After yet another average (6-7) season for Michigan State, the ES started thinking.... how many other people feel the same way about their colleges, rooting their hearts out year after year after year... but really expecting not much. Who else has gone to their alma mater's football games since 1986, knowing their team likely has a 50-50 shot to win or lose every game, maybe have a chance at an upset or to be upset? How many people keep renewing their season tickets only to know that really, the end results will be the same - mediocrity. Which schools football team is always treading water, consistently, not sinking, but not swimming? Which teams from other conferences most closely resemble the mediocrity of Michigan State over the past 22 years?
Well, let us find out. The ES dug into some online statistical databases (thank you Chris Stassen and James Howell), and decided to use conference records instead of all-time records because membership in a conference is the best indicator of consistent level of competition, as is Michigan State's membership in the Big Ten since 1952. OK, there is an assumption here: Sure, some teams have joined or switched conferences (Boston College & Miami-Fla from Independent to Big Least to ACC; Louisville from Conference USA to Big Least; etc.); but, most teams are consistent over time. Yet, the ES argues the level of competition within a conference is roughly the same regardless of the level of competition across conferences. The Big Ten is far tougher than the WAC or Big East; but over time, MSU plays teams at a level of competition similar to their own within the Big Ten, as does who Utah State plays in the WAC, or who Syracuse plays in the Big East.
In the end, what I have provided below are those Division I-FBS teams within one variance (VAR=0.022) of Michigan State's average (.530) over the last 22 years, so these are teams' conference winning percentages between .552 to .508 since 1986. In BOLD are BCS-conference member teams, as is Michigan State.
- Team - Conference. - Conf. Win %. - Games Played, W/L/T.
- Northern Illinois - MAC. - .545. - 112 GP, 61, W, 51 L.
- Georgia Tech - ACC. - .534. - 177 GP, 94 W, 82 L, 1 T.
- Michigan State - Big Ten. - .530. - 184 GP, 96 W, 85 L, 3 T.
- Syracuse - Big East. - .528. - 123 GP, 65 W, 58 L.
- Boston College - ACC. - .528. - 127 GP, 66 W, 59 L, 2 T.
- San Jose State - WAC. - .527. - 169 GP, 89 W, 80 L.
- Central Michigan - MAC. - .521. - 188 GP, 95 W, 87 L, 6 T.
- San Diego State - MWC. - .514. - 176 GP, 90 W, 85 O, 1 T.
- Arizona State - Pac 10. - .514. - 182 GP, 92 W, 87 L, 3 T.
- Texas Christian - MWC. - .511. - 176 GP, 90 W, 86 L.
- Utah State - WAC. - .511. - 138 GP, 70 W, 67 L, 1 T.
- Arkansas - SEC. - .508. - 185 GP, 93 W, 90 L, 2 T.
Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Boston College, Arizona State, and Arkansas. Sounds about right, though I always thought we were closer to Texas A&M (but was way off, the Aggies are .667 since 1986; NC State is also close at .503).
This year how did these teams do? Funny, MSU is in the middle (again).
- Georgia Tech - 11-2/7-1. Orange Bowl vs. Iowa tonight.
- Boston College - 8-5/5-3. Emerald Bowl, Lost 24-13 to USC.
- Arkansas - 8-5/3-5. Liberty Bowl, Won 20-17 (OT) vs East Carolina.
- Michigan State - 6-7/4-4. Alamo Bowl, Lost 41-31 to Texas Tech.
- Arizona State - 4-8/2-7.
- Syracuse - 4-8/1-6.