Monday, August 31, 2009

Teams of the Decade

With, of course, one year to go

We have looked at the top scoring offenses, the top defenses, the best margins and the toughest schedules for the decade that is nearly complete.

I have run this data through our Saurian Sagacity Power Ranking System that I use during the regular season. To reiterate it works like this –

((SD Ratio) + (SO Ratio) + W/L Record)) * SOS = Power Value

Explained further (with USC after week 6 last year as an example)–

SD Ratio is a ratio of each team’s scoring defense to the best scoring defense. For example USC has the top scoring defense in the nation at 7.8 ppg. So USC, with the best scoring defense gets a 1.0.

SO Ratio is a ratio of each team’s scoring offense to the best scoring offense. Using the USC example, their offense is 8th overall at 41.5 ppg. The best offense is Tulsa’s at 56.7 ppg. Thus USC’s ratio is .7336 of the best.

W/L record is a simple calculation of % record, in USC’s case 0.83333 (5-1).

We add the three components together, in our example totaling 2.5669. Then the number is multiplied by the strength of schedule per the NCAA, which in USC’s case is a ratio of 0.692308 (40th nationally having played teams that are 18-15). The end result is 1.7771.

After running all 1054 teams in our database through the Power Ranking equation, the top 10 teams of the decade are –

1 - 2001 Miami (Fla.) 2.349
2 - 2000 Florida St. 2.330
3 - 2008 Florida 2.292
4 - 2005 Texas 2.254
5 - 2004 Auburn 2.175
6 - 2000 Miami (Fla.) 2.135
7 - 2006 Florida 2.121
8 - 2008 Oklahoma 2.117
9 - 2008 Southern California 2.088
10 - 2004 Southern California 2.057

How (and why) they came out that way –

1. 2001 Miami.

An intuitive choice at number one the undefeated BCS Champion ’01 Canes had the decade’s best Margin of Victory (MOV) at 33.78. They had the 2nd best defense at 9.4 ppg, and the 19th best offense at 43.18 ppg. Their only “weakness” was Strength of Schedule (SOS) at 160th (of 1054).

This team boasted the following future NFL players (not even naming them all) –

RB Clinton Portis
RB Frank Gore
RB Willis McGahee
TE Jeremy Shockey
WR Andre Johnson
LT Bryant McKinnie
RE Jerome McDougle
MLB Jonathan Vilma
RCB Mike Rumph
SS Ed Reed

I’m entirely comfortable with the data here.

2. 2000 Florida State

And not quite as comfortable here. The 2000 ‘Noles were an impressive bunch that included that year’s Heisman winner in Chris Weinke and the Lombardi winner Jamal Reynolds. But they lost 2 games, albeit rather close contests. The first loss was another in the long, sordid history of “wide rights” at Miami 27-24. The other loss was the BCS Championship game to Oklahoma by the curious score of 13-2.

However statistically they dominated, with the 4th best MOV (32.12), the 4th best defense (10.3 ppg), the 27th best offense (42.42 ppg), and the 20th hardest schedule of the decade (62.93% opponents winning records).

Part of this exercise in data use was to look “outside the box” in determining the best teams of the decade on the assumption that the flawed BCS process doesn’t always produce the best team. Well this pick is definitely outside the box.

3. 2008 Florida

Last season’s BCS Champions lost once to a pretty solid Ole Miss team. Data-wise this was the 5th best MOV of the decade (30.71), the 21st best defense (12.9 ppg), the 16th best offense (43.64 ppg) and the 14th hardest SOS (63.69% opponent’s record).

4. 2005 Texas

I expected this team to be a bit higher but here they are (albeit only 0.038 points behind ’08 Florida).

Texas had the 2nd best MOV of the decade at 33.75 and the 2nd best scoring offense at 50.15 ppg. But their defense was 75th overall (16.4 ppg) and their SOS 45th for the past 9 years at 61.36% opponent’s win record. (By way of contrast the ’08 Gators played teams that won a cumulative 12 more games than the ’05 Longhorns, or 93 wins versus 81 wins).

A great overall team and BCS winner.

5. 2004 Auburn

The one that was left out ends up higher ranked than either of the teams that got to play for the BCS title that year.

The undefeated ’04 Tigers had a MOV that was 47th best for the decade (20.78), and a scoring offense that was only 222nd (32.08 ppg), but the 8th best defense (11.3 ppg). They played the 36th hardest schedule with 61.78% opponent’s winning record.

The BCS winner of 2004, USC, is 10th ranked here for comparison purposes. Would the Tigers have beat the Trojans? We cannot know, but I bet they would have given them a better game than Oklahoma did.

6. 2000 Miami

Who, you ask? It may seem like a long time ago, but the ’00 Miami team was among the first to incite BCS controversy when they were passed over by Florida State to play Oklahoma in the BCS title game despite having defeated FSU earlier in the season and being ranked ahead of the ‘Noles in both human polls. The ’00 Canes went on to beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl 37-20 and served as an inspiration for the dominant ’01 team.

