Settling the Big XII South with decimals, not decibels

Who needs stats and facts when you have a tan like this?

Who needs stats and facts when you have a tan like this?

Why is a 3-way tie so confusing? Why do Mack Brown and Kirk Herbstreit, among many, many others, insist that Texas beating Oklahoma settles a 3-way tie? Why do so many people believe you can simply throw Texas Tech out of the equation because they got blown out once? The answer is one of three things: 1) Texas fans, 2)People who refuse to base their opinion on stats and facts, or 3) Idiots.

Regardless of what any talking head or head coach wishes to be true, a 3-way tie cannot and should not be settled any way other than comparing all three teams at once. Texas beating Oklahoma does not “settle it on the field” as Mack Brown claims. Why does that game count while Texas Tech’s win over Texas is conveniently forgotten? I’ll give Mack a pass, though, because he cannot be expected to be objective. However, there are no excuses for “objective” “journalists” such as Herbstreit or’s Pat Forde commenting that Texas Tech should not be a part of the conversation. Of course they are, they HAVE to be, it is a – say it all together – THREE-WAY TIE.

Let me be clear in saying that there are valid reasons to believe that Texas is the best team of the three and I am not belittling anyone who attempts to use valid reasoning. However, I am belittling anyone who simplifies the situation by saying “Texas beat Oklahoma, Texas should go”. To quote Dr. Perry Cox (from Scrubs if you are not in the know), “Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. You’re wrong. You’re wrong. You’re wrong.”

I am now going to examine a few factors that can – objectively, through the use of numbers, not outlandish opinions or a ridiculous amount of hair gel – give us an idea of which of the three teams truly deserves to be in the Big XII championship game. (Note – Games against non I-A teams are not included in any calculations)

Opponent’s Winning Percentage (OppW%)

The first factor is fairly simple – opponent winning percentage (OppW%). Since each of the three teams finished 11-1, a look at the winning percentage of their opponents can give a quick measure of who played the strongest schedule. The does not include games played against the specific Big XII team (i.e., Oklahoma’s OppW% does not include the games played against Oklahoma) or, as mentioned earlier, any games played against Division I-AA foes, either by a team or its opponents.

Oklahoma             .623        71-43**

Texas                    .613        76-48

Texas Tech           .571        60-45

** – Oklahoma opponents Cincinnati (at Hawaii) and Washington (at California) each have one game remaining. The most likely outcome is those teams going 1-1 which would put Oklahoma’s OppW% at .621. If both teams were to lose, the percentage would drop to .612, .001 lower than Texas.

*** – A person could point out that Oklahoma benefits by not counting I-AA opponent Chattanooga. Removing Texas’s non-conference opponent with the worst record (Arkansas and UTEP both went (5-7) puts Texas’ OppW% at .628, slightly ahead of Oklahoma’s. I’m willing to essentially call this category a draw because of the following point.

If you want to take it a step further and look at opponents’ opponents winning percentage, it goes like this: Texas Tech .554, Oklahoma .545, Texas .536, with many of this weekend’s regular season finales factoring in. Essentially, Texas Tech’s opponents played slightly tougher schedules than Oklahoma’s and Texas’s opponents, but nothing significant. Overall, the strength of schedule is a slight edge for Oklahoma, but I am willing to call it even between OU and Texas.

Relative Domination (RD)

The next factor is a stat I created and call relative domination (RD). RD examines the score versus each opponent and how that compares to the average score of all the rest of the opponent’s games, independent of that game. For example, it takes Oklahoma’s score versus Kansas and measures how it compares to the scores of the rest of Kansas’s games, not including the Oklahoma game. By measuring the offensive and defensive numbers, we get a picture of how much a team was able to dominate its opponents relative to the rest of the season. This includes scores all games by a team and its opponents, so no whining allowed about how this team scored a garbage touchdown or how that team took a knee when they could have kicked a field goal – it all evens out. Thus, an RD of 10 means that, on average, a team’s final margin was 10 points better against each opponent than would have been expected.

(As before, games against I-AA competition are not included in any calculations.)

Big XII South Games Only

Oklahoma             RD = 31.5

Texas                    RD = 21.0

Texas Tech           RD = 13.2

Conference Games Only

Oklahoma             RD = 27.4

Texas                    RD = 23.2

Texas Tech           RD = 15.8

All Games

Oklahoma             RD = 32.6

Texas                    RD = 30.7

Texas Tech           RD = 19.6

By all three measures of RD, Oklahoma had the stronger season. While playing a schedule either slightly more difficult or essentially equally tough, Oklahoma dominated that schedule more than Texas and far more than Texas Tech. Note that those who argued that Texas Tech was the weakest of the three were correct, which at no point I would have argued against. However, the fact remains that even though Texas Tech was the weakest, they DID beat Texas, they DID finish 7-1 in the conference, and they ARE a part of the 3-way tie.

