The consensus seems to be that Missouri will win the Big 12 North, as most have them pegged as the preseason favorites. I tend to agree with this assessment for the time being. When I look at both teams on paper and examine the schedules I see Missouri as having a slight advantage over the Huskers.
One of the key areas I focused on in my assessment of the two teams was the quarterback position. Don’t get me wrong, I’m elated to have Sam Keller in the scarlet and cream. However, we have to remember that the guy has just eight career starts and has appeared in just 20 games. Missouri on the other hand, has Chase Daniel who although only a junior, has already started 13 games in his career. Daniel knows what it takes to QB a Big 12 team. While Keller was busy garnering the Scout Team MVP, Daniel was earning 2nd-Team All-Big 12 from the coaches.
I’m not the only one to use the QB position as a key measuring stick for my prognosticating. Coach Callahan addressed that very issue Monday at the Big 12 Media Days. He said:
“Well, my understanding is that the Big 12 writers essentially pick the team to win the division predicated on a number of factors. And the first factor is the quarterback. And since they have a starting quarterback that’s established in their program that’s been productive, I can see where that’s going.
Personally, no, I don’t agree with it. But I love our football team and I think they’re capable of doing some great things. And I understand how it all works and why people make the decisions and do the things that they do. And motivation — we’ve got plenty of motivation with Nevada, you know, in the opening game. during the regular season. During the 9-3 season we did do a good job like I said with the one faltering — we faltered against Texas late in the game.”
But before I put all of my preseason prediction eggs in one basket, I wanted to determine if a returning quarterback really mattered in college football. Thankfully, I didn’t have to do the analysis myself. Matt at Statistically Speaking had already done that for me.
I’ll try to briefly describe what he found.
“Teams with a returning experienced quarterback had a collective record of 375-357 (.512) in 2005. When their experienced quarterbacks returned in 2006, their combined record jumped to 469-337 (.582). That’s an increase of roughly 7 percentage points in winning percentage.”
Teams who lost their quarterbacks after 2005 had a collective record of 341-309 (.525) in 2005. When they lost their quarterbacks, they regressed to a combined 316-384 (.451) in 2006. That’s a decrease of roughly 7.4 percentage points in winning percentage.
You’ll obviously notice that the gain in winning percentage among teams that returned their quarterback is almost equal to the losses in winning percentage of teams that lost their quarterback. What a coinky-dink.
In Part II of his QB analysis Matt stripped away some riff-raff by limiting the teams’ performances to conference play.
Here are the highlights of those findings:
The teams (62 total) that returned an experienced quarterback in 2006:
Went a collective 238-248 in conference play (.490)
Equates to just under a 4-4 record in a standard 8-game conference schedule.
In 2006, those same teams improved to 269-223 in conference play.
This is a winning percentage of .547 and equates to a 4.37-3.63 record in a standard 8 game conference season.
This is an improvement of roughly 1/2 game in the conference standings.
The teams (53 total) that did not return an experienced quarterback in 2006:
Went a collective 214-204 in conference play in 2005 (.512).
Equates to a conference record of 4.10-3.90 in a standard 8 game conference season.
In 2006, those same teams regressed to 188-234 in conference play.
This is a winning percentage of .445 and equates to a conference record of 3.56-4.44 in a standard 8 game conference season.
This is a regression of a little more than 1/2 game in the conference standings.
He also looked at the percentage of teams that improved/declined by a certain number of games. He found:
Of those teams returning an experienced QB:
21 teams (33.9%) improved by at least 2 games in the conference standings.
8 teams (12.9%) improved by at least 3 games in the conference standings.
13 teams (21%) declined by at least 2 games in the conference standings.
5 teams (8.1%) declined by at least 3 games in the conference standings.
Of those teams not returning an experienced QB:
10 teams (18.9%) improved by at least 2 games in the conference standings.
5 teams (9.4%) improved by at least 3 games in the conference standings.
21 teams (39.6%) declined by at least 2 games in the conference standings.
10 teams (18.9%) declined by at least 3 games in the conference standings.
Matt concludes by noting:
“I will say this, it appears that it may not be as valuable to return your starting quarterback (12.9% that returned theirs improved by at least 3 games and 9.4% that did not improved by at least 3 games) as it is damaging to have him leave (more than double the chance–18.9% to 8.1% of declining by at least 3 games).”
Now, I know Sam Keller is considered by many to be a returning quarterback even after sitting a season out and entering a new system. While I agree that his situation doesn’t exactly fit with this model, we have a talented QB who is new, and raw in Callahan’s version of the WCO. The bottom line is that we just don’t know how it will play out. And frankly that’s what makes this upcoming season so great – all of the unknowns. But for now, I stand my preseason selection of Missouri to win the Big 12 North. And I’ll continue to stand by that pick for at least the next few days.