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Just The Sports: BCS Championship (2002-06) Revisited

Just The Sports

Thursday, February 01, 2007

BCS Championship (2002-06) Revisited

When Ohio State defeated Miami, 31-24 in double overtime, the floodgates were opened for #2 ranked teams in BCS Championship games. Since that controversial victory, #2 ranked teams have won three of the past four college football national titles. Throwing the Ohio State win into the mix pushes that record to an impressive 4-1 record for the teams deemed by the BCS formula to be the second-best in the nation among Divsion I-A college football teams. This prompted me to ask: were the victories by the perceived lesser teams a result of them doing something extraordinary in the championship game or were these victories more the result of the #1 ranked teams having an off day?

To answer this question, I compiled the season box scores of the ten teams that found their way into the title match, separating them into two categories based on their ranks entering the game (#1 or #2). After that was done, I calculated both the averages and standard deviations for the following statistics of the individual teams: pass attempts, pass completions, passing yards, rush attempts, rush yards, points, yards per catch, yards per pass attempt, yards per rush, and completion percentage. Then I took the numbers each team put up in the national championship game and figured out how many standard deviations they were away from the corresponding season averages and then averaged them among the two sets of five teams. While I looked at ten statistics, I was mainly concerned with how the teams performed in the last five.

On offense, the five #1 teams failed to reach their season averages in points, yards per catch, yards per pass attempt, yards per rush, and completion percentage; so, too, did the five #2 teams. However, these teams did not underperform by the same amount. The #1 teams underperformed worse than their averages in points, yards per rush, and completion percentage while the #2 achieved that distinction in yards per catch and yards per pass attempt. Basically, this leads me to conclude that offense was not the answer to explaining why #2 teams have been able to win so consistently.

Defense, though, does provide that answer. Before I get to the results, I should remind the reader that the defensive stats have to be read in a different manner than the offensive ones