BoW projected wins results

Prior to the start of the season I’d listed expected wins for all 128 FBS teams. Now that the season is over it is time to take a look at how those projections fared (all win totals referring to regular season only; excludes conference championship games):

Correct win total: 22

Off by 1 game: 33

Off by 2 games: 39

Off by 3 games: 15

Off by 4 games: 8

Off by 5 games: 6

Off by 6 games: 5

Over/Under correct picks: 61/128

Essentially, these picks are distributed close to normal:


Though I would’ve liked to see a higher number in the (-1,1) range, I am pleased that the distribution errs on the narrower side of the distribution, which implies the results are better than a normal distribution would expect to show. I’ll spend the off-season investigating why there is a spike in differences of +/- 2 games.

The most interesting aspect of large deviations from expected wins is the impact it has on head coaches. Here are the head coaching changes made so far this year, compared to where their teams fell related to expectations:

Fired coaches

Cincinnati: 3 wins below expectation (expected 7; actual 4)

Florida Atlantic: 2 wins below (5; 3)

Florida International: As expected (4; 4)

Fresno State: 3 wins below (4; 1)

Georgia State: 2 wins below (5; 3)

Indiana: As expected (6; 6) *Fired due to off-field situation

LSU: 2 wins below (9; 7)

Nevada: 1 win below (6; 5)

Oregon: 5 wins below (9; 4)

Purdue: 1 win below (4; 3)

San Jose State: 2 wins below (6; 4)

Texas: 1 win below (6; 5)

The only fired coaches who met on-field expectations were Florida International (whose low expectations are an indictment on the coach’s lack of acquisition/development of talent) and Indiana (who fired their coach for reasons independent of wins and losses). Even though some coaches were barely below expectations this year, they have been falling short for several years prior to this season as well (e.g. Purdue and Texas).

On the other end, these head coaches were hired-up due to exceeding expectations:

Tom Herman, Houston: 1 win above (8; 9)

Willie Taggart, South Florida: 3 wins above (7; 10)

Matt Rhule, Temple: 2 wins above (7; 9)

Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky: As expected (9; 9)

It should be noted that Tom Herman was 4 wins above expected in 2015, Matt Rhule was 3 above in 2015, and Jeff Brohm was 4 above in 2015. These all contributed to elevated expectations that each coach was still able to meet or exceed in 2016.

How can this be used going forward?

The data from 2016 can be used to project who will be hot commodities and who will be on the hot seat in 2017. Coaches who found themselves on the extreme ends of this curve who remain with their 2016 teams are as follows:

Way Below Expectations (4 or more games; excluding first year coaches)

UCLA (-6) Jim Mora

Michigan State (-6) Mark Dantonio

Northern Illinois (-5) Rod Carey

Notre Dame (-5) Brian Kelly

Rice (-4) David Bailiff

Arizona (-4) Rich Rodriguez

Buffalo (-4) Lance Leipold


Way Above Expectations (4 or more games)

Colorado (+6) Mike MacIntyre

Western Michigan (+6) P. J. Fleck

Tulsa (+5) Philip Montgomery

Troy (+5) Neal Brown

Wisconsin (+5) Paul Chryst

West Virginia (+4) Dana Holgorsen

Wyoming (+4) Craig Bohl

Army (+4) Jeff Monken

Eastern Michigan (+4) Chris Creighton







Coaching Carousel Picks Up Speed

Purdue decided to throw their hat in the ring today for what looks to be a very active coaching carousel this off-season by relieving Darrell Hazell of his duties. Though the timing of this move is a bit surprising, it would’ve been more surprising had Purdue not made a change before 2017. Hazell has been a massive disappointment in West Lafayette, putting up a record of 9-33 in 3.5 seasons. Where can Purdue look for a replacement? Here are a few options, some more realistic than others:

Tom Herman, Houston: I mean, Purdue has to at least make the call to Herman’s agent. It would be an absolute heist if Purdue swayed Herman to coach the Boilers next season.

Les Miles, formerly LSU: Big name, but way too late in his career to start over at a place that will take a few years to rebuild. Might help Purdue with recruiting in the short-term, but this would not be a stable choice long-term.

PJ Fleck, Western Michigan: Typically this would be a realistic and solid choice for Purdue, but with many high-profile jobs opening this year, Fleck will likely have better options.

Ken Niumatalolo, Navy: Someone needs to call this guy. He does more with less better than anyone in the country. He probably has a better current situation than anything that Purdue can offer but it is absolutely worth a shot.

Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State: Great with QBs, which was Purdue’s identity before their post-Tiller decline. Satterfield will get picked up by someone soon, and this would be an excellent choice for Purdue if they can get there first.

My Pick Mike Leach, Washington State: Flashy offense, fiery personality; a shock to the system that Purdue desperately needs. Leach is 55 years old, so this has long-term potential. The Big Ten West would have to prepare for the Air Raid in between their weekly slog fests. This would be fun, different, and a little risky, but has a very high ceiling. Purdue needs to make this happen.

