Thursday, October 21, 2010

LSU: The 9th Luckiest Team in the Country

Let's face it.  LSU has had some incredible bounces go their way in recent years.  Whether it's bombing away without enough time left, Tennessee forgetting to count, or getting a favorable review on a fake field goal, things have a way of working out for the Tigers.  While I'm certain that LSU's coaching staff has made a pact with Satan himself, it seems that some teams are just lucky.

With this in mind, I thought I would crunch some numbers and see exactly how lucky the Tigers are. I elected to borrow the system that Ken Pomeroy uses for computing luck in his basketball rankings.  His luck metrics use the difference between the expected number of wins and actual number of wins to identify teams that win games they aren't supposed to win and teams that lose games they are supposed win.  Your top 5 charmed teams since 2000:

Boise State11.07
Ohio State10.66
Southern Cal9.18

All those journalism grads now have something to hang their hats on.  RBA expected the Wildcats to go 51-71 over a ten-year interval, although they actually went 62-60.  Boise State also consistently brings their A-game against tougher opponents to vault themselves into the national discussion.  To this day, RBA still only ranks them at #10.

Ohio State, Texas, and USC have something in common other than national titles (well, I guess USC can't claim that anymore).  Each team was brought back from the dead by their coaches in the early part of the decade.  Ohio State hired Jim Tressel in 2001 and took a 7-5 team to 14-0 en route the 2002 national title.  USC hired Pete Carroll and Reggie Bush, recruited a string of dominant players, and scorched everything in their path for years.  Texas hired Mack Brown, recruited Vince Young, and went on a tear.  Although all these teams would eventually be heavily favored in many of their games, the number of victories they achieved on their upswing skew the results in their favor.

LSU isn't in the top five, so what's the deal?  People tend to forget all about the clock management issues and overtime experiences that lucky teams tend to experience along the way.  LSU comes in ninth with a luck of 6.89 because so many of those ridiculous comebacks are marked by subtle screw-ups along the way.  Some teams just can't help themselves, though.  Your top 5 cursed teams since 2000:

New Mexico State-12.42

This list is littered with the corpses of coaches and nerds.  Not only does Duke suck -- they're unlucky, too.  Minnesota fired Glen Mason and Tim Brewster for being unable to get over the hump, but maybe the guys were simply unlucky.  Most teams in the bottom 25 are whipping boys, suggesting that unlucky teams may just be bad football teams that choke under pressure.

Based on this data, good teams tend to be lucky, and bad teams tend to be unlucky.  We probably shouldn't be surprised that some of the teams creeping into the top 15 are extremely lucky.