Better Know a B1G: Adv. Stat Comparison Illinois Fighting Illini


Mark and Andrew had articles last week about getting to know one of the teams in the BigTen, Illinois. (https://www.uwdawgpound.com/2024/4/12/24127914/big-ten-newcomer-q-a-illinois-fighting-illini-uw-football and https://www.uwdawgpound.com/2024/4/12/24128205/better-know-a-b1g-when-the-other-juice-was-loose)

Another way to look at the teams in the BigTen is to compare some advanced-type stats between those teams and UW.

Composite Ranking Comparison

Let’s start first by looking at the final ranking in the Massey Composite (https://masseyratings.com/ranks) over the last 9 years.

As you can see, Illinois has only finished in the top 60 once in the past 9 years: 2022. That year they finished ranked 28. The other thing to notice is the significant dip in Jimmy Lake’s last season compared to the rest of the seasons. And that was the only time when Illinois finished ranked higher than UW.

SRS

The Simple Rating System, SRS, (https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/years/2023-ratings.html) tries to rate and rank teams, not just in a season, but across seasons.

The results look similar. Illinois has had just one good season. The one difference is that UW was lower in the COVID 2020 season, which was again coached by Jimmy Lake. So here, the effect of Lake as the coach is more evident. It is also evident that the gains that Illinois made during 2021 and 2022 appear to have been erased by a poor 2023 season.

F+

I could go through a lot of the advanced stats like FPI, SP+, etc. Instead, I’ll just include one, F+, which is a combination of FEI and SP+. This should be representative of most of the advanced stats.

This graph is also similar to the others above. One difference is that Illinois actually ranked higher than UW in both 2021 and 2022. (In 2022 Illinois had a value of 1.06 while UW’s value was 1.04.)

Talent Comparison

While not normally an “advanced stat”, I thought that I would compare the talent for both teams each year over the same period. Here I’ll be using the average rating by 247Sports for all of the players. (https://247sports.com/Season/2023-Football/CollegeTeamTalentComposite/)

UW has clearly maintained a talent advantage over Illinois during this period. And you can see that both teams have improved their talent during this period, and that the improvements are similar.

Final Thoughts

UW last played Illinois in 2014 and is scheduled to play Illinois in conference play in 2025 when the Illini visit Husky Stadium. UW is scheduled to play at Illinois in 2028. (Note that although UW did a home-and-home with Illinois in 2013-2014, but they did not play at Illinois in 2013-instead they played the game in Chicago.)

Despite a tough 2023 season, Bret Bielema has Illinois playing better than they were the previous 5 seasons. They’ll have to be playing better considering that this year they are scheduled to play Oregon, Penn State, and Michigan, plus Duke in a non-conference game.

UW should be able to maintain a talent advantage over Illinois. But, as we’ve seen, talent alone isn’t enough. But if Fisch can do what he did at Arizona, UW should be able to be the better team when they meet next season.



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