Daily Blog •July 9, 2012


Which 2012 Teams Fit the
National Championship Mold?

Wouldn’t it be easy if there were key indicators that could trim down a list of National Title candidates prior to each year? I recently went and looked through every imaginable stat from each team that won the National Title and also those that got to the BCS Title game. I also included those few #3 teams that had a legitimate beef about being about being left out. I searched for common threads in numerous categories and was very pleased with what I have found.

Naturally, we can not 100% accurately predict the stats that each team will have for the upcoming season so what I did for each previous National Title winner and contender was to look what they did the year prior to their great seasons in order to examine the teams coming into 2012 (used 2011 stats).

I used a combo of 24 different categories/stats from every National Title winner and contender from the last 20 years to come up with a list of just 11 teams that meet all of the criteria and in my opinion legitimately fit the national championship mode.

Before I get to those 11 teams, I thought it would be interesting to break down each and every category and analyze which stats/categories eliminate which teams. I also must say that for many categories I did not count the 1995 Arizona St (6-5) team which would go on to nearly win the national title in ‘96 because their stats particularly on defense that year were far outliers and it would not have allowed me to eliminate any teams in those categories.

First I started off with the 120 teams who played in the FBS last year as I think we can all agree that UMass, South Alabama, Texas St and UTSA will not win the national title this year.

My first category was to look at wins and losses the previous season and each team that contended for and/or won a national title in the last 20 years at minimum lost five games or less the previous seasons (ex: Okla 7-5 in ’99, OSU 7-5 in ’01).

This eliminated 71 teams right out of the gate and here are the 49 teams that met this first general category.

Alabama Houston Ohio Temple
Arkansas Kansas St Oklahoma Texas
Arkansas St Louisiana Tech Oklahoma St Toledo
Auburn Louisiana Oregon Tulsa
Baylor LSU Penn St USC
Boise St Michigan Rutgers Utah
BYU Michigan St South Carolina Virginia
Cincinnati Missouri San Diego St Virginia Tech
Clemson NC State SMU West Virginia
FIU Nebraska Southern Miss Wisconsin
Florida St Northern Illinois Stanford WKU
Georgia Notre Dame TCU Wyoming
Georgia Tech      

My next categories would start dealing with stats from the previous year. The first one examined offensive ppg where Michigan in 1996 avg only 23.1 ppg the year before their national title season and it was the lowest ppg in the last 20 years among title winners/contenders. All of the 48 remaining teams avg’d at least 23.1 ppg last year with the exception of Penn St (19.3) and WKU (22.9) who both avg’d less than 23.1 ppg. This brings the list down to 47.

Naturally the next category was defensive ppg where the 2009 Auburn Tigers the year before their national title in 2010 allowed 27.5 ppg, which was the highest in the last 20 years. In order to fit the National Championship mold the remaining 47 teams would have had to allow less than 27.5 ppg last year. This category would eliminate eight teams as Baylor (37.2), Toledo (31.7), Northern Illinois (30.3), Louisiana (29.8), Clemson (29.3), Auburn (28.9), Kansas St (27.9) and Wyoming (27.8) all allowed more than 27.5 ppg last year. Now we are already down to 39 teams.

The next two categories dealt with offensive and defensive ypg. On offense the 1998 Virginia Tech Hokies (prior to Michael Vick) avg only 314 ypg prior to their National Title appearance the following season. This category eliminated Utah who avg’d 311 ypg on offense last year. On defense the 2010 Oklahoma St Cowboys allowed 409 ypg, every National Championship contender for this year would have had to allow 409 ypg or less and this eliminated two more teams in Tulsa (415 ypg) and ironically last year’s title contending Oklahoma St defense allowed 457 ypg!

After five categories we are now down to 36 teams and here they are:

Alabama LSU San Diego St
Arkansas Michigan SMU
Arkansas St Michigan St Southern Miss
Boise St Missouri Stanford
Cincinnati Nebraska Temple
FIU Notre Dame Texas
Florida St Ohio USC
Georgia Oklahoma Virginia
Georgia Tech Oregon Virginia Tech
Houston Rutgers Wisconsin
Louisiana Tech South Carolina West Virginia

I now started looking at rush and pass yard stats and started off with offensive rush ypg. Oklahoma in 1999 avg’d only 104 rush ypg in their pass-happy offense prior to winning the national title in 2000. This category eliminated Rutgers who avg’d just 98 rush ypg last year.

Next up I looked at defensive rush ypg allowed and the 1995 Florida Gators who would appear in the title game that year (lost to Neb 62-24) prior to taking home the title in ’96 allowed a 20-year high among title contenders with 160 rush ypg. This category eliminated three teams as Houston (172 ypg), San Diego St (170 ypg) and Arkansas (168 ypg) all allowed more rush ypg last year.

