Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Championship Statistics and Margin of Victory

Smart Football linked to my piece regarding the Statistical Characteristics of BCS Champions where it was noted that the BCS Champion is not necessarily the best team in college football in any given year.

There was a link in turn to Dr. Saturday with his list of the best teams of the decade which indeed included some teams that did not win the BCS title.

I don’t disagree. I don’t think anyone would say the 2002 Buckeyes, or the even the 2006 Gators, were objectively the “best” teams. Likewise I think there is a general agreement that the 2007 New York Giants weren’t the NFL’s best.

However in looking at Dr. Saturday’s list of the 10 best teams of the decade (or decade so far, he notes) the characteristics of BCS Champions – top scoring defenses, excellent total defenses, effecitive passing efficiency defenses and strong offensive passing efficiency – are shared characteristics of all his top 10 teams (except one, which I will address in a minute).

In other words the shared characteristics shouldn’t just be thought of as “BCS Champion” characteristics, but those of nearly every successful team.

Take the national rankings of the 2004 Auburn team, which Dr. Saturday lists as 4th overall for the decade –

Scoring Defense – 1st
Total Defense – 5th
Passing Efficiency Defense – 26th
Passing Efficiency – 2nd

Those stats fit right in with my theme.

The exception in Doc Saturday’s list? That would be the 2005 USC Trojans.

While the 2005 USC team had one of the most impressive offenses ever, their eventual fatal flaw was their defense. Their national rankings in the key defensive categories looked nothing like a championship team, and as the good Doc noted “Their mediocre defense finally collapsed in the Rose Bowl”.

Their defensive stat rankings –

Scoring Defense – 35th
Total Defense – 48th
Passing Efficiency Defense – 42nd

In many ways the 2005 Trojans remind me of last year’s Sooners, an offensive powerhouse that fell flat when faced with a stronger defense and nearly equally accomplished offense. The 2008 Oklahoma team had even a more impressive scoring offense than the 2005 Trojans (51.1 ppg versus 49.1). Notably the 2008 Sooners do not appear on Dr. Saturday’s top 10 list, and in my opinion a team as defensively challenged as the 2005 Trojans doesn’t belong their either (I think the '08 Trojans were better overall than the '05 team).

Dr. Saturday also likes to look at Margin of Victory in assessing his top teams. (He also looks at other criteria and while I wouldn’t say MOV is dispositive to him it is certainly appears to be on his mind). This got me to wondering who the top teams for Margin of Victory were this decade.

The list may surprise you.

Top 10 Teams by Margin of Victory this Decade

1. Miami (2001) – with a MOV of 33.78 the Hurricane’s were the top team in this category in the decade, and would have been my choice as top team overall (so far, that is).

2. Texas (2005) – a MOV of 33.75, and the Doc’s top team.

3. Kansas State (2002) – An incredibly high MOV of 32.97 was a complete surprise to me. They had an amazingly good defense that ranked number 1 in the national giving up only 11.8 ppg, and the 2nd ranked offense with 44.77 ppg. They went 11-2 with narrow losses at Colorado 31-35 and against Texas 14-17. What could have been!

4. Florida State (2000) – With a MOV of 32.12 the 2000 FSU team was a case of opportunities missed. The Noles went 11-2 with a 24-27 loss at Miami and a loss to Oklahoma in the BCS title game 2-13. Yet FSU had the top Total Offense, the 3rd Scoring Offense, and the 2nd Total Defense that year, and were superior in virtually all statistical categories to Oklahoma.

5. Florida (2008) – 30.71 MOV. With most of the team back maybe the Gators can push it higher this year.

6. Louisville (2004) – The Cardinals in 2004 had a MOV of 30.05, or only one of 6 teams this decade to be over 30. They had the number 1 scoring offense at 49.75 ppg and the 24th scoring defense at 19.7 ppg. Notably in both these categories they were superior to the 2005 USC Trojans, but against admittedly softer competition. They went 11-1 with their sole loss coming by 3 points at Miami.

7. Florida (2001) – The best Spurrier team not to win it all, and maybe among his best ever, the '01 Gators had a MOV of 29.72. A 3 point loss at Auburn, and a 2 point loss to Tennessee at home (the game was rescheduled to the last of the season because of 9/11) kept this team from the SEC title game and more.

8. USC (2008) – Last year’ Trojans were the best of the decade for MOV at 28.54, or 3 points more than their 2003 title team.

9. Oklahoma (2003) – This team is famed for losing to LSU in the BCS title game and went 12-2 overall (also losing to Kansas State the game before). The split title year of 2003 still has many debaters, but the best team that year by MOV was far-and-away the Sooners at 27.63.

10. Oklahoma (2008) – The 3rd team from last season on this list, the 2008 Sooners had an MOV of 26.64.

(Note – Boise State in 2002 and TCU in 2000 had top 10 MOV's but I didn’t include them as mid-major teams playing lesser talents).

Of our list of top Margin of Victory teams only three – Miami, Texas and Florida – won the BCS title for their year. Those same three teams were the only teams of the top Margin of Victory teams to make Dr. Saturday's list.

But, as Dr. Saturday said, if we are considering who might be the “team of the decade” we would want to consider them all. This list of the top MOV’s adds a little more food for thought.


Jams said...

Let me preface by saying that I'm a big fan and really enjoy the blog, and this post was no exception. In fact, given my only gripe with it, I'd say I really liked the post.

But I just wanted to note that when you use the two-digit representation of a year, the apostrophe comes first (i.e. in place of the removed digits). Thus, 2008 becomes '08, not 08'. Sorry, I'm not usually this nipicky.

Anonymous said...

So after reading this post, I just thought of something that might be really interesting to look up. As far as your statistical characteristics of BCS champions, what teams over the last decade (or so), fit the profile of being a BCS champion, and what is it that held them back from winning it?

Anonymous said...

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Mergz said...


Why you nickpicky little...

Just kidding, you are right of course, and I will correct.


I might just do that.