Strength of Schedule and Conference Strength

As we head into the 2011 college football season, let’s take a look back at last year to discuss a couple of consistently argued topics: strength of schedule and conference strength. SportsMeasures’ objective measures for college and pro sports teams are exactly what is needed to solve many of the issues and arguments in sports today.

 

If you’ve visited SportsMeasures website previously, you’re aware that we are the only website using truly objectively scientific methodology to produce sports rankings. If you would like to learn more about our scientific method, visit www.Rasch.org for a complete and detailed explanation of objective measurement. This methodology allows us to do many things with the measures we construct using only game results data. There is no bias or subjectivity of any kind in any of our measures. No other methodology can make those claims or back them up if they do attempt to make them.

 

 

Strength of Schedule

 

Although college football does not use the Ratings Percentage Index, aka RPI, in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) rankings, college basketball does, making this discussion relevant to college athletics in general.

 

Instead of rewriting what others have already done, I’ll let http://www.rpiratings.com/WhatisRPI.html explain RPI.

 

What is the RPI?

The Rating Percentage Index (RPI) has been used by the NCAA men’s basketball committee since 1981 and officially by the women’s basketball committee since 1984 as supplemental data to help select at-large teams and seed all teams for the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments. The NCAA did not make the RPI available to member institutions in-season until the 2005-06 season, when it began doing so on a weekly basis in a bare-bones fashion. Before then, the data were kept confidential within the committees. Collegiate Basketball News duplicates the adjusted RPI that is generated by the NCAA to four decimal places using available formulas without input from the NCAA. The four component factors which make up the RPI are as follows:

 

Factor I is the team’s Division I winning percentage and is 25 percent of the RPI. Games against non-Division I opponents are not included in the normal RPI.  For the men, beginning in 2004-05, home wins are weighted 0.6, neutral wins 1.0, and road wins count 1.4, with similar weights given to losses.

 

Factor II is the team’s opponents’ Division I winning percentage, or the team’s schedule strength, excluding results against the team in question. It is 50 percent of the RPI.

 

Factor III is the team’s opponents’ opponents’ Division I winning percentage, or the team’s opponents’ strength of schedule, excluding results against the team in question. Factor III is 25 percent of the RPI.

 

So, as you just read, RPI is calculated using the teams’ own winning percentage, their opponents’ winning percentage and the team’s opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage. RPI uses only two degrees of separation to be calculated.

 

SportsMeasures’ methodology for calculating each team’s ability measure incorporates the complete data matrix, not just two degrees of separation. Therefore, inferences across the whole data matrix are enabled. This allows for the most accurate strength of schedule measures and makes them completely comparable because their calculation is not independent of the other measures. RPI is nothing more than a ratio and its usefulness is very limited.

 

SportsMeasures’ team ability measures can be used to create other products like conference strength and strength of schedule. To keep the list short only the conferences are listed here (although all teams’ ability measures are available on our website – www.SportsMeasures.com). We create a ruler using a 0-100 scale to put the measures in a familiar frame of reference for everyone to be able to have a basic understanding of the ability of each teams.

 

This list of conferences’ strength of schedule includes both FBS and FCS divisions of college football. It does not include any of the independent schools such as Notre Dame.

 

Strength of Schedule by Conference

   

1

Pac-10

61.48

2

SEC

58.73

3

Big 12

57.40

4

ACC

56.65

5

Big 10

55.05

6

Mountain West

54.06

7

Big East

54.00

8

WAC

52.62

9

Colonial

48.20

10

Conf USA

48.12

11

Southern

47.30

12

Missouri Valley

47.06

13

Big Sky

46.39

14

Mid-American

45.15

15

Great West

43.24

16

Sun Belt

43.13

17

OVC

42.59

18

Southland

42.45

19

Ivy

36.83

20

SWAC

36.24

21

Patriot

36.03

22

Big South

35.07

23

Pioneer

31.21

24

MEAC

29.64

   

 

Mean

46.58

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the top conferences are the ones with the automatic bids to the major post-season bowl games. The lone exception is the Mountain West Conference slipping in at number six just ahead of the Big East. These numbers are the average strength of schedule of the teams in each conference. There isn’t a lot to say about this – the measures speak for themselves.

Conference Strength

The next list is the strength of each conference as determined by their teams’ average ability measure. While the order is changed a bit, the strongest conferences are the six with automatic bids to the bowl games. The SEC and Pac-10 were the strongest conferences in 2010. These two conferences also had the toughest schedules in 2010.  I doubt this surprises anyone either. These numbers are the average ability of the teams in each conference.

 

   

measure

1 SEC

64.46

2 Pac-10

63.47

3 Big 12

60.89

4 Big 10

58.68

5 ACC

57.95

6 Big East

57.09

7 Mountain West

52.29

8 WAC

52.28

9 Colonial

49.99

10 Southern

49.63

11 Missouri Valley

45.35

12 Conf USA

45.30

13 Great West

44.03

14 Big Sky

42.59

15 Mid-American

40.75

16 OVC

39.38

17 Ivy

38.18

18 Southland

37.86

19 Sun Belt

37.71

20 SWAC

35.41

21 Patriot

33.60

22 Big South

29.06

23 Pioneer

28.69

24 MEAC

28.02

   

  Mean

45.87

 

These measures are no one person’s opinion. These are facts. SportsMeasures uses only game results data to create our measures. Those measures can be added, multiplied, divided in various combinations to create other meaningful measures like those presented above. Our methodology is indisputable as it is wholly scientific. Visit www.Rasch.org to learn more about objective measurement.

 

If anyone has any questions or comments, please feel free to send them to questions@SportsMeasures.com.

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