Readers of MrSEC.com know by now that we’re big fans of the “blind resume” test each spring. As SEC basketball teams jockey for position on the NCAA Tournament bubble, we lay out our own comparison of those squad by the numbers. About 90% of the teams who earn at-large bids to the tourney can easily be determined by a simple scan of their numerical accomplishments. RPI, SOS, wins versus top 50 RPI teams, road and neutral court wins, etc, etc. Survey the data and you’ll be able to predict the NCAA field just like the Jerry Palms and Joe Lunardis.
In football, for now, it’s still more about the eye test than anything quantifiable. About the only number that comes into play is the big one in each team’s loss column. Zero losses against a so-so schedule is still better than one loss against a good schedule. At least that’s how it’s played out in most BCS seasons.
Hopefully that will change with college football going to a new playoff system in which teams will be selected by a panel of experts, not unlike the NCAA Tournament selection committee. For kicks, we look below at some of the numbers that might be used by future panels to fill out a four-team playoff field. Only we’ll use those digits, facts, and figures to try and determine the two best football teams this season. Obviously, there are still some conference championship games to be played and any four of the top five teams in the current BCS standings could lose on Saturday. But the numbers below still provide some food for thought.
We’ve taken the top five BCS teams — #1 Florida State, #2 Ohio State, #3 Auburn, #4 Alabama and #5 Missouri — and tallied up eight different statistical categories for each. We’ve removed the names of the schools just to make things more interesting for you. If you don’t want to cheat, be sure not to click the “read more” button until you’ve studied the chart in full.
First things first, we’ve used the current BCS standings (1-125) for several of our scheduling factors. Even for those teams not currently ranked in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll or the Harris Poll, there are still rankings produced by the six computer formulas.
Also, keep in mind that we have not included any of the data from these teams’ dates with FCS foes. Those games haven’t been counted in any way, shape or form in the table below.
Now, for the data we did include:
* Opponents’ winning percentage
* Overall margin of victory for the season (with deficits in losses deducted)
* The average margin of victory per game (with deficits in losses deducted)
* The number of opponents currently ranked in the top 25 of the BCS standings
* The number of opponents ranked in the top 25 of the USA Today Coaches’ Poll at the time of the game
* The number of top 50 foes played (according to the current 1-125 BCS rankings)
* The number of sub-75 foes played (according to the current 1-125 BCS rankings)
* The average current BCS ranking of each team’s foes
One other note, we do include the conference championship games still on the docket for Florida State, Ohio State, Auburn and Missouri when dealing with their schedule-strength numbers. Obviously those final figures will be impacted by this weekend’s results.
Now, without further ado, the numbers for the top five teams in the current BCS standings are in the chart below. The teams are listed in random order just to keep you guessing. After clicking the “read more” button, you’ll see which team is which, their current BCS rankings and their overall records. Here goes…
|| Team A
|| Team B
|| Team C
|| Team D
|| Team E
| Opp. Winning Percentage
| Total Margin of Victory (Season)
| Margin of Victory per Game
| Current BCS Top 25 Opp.
| Coaches’ Top 25 Opp. At Time
| Top 50 BCS Opp. Played
| Sub-75 BCS Opp. Played
| Avg. Current BCS Rank of Opp.
Once you take the names off the teams and you strip them of their current rankings (which have been impacted by their preseason rank), things boil down to a simple choice between two options. If you’re looking for dominant teams against less imposing foes, Teams D, B and A are for you. They’ve walloped their foes. But the collective strength of their opponents is spotty at best. Two of those teams have played FBS schedules consisting of teams that are below .500 combined. Team A’s foes were barely over .500.
The other option is to go with teams that have played closer games, but against more challenging competition. Team C, for example, has won its FBS games by an average of just 12 points per contest, but the average squad on that team’s schedule would be ranked right around #42 in the current BCS standings. Team C has played eight top 50 BCS foes. Its FBS opponents have a combined winning percentage of .604. Team E ranks just behind Team C in terms of the schedule measures. While Team E has played six top 50 BCS squads, it has only played one FBS opponent ranked 75th or below. Just one.
Think you’ve figured out who’s who in our chart? We’ll identify all the teams for you if you just click the pretty red words below…
Team A is #2 Ohio State, 12-0 overall. The Buckeyes are tied for the fewest number of current top 25 teams on its schedule. (Those two foes include this weekend’s Big Ten Championship Game opponent, Michigan State.) Not surprisingly, the Buckeyes rank second in terms of margin of victory. But while OSU has faced a lot of tomato cans, they have kicked or crushed the majority of them.
