Successful Rebuilding Seasons from Elite CFB Coaches

Chris Petersen’s 2nd season at Washington will be deemed an overwhelming success by everyone if this coming season is a major breakthrough.

Interestingly, there is a potential similarity between his 2nd year (which SB Nation’s Bill Connelly dubbed a 2nd first year due to the massive rebuilding that had to take place) and the first season for some elite coaches in recent history. In the table below we show the record of that elite coach during their first year, their SRS rank, their SRS the year before, the school’s cumulative SRS rank the previous 4 seasons and then the performance of that coach in their 2nd season.

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 8.04.55 PM

Bob Stoops and Jim Tressell won national championships in their second season while Nick Saban and Pete Carroll did so in their third season. Note that under the current system, Carroll’s USC team likely wins the playoff in his second season. Nick Saban’s team was #1 before losing in the SEC championship. Had they won that they’d have played for the national championship.

One distinction is for those four coaches (not Tedford) it was their first season while for Petersen this was his second season, like it was for Tedford. Given the transition, major turnover and rebuilding that had to be done, year 2 for Petersen was somewhat like a first season. Tedford’s second year was a similar rebuilding job to Petersen’s as the team he inherited had many seniors in 2002, his first season.

Tedford’s Cal team in his third year went 10-1 in the regular season in 2004. They were so close to beating USC and playing for the national championship.

I am not implying that UW will be a top 5 team this season and even make the playoff. While UW is a very talented team it is not quite at the level of those other “blue blood” type schools that almost always recruit in the top 10. Cal didn’t have those types of classes but they did have the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Marshawn Lynch and DeSean Jackson.

Obviously no one likes 7 win seasons but SRS shows the critical improvement these coaches made in their first season. Saban took Alabama from #42 to #27. Carroll took USC from #45 to #23. Stoops took Oklahoma from #48 to #19.

Petersen at UW is no different. Not only did UW’s SRS improve from #41 to #26 but so did its F/+ which is the combination of Connelly’s S&P+ and FEI (Football Outsiders metric). That improved from #58 to #13. Sagarin went from #45 to #25.

The same people who hate the metrics now were using them several years ago to debunk the misleading and incorrect view that Sark had improved UW in his first few seasons. You can’t have it both ways.

UW should be a top 20 team this season in these rankings and hopefully that means a big season in terms of wins, such as 10+.