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.