In December 2015, I wrote an article detailing why LSU football was anything but “mediocre”, a word often used by critics of LSU’s recent performance. 8 months later, we fired our head coach.
Last night, LSU legend Marcus Spears took to his new television program (which is great, by the way) to put his beloved football program on blast:
First, let’s address the elephant in the room. Spears is a burgeoning media personality (and a good one), with a new TV show he would like to succeed, doing a segment titled “Come @ Me” with the obvious intention of increasing social engagement. This is a very run of the mill smash and grab ratings bit and that’s... okay. Next week, I’m sure they will skewer some other school. This week, LSU’s poor performance rightfully earns them media ridicule. I have zero interest in attacking Marcus. If you read some of his replies, I think he also has hopes this can be used to help motivate the team to improve. So I don’t think he’s coming from a nasty place, even if the producer insisted he film this in front of an Alabama championship banner. /fin
Couching all that, let’s look at Marcus’ actual argument here, in text form:
Listen... here’s the deal family. LSU fans, as an LSU alumnus... we aren’t what we think we are. We’ve become a mediocre football team and a middle of the pack, very average, college football program.
We have to stop believing that we are one of those teams that, at the end of the year, is gonna be standing tall because it’s been proven. My boy Stu hit me with the stats, since 2012 25-16? 5-3, 4-4, 5-3. That’s average. That’s mediocre. We’ve got to stop thinking of LSU what we thought LSU was, a 61% winning percentage over the last 5 years. We are no longer a championship team.
There’s a lot to unpack here and even some relative truths. Not to be reductive, but we must, again, define mediocre:
Understanding that, let’s dive into Spears’ evidence.
My boy Stu hit me with the stats, since 2012 25-16? 5-3, 4-4, 5-3. That’s average.
I think he conflates a couple stats here, but we can reasonably assume the 25-16 is a reference to overall conference record since 2012 and the 5-3, 4-4, 5-3 is reference to LSU’s league record each of the three previous seasons, though they are listed out of order. That’s fine, scripted for TV purposes to maximize sound byte potential, it makes enough sense.
There is simply no disputing these numbers. They are factually correct. Yet, as with most every poor data argument in existence, the utter lack of context makes them otherwise meaningless. I can’t speak for Marcus and I doubt I’ll get a response to this tweet:
@mspears96 Which SEC programs would you say are above mediocre since 2012?— Dan Davis (@ATVS_PaulCrewe) September 19, 2017
What I can do is let the data go ahead and speak for itself:
SEC Record Since 2012.csv
Being nine games above .500 sounds average-ish audibly, but put into context of conference competition and only Alabama, Georgia and Florida have performed better in the prescribed time frame. Again, we’re just using conference wins here, just as Marcus did, so this is not inflated by rent-a-wins. LSU’s conference record since 2012 puts them in the top third of the conference. Accepting the definition of mediocre as “middle of the road” and we can easily and objectively prove the characterization doesn’t fit.
Let’s get back to Spears’ other statements.
We’ve become a mediocre football team and a middle of the pack, very average, college football program.
The argument gets blurry here, because he’s broadly labeling LSU as an average program, but then only citing conference data as supporting evidence. If he framed the argument as “LSU is a middle of the pack, very average SEC football program”... he would still be incorrect, but at least his data would suit his argument.
So, let’s look at some national numbers just to see if there IS an argument to support his claim. Here’s overall record in all of FBS football since 2012:
CFB Record Since 2012.csv
|Team||Win-Loss Record||Win %|
|Team||Win-Loss Record||Win %|
|San Diego St||49-21-0||70.00%|
|San Jose St||31-35-0||47.00%|
|TX El Paso||21-43-0||32.80%|
|N Mex State||12-51-0||19.10%|
So, since 2012, LSU’s record ranks 13th overall in all of FBS football. Only 15 programs have won more games than LSU in that same span. And here’s your casual reminder that LSU’s had an additional two games (rent-a-wins) canceled in that timespan. Ranking 13th out of 130 programs is hardly “mediocre.” Even if we toss out non-Power 5 programs, LSU’s ranking only rises a spot. So, in effect, LSU’s performance over the last half decade is as a fringe top 10 program in all of college football. Does this sound anything like average or mediocre?
To take this one step further, let’s look at all-time winning percentages in college football history to see where LSU’s 71.2% (overall not SEC only, as Marcus states) stacks up:
CFB Top 50 Winning Percentage.csv
|Ohio State [b]||886||322||53||0.724|
LSU’s 71.2 percentage would rank seventh in college football history. Perhaps we’re confusing the meanings of the words “mediocre” and “elite”?
We are no longer a championship team.
This, we can agree upon. LSU’s failure to bring home hardware got Les Miles fired. There’s a clear argument that LSU’s experienced a downturn in performance over the last half decade. The issue is, the downturn is from a previous decade of unparalleled success. That doesn’t make LSU mediocre, no matter how frustrated you are with the results.