Who’s winning games in December? We see this discussion in the NFL all the time. In the NFL, it’s all about making the playoffs. If your team is winning in December, it could be a good sign for the post-season. A late run gets them in, or maybe indicates that they’re peaking at the right time. It might move them up the ladder for seeding and potential home field advantage, but the key is getting in. Once you’re in, the records get thrown out the window.
Not so much for college football, or at least not so much until now. Now we have a Division I playoff. The big difference? The participants are chosen by a committee, just like the NCAA basketball tournament. We’ve seen how finishing a season strong, or stumbling, can have a drastic effect on participants and seeding.
That means winning at the right time could now be really important in college football, and might grow as the playoff inevitably moves towards expanding to 8 teams, which we know it will. It’s only a matter of time.
I will qualify this a little bit…winning at the end of a season in Division I college football does currently carry some cache. We saw that with Oklahoma State last season. Even though they weren’t close to making the playoffs, late wins provided momentum for the coming season. But that’s just for the Cowboys, and was not a matter of national interest.
So, with this new potential emphasis on winning at the “right” time, I thought it would be interesting to look at who in the Big 12 is winning games at a particular time in the season.
I decided to keep it fairly recent, so I’ve used the last 10 seasons, then split between 2005-2009 & 2010-2014. Each season was broken down into “trimesters”…Aug/Sep, Oct, Nov/Dec. I calculated the total wins and losses for each team, then took the averages and produced a winning percentage for that time period. While the results can be effected by the vagaries of scheduling, on the whole the results are pretty telling.
A couple of things to watch in the trends… since there are, on average, 4 games in each section of the season, every 25% is equal to a win or loss, and a 25% rise or drop indicates winning or losing an additional game. Also, TCU and West Virginia are naturally going to trend down during conference play as the level of competition drastically increased in 2012.
Let’s start with August-September.
AUG – SEP Win Percentage (2005 – 2014)
It’s all about good starts, and the Big 12 might arguably be the best when it comes to “scheduling” wins at the beginning of a season. Texas is by far the bravest, playing at least one, and sometimes two, major Division I opponents in non-conference games every season, but everyone else, particularly Baylor and Texas Tech, generally battle lightweights and the winning percentages show it. The first conference game is usually played in this period, but 2-3 wins have already been secured by then.
Who’s trending from the first 5 years to the last 5 years? Not too critical here, as only Baylor (scheduling more patsies) and Kansas (can’t even win in September?) registered a 25% or more change. Interesting that Oklahoma State didn’t change at all, even as the team improved.
Now, on to the heart of the conference schedule… October.
OCT Win Percentage (2005 – 2014)
Some interesting points here…
- The Longhorns went from first to worst. Since 2010, Texas has posted one winning record in October, going 3-0 in 2013;
- Oklahoma State is truly “Team October.” Last season was the first time the Cowboys did NOT post a winning record in that month since 2006…they are 15-3 since 2010…and were undefeated in the three seasons prior to 2014 (10-0);
- How bad is Kansas? Try 0-20 in the month of October since 2010. Yes, you read that right. The Jayhawks have not won a game in October in the last 5 years;
As would be expected, Baylor, OSU, and Kansas State are trending up. Nobody else has won a conference title since 2010. The fiery dumpster that is Texas football (or at least their QB position) is on full display.
It’s time for the stretch run, and nobody is better than Baylor.
NOV – DEC Win Percentage (2005 – 2014)
Pretty clear here which teams are consistently competing for a top spot in the conference. If you’re averaging 2+ losses after Nov 1, you aren’t in the mix. TCU has obviously made the adjustment to Power 5 conference football.
Who’s trending? Interesting that only 3 teams have improved in this period (again, all conference champs since 2011), which I think speaks more to parity than anything (ie: the faltering of Texas and OU). Who has improved more than Baylor? I mean, that’s a crazy move.
So what do you think? Does winning after Nov 1 mean more than any other period? Obviously you need to be winning to have a chance, and losing early is better than losing late, but will a late run make a difference?