Loyal Cougars

Dean’s List: Comparing Bronco’s upset record to other long-time tenured coaches

Greg breaks down how Bronco’s upset track record compares to other coaches with long tenures.

After looking at Bronco Mendenhall’s record as a favorite and as an underdog using Football Outsiders stats for end of year team rankings, Loyal Cougars compared those numbers to a few other coaches. Knowing Bronco has upset “better” teams 26% of the chances he gets is great, but how does that compare to others?

I picked coaches that have all been employed at the same school since 2005, although I also threw in Chris Petersen who started at Boise State in 2006. Other than Petersen, these are all coaches who have kept their jobs at the same college for 9 years, so they’ve all done fairly well. Below are their numbers with a few comments:

Bob Stoops – Oklahoma
Average end of year rank: 11
Record against teams that finished lower: 89-16 (.848)
Record against teams that finished higher: 4-11 (.267)

That Bob Stoops has averaged a ranking of 11th best in the county and still played 15 teams better than his since 2005 speaks to how tough Oklahoma’s schedule is.

Chris Petersen – Boise State (2006-2013). Starting at Washington in 2014.
Average end of year rank: 16
Record against teams that finished lower: 88-16 (0.898)
Record against teams that finished higher: 2-2 (0.500)

Here’s the list of teams Boise State played that finished the season ranked higher than they did: BYU in 2012*. Washington, Utah State, and BYU in 2013. That’s it. Boise when 2-2 against them, which gives Petersen the best record as a favorite and as an underdog, although it is with a very small sample size. But no one does better in the games you’re supposed to win than he does. Even with that record, going undefeated is still really, really hard. When you win 90% of the games you should, there’s still a 10% chance you could lose, like maybe if you miss a flukey kick in Reno or something.

Frank Beamer – Virginia Tech
Average end of year rank: 19
Record against teams that finished lower: 79-21 (.790)
Record against teams that finished higher: 3-11 (.214)

Frank Beamer is a coach I’ve tried to compare to Bronco Mendenhall before. He’s been to several BCS bowls as a conference champion with a record close to 11-2, and BYU fans may evaluate Bronco differently today if the rules allowed BYU’s teams from 2006-2009 to do the same.

Gary Patterson – TCU
Average end of year rank: 20
Record against teams that finished lower: 81-12 (.871)
Record against teams that finished higher: 0-15 (.000)

Patterson has also done very, very well. Shockingly though, from 2005 on, he hasn’t beat a team ranked higher than his team finished based on these numbers. When TCU was really good, they didn’t play many teams ranked better, but moving to the Big 12 has given him more chances as the underdog, with 9 of his 15 chances coming in the last two years.

Bronco Mendenhall – BYU
Average end of year rank: 26
Record against teams that finished lower: 70-17 (.805)
Record against teams that finished higher: 6-17 (.261)

Kyle Whittingham – Utah
Average end of year rank: 34
Record against teams that finished lower: 66-10 (.868)
Record against teams that finished higher: 9-23 (.281)

Both of Whittingham’s percentages are better than Bronco, but his overall average of 34 is a shade lower than Bronco’s 26. Like Patterson, Utah’s move to the Pac-12 has increased the number of games where Utah plays the underdog, lowering their overall winning percentage. Considering their final ranking, Whittingham has done well recently, going 7-14 as an underdog with three of those upsets coming over BYU since joining the Pac-12. Of course, the stats might not say they’re an underdog as often if they had won games against teams like Colorado and Washington State.

Kirk Ferentz – Iowa
Average end of year rank: 39
Record against teams that finished lower: 50-19 (.725)
Record against teams that finished higher: 8-29 (.216)

Another longtime-tenured coach that I think can be compared to Mendenhall in some ways. He hasn’t had a single, magical season, but he fields competitive teams. Some Iowans are frustrated that his performance doesn’t deserve as much money as he is getting, and his comparatively low winning percentage as a favorite may be a big part of that.

Mike Riley – Oregon State
Average end of year rank: 41
Record against teams that finished lower: 40-14 (.741)
Record against teams that finished higher: 19-35 (.352)

Oregon State plays the role of the underdog a lot and they’re good at it. There’s a good reason Pac-12 teams dread playing night games in Corvallis.

Finally, I wanted to add two more long-time tenured coaches to show that even as you move down the list for average finish, the coaches that stick around are able to do so because they win most of the games they should while picking up enough upsets to stay alive.

George O’Leary – Central Florida
Average end of year rank: 58
Record against teams that finished lower: 54-11 (.831)
Record against teams that finished higher: 13-34 (.277)

Larry Blakeney – Troy
Average end of year rank: 75
Record against teams that finished lower: 44-12 (.786)
Record against teams that finished higher: 8-41 (.163)

* * * * *

Where does this leave Bronco Mendenhall? Even on a list of pretty good coaches, his percentages aren’t too far off. With Bronco putting in an average end of year ranking of 26 over his tenure, you would expect to find some coaches that are better and many others that are worse.  He’s not Nick Saban, but who is? (Other than Nick Saban, I mean).

 

*Even at 8-5, the advanced stats loved the 2012 BYU defense. BYU finished the year ranked 11th and Boise 13th. Others may disagree, but those are their numbers.

Part 1: A breakdown of when Bronco’s teams were upset and when he pulled the upset

4 Comments

  1. Wes

    January 9, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    I agree with you, Nick Saban is, in fact, Nick Saban.

  2. Accipiter

    January 9, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    How do Urban Meyer, Chip Kelly, Nick Saban, Mark Richt, Brian Kelley stack up? Not what you call “tenured” but that’s because of their success.

  3. Thor

    January 10, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Love the perspective. BYU’s got a lot of fans with unrealistic expectations (as do all programs, I expect), but I every time I hear the “fire Bronco” argument, I wonder who they think they’re going to conjure out of thin air that’s going to provide better performance. The truth is that BYU football, as much as I love it, is about where it’s always been: pretty good most years and occasionally great. We all want it to be something more than that year in and year out, but even during Lavell’s storied tenure you see 11, 12, 13 wins, followed by 9, 8, even a few 6’s, then back to 11, 12, etc. Only once did they go undefeated, and that was the national championship year.

    Like everybody, I want to see the program trending up, even in the face of tougher competition, but I’d rather see us build our way there on the backs of steady coaches who win most of the time than by panicking and firing effective coaches because they sometimes lose when we want them to win.

    • Wes

      January 10, 2014 at 9:40 am

      If I recall correctly, even Lavell had plenty of detractors who wanted him fired his last five years. Also, Bronco has to do deal with so many problems in the sport that were just infants in Lavell’s day. We always have had “power” conferences, but never like today. We’ve always had “elite” teams that would never schedule 1 and 1s, but not like today. Consequently, Bronco has had to deal with recruiting challenges that are massive compared to what Lavell dealt with. Bronco deserves much criticism, in my opinion, but placing him on any kind of hot seat right now is ridiculous.