We continue our review of the projections we made for the 2013-14 European season by looking at England’s Football League One.
Here is what we projected at the start of the season:
And here is the final league table:
|Preston North End||46||23||16||7||72||46||26||85|
|Milton Keynes Dons||46||17||9||20||63||65||-2||60|
It was clear to us at the start of the season that Wolves would have more than enough talent to bounce back to the Championship and that’s exactly what happened — they clinched promotion before Easter, won the league a week later, and finished with a record point total in the division. Five of their players were named to the PFA’s Team of the Year for League One. Even with all their talent, Wolves played 13 goals better in defense than expected, which might explain their four wins above expectations and surely explains three of the five honorees being defenders and the goalkeeper.
The next three teams — Brentford, Leyton Orient, and Rotherham United — played significantly above expectations in terms of goal scoring. It made the difference between Brentford being a playoff-caliber team at the start of the season and a candidate for direct promotion, and Leyton Orient moving from a mid-table side to one a win away from promotion to the Championship. Preston North End was projected to finish in second, and it’s possible they would have done so had it not been for the strong performances of Rotherham United and Orient. We projected Posh to be a playoff-caliber side and they played exactly in line with those expectations. Britt Assombalonga needs a bigger stage than League One.
The rest of the division was characterized by teams that were worse in defense than expected, which explains why there were so many more goals than expected. For about half of those teams it was a wash — predicting goals allowed within 10 goals is pretty impressive in my opinion — but when sides started to perform 15 or more goals worse than expectations, it started to translate into lost points. Sheffield United made a great escape from almost certain relegation to just outside the playoff places and enjoyed a memorable run to the last four of the FA Cup, but overall they didn’t score enough to haul themselves into the playoff. A similar underperformance in goals scored cost Crawley Town a chance to contend for the playoff. Down at the bottom, Shrewsbury Town were projected to go down, and Stevenage were just outside the relegation zone, so it wouldn’t have taken much to move those teams toward the trapdoor. The underperformance of teams like Tranmere Rovers and Carlisle United, particularly in defense, transformed them from mid-table sides to future League Two clubs. Coventry and Walsall saved themselves by scoring well above expectations. If Coventry weren’t struggling with bankruptcy proceedings, maybe they would have had an outside chance of making the playoffs.
So the statistical summary: the RMSE of points and league position were 12.61 points and 6.12 positions, respectively. There were 1473 goals scored in League Two compared to 1329 predicted (+9.8% change), and the goal predictions per team had a RMSE of 14.49 (goals scored) and 11.84 (goals allowed).