The best positive game effect coach in the SEC is gone. No other coach in the last 4 years in the SEC has even been close to Bobby Petrino and his staff as far as producing wins beyond their talent level. For Hogs fans that love winning football games, this is a big setback looking forward at predicting wins.
With all the recent success at Arkansas, one would assume that the program is much better off today than before Mr. Petrino showed up in Fayetteville after deceiving the Atlanta Falcons. But in sports, we know to never judge a hero by it’s cover, nor should you do the same with an entire program. It was convenient to forget about 2002 and 2006 at Arkansas. Two 9 win seasons and an average of 7 wins a season for 5 years. It is easy to blame the failures of that era on Houston Nutt in order to glorify the current run under Petrino. However, in his 4 years, their average annual win total has been 7.75. Toss in another 9-10 win season in 2012 and it goes to 8 wins a year. One game is a huge difference over 4 fours in a 12 game schedule!
An extra win a year is a big deal in college football and in the SEC. It goes back to the quality of Coach Petrino and his staff pulling out wins because the talent has not improved since his arrival. Prior to the 2008 season, and going back to 2002, the average national recruiting rank (FARR) for the Hogs was 27.71. The last 4 years 27.75. Some fans would like to argue that player development is a huge factor, but over the last 8 years the total national recruiting rank was #21, while in the same period players to the NFL via the draft was ranked at #29. That is nothing more than really good coaching.
Take a look at the chart to the below. The most important one is the black line. That is the 4 year moving average of the Hogs composite recruiting ranking. It is not moving up or down in any significant manner. How important is that black line? In the SEC in 2011, when adjusted for the field the game is played on, was 81% correct in predicting every SEC game 6 months before the season started.
In the four years that Petrino was the head coach, he lost just twice, two times, to a team that he outrecruited! Conversely, he won 11 times to teams that outrecruited him. That +9 game difference is by far the highest in the SEC and was an average of just over 2 games per year. That’s two extra wins a year that the program just fired. Don’t be deceived by the hype other SEC coaches receive. Spurrier is +3 games over 4 years, Mullen +2 in 3 years and Dooley has never beat a team that outrecruited him. But talking about his coaching effect is now all in the past.
I was looking forward to the Hogs in 2012. Due to the coaching effect, this was one of a couple teams that I thought could break the CFBMatrix model for the BCS NCG game. The system did not identify them again in 2012 as a national title contender as they do not hold all 3 of the rankings that every BCS national title game winner and loser has had going into the season for the last 8 years. That notion of hope for a surprise team is gone. Recruiting has not improved under Petrino and so the Hogs are as talented now as when he arrived. In the SEC, no team with a 4 year composite recruiting ranking (adjusted for non-quals & early departures) less than #10 nationally has won the SEC West in the last 7 years, and no team under #19 has won the East. Arkansas, at #26, was still on the outside looking in.
The coaching instability will be handled with a quick internal hire to calm the masses. However, over 80% of teams in the top 25 of recruiting rankings on September 1 finish in the top 25. It is more critical for the Hogs to maintain aggressive recruiting strategies in the period of the interim coach and getting a quality hire in January. A failure to recruit well puts the program back even further. A 2013 class in the 30s or worse is a .500 team in the SEC.
Only 30% of teams in the last 10 years go back to back 10+ regular season wins. The returning starter numbers in the SEC are favorable to Arkansas but when you look at the schedule through the FARR rankings of each team, there are 7 wins on the schedule in 2012. Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Mississippi State and South Carolina are all predicted losses. That 7-5 record would have been a predicted 9 to 10 wins with the Petrino coach effect numbers. The national average of a new head coach in year one is -1 game effect so 6 wins this year is not out of the question.
The common reaction that you will hear from most Hog fans, and fans in general when they lose a valuable piece of the puzzle, is to downplay the loss by raising up what was kept. In this case the players. You will hear how the current group is so much better than when Nutt left town and that the returning starters and experience will carry us. It wasn’t due to scheduling, it wasn’t under ranking the recruits and it wasn’t excessive lucky bounces. The Hogs lost, on the field, a great game coach and those can be very hard to replace.
I will stick with 7 wins for the Hogs in 2012. But take heed fans, until recruiting significantly improves or the University finds another great game coach you are deceiving yourselves to believe that the odds of another 10 win or better season this year or the near future is on your side.
Got a forum discussing the article? Want me to join in the discussion? Send me an invite and link to my twitter account @CFBMatrix or email me firstname.lastname@example.org