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Just The Sports: Kirk Ferentz? Really?

Just The Sports

Friday, November 23, 2007

Kirk Ferentz? Really?

When current University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz was listed by ESPN's SportsCenter as a possible replacement for Lloyd Carr, former head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, my immediate thought was that there goes ESPN again, choosing lowest common denominator jokes and gimmicks in favor of intelligent analysis. Then I read in another publication that Ferentz really was on the short-list of candidates for Carr's replacement and again I got the impression I was on the outside of a private joke because surely anyone who wants to replace Carr with Ferentz surely jests. Mind you, once upon a time, after Iowa's 2002,2003, and 2004 seasons, Ferentz was a hot coaching prospect, one who would have made sense for all the high-profile coaching jobs he was linked to.

In Ferentz's fourth through his seventh seasons during his tenure as the Hawkeye head coach, when his teams amassed a win-loss record of 31-7, it looked like he had established Iowa as one of the elite programs in the country and in the Big Ten. That record was leaps and bounds above the 11-24 record he led the Hawkeyes to in his first three seasons. However, since Iowa's 2004 season ended, Iowa has regressed over the past three seasons (2005-2007) to a state somewhere between the 1999-2001 seasons when they were horrible and the 2002-2004 seasons when they were excellent. In other words, they are now a mediocre team as their 19-18 record declares them to be.

Despite how their record regressed, it is hard to point out exactly why Iowa has struggled using the slightly advanced football statistics that I do. Outside of points scored per game, when from 2002-2004 Iowa scored 30.3 points per game and 24.4 points per game from 2005-2007, there was no other statistically significant difference between the two eras, offensively speaking. It is almost as if Iowa was lucky from 2002-2004 to score as many points as they did, maybe they had better field position due to special teams and defense, and from 2005-2007 the Hawkeyes are merely regressing to the mean or not converting the highest leveraged down and yardage situations.

On the defensive side of the ball, there was more of an advantage for the 2002-2004 Hawkeyes, but not exactly a decisive one. Those Hawkeyes held opponents to only 2.6 yards per rush, significantly better than the 3.4 yards per rush the 2005-2007 Hawkeyes did. Also, they held opponents to 6.2 yards per pass attempt to the 2005-2007 teams who held opponents to 6.6 yards per pass attempt and a significantly lower completion percentage (55.7% to 59.2%). However, since yards per pass attempt are more highly correlated to points than either completion percentage of yards per rush, that explains why the 2002-2004 Hawkeyes only allowed 2.1 less points per game than the 2005-2007 Hawkeyes (17.8 to 19.9). That point difference was enough to make it less likely for the Hawkeyes to win games since they were averaging 5.9 points less per game, which means the total point shift was a total of 8.0 points per game. Hence, mediocrity.

Still, the 2005-2007 Hawkeyes have solidified themselves as the second of the three three-year data sets I have by beating out the 1999-2001 Hawkeyes on defensive categories and also point difference. The 2005-2007 Hawkeyes have been significantly superior to the 1999-2001 Hawkeyes yards per pass attempt allowed (6.6 to 7.6), yards per rush (3.4 to 4.3), and yards per catch (11.2 to 13.5). Those differences go a long way into explaining why the 1999-2001 Hawkeyes were outscored 6.5 points per game and the 2005-2007 Hawkeyes have outscored opponents by 4.5 points per game.

Michigan football have already rid themselves of one coach who was unable to maintain an elite football program, despite having all the advantages needed to buy a dynasty program in college football. There is no reason why they should want to replace one coach who is only good enough to lead mediocre teams with another one, even if Ferentz did have three oustanding seasons as the Iowa head football coach. Remember, those three seasons were three seasons ago and his successive teams have yet to have a stretch that good.

Note: Statistical data do not include Iowa's 2001 game against Minnesota, which they won 59-16.



  • This blog post demonstrates why pure statistical analysis can be misleading. Put down the calculator and do some REAL research into why those seasons were so bad. Case in point, this most recent year was destroyed by injuries and suspensions. Here is a excerpt from wikipedia that will add more information --

    "2007 marks Iowa's 119th season of football and its 108th season as a member of the Big Ten Conference. As of November 18, 2007, the Hawkeyes have a 6-6 record. The team has struggled with injuries, especially on offense.[3] In addition to injuries, Ferentz has suspended several players for misconduct off the field. After reserve safety Lance Tillison had been arrested for drunk driving, in addition to suspending Tillison Ferentz also instituted a curfew for all his players.[4]"

    So in short, before you make such statements on simple statistical analysis do your proper due diligence.

    Dave - Chicago

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:55 AM  

  • You're blog is ridiculous. You can't possibly be a real football fan if you're only crunching numbers, and you admitted to leaving out a game, so you were'nt even being fair. People who enjoy the game of football and that have been on any sports teams know that there are intagibles involved. Look at how many NFL teams get to the playoffs winning by an average of 3 points and how many have losing records, losing by an average of 3 points. Those teams win and lose due to their team chemistry, injury, game plan, etc... and the pendulum can be swung in the other direction with minor adjustments in most cases. This year's Iowa team has had to endure so much adversity this season, it say's alot for them that they are 6-6. Do you know that all of the recievers are freshman? They're starting their back up tight end, they have a young offensive line, and a sophmore 1st year starting quarterback, yet they're still bowl eligible. I personally wish Kirk wasn't on the short list because I don't want him to be tempted to leave. People who know football, know that he belongs on that list. Here's some advice, stop playing fantasy football for a year, and actually watch the games, so you have a true understanding of all that is involved in being a successful team. GO HAWKEYES!!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:28 AM  

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