would still leave them short of the 25 base Impression points for TCU. Add in that Sagarin in the WIN50% conference rating lists Big 12 as 4th best (behind SEC West, Pac 12 South, and SEC East) and the Big 10 East (OSU’s division) is 6th and Big 10 West is 9th, we see that the TCU road was tougher than the Ohio St road, or at least that is the impression.

All told, I have it as TCU #4, Baylor #5, and Ohio St #6. Because of the recency effect, I could see Ohio St and Baylor swapping places, but TCU should be ahead of both. That would give us a final four of Alabama, Oregon, Florida St, and TCU.

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