2012 Pre-Season Football Fearless Forecast
by Richard Cheeks


Prior to each football season, I project the entire season's results based solely upon Kentucky's and each of Kentucky's upcoming opponents' body of work during the prior season, in this case 2011. As the new season [2012] unfolds for each team, I update and modify the season projections based upon the results that are completed and a weighting between the per game averages for the prior and current season, with complete reliance upon the current season statistics after a team has completed its 4 th game of the year. I base this transformative analysis upon observations that teams tend to reveal their current identity by the time it has played four games in a season and that most teams do not deviate a significant amount from their prior season level of performance moving forward.

Part I is a look back, a review of Kentucky's 2011 performance in several key performance measures including Scoring; Scoring Defense; Scoring Margin; Yards-Gained, Allowed, and Margin; Possessions; and Schedule Strength. Part II is a look ahead at the upcoming 2012 football season, again focusing on the same array of performance measures. Part II projects the entire season based on 2011 season ending performance levels and identifies performance goals for this team for Kentucky's season to conclude in harmony with results that most Big Blue Fans hope happen.

The following analysis is the pre-season examination of Kentucky's 2012 schedule based solely upon the 2011 performance levels for Kentucky and each of its 2012 regular season opponents. Eight of Kentucky's twelve 2012 Opponents were 2011 Bowl teams. The non-bowl opponents in 2012 are Kent State, Western Kentucky, Samford, and Tennessee.



A review of performance standards for SEC teams over recent years reveals that teams that rise to the top of the SEC score well. The top-flight SEC offenses average over 30 points per game. Unlike the 2010 Cats who averaged over 31 points per game, the 2011 Cats averaged UNDER 16 points per game. Every 2012 Kentucky opponent averaged more points per game than the Cats last season, and four 2012 opponents (South Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, AND Missouri) averaged 30 points per game or more. Four other 2012 opponents averaged more than 25 points per game (Florida, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Samford).

Scoring Defense

While the 2011 UK offense was the least potent in the SEC, its defense also remained too porous to allow the Cats to be competitive despite it anemic offense, allowing nearly 25 points per game on the year. A review of performance standards for SEC teams over recent years reveals that teams that rise to the top of the SEC also defend well, and top-flight SEC defenses allow fewer than 20 points per game. Last season, the Cats allowed its opponents to score an average of 24.7 points per game, down slightly from its pathetic 28.4 points per game allowed in 2010.

Among this season's opponents, two of them allowed their opponents to score more points per game than the Cats (Western Kentucky, 24.8 points per game and Samford, 24.8 points per game), and ten 2012 opponents had stingier defenses than UK. Among the 2012 opponents that had stingier defenses than the Cats, two of them allowed fewer than 20 points per game (South Carolina, 18.4 points per game and Mississippi State, 19.7 points per game). Louisville was just over the 20.0 points per game threshold at 20.1 points per game

Scoring Margin

Overall, the Cats posted an average margin against all 2011 opponents of -8.8 points per game, down from 2010's +2.8 points per game. None of the Cats' 2012 opponents had lower average margins. Three 2012 opponents ended 2011 with a negative scoring margin (Western Kentucky, -1.9 points per game, Tennessee, -2.3 points per game, and Kent State, -7.2 points per game). The teams with positive margins are Louisville [+1.8 points per game], Samford [+3.6 points per game], Vanderbilt [+5.1 points per game], Florida [+5.2 points per game], Mississippi State [+5.6 points per game], South Carolina [+11.7 points per game], Missouri [+9.3 points per game], Georgia [+12.3 points per game], and Arkansas [+14.5 points per game]. Of these, the margins posted by South Carolina, Georgia, and Arkansas were top tier SEC levels.

Yards Gained and Allowed

Largely, football teams that score more also gain more yards, and teams that allow fewer points are teams that allow fewer yards. The Cats averaged 259.8 yards per game and allowed 377.0 yards per game in 2011. With respect to yardage gained, only one of UK's 2012 opponents averaged fewer yards per game than the 2011 Cats [Kent State, 253.5 yards per game], and three 2012 opponents averaged over 400 yards per game in 2011. Only one 2012 opponent allowed more yards per game than the Cats' 377.0 yards per game, Mississippi State, 380.0 yards per game. Three 2012 opponents allowed less than 300 yards per game during 2011, Florida [299.5 yards per game], South Carolina [267.7 yards per game], and Georgia [298.5 yards per game]. None of the 2012 opponents had a lower per game Net Yardage than the Cats' -117.3 yards per game average in 2011, and only three of them had negative Net Yardage, Tennessee [-7.8 yards per game], WKU [-24.8 yards per game] and Kent State [-71,7 yards per game].


Another component of scoring is the number of possessions that a team can manage to get on average in a game. With respect to possessions, Kentucky averaged 12.8 possessions per game in 2011, up about 1 possession per game from 2010 and 2009. The highest number of possessions was 14.2 [Georgia] and the lowest was 11.2 [Tennessee], and the average was 12.6 possessions per game. Four of the twelve 2012 opponents averaged more possessions per game than the Cats.

