Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Akron after Ianello

At the end of the 2011 football season, head football coach Rob Ianello was fired by the University of Akron after two consecutive 1-11 seasons and hired Terry Bowden as their new head football coach.  Given that Bowden has three seasons under his belt as head football coach, let's take a look at the University of Akron Zips football program under both Ianello and Bowden to get an idea of how the program has performed over this time period.

The model that I use to evaluate NCAA football teams starts with the 2008 season (as that is the season that I have all of the data that I use in the model).  Hence I will be looking at Akron since 2008 which covers the last two seasons under head football coach J. D. Brookhart, the two seasons under Rob Ianello and the first three seasons under Terry Bowden.

Below is a chart of the University of Akron Zips production ranking using the Complex Invasion College Football Production Model.  In the chart I present the team's total ranking, offense ranking, defense ranking and an FCS team ranking.  As you can see below, Akron has been one of the worst teams in football bowl subdivision for the last few years.  In fact last season (2014) was the best total performance since Brookhart left in 2009.

Below I provide some additional information from the model on the teams performance during each season.

End of the Brookhart Era (2008 & 2009)

The Zips finished the regular season at 5-7 while playing against an "average" strength of schedule (SOS) as compared to the "league" as a whole.  By that I mean that the Zips SOS was within one standard deviation of the league's average SOS.  This season the Zips best win was against #69 Kent State (and all of the other four victories were against teams that the model ranks as less productive than Akron).  On the other hand, their worst loss was to #89 Temple during the last game of the season, meaning that Akron would not be eligible to play in a post-season bowl game.  To make matters worse, Akron also lost the game the week before to #78 Ohio.  Overall the Zips were the #64 most productive team in the FBS, with the #52 most productive offense and the #73 most productive defense.

In what was the last season for J. D. Brookhart, Akron finished at 3-9 playing against an "average" SOS.  Again, Akron's best game was a victory over #83 ranked Kent State (other two wins were to #113 Eastern Michigan and #121 Morgan State (FCS team)).  Akron's worst loss (loss to lowest ranked opponent on their schedule) was to #93 Syracuse.  The Zips finished as the #92 ranked team in total production, with the #98 ranked offense and the #70 ranked defense.

Rob Ianello Era (2010 & 2011)

In Ianello's first season Akron won only one game, finishing the regular season at 1-11.  Akron played against an "average" SOS.  The victory that season was over #99 ranked Buffalo.  Akron's worst defeat was to FCS Gardner-Webb at home.  The Zips were the #112 most productive team in all of the FBS for this season with the #119 most productive offense (or second to last team on offense) and the #90 ranked defense.

In what ended up as Ianello's last season as head football coach the Zips again finished the regular season at 1-11, again playing against an "average" SOS.  Akron's only victory was over FCS VMI and their worst of the eleven losses was to #93 Central Michigan.  The Zips overall production fell to #118 (or third worst for that season).  Their offense was as unproductive as the season before ranked at #119 and their defense dropped to be ranked at #113.  Overall a forgettable season.

Terry Bowden Era (2012 - present)

Terry Bowden signed a five year contract to be the head football coach for Akron.  That season resulted in another 1-11 season and played against an "average" SOS.  Yes, in the last three seasons Akron had as many victories as the last single season under J. D. Brookhart.  Akron defeated FCS Morgan State for their lone victory this season.  Akron's worst defeat was to the worst team in the FBS, #124 Massachusetts.  The Zips finished as the #101 ranked team in total production, which is a jump from the prior two seasons under Ianello.  Also Akron was the #87 ranked offense and the #101 ranked defense, showing improvement on both sides of the ball under Bowden even though it did not show in the win/loss column.

In Bowden's second season as head football coach the Zips finished at 5-7 and just out of eligibility for a post-season bowl.  Akron has not won this many games since 2008.  Akron's played against a SOS that was "average", just as they have since 2008.  Akron's best win (victory over the highest ranked team in the production model) was over #53 Toledo.  (There other four victories were to teams at the bottom of the production rankings:  #94 Kent State; #122 Massachusetts; #124 Miami (OH) and to FCS James Madison).  Their worst loss was to #82 Ohio.  The model has the team ranked as the #98 most productive team overall, which is a slight improvement, and had the #109 ranked offense with the #70 ranked defense.

Last season Akron again finished 5-7 and just out of bowl contention, yet the Zips played against an "easier" SOS than the league average, which means that the Zips SOS was between one and two standard deviations greater than the league average SOS.  Akron's best victory was over #54 Pittsburgh and their worst loss was to #92 Ohio.  Akron was the #87 most productive team in all of the football bowl subdivision which is an improvement from the previous season.  Akron also slightly improved their offense moving to the #101 ranked offense and greatly improved their defense to finish as the #46 most productive defense.  This is the first time since 2008 that either the offense or the defense was above average in the "league".

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