Which college football team is best in 2010? And which conferences have been tops over the years? There's certainly no shortage of opinion around the football world. Just watch ESPN Game Day any fall Saturday.
College football's championship apparatus, The Bowl Championship Series, is an annual “five game showcase of college football.” BCS game participants come from eleven college sports conferences, six of which -- the Big East, the Big 12, the Big 10, the ACC, the SEC and the Pac 10 -- automatically qualify at least one team each year. That leaves no more than four slots for teams from the remaining BCS conferences. And while SEC teams have won the last 4 national championships, many argue that having at least six of the ten BCS participants determined automatically introduces bias to the tournament. Why should the six conferences get preferred treatment? Have they earned it? Are they in fact superior?
Click on dashboard for full size version
To begin to answer this question, I looked to evaluate college and conference football “performance”, setting out to create a dashboard contrasting the success of the six chosen BCS conferences having their players drafted by the NFL. The thinking is that teams and conferences with more drafted players – those sought after by the pros -- are superior. While numbers of draft choices might not be the best indicator of college football success, it surely is correlated with whatever is – and is readily available.
The data supporting the graphs is from DraftHistory.com. I downloaded files for each draft starting in 1993, the year the number of rounds shrunk, to 2010 inclusive. Attributes included round #, pick #, player name, team drafting, position and college. There were a total of 4489 players drafted over the 18 years considered. I then consolidated all data into an R data frame for subsequent analyses, adding a college conference attribute for the six pre-qualified BCS conference schools.
Once the data were in the R, I tabulated frequencies of draft records by school within each of the pre-qualified BCS conferences for 1993-2010. I then computed the average number of draft choices for each conference during that time frame. The dashboard below consists of a series of simple dotplots detailing the results of the tabulation. Read from left to right, top to bottom. The SEC led the pack in draft picks, with a little less than 60 on average, as indicated by the red vertical line. Tennessee was the SEC leader, with Vanderbilt lagging. The Pac 10, Big 10 and ACC conferences follow closely, while the Big 12 lags a bit and the Big East trails by a wide margin. Within each conference, the colleges are arranged in draft-volume order.
One clear finding: The top five BCS draft conferences dwarf the remaining six, raising the question should the Big East be a pre-qualifier?
Steve Miller is co-founder and partner of the Chicago-based business intelligence (BI) services firm OpenBI, LLC, that specializes in delivering analytic solutions with open source technologies such as Pentaho, Jaspersoft and R. Miller has more than 30 years experience in intelligence and analytics, having migrated from health care program evaluation, to database consulting with Oracle Corporation, to running a fast-growing BI services business at Braun Consulting. Advances in technology over that time have fundamentally enabled the use of quantitative methods and analytics for business differentiation. OpenBI, LLC, is all about helping customers attain that differentiation. Steve blogs frequently on Stats Man's Corner at miller.openbi.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.