Oklahoma rightly got the nod to go to the Big XII championship game.

Whew, I’m glad that’s settled.


~ by Bristol on December 4, 2008.

28 Responses to “Settling the Big XII South with decimals, not decibels”

  1. You my friend are a genius and I am inspired by your continuing ability to win an argument with numbers. I applaude you and your awsomeness


  2. Your ability to make logical arguments with numbers in inspiring. Unfortunately the masses don’t like logic and will continue to flock to the talking heads.


  3. Texas is better then OU.
    Mack Brown is better then Bob Stoops.
    Texas Tech does not matter.


    Because I’m from Texas and I said so.


  4. I have been arguing this for the past two weeks and didn’t have the time to put together some stats like these, way to go.


  5. Wow great job using only the stats that support you. Not taking into account Div II Chat in winning percentage to make it support you, pointing out that when you add Chat back in it favors Texas but then deciding to call it a draw. Note that winning percentage is NOT the same as strength of schedule, however you confuse those too. Finally, when in doubt make up your own stat.


  6. But I saw an airplane that said 45-35 – shouldn’t I just base my opinion on that? I mean, it was flying over Stillwater. In the air.


  7. While you give a good argument that favors Oklahoma, you neglect to give any evidence that the statistics you use matter. Further, your decision to exclude Div I-AA opponents serves only to enhance Oklahoma as their Div I-AA (FCS) opponent went winless against Div I teams. OU’s opponents win% was .568. If instead of RD, you looked at largest lead in common games, you’d still have Oklahoma leading (118 to 113 to 110), but what would it mean?

    What if the tiebreaker were record against FBS opponents? Then Texas wins, no argument.


  8. This is all great and good, and mildly amusing. But the fact is that this is not the way it works. Oklahoma could have beaten everyone by 40 for the rest of the season, if Texas beat them, then they should get the nod, because it was LOGICALLY settled on the field. As far as Tech beating Texas, yes they should still be in the mix, but had the tie breaker been handled correctly, ie (SEC) then they would have been third place anyway. Sorry Tech fans. Texas beat Oklahoma. All the math in the world won’t change that. Hook ’em.


  9. The SEC tiebreaker doesn’t settle anything. I assume you are saying the SEC is smarter because it looks at the top two teams and if they are within 5 spots they go head to head. Well Texas Tech is ranked within five spots of Texas, so why does the same comparison not work there. If Oklahoma had only won the Tech game by ten these three teams could be ranked 2,3,4 in the BCS. Then tell me how the magical SEC formula settles anything. So basically Oklahoma won by too much. That just doesn’t make sense. I don’t want to hear the words settled on the field when it doesn’t apply to ALL 3 games.

    And props to Glenn, the first person I’ve heard who actually gave an argument for Texas that didn’t just say “Well Texas beat Oklahoma.”


  10. Hey Myrtle, how come I didn’t hear you or the rest of your longhorn buddies complaining about the tie breaker procedures in the Big 12 until last week?

    If it was so clear that the way to decide the tiebreaker was incorrect, why didn’t any of the Texas administrators demand the Big 12 change it back in the summer, or 5 years ago when it was agreed on? I mean, all I hear about is how the Big 12 would be nothing without Texas, right? Surely, if the longhorns were that influential, the Big 12 will change the tiebreaker to suit everyone in Austin.


  11. @ You’re a loser

    I made no mention of adding in Chattanooga’s season record. I threw out all games including Division I-AA teams, not just the one Oklahoma played. I used OppW% throughout that section and only at the end did I mention strength of schedule. Clearly you have a better handle on stregth of schedule than I do. Please illuminate me as to the correct definition and usage of strength of schedule. Perhaps you think Texas should get bonus points for playing Arkansas, since they are in the SEC. Oklahoma played Cincinnati and TCU in their non-conference schedule, while Texas’s best non-conference opponent was Rice. Does it really matter that Oklahoma played Chattanooga instead of UTEP? I say it doesn’t.

