Judging from internet message boards and call in shows, there seems to be a growing segment within Kentucky’s fan base that wishes to remove Joker Phillips from his coaching duties. After watching Sunday’s performance against Louisville this group of disgruntled fans is only growing larger in number. There are numerous reasons for this sensation, but it’s safe to assume this feeling is present because of the product placed on the field. There are any of number things we can do to investigate this issue, compare passing/rushing stats from previous seasons for instance, or even looking at past win/loss totals. But, there’s another way. Since every single sport is about the final outcome, I thought it’d be interesting to compare Kentucky’s teams since 2007 with tempo-free scoring margin to see if power among teams is remaining consistent from season to season. Below is a table containing the data, along with an explanation.
First an explanation of what you see above, everything is tempo neutral, meaning teams who run fast paced offenses won’t be favored over teams who run slow offenses. Since scoring margin can be skewed by tempo, it’s important to remove it from the equation. Offensive Points Per Possession (PPP) is simply points scored divided by total possessions. It tells how many points a team scores on average when they possess the ball. Defensive PPP is identical, but it tells how many points are allowed per possession. The FBS average is usually around 2.1 on both offense and defense. Expected win percentage is a simple formula that explains what a team’s expected winning percentage is based off points scored and allowed. It isn’t perfect as it doesn’t account for strength of schedule or home field advantage (my upcoming 1-124 football ratings will though), but it usually gives a very good reflection on team strength.
During the later Rich Brooks years, as you can see, the strength of his teams remained consistent and hovered around 7 predicted wins per season. Even in Joker’s first season the strength of his team remained near that area. Year two, however, brought a significant drop in performance, mainly due to horrid offensive production (one could even call it…offensive). Enter season three. Now, I’m the first to say that this number is skewed due to lack of data, it will eventually correct itself as the season progresses, but it’s concerning nonetheless when your defense is absolutely dismantled by an arch-rival. It’s especially concerning when the offensive production only increased slightly from the previous season. One positive note on offensive production though, efficiency tends to increase at Kentucky when more experienced Quarterbacks are at the helm.
In a brief amount of time at Kentucky, Joker Phillips has seen the mathematical strength of his teams fall drastically. But, we all know games aren’t played on paper. This season appears to be make or break in terms of job security, so if the production somehow doesn’t improve as the season progresses we could be looking at a team who wins very few games and could become one of the worst Wildcat teams in quite some time.