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Advanced Analytics Prove Kentucky was one of College Football’s Greatest Overachievers in 2018

Entering the 2018 Kentucky football season, nobody (except Charles Walker) predicted ten wins for the Wildcats.  It’s obvious that Mark Stoops’ team overachieved.  Now their over-achievement has been quantified.

SB Nation’s stat man Bill Connelly is the primary proprietor of the S&P+ analytics.  A college football forecasting tool, the metrics are awfully handy when picking games against the spread (a la KenPom for college basketball).  I can’t explain exactly how they’re compiled, but this details the S&P+ rather simply.

Entering the season Vegas set Kentucky’s over/under win total at 5.5, a line so bad, it inspired me to make my first official sports wager in a Vegas casino.  Meanwhile, the S&P+ was much more reasonable, projecting 7.8 Kentucky wins.  Jack Pilgrim and I are the only two from KSR who logged preseason predictions over the 7.8.  As you know very well, Kentucky won more than 7.8 games.

Only two teams in college football won at a higher rate than their S&P+ projected win total.

1. Army +2.9 (8.1 expected wins, 11 actual wins)
2. Northwestern +2.8 (6.2, nine)
3. Kentucky +2.2 (7.8, 10)
4. Ohio State +2.1 (10.9, 13)
5. Georgia Southern +2.1 (7.9, 10)
6. Texas +1.7 (8.3, 10)
7. Notre Dame +1.7 (10.3, 12)
8. Liberty +1.6 (4.4, six)
9. FIU +1.6 (7.4, nine)
10. Syracuse +1.5 (8.5, 10)

Haters may blame it on randomness, but they’re wrong.  Kentucky overachieved by +1.9 in 2017 as well.

The advanced analytics are never kind to Kentucky, but they prove that Mark Stoops is one of college football’s best at making the most out of his talent.  After compiling data back to 2005, Stoops’ teams win on average .63 more games than they’re expected to, finishing just shy of the 90th percentile of all college football coaches.

It should not surprise you that there’s another UK coach on the list of college football’s greatest overachievers.  Rich Brooks ranked second, behind only Tom Herman, winning 1.22 more games than expected per year through five seasons.

The stats profile concludes that Kentucky is in good hands with Mark Stoops, but it isn’t all good news.  Overachieving teams eventually regress back to the mean.  Kentucky defied those odds from 2017 to 2018, but it’s not a sustainable statistical trend.  In the early 2019 S&P+ rankings Kentucky is ranked 37th, predicted to be favored in only six games.

The Kentucky football team defied the advanced stats over the last two seasons.  For the third time to be the charm, Terry Wilson and the UK offense must be able to score plenty of points at Kroger Field to cash in on a favorable home schedule.

[SB Nation: College Football Coaches that consistently Overachieve]

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Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

5 Comments for Advanced Analytics Prove Kentucky was one of College Football’s Greatest Overachievers in 2018



  1. J. Did
    8:03 pm February 15, 2019 Permalink

    This recognition is tantamount to being called: Under Dog.

    And I like it!



  2. stevemotley
    9:01 pm February 15, 2019 Permalink

    I don’t care what anyone says, I like our chances next year. The schedule doesn’t look very intimidating whatsoever and I feel with the weapons we have on offense we should win 10 games again. People aren’t even paying attention to the fact that our defensive line is going to be Beast next year



    • dbcline1
      5:48 pm February 18, 2019 Permalink

      I agree! I can see 9-10 wins all day! If Wilson improves even 10-15 percent and we have some guys step up at the DB positions we will be really tough again!



  3. RickH
    11:44 am February 16, 2019 Permalink

    7-5. Their offense was exposed down the stretch and there’s no evidence of it being better.



  4. notFromhere
    11:53 pm February 16, 2019 Permalink

    No kidding. Like they weren’t overachieving the past 3 seasons. Dont need advanced analytics to figure out that a team regularly below 30th in the nation in recruiting class “rankings,” keeping up with and finally beating teams with their comparable rankings in the top 10 annually, are overachieving.

    Somebody finally got their eyes checked and the sht removed from their heads being up the traditional powerhouses collective asses