    Your e-mail says University of Phoenix. Is that why you are so angry?
    Thanks for your response


  12. Ahhh. The 3-way tie sideshow. Funny me, I thought voters were supposed to vote on teams NATIONALLY where conference 3 way tie stuff is irrelevant. I thought their job was to properly put down who was, for instance, 3rd vs.4th in the country on their ballot. It sure seemed to me that debate came down to Texas vs. OU. In fact, I never once heard Tech’s name mentioned as a possibility for 3rd or 4th in the country on people’s ballots. The majority of voters got it right. Inexplicably, enough people voted the neutral field loser ahead of the clear winner to wreck the system. They did so for a variety of extremely illogical reasons like HOTTT team, 4 straight games of 60 points, but but but OU would win if they played again, OU would beat the NY Giants today. All things that only should have mattered if the 2 teams hadn’t actually played on the field. The 3 way tie was just a sideshow very effectively used by the team on the wrong end of the argument to win a debate that it should have lost 100% to nothing. Kudos to the Sooners. What a travesty and a potential death knell for the myth of the all-meaningfull college football regular season.


  13. Thanks for the response, Glenn. I appreciate someone using an actual argument other than “45-35”.

    I’m not sure what evidence I could provide that would make my statistics matter – it’s all about perspective. I figure that more things matter than “45-35”. If we are comparing all three teams objectively, what factors lend credence to which team is better? Who they played, whether they won and lost, and how they won and lost. So I thought I would investigate those factors. What other stats should matter? I started by looking at opponent winning percentage and thought it would be interesting to find a way to compare scores against each opponent. RD simply gives a look at how the three teams fared against their opponents compared to all of the rest of the games those opponents played. You make a good point about including the games Chattanooga played against other Division I competition (one other game). As far the tiebreaker goes, if the tiebreaker were record against Division I-A (I’ll use FBS and FCS when the NCAA pays me) opponents, I suspect Oklahoma would not have scheduled a I-AA opponent.


  14. Wow, I always knew you were smart, but your math has my mind and pants buzzing. Wait, that’s my cell phone on vibrate, never mind.


  15. @Fertile Myrtle

    The fact is also that the way you describe is not the way it works, either.

    “Sorry Tech fans. Texas beat Oklahoma.”

    You indirectly proved one of my points for me.

    Thanks for the response.


  16. Your right you made no mention of adding Chat in, I misunderstood, you simply state that if you threw out Texas lowest ranked team, Texas would come out ahead. You did throw out Chat, however Texas played no Div ii teams, so this benefits both OU, with Chat OU opponents winning % drops to .571 same as Tech, I would assume Tech’s would remain similar since the teams they played were around .500. You say I does not matter if OU played UTEP instead of Chat, but obviously it does or why not leave them in? I agreee both should be easy wins for either team, however, I would say the same for Cinn and TCU, Texas would beat those teams easily, so thier winning precentage, to me is moot.

    How best to determine strength of schedule, I do not know but I know winning percentage is not it, nor is it even similar (I will grant it is related). According to your method Rice and OK St are the same. I know home and away should be taken into account.

    I am angry because you say “Texas fans, base their opinion on stats and facts, or are idiots.” This implies Texas fans do not base their opinion on stats and facts (it also implies some are not idiots) which is not true.

    BTW, that is not a real email and my name is not Tom, so don’t spam him, I do not know him and am sure he would not appreciate it.


  17. @ CG

    The problem with this 3-way tie is that the winner of the Big XII had to be settled in order to determine the South champion. I agree that voters in the national polls should have voted on who they felt was the better team. But as far as determining the South champion, Tech had to be included in the tiebreaker. The voters should have had nothing to do with it, which is the Big XII’s mistake. My point was stated at the end of the article – I feel Oklahoma was rightly sent to the Big XII championship game. I disagree with your assertion that the college football regular season is not meaningful, but we can agree to disagree.

    Thanks for the response.


  18. I believe all of these Big 12 teams are overrated. They don’t play any defense.

    I bet a team with a real defense, like Iowa, would beat all 3 of these teams if they had the chance to match up against them.


  19. @ You’re a loser

    Touche on the e-mail address. Nicely done.

    My original statement was “either they are Texas fans, base their opinion on stats and facts, or are idiots.” I think it lost some meaning in the translation. I meant to say that the people saying Texas beating Oklahoma is the only thing that matters are either Texas fans, people who are not using stats (I think I forgot the not part), or idiots.

    However, that is not what I wrote. To quote the Sports Guy: The lesson, as always – I’m an idiot.

    Finally, point taken about strength of schedule vs. winning percentage. Good Rice vs. OSU comparison.

    Looks I need to fire my proofreader as my line that got quoted on Campus Clicks isn’t what I intended to say. I’ll just go with the standard line that I was misquoted.

    Thanks again for the discussion.


  20. Now it makes a lot more sense. And hey, we’re all human and all make mistakes. Except Tim Tebow.


  21. Bristol,
    Why should the voters change their job based on what the Big 12 decided to do? The answer is they shouldn’t have. They should have gone about their business just the same. Just because it was going to be used to break the tie doesn’t mean their job should have been any different. They have no responsibility to the Big 12. That’s irrefutable. The 3 way tie being broken should have been an affect of the vote not a cause for how you vote. This was always a Texas vs. OU battle, and unfortunately too many people got sidetracked and blew it.


