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Thursday, August 11, 2011

SEC Expansion and Past Performance

With all the talk of Texas A&M moving to the SEC, SEC homers and others around the country have used it as another opportunity to make more absurd claims about the competitiveness of the SEC. Yes, the SEC is the best conference in the country (now), but the conference still has bad teams and even the good teams lose games from time to time. Last year, the SEC was lucky that Auburn survived early (against Clemson, Kentucky and Mississippi State) and peaked at the right time to finish the season, because the conference otherwise lacked a true national title contender. The most myopic observers overlook A&M's pen-elite infrastructure and history to argue that A&M would not be able to compete in the SEC.

I am responding in particular to a post by David Ubben. He argues, based on A&M's all-time record against the SEC that A&M will be ill-suited to compete in the SEC. And yes, the Aggies of the 1960s would not compete for an SEC title, but this is missing the point. Instead, I have built a more appropriate sample from the 20 seasons between 1990 and 2010. The graph below shows the cumulative win/loss records of 9 teams that have been or could be in the SEC expansion discussion since 1990 (Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Florida State). A team's line moves up when they beat a (current) SEC team and drops when they lose to an SEC team, so moving up the y-axis equates with a stronger performance against SEC opponents. So, which of these teams has performed best against SEC opponents over the last two decades (line #4)?

1=Oklahoma, 2=Virginia Tech, 3=Texas, 4=Texas A&M, 5=Oklahoma State, 6=Clemson, 7=Georgia Tech, 8=Baylor, 9=Florida State

Yes, that's right, Texas A&M has outperformed all other teams on this list by at least two games. Tied for second are Oklahoma and Baylor (who has achieved this mark by playing only two games against SEC opponents). Only Georgia Tech has lost a higher percentage of games than Texas on this list.

In other words, when we break it down by the numbers, Texas A&M is as suited for play in the SEC as any team in the country.

Below: Texas A&M's all-time cumulative win/loss against the current SEC.


highwayman said...

Sweet graph, bro. First off, it's wrong. Since 2000, atm has lost to: Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas (twice), and LSU. That’s 5. The graph only shows 3 losses since 2000.

Also, it's convenient that they started the timeline in 1990 back when atm and then-hapless LSU played every year. INcidently, that was part of aTm's best stretch in their history and LSU's worst stretch in theirs.

highwayman said...

actually 6 if you count MSU beating aTm in the 2000 Indy Bowl

Scott Albrecht said...

First off, it's not wrong. 20 seasons between 1990 and 2010 would not include the 2010 season. You can count it out on your fingers and toes if you want. Second, what's that? Teams go through ups and downs? And the early 90s was an up period for the Aggies? Yeah, that's the point. People focus on the Aggies' lost decade and forget that for about a third of the seasons within the last two decades they would have been serious contenders year in and year out in the SEC - and the Aggie fan and resource base have only grown since then.

Coldstream said...

The Aggies really were only competitive in recent times vs the SEC in a 5 year stretch from 1990-1995, when they went 7-1 vs LSU and Arkansas. Otherwise their best era was a .500 decade in the 1970's. They were 6-13 from 1980-1989. Texas was 10-5, Oklahoma 3-0, Florida State 17-11 in that same decade.

If we look at the relatively recent football era, starting with the last time A&M and the rest might have jumped to the SEC, 1995-2010 here's what we see for winning percentages:

A&M 0.14286
Texas 0.57143
OU 0.5
OSU 0.375
Baylor 0
Clemson 0.46429
G Tech 0.44
V Tech 0.42857
FSU 0.38095

A&M is by far and away the worst outside of Baylor who only played one game vs the SEC in that stretch.

The Aggies would only have been "serious contenders" for a few years at the very beginning of the last two decades. Since then it's been a very rough road...and this is while the "Aggie fan and resource base" has "only grown"

The 1990-1995 period appears to be an exception rather than the rule.

Now, of course, teams do go up and down so looking at a lifetime vs the SEC probably important to account for that. Here's the same teams since 1900

Since 1900
A&M 0.42657
Texas 0.66897
OU 0.64063
OSU 0.33065
Baylor 0.46729
Clemson 0.41319
G Tech 0.49195
V Tech 0.35976
FSU 0.47368

A&M only outperforms OSU, V Tech and Clemson, and is solidly below .500. Your second chart sums it up. Most of A&M's success vs the SEC came pre-1960 and a small rise in the early 1990s. Otherwise, their success has been trending downward since 1960.

I'm not bringing all this up to knock A&M. I like the school and fans, I enjoyed going to games there (as an alumnus of a non-Texas based Big XII school), but I really hope A&M knows and is ready for what they are getting into.

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