Coming into the 2018 season there are 28 Power head coaches with four-plus years at their current post. Of these, 18 (or 64%) are .500 or better coming off a bye.
It’s a ringing statistical endorsement for the benefit of a week off.
Or is it?
Is it good enough to say bye weeks are advantageous because a high percentage of coaches win games following a break? Or, would it be more comprehensive to compare the win/loss record off a bye with some other performance gauge?
If we use Urban Meyer’s impressive 9-2 (81.8%) record coming off a bye during his six years at Ohio State as concrete evidence are we telling the whole story? How does the number compare to his overall performance?
Meyer is 73-8 (90.1%) overall thus far at OSU. Even more telling – because bye weeks generally occur during conference play – he’s 48-4 (92.3%) in Big Ten action.
It means that Meyer is 8.3% more successful overall and 10.5% more successful in conference play than he is after a week off.
It makes you wonder, is Meyer an anomaly – or are his numbers indicative of a trend?
Of the same 28 Power head coaches mentioned above, only 7 (or 25%) have a better record coming off a bye week than they do in conference play.
It means that 75% of the most entrenched Power head coaches have a disadvantage, relative to their league record, after a week off.
The coach with the biggest disadvantage coming off a bye vs. conference play is Penn State’s James Franklin, who has been at the helm for four seasons. He’s 22-13 (62.9%) against Big Ten opponents vs. 3-5 (37.5%) in games after a week off. That’s a difference of 25.4%.
The coach with the narrowest gap is Kentucky’s Mark Stoops. He’s 12-28 (30%) in SEC play over five seasons vs. 2-5 (28.6%) off a bye. That’s a mere 1.4% difference.
The results are consistent regardless of the level of success. Nick Saban is 81-14 (85.3%) in SEC play in his 11 seasons at Alabama. Compare that to his 17-7 (70.8%) mark coming off a bye during the same period. It’s a 14.5% disadvantage.
It’s comparable to Boston College’s Steve Adazzio, who is 14-26 (35%) in ACC play in five seasons. That’s 15% better than his 2-8 (20%) mark coming off a bye week.
Even though the gap varies, it also applies to the three Power coaches that have the longest tenure at their current posts.
- Bill Snyder has been at Kansas State a total of 26 years, he’s 123-84-1 (59.4%) in Big 12 play vs. 28-21 (57.1%) off a bye. Disadvantage: 2.3%
- Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz is 86-69 (55.5%) in Big Ten play in 19 seasons vs. 14-17 (45.2%) coming of a bye. Disadvantage: 10.3%
- Gary Patterson, with 17 seasons at TCU – is 100-40 in conference play (71.4%) vs. 28-15 (65.1%) after a week off. Disadvantage: 6.3%
It’s also true of the recently retired Bob Stoops, who went 128-30 (81%) in the Big 12 during his 18 seasons at Oklahoma. Compare that to his 32-17 (65.3%) mark off a bye week. The gap of 15.7% is within a percentage point of Nick Saban’s number at Alabama.
That leaves the seven head men with four-plus years at their current post who own a better record off a bye than they do in conference play. They are ranked from the least relative advantage to the most.
7. Chris Petersen, Washington – four seasons – 24-13 (64.9%) in Pac-12 play vs. 5-2 (71.4%) off a bye. Advantage: 6.5%
6. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame – eight seasons – 69-34 (67%) overall vs. 12-4 (75%) off a bye. Advantage: 8%
5. Gus Malzahn, Auburn – five seasons – 26-15 (63.4%) in SEC play vs. 8-3 (72.7%) off a bye. Advantage: 9.3%
4. David Cutcliffe, Duke – 10 seasons – 28-53 (34.6%) in ACC play vs. 8-8 (50%) off a bye. Advantage: 15.4%
3. Kyle Whittingham, Utah – 13 seasons – 63-48 (56.8%) in Pac-12/MWC play vs. 19-6 (76%) off a bye. Advantage: 19.2%
2. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech – five seasons – 16-29 (35.6%) in Big 12 play vs. 5-4 (56%) off a bye. Advantage: 20.4%
1. Dave Doeren, NC State – five seasons – 15-25 (37.5%) in ACC play vs. 6-4 (60%) off a bye. Advantage: 22.5%
Though the seven exceptions appear to be as random as their counterparts with a disadvantage, they are bound by a common statistical thread – not one has a winning record at their current post against ranked opponents.
Petersen is 7-10 vs. the Top 25 at Washington, Kelly is 14-17 at Notre Dame, Malzahn is 14-16 at Auburn, Cutcliffe is 5-20 at Duke, Whittingham is 12-21 at Utah, Kingsbury is 2-18 at Texas Tech and Doeren is 2-11 at NC State.
The bigger the advantage a coach has coming off a bye, generally the lower his record is against the Top 25. Washington’s Petersen, who is 6.5% better after a week off than in Pac-12 play is 41.1% against Top 25 foes. Compare that to NC State’s Doeren who has a 22.5% advantage after a bye vs. a 15.4% record against ranked opponents.
The numbers send a clear message: the bulk of experienced Power head coaches don’t enjoy a statistical advantage coming off a bye. It’s something that’s especially true for guys who have had success against Top 25 foes.