  22. No the voters got to place three teams where they wanted to place them. Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech based on their full seasons – not on one game. If that was the case then Texas Tech should be ranked in front of Texas. That has nothing to do with the Big XII. If there were no Big XII title game (like the Pac 10 for instance) Oklahoma would still be ranked in front of Texas and going to the BCS Title Game instead of just the Big XII Title Game.


  23. CG,

    In my opinion, the voters should not have had any say in who won the Big XII South. Confernce tiebreakers should come before any voting but that is a matter of opinion. Of course, being a numbers guy I trust computers to crunch numbers more than I trust humans to be unbiased. I try to write objectively on most occasions but I don’t think it is ever completely possible. In the end, many people believe Texas got hosed, many people believe Oklahoma is rightfully going, and neither will convince the other they are wrong. It is fun to debate but I sure wish we had a playoff.

    Thanks for the debate. I hope you take a peak at upcoming posts.


  24. Dragon,
    Your last point is perfect. You’re exactly right. OU would still be ahead if there were no Big 12 title game. That’s exactly why it’s so screwed up. People got sidetracked and dragged Tech in to the argument. The job of the voters was to rank the teams NATIONALLY. Nobody would rank a team 3rd in the country that lost by 44. That’s why nobody did. This came down to putting either OU or Texas in the 3 slot, and enough of a minority ignored the most important factor to tip the scales in the losing team’s favor.


  25. Fine I’ll just say it. All you Texas fans complaining about not being in the title game are a bunch of whiners. And please don’t start calling for a playoff system, it is banter like this that makes CFB great and the regular season matter. Maybe I’m just bitter though b/c I’ve never had a team in contention for anything…ever and I despise your team’s success.


  26. Here are some other important stats comparing OU and Texas, this time using common opponents:

    OU won games against common opponents (Tech, A&M, Baylor, Kansas, O-State) by 148, Texas won by 90. Advantage, OU by +58.

    Of those 5 games, OU played 2 at home, and 3 on the road. Texas played 3 at home, and 2 on the road. So even in a more hostile environment, advantage OU.

    If you want to look at those 5 games individually, here you go:
    OU @ Baylor, W + 32
    TX vs Baylor, W +24

    OU vs Tech, W +44
    TX @ Tech, L -6

    OU @ A&M, W +38
    TX vs A&M, W +40

    OU @ OSU, W +20
    TX vs OSU, W +4

    OU vs Kansas, W +14
    TX @ Kansas, W +28

    If you want to look at non-conference, OU played 2 teams current ranked in the top 13 of the BCS (Cincinnati and TCU) and won impressively. Texas’s best win was 5-7 Arkansas, or perhaps Rice.

    Versus the current BCS top 25 (because everyone can agree preseason polls are worthless), OU is 4-1 with another game against Missouri coming up, while Texas is 3-1.

    And finally, to settle the Texas Tech problem: If you are going to remove Tech from the equation because they got beat by 44 points, shouldn’t you reward the team that beat them by 44 points? As it was mentioned above, had OU only won by 6 (same margin Tech beat Texas) Tech would still very much be in the argument.

    As you all can see, this argument is not close at all. The only thing going in Texas’s favor is the biased human polls, and the impressive amount of whining going on for their behalf.

    Advantage: OU


  27. Who cares about OU-Texas?

    Let’s argue about ASU vs. U of A based on the women in the pictures on campus clicks. Even I can get excited about those women!


  28. Jeff, when comparing common conference opponents, you cannot take into account home vs away. Additionally, Contrary to the SECs thoughts, you cannot compare non-common conference opponents from the other division (and rank the wins according to order of finish)

    Why? Because a team has no control of their conference schedule, it rotates home/away and what teams from the other division they play. So by giving more “advantage” to OU for play 3 away games of the 5, you are punishing UT for happening to have the tie take place in a year where they got more home conference games in regards to those 5 teams. It is not like they chose to play 3 home games of the 5 to make it easier on themselves.

    Overall, Tech and UT fans need to move on with their lives because OU gets to go and nothing will change that.

    Note to UT fans (of which I assume Jeff is NOT one):
    Although according to the UT fan “45-35 ’nuff said” claims, if OU beats missou and goes to the NC, when the Fiesta is picking a replacement team, UT should say, “Oh TTU beat us 39-33 head-to-head, they should go to the Fiesta, we will take the Cotton bowl”. Think that’s gonna happen? No way, all the UT fans will conveniently forget about that game in Lubbock once that debate rolls around.


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