You cannot rely on close wins; playing down to your competition will catch up with you Arhedge Junior Member Joined: Aug 24, 2017 Messages: 2,131 Likes Received: 6,079 Oct 7, 2018 #1 One of the frequent debates on this board concerns whether posters are right to be unhappy when USC plays poorly and wins a close game against an inferior team. A win is a win, right? Who cares what it looks like? The answer is that everybody should care, and for one very important reason: close games tend to even out over time. If you have a small sample size, it's possible for a team to be very good or very bad in close games. But the larger the sample size, the less likely this is. "This is notable, as we’ve mentioned before that every single team since 2006 that had a single-score (within seven points) record that was 2.5 games or more under .500 in a season has improved in record the next season. We’ve also noted that both winning games within a touchdown and losing games within a touchdown are very inconsistent. To make it short, close games are coin flips and multi-score wins are how good and bad franchises tend to separate themselves." http://settingedge.com/philip-rivers-and-the-chargers-exist-in-a-living-hell Now, some of you are saying that good teams win close games. You might even be arguing that this is what separates a good team from a bad team, a good QB from a bad one, a good coach from a bad one. But it's not true. "Teams that lose close games tend to be teams that are downgraded for unlucky stretches, rather than actual talent. No one wants to cape up for a 3-13 team because they had a bad record in close games and only got blown out in a handful of games. At the same time, maybe 1% of the football-viewing population would have guessed that the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans, at 3.5 games over .500, have been the best teams in close games since 2015, easily ahead of say the New England Patriots. We’ll punish “unclutch” teams as bad teams, but we don’t think of Houston or Miami as world-beaters. We attribute clutch and unclutch when we want to, no matter what the tangible data says." http://settingedge.com/philip-rivers-and-the-chargers-exist-in-a-living-hell So New England, with arguably the greatest QB and greatest coach of all-time, are not terribly successful in close games compared to other franchises. It's a coin flip even for them. But that's just the NFL, right? No. Nick Saban's record in one-score games at Alabama: 21-15 (58%). Pete Carroll's record at USC in one-score games: 20-16 (55%). So even the very best coaches at the best programs aren't much above 50%. Clay Helton is currently 8-2 in one-score games over the last 3 years. He's 24-8 over that stretch. If he had gone 5-5 in those one-score games, you're looking at 21-11. If he was slightly underwater in one-score games, he'd obviously be worse than that. And those other outcomes were just as statistically likely as what happened. It isn't skill that leads to wins in those one-score games; it's more often dumb luck, like the Utah QB not seeing a wide-open receiver on the final two-point conversion attempt in last year's game. What if Clay Helton were 21-11 over the last three years -- in other words, what if his winning percentage was only a tick better than Larry Smith's (65% to 63%) and he had racked up the same series of televised executions to Bama, ND, Ohio State, Texas, and Stanford? Pretty easy call, right? So the primary statistic that Clay Helton's defenders point to when people on this board are complaining about the poor quality of play (most wins of a USC coach in his first two years!) is based almost entirely on Clay Helton's success in one-score games, which is a matter of luck that will not last as the sample sizes grow larger. OC2SC, gubo&palanka, oldtrojan93 and 4 others like this.