Team B is #4 Alabama, 11-1 overall. The teams on Bama’s schedule have the second worst overall winning percentage. In fact, the Tide’s overall schedule data is only slightly better than Ohio State’s. That’s what happens when your league schedule includes the league’s three total-rebuild jobs (Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee).
Team C is #3 Auburn, 11-1 overall. No one at this party has played a tougher schedule than Gus Malzahn’s crew. Tiger foes have won more than 60% of their games. Auburn has played more teams currently ranked in the BCS top 25 than Alabama, Missouri, Ohio State and Florida State. They’ve played more top 50 BCS squads than anyone else on the list, too. And AU is also tied for the highest number of games against ranked foes (when they played). Meanwhile, Auburn’s average margin of victory is the lowest of the teams we’ve studied. That stands to reason, however, considering their opponents’ strength.
Team D is #1 Florida State, 12-0 overall. FSU’s foes have the lowest combined winning percentage of our five-team pack. Just two teams currently in the BCS top 25 have appeared on State’s schedule (and that includes Duke, who the Seminoles will face in the ACC Championship Game). Those top 25 foes — Clemson and Duke — are also the only top 50 BCS teams Florida State will see. FSU ties Alabama in terms of the number of sub-75 ranked BCS teams on the schedule (with four). But if kicking sand in a weakling’s face is your thing, the Noles have that act down. This season they waxed Nevada by 55, Maryland by 63, Wake Forest by 56, Syracuse by 56, and Idaho by 66. That 42.18 average margin of victory has obviously wowed poll voters as well as the BCS computers.
Team E is #5 Missouri, 11-1 overall. Across the board, Mizzou scores high marks in the scheduling department. Including Auburn — who they’re tied with in this category — MU will have played six teams that were ranked at the time of the contest. They’ve also played just one FBS foe ranked 75th or below in the current BCS standings. And that 17.09 margin of victory isn’t too shabby, all things considered.
So what would we do? Well, at MrSEC.com we don’t see the point in rewarding teams for playing weak schedules. Instead, we’d focus in on the two teams that have survived the toughest schedules so far — Auburn and Missouri. In our view, the SEC Championship Game should once again serve as a de facto national semifinal game. And we’re not talking about earning the second slot in the BCS Championship Game, either. Therefore, we believe the winner of Auburn/Missouri should be ranked #1 in the nation going into the BCS title game. They’ve succeeded while facing stiffer competition. (Being #1 holds no advantage, of course; we just wanted to make it clear who we believe the two best teams in the country to be.)
If any team is getting hosed in the current BCS rankings it’s Missouri. Gary Pinkel’s team lacks a signature win like Auburn’s over Alabama, but the Tigers have played a wicked schedule, thumped most of the teams on it, and their only loss was in double-overtime to a top 10 South Carolina squad. That leaves Missouri ranked fifth? If the same resume belonged to Michigan, Texas or Southern Cal you can bet those “name” programs wouldn’t be fifth.
Which brings us to the other teams in the running for the BCS Championship Game. The Auburn/Missouri winner could face either Florida State, Ohio State or Alabama, all traditional powerhouses. Let’s eliminate Bama right up front. Sorry, Tide fans, but that .496 winning percentage owned by your FBS foes just isn’t good enough. With that schedule, it wouldn’t be right to reward a team that’s also not having to play in a conference title game.
That leaves us with Florida State and Ohio State. Both have played poor schedules (and we don’t care that “they can’t help it that their leagues are down”). If it’s about merit, then it should really be about merit. Florida State has provided more eye-popping routs, but beating the stuffing out of Idaho and Wake Forest doesn’t impress us. Ohio State hasn’t been as dominating as FSU, but the Buckeyes’ schedule is a hair better. OSU also figures to get a tougher test from #10 Michigan State than Florida State will likely get from #20 Duke. For those reasons, if Ohio State wins fairly impressively over MSU, the Buckeyes should get the #2 slot in the BCS Championship Game over Florida State.
The Auburn/Missouri winner versus Ohio State (if they look good against Michigan State). Florida State would slip in if the Buckeyes stumble.
But that’s just our view. Yours might be different. And from the looks of the current BCS standings — where teams with weak schedules sit on top — the view will almost certainly be different from ours.