This team boasted the 11th best MOV of the decade (27.14), the 53rd best defense (15.5 ppg) and the 24th best offense (42.64 ppg). They also had a tough schedule, ranked 16th for the decade at 63.26% opponent’s winning record.

7. 2006 Florida

Before you scoff and cry “Homer!” in a crowed blog-o-sphere let’s look at the record. The ’06 Gators were BCS Champions in dominant fashion over highly favored Ohio State 41-14. And while their offensive stats were less than impressive (324th best offense at 29.71 ppg), their defense was top notch at 26th overall or 13.5 ppg.

But what a schedule they played! Not only was it the decade’s 3rd toughest at 67.11% opponent’s win record, but they are the only team this decade to play opponents with a cumulative record of 100 wins (100-49). For contrast, the two teams that are ahead of UF for strength of schedule, ’05 Oklahoma and ’04 Texas A&M played opponents with records of 84-38 and 86-42 on their way to records of 8-4 and 7-5, respectively. So the ’06 Gators 13-1 record looks pretty damn good with that SOS.

8. 2008 Oklahoma

The decade’s highest flying offense finds a place at 8th in our rankings. Sure the ’08 Sooners lost 2 games, including the BCS title game, but their offense was 1st overall at an incredible 51.14 ppg. Their MOV was the 13th of the decade at 26.64, and their SOS was 6th ranked at 65.51% opponent’s win records.

However it was their defense that kept them from being higher ranked (and likely winning the BCS title) at only 470th for the decade, or 24.5 ppg.

9. 2008 Southern California

The first USC team on our list checks in at 9th, and they didn’t even win any “national titles”. But for the ’08 Trojans their defense was without equal at 1st overall for the decade, or 9 ppg. They also had a fantastic 8th ranked MOV of 28.54, and a decent scoring offense ranked 72nd overall at 37.54 ppg.

Strength of schedule was the killer here, as in 2008 USC played only the decade’s 353rd best schedule at 54.11% opponent’s winning record.

10. 2004 Southern California

The BCS winners of ’04 are the final team in our decade’s top 10. The ’04 Trojan’s had a superior defense at 22nd overall (13 ppg), and a high MOV at 19th ranked or 25.15 ppg. Their offense was solid if unspectacular at 64th, or 38.15 ppg.

Strength of schedule, while better than the ’08 Trojans, still doesn’t shine at 147th for the decade, or 58.09% opponent’s winning record.

The Others

Where are the other BCS winners? Well according to our Power Ranking System they are –

2000 Oklahoma – 14th
2002 Ohio State – 18th
2003 LSU – 13th
2007 LSU – 39th

I feel pretty good about a system that has all the BCS winners in the top 20 of the decade (of 1054 teams) except the 2 loss ’07 Tigers of LSU.

Other top teams include –

’08 Texas – 11th
’05 USC – 12th
’01 Florida - 16th
’02 Georgia – 21st

The worst teams of the decade? Well your bottom five are –

2004 UCF
2003 Southern Methodist
2005 Temple
2005 Buffalo
2006 Florida Int'l – The worst of the decade

Every team in this list was winless except Buffalo, which had a single win.

To Take a Spot…

We obviously have a year left in the decade. In order to make our list a team in 2009 will need a score better than 2.057 which will take some combination of a great offense, defense and SOS. Several teams look likely to achieve such a status (Florida, Texas and Oklahoma come immediately to mind).

Final Word

There is no doubt some controversy in this list, but like all lists it is subject to opinion. I think it is pretty good, and sure to incite discussion as well as give another look to some teams that might have been overlooked, like the ’00 Noles. I’ve laid out the stats and tried to omit most of my personal views. If you think someone is missing let’s hear it, but bring your stats to back it up.

Now onto 2009!


Carl said...

Two questions:

1) Does "Strength of Schedule" remove the game where the other team plays the team being measured? It's a tad unfair to say a winless team had a harder schedule than an undefeated team if the only difference between the schedule was the team being measured...

2) Why measure strength of offense/defense compared to the decade, rather than just the year? My big question here is, rule changes (Like 2006's nightmare clock rules) can inflate a team's defense, and deflate a team's offense...

Mergz said...


Good questions.

As for the first one, SOS does remove the game where the team being measure played in. For Florida's 2006 SOS, for example, the Gators opponents were 100-49 not accounting for the games they played Florida. Overall they were 101-61.

You second question gives me an idea for a further project. Since I have all the data for 2000-2008 I have an opportunity to see how defenses and offenses have changed during the period, and then relate it to any rule changes like the clock.I have noticed, for instance, that many of the top offenses seemed to have occurred last season (Oklahoma, Texas and Florida). Why is that?

It will make for a nice project.

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