Scott Frost, UCF: Frost is probably waiting on Oregon to open up (which may also happen this year), but his offense would cause similar headaches in the Big Ten West as Leach’s.

There are a number of coordinators that Purdue could realistically grab, but they’re in a situation where they need a name and a more proven commodity. Danny Hope and Darrell Hazell were busts, the third attempt has to be right or the hole to dig out of may become insurmountably deep.


Mid-Season Coaching Changes Outlook

One of the metrics I use in determining win probability is coaching efficiency, which is essentially measuring how often coaches win/lose when their roster has more/less talent than their opponents. This metric provides an easy to interpret guideline for which coaches are outperforming their talent (and may be sought by other teams in the off-season) and which are under-performing and may find themselves on the hot seat in the near future. First, the most efficient coaches:

Ken Niumatalolo, Navy: Consistently does more with less better than anyone in the country. Navy’s huge win over Houston Saturday should finally put Niumatalolo on the lists of this season’s higher profile job openings. Expected position next year: Most likely will remain at Navy, though he will get some Power 5 offers. Played and was a GA at Hawaii and had a brief stop at UNLV, otherwise has spent his career with Navy. At age 51, still has plenty of years left in him. Look for some west coast schools to give him a call.
Tom Herman, Houston: In just 1.5 years as a head coach, Herman has become the nation’s hottest name. Has connections in southern California as a player, and all over Texas as a coach, including a GA position with the Longhorns. If Charlie Strong is fired, Herman is likely their first choice. Expected position next year: Head coach at Texas. Only 41 years old and plenty of familiarity with local recruiting, this is an easy choice for both parties.
Paul Chryst, Wisconsin: A former Wisconsin QB, Chryst  returned home last year and has the Badgers performing at a high level. After losing Bielema to Arkansas and Andersen to Oregon State, Wisconsin is unlikely to let this one get away so easily. Expected position next year: Chryst will stay at Wisconsin for a long time.
Troy Calhoun, Air Force: Like the other service academies, Air Force runs a unique offense which suits their personnel very well. Calhoun is a former Air Force QB and has been their head coach since 2007. He seems unlikely to leave, but hasn’t really popped up on any Power 5 radars yet. Expected position next year: Head coach at Air Force.
P. J. Fleck, Western Michigan: Fleck has been on the rise for years, and currently has the Broncos on track for an undefeated season and potential NY6 bowl appearance. He is in his 4th year at WMU and is only 35 years old. Has connections in the Big Ten, and very likely will have some choices amongst the Power 5 after this season. Expected position next year: South Bend, Indiana isn’t too far from Kalamazoo…Notre Dame could do a lot worse than PJ Fleck. Purdue should absolutely try to get him, but Fleck likely will have better options. My best guess is PJ Fleck is the head coach for the Irish next season.
Kyle Whittingham, Utah: Played at BYU and has coached in the state of Utah nearly his entire career. Whittingham is 56, so if he doesn’t make a move soon he likely finishes his career with the Utes. Some other PAC12 schools would be well-served to give him a call should they decide to make a change. Expected position next year: If he makes a move, my best guess is he goes to USC. Though I’d be surprised if he doesn’t stay at Utah the rest of his career.
Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State: Played for App St in the 90s, and was their QB coach for their mid-2000s dynasty. Satterfield is only 43 years old, and will have plenty of offers come his way in the near future. Look for a team that needs to help developing quarterbacks to give him a call. Expected position next year: This may not be the splashy hire LSU fans think they should make, but Satterfield would be a great choice for what they need help with the most. My best guess is that he ends up coaching the Tigers in Baton Rouge next season.

The next list of coaches are greatly under-performing their roster talent, and may soon be looking for a new position. These are the coaches with the lowest score in my efficiency metric (excluding coaches in their 1st or 2nd year, with one exception):

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame: Kelly has under-performed the roster talent level every year since taking the Irish to the national championship game in 2012. He hasn’t had a bad year until now, however, so he may stick around for another year. But if ND thinks they can get a guy like Fleck to come aboard now, they may need to put their long-term prospects above all else.
Charlie Partridge, Florida Atlantic: In 3 years he has under-performed their roster talent in every season as the Owls head coach. This might imply he has been recruiting well and the future is brighter, but back to back 3-9 seasons followed by a 1-5 start this year may spell the end for Partridge.
Chuck Martin, Miami OH: A former long-time Brian Kelly assistant, Martin has struggled as a head coach. Some guys are just meant to be great coordinators, and that may be where Martin will find the most success going forward.
Mark Whipple, UMass: Whipple holds the same record as Partridge over the past 3 years. UMass may be more patient with football as the school’s secondary sport, but things will need to turn around soon to stay the course with Whipple.
Clay Helton, USC:   Former AD Pat Hadenput USC into a horrible situation by signing Helton to a long-term, expensive contract. Year 1 has been a disaster for a roster loaded with talent. With a new AD in place the Trojans may look to make a move, if they can afford it.
Trent Miles, Georgia State: Miles got off to a disastrous start, with just 1 win over his first 2 years. 2015 looked promising, going 6-6 in the regular season before dropping the bowl game to San Jose State, but 2016 has regressed back to the basement with just a 1-4 start. A close loss at Wisconsin may be promising enough to keep this ride going, but the wins really need to start coming soon.
Charlie Strong, Texas: The Charlie Strong experiment at Texas has largely been a failure. With rumors already swirling that he will be ousted at season’s end, it is very difficult to see a scenario where the Longhorns don’t make a move. Having Herman just down the road can’t make matters better for Strong.