With 32 teams left I then looked at pass ypg on offense/defense but due to the contrasting style of play over the last 20 years (more pass-oriented) I was unable to eliminate any teams as option-based Nebraska avg’d just 114 pass ypg in 1992 and surprisingly the 2003 USC Trojans who won the title that year allowed 276 pass ypg. Both were the low/high water marks of the last 20 years.

I then looked at first downs avg’d per game on offense and defense and again could not dwindle the list any further as Va Tech avg’d just 17 FD’s a game in 1998 and Oklahoma St gave up 22.3 FD’s on defense in 2010. After 11 categories, I was still sitting on 32 teams.

I then dived further into rush stats and looked at rush ypc on offense and defense. I found that Florida St in their national title winning season in 1999 (again played in title gm following year) avg’d only 3.3 rush ypc. This category eliminated NC State who avg’d only 3.0 ypc last year. On defense Auburn in 2009 was the high water mark of the last 20 years allowing 4.1 rush ypc. This surprisingly eliminated two more teams as Georgia Tech (4.5) and Wisconsin (4.3) didn’t make the cut leaving me with just 29 teams.

Since I dived further into rush stats, I decided to also look at pass % completed and % allowed as my next two categories. Again Nebraska’s 1992 option-based team avg’d just 44.9%, which did not eliminate any teams. However on pass defense I got a shocking result with Oklahoma St’s 2010 defense allowing 62.5 %, the high water mark among contenders the last 20 years. This category would eliminate SMU (64.1%), Missouri (62.8%) and this year’s national title favorite USC (63.9%)!

Now after 15 categories I was down to just 26 teams and here they are:

Alabama LSU Southern Miss
Arkansas St Michigan Stanford
Boise St Michigan St TCU
BYU Nebraska Temple
Cincinnati Notre Dame Texas
FIU Ohio Virginia
Florida St Oklahoma Virginia Tech
Georgia Oregon West Virginia
Lousiana Tech South Carolina  

I then decided to take a look at TO margin. Ohio St in 2005 was -9 the year before appearing in the title game being the lowest of the last 20 years and this category would eliminate just one team: Notre Dame who was -15 last year.

With 25 teams left I then looked Offensive and Defenive YPP (yards per point). Michigan in 1996 had the highest offensive ypp with 16.5. Every other team had a lower ypp and this category eliminated Virginia who had a 17.2 offensive ypp. I then looked at defensive ypp (higher the number the better) and Auburn’s 2009 defense allowed 13.6 yards per point. This category eliminated Georgia (13.5).

18 categories down and just 23 teams left! To further dwindle the list I then took at returning starters for the National Championship teams and contenders and the least amount of returning starters on offense was four while the least amount of returning starters on defense was three. These two categories helped me eliminate three more teams as Temple (3 off), Virginia Tech (3 off) and Boise St (2 def) all did not meet the criteria. 

Now after 20 categories, I was down to just 20 teams and now I felt it was time to look at non-stat factors.

Alabama LSU South Carolina
Arkansas St Michigan Southern Miss
BYU Michigan St Stanford
Cincinnati Nebraska TCU
FIU Ohio Texas
Florida St Oklahoma West Virginia
Louisiana Tech Oregon  

First, no non-AQ school has ever won the national title so this would immediately eliminate Arkansas St, FIU, Louisiana Tech, Ohio and Southern Miss. Also BYU really isn’t an AQ status team like their independent peer Notre Dame so I decided to eliminate them as well as even counting ND, no independent has contended for the national title since 1993.

With 14 teams remaining I started looking at other factors that separated them and found that no team that lost as many as eight games two seasons prior has contended for a national title. This eliminates Cincinnati who went 4-8 in 2010.

With 13 teams, I decided to put one final qualifier in there, which would ultimately eliminate TCU and West Virginia. Since most of my categories were based on stats from the previous year, I don’t think its fair to judge both TCU and West Virginia on stats they put last year against far weaker competition than what they will face this year. The Big East and MW finished as my #7 and #8 toughest conferences last year while the Big 12 was my #2 toughest conference. It will be very tough for them to duplicate last year’s success. It must be noted that Virginia Tech did win an ACC title in their first year in the conference and Miami, Fl won the national title in 1991 in their first year of the Big East. One could argue though that in those two instances VT’s SOS only slightly got tougher while Miami’s was probably the same as they played a national schedule as an independent.

So here are the final 11 teams that met all of the criteria and in my opinion fit a championship mold for the upcoming season based on the last 20 years. While there may be a couple of teams left out (especially USC), all 11 of these teams made my preseason Top 23 and six of the teams made my top 7 including my top 3 in Florida St, Oklahoma and LSU!

The Final 11 Teams Who Fit the
National Championship Mold for 2012!

Alabama Oklahoma
Florida St Oregon
LSU South Carolina
Michigan Stanford
Michigan St Texas

Only 52 Days Left Until the First College Football Game!