Daily Blog •June 18, 2013


Which Teams Fit the
National Championship Mold in 2013?

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.

Before I get into my selection process for the upcoming season, last year was the first time that I did the championship mold article and it had great success. The 11 teams who made the cut were Alabama, Florida St, LSU, Michigan, Michigan St, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Stanford and Texas.

All 11 of my teams that fit the mold went on to a bowl game with six of the 11 teams winning at least 10 games. 4 of the 11 teams would go on to win a BCS Bowl game and of course, Alabama who was included would win the National Title!   

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 2013 (used 2012 stats).

I used a combo of 24 different categories/stats from every National Title winner and contender from the last 21 years to come up with a list of just 14 teams that meet all of the criteria and in my opinion legitimately fit the national championship mode.

Before I get to those 14 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 1996 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 124 teams who played in the FBS last year as I think we can all agree that Old Dominion and Georgia St 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 21 years at minimum lost five games or less the previous seasons (ex: Oklahoma 7-5 in ’99, Ohio State 7-5 in ’01). The Buckeyes did go 6-7 in 2011 before going 12-0 last year. However, the 2011 team was under extraordinary circumstances losing their head coach in late May and having five of their best players suspended for nearly half or all of the season, so I did not count them. This eliminated 68 teams right out of the gate and here are the 56 teams that met this first general category.

Alabama Fresno St Nebraska South Carolina
Arizona Georgia North Carolina Stanford
Arizona St Kansas St Northwestern Syracuse
Arkansas St Kent St Notre Dame Texas
Ball St Louisiana Ohio Texas A&M
Baylor Louisiana Tech Ohio St Texas Tech
Boise St Louisville Oklahoma Toledo
Bowling Green LSU Oklahoma St Tulsa
BYU Miami, Fl Oregon UCF
Cincinnati Michigan Oregon St UCLA
Clemson Middle Tennessee Penn St ULM
East Carolina Mississippi St Rutgers Utah St
Florida Northern Illinois San Diego St UTSA
Florida St Navy San Jose St Vanderbilt

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 21 years among title winners/contenders. All of the 56 remaining teams avg’d at least 23.1 ppg last year with the exception of Rutgers (21.5) and Bowling Green (22.9) who both avg’d less than 23.1 ppg. This brings the list down to 54.

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 21 years. In order to fit the National Championship mold the remaining 54 teams would have had to allow less than 27.5 ppg last year. This category would eliminate 16 teams as Louisiana Tech (38.5), Baylor (37.2), Arizona (35.3), Ball St (32.0), Texas Tech (31.8), East Carolina (31.6), Miami, Fl (30.5), ULM (29.2), Texas (29.2), UTSA (28.8), Toledo (28.4), Oklahoma St (28.2), Louisiana (28.1), Middle Tennessee (28.0), UCLA (27.6) and Nebraska (27.6) all allowed more than 27.5 ppg last year. Now we are already down to 38 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 no teams this 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 Kent St (410 ypg).

After five categories we are now down to 37 teams and here they are:

Alabama LSU Oregon St
Arizona St Michigan Penn St
Arkansas St Mississippi St San Diego St
Boise St Northern Illinois San Jose St
BYU Navy South Carolina
Cincinnati North Carolina Stanford
Clemson Northwestern Syracuse
Florida Notre Dame Texas A&M
Florida St Ohio Tulsa
Fresno St Ohio St UCF
Georgia Oklahoma Utah St
Kansas St Oregon Vanderbilt

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 no teams.
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 21-year high among title contenders with 160 rush ypg. This category eliminated six teams as Navy (194 ypg), Oklahoma (192 ypg), Arizona St (183 ypg), Georgia (182 ypg), Fresno St (172 ypg) and Mississippi St (166 ypg) all allowed more rush ypg last year.

With 31 teams left I then looked at pass ypg on offense/defense but due to the contrasting style of play over the last 21 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 watermarks of the last 21 years.

I then looked at first downs avg’d per game on offense and defense 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. This eliminated one team (Northern Illinois) who gave up 22.4 FD’s a game on defense last year. After 11 categories, I was still sitting on 30 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. On defense, Auburn in 2009 was the high water mark of the last 21 years allowing 4.1 rush ypc. This surprisingly eliminated three more teams as Ohio (4.4), Louisville (4.3) and Clemson (4.2) didn’t make the cut leaving me with just 27 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 some results with Oklahoma St’s 2010 defense allowing 62.5 %, the high water mark among contenders the last 21 years. This category would eliminate Arkansas St (63.9%), and Syracuse (63.5%).

Now after 15 categories I was down to just 25 teams and here they are:

Alabama Oregon
Boise St Oregon St
BYU Penn St
Cincinnati San Diego St
Florida San Jose St
Florida St South Carolina
Kansas St Stanford
LSU Texas A&M
Michigan Tulsa
North Carolina UCF
Northwestern Utah St
Notre Dame Vanderbilt
Ohio St  

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 21 years, but unfortunately, this did not eliminate any teams as UCF (-9) just made the cut.

With 25 teams left I then looked Offensive and Defensive 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 again eliminated no teams. I then looked at defensive ypp (higher the number the better) and Auburn’s 2009 defense allowed 13.6 yards per point. This category again eliminated no one.

18 categories down and still 25 teams left! To further dwindle the list I then took a look 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 one more team as Kansas St (2 def) did not meet the criteria. 

Now after 20 categories, I was down to just 24 teams and now I felt it was time to look at non-stat factors.

First, no school from outside the BCS conferences has ever won the national title in the last 21 years, so this would immediately eliminate Tulsa, Boise St, San Diego St, San Jose St and Utah St. Also it should be noted that no Big East (now AAC) team has ever won the national title since it lost its strongest core of teams to the ACC in 2004. Even Cincinnati, who finished the 2009 regular season a perfect 12-0, was only #4 into their bowl game and it would take every single team in a conference like the SEC to have at least two losses for an undefeated AAC team to get voted above them. Therefore this would eliminate Cincinnati and UCF. BYU also really isn’t an AQ status team like their independent peer Notre Dame, so I decided to eliminate them as well.

With 16 teams remaining I started looking at other factors that separated them and found that no team that lost as many as eight or more games two seasons prior has contended for a national title. This eliminates Oregon State who went 3-9 in 2011. Also Penn State is in eligible for a bowl this year and while statistically they qualify, their sanctions prevent them.

So here are the final 14 teams that met all of the criteria and in my opinion fit a championship mold for the upcoming season based on the last 21 years. While there may be a couple of teams left out (Texas, USC, Louisville, Oklahoma St and Georgia), 13 of these teams made my preseason Top 40 (11 in Top 24) including my top 3 in Alabama, Ohio St and Florida St!

The Final 14 Teams Who Fit the
National Championship Mold in 2013

Alabama Notre Dame
Florida Ohio St
Florida St Oregon
LSU South Carolina
Michigan Stanford
North Carolina Texas A&M
Northwestern Vanderbilt