Schedule Strength

The final statistical comparison is schedule strength. For this comparison, I have adopted the Sagarin rating schedule strength. In 2011, the Average Sagarin Schedule Strength was 60.09, and the Cats' 2011 Schedule strength was 72.18, up from the 70.31 Schedule Strength in 2010. Eleven of the twelve Cats' 2012 opponents played a schedule that was tougher than the NCAA D1 average. The exception is Samford at 54.84. The Eight SEC 2012 opponents played a more difficult schedule in 2011 than the Cats.

The following Table presents the comparison of 2012 opponents' 2011 statistical results.

The following Table provides further detail for UK and each 2012 opponent regarding how each team utilized its available possessions during the 2011 season.


Prediction Methods

I use three different methods to project the 2012 season results: Sagarin, Direct Statistical Comparison, and my NGE method. For Sagarin, the predicted margin is based on the algebraic difference between the teams' respective rankings with a home field adjustment provided by Sagarin applied, and the score is based upon the average total points scored and allowed by both teams, with the Sagarin Margin applied. The direct statistical approach and the NGE methods are methods I have developed. In addition, I also track the effectiveness during the season of the Vegas line, which should be self-explanatory, and I project results using a Comparative Yardage procedure. However, I cannot apply the Vegas and Comparative Yardage methods at this time for pre-season projections because the data required for them does not become available until the season play begins.

During the 2009, 2010, and 2011 seasons, the standard deviation for the 38 UK games between predicted and actual margin by these methods were:

NGE Method: 10 pts
Sagarin: 9 1/2 pts
Vegas Lines: 9 1/2 pts
Statistical Analysis: 10 pts

In 2011, I tracked the upset rates for all NCAA D1 football games through the bowl season. There were 666 games played. Of those, 153 games had a Vegas line between 0 and 4 points [Average 2 points], 136 games had a Vegas line between 4 and 8 points [Average 6 points], and so forth as shown in the Table below. The upset rates, sorted and computed based upon the Vegas lines are also provided. The adjacent graph provides the probability of winning based on the Vegas Line. The red curve is the theoretical relationship based on standard statistical analyses using a normal distribution, and the Blue Triangles are the results from the 2011 Season. For the season, considering all games, the upset rate was 26.4%.

Overview of 2012 Opponents/Schedule:

The 2012 Season includes seven games at Commonwealth, and five games on the road. In my opinion, there are three clear wins [WKU, Kent State, and Samford] and four clear losses [@ Florida, South Carolina, @ Arkansas, and @ Missouri] on the 2012 schedule. The outcomes of the remaining five games will largely determine the success of the 2012 season for the Cats: Mississippi State, Georgia, and Vanderbilt at Commonwealth, and games at Louisville in game 1 and at Tennessee in Game 12.

Projected Season Records

For the Cats to return to bowl eligibility in 2012, they will need to hold serve on the three likely wins, and win three of the five competitive games. The projected outcome by two of the three predictive methods indicate that the Cats will only be favored to win 3 games on their schedule, and finish 3-9, 0-8. Sagarin is a little kinder to the Cats, projecting a 4 th 2012 win, over Vanderbilt, to finish 4-8, 1-7. Last season's analysis predicted a 7-5, 2-6 finish, and the Cats dropped two games (Louisville and Vanderbilt) that the pre-season analysis placed in the prospective W column. In 2010, these methods projected a 6-6, 2-6 in the SEC, which was the outcome for 2010. Will 2012 be the season in which the Cats out perform these pre-season projections?

Projected Scoring and Margins

The pre-season scoring projections suggest a marginal improvement from the 2011 scoring and margin, with the Cats averaging 20 1/2 points per game and allowing 26 1/2 points per game, e.g. average margin -6 points per game. The NGE Methods projects average scoring of 22 ½ to 26 ½, with an average margin of -4 points per game. As a reminder, all of these projections are based solely upon the 2011 results, and these projections will not become meaningful for 2012 until UK and its opponents have played at least 4 games of their respective 2012 schedules.

The following Table provides the pre-season projections based on the three methods identified discussed previously.


The primary goal for 2012 for the Kentucky Football team should be to win at least six games to return the program to bowl eligibility and to demonstrate stability and growth during Coach Joker Phillips third year. To achieve that goal, the Cats will need to improve offensively and defensively in terms of scoring and yardage, not just as measured from the 2011 results, but against the 2012 projections.

Scoring Goals

In 2012, the Cats need to increase their average per game scoring from the 20 1/2 points per game currently projected to at least 26 points per game, which is midway between the 2010 31 points per game and the 20 ½ points per game projection for 2012. In 2011, the Cats need to improve their average defense against scoring from the currently projected 26 1/2 points per game allowed to at least 22 ½ points per game, which would return the Cats' defense to their 2009 level of defensive efficiency.

Yardage Goals

In 2012, the Cats need to increase the offensive production from the anemic 260 yards per game it generated in 2011 to at least 370 yards per game in 2012. In 2012, the Cats need to decrease their average defensive output from 377.0 yards per game in 2011 to no more than 325 yards per game in 2012.




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See How Games 1 through 4 Changed The Forecast


Go Back To 2012 Overview Page

Submitted by Richard Cheeks

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SugarHill Communications of Kentucky
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