Tom Herman Sweepstakes Begins

I’d considered writing this last week, but thought it was too early in the season to speculate about coaching vacancies. Well, Les Miles was fired by LSU today so it is certainly appropriate to open up the discussion of which coaches are moving up and which coaches are moving out.

It may seem a bit knee-jerky to get rid of Miles today, as LSU is 2-2 with losses to top 10 Wisconsin in a pseudo road game and at Auburn who is also 2-2 with both of their losses to top 10 teams. However, this has been a long time coming and puts LSU in the driver’s seat for reaching out to the hottest name in the country, Houston’s Tom Herman. Herman will undoubtedly have a litany of teams to choose from come December, so let’s take a look at some of the most likely places for him to end up.

Early Favorites



  • Extremely fertile recruiting base with the entire state to themselves (as far as Power 5)
  • Loaded roster, can win right away
  • Rabid fan base and administrative support with track record of a long leash (Miles was in his 12th season in Baton Rouge)
  • SEC West coaches get paid extremely well
  • Familiar geography for Herman, as he has spent 13 of his 19 year coaching career in Texas
  • No need to worry about being left out of the playoffs with an unbeaten record


  • Entering the deepest division in FBS, where the reign of Saban doesn’t appear to be too close to ending
  • Expectations will be to win immediately



Herman could have left after last season, but chose to sign an extension that pays very well for a non-Power 5 position, a tag that may soon be dropped as Houston is on the very short list of candidates to join the Big XII in the near future. However, if Houston remains a mid-major and gets left out of the playoffs this year with an unbeaten record, perhaps Herman decides he needs to make a change

Emerging Candidates

Notre Dame

They’re making coaching changes already too, and at 1-3 with a handful of difficult games remaining it isn’t hard to imagine the Irish missing out on a bowl game in 2016. Would that be enough to make a change at the top? Expectations are high in South Bend, and 2012 feels like ancient history to Irish fans after 3+ years of being underwhelmed since.


The post Chip Kelly era has not gone as well as hoped for the Ducks, and in year 4 Helfrich is sitting at a disappointing 2-2. Imagining Herman at Oregon has to be terrifying to the rest of the Pac12.


In his 18th season with the Sooners, Bob Stoops has developed a reputation as a guy who can no longer win the big ones; starting the season 0 for 2 in the big ones has been a loud reminder of that notion. This one has a very John Cooper-like feel to it; wins a lot but never when it matters most. Plus Oklahoma has seen first-hand what Herman is capable of, and they have to think hard about whether they want to go against him for the next decade in the Big XII if Houston joins or if he ends up at…


Charlie Strong has been on the hot seat seemingly since he arrived in Austin, but in year 3 maybe has finally started to get things going in the right direction. The Longhorns are ranked, but have an early loss against a not-that-great Cal team and are giving up an avalanche of points against Power 5 competition. The Notre Dame win has lost most of its luster in the past 2 weeks as well. Texas really needs a strong showing in conference play to justify extending the Charlie Strong Experiment another year. The urgency to make a move may prove too much though with Herman just down the road.


The Trojans are a mess, having dropped their first 2 games in conference accompanying a nationally televised bludgeoning at the hands of Alabama to open the year. Clay Helton looks like a disastrously bad hire, but with a new AD in place it may be determined that USC can’t afford not to make a change. This is USC and their head coach is…Clay Helton? That just isn’t good enough for a program of this caliber.

Long Shots

None of these are at all likely landing spots yet, but will be noted just in case circumstances take a turn in their direction.

Dallas Cowboys

There hasn’t been much speculation on Herman going to the NFL, but Dallas needs a good season to justify not making a change and Jerry Jones has a flair for making a splashy move. The hottest coach in college football residing in the same state may be very tempting.


Chizik was fired two years after winning a national title. Auburn has the quickest trigger finger in the country and has to be getting tired of watching Saban increase the number on Bama’s display helmet.

Penn State

James Franklin has been largely unimpressive in Happy Valley. With Meyer, Harbaugh, and Dantonio in the same division it looks like he’ll be competing for 4th place indefinitely. How much longer will that low bar be acceptable for the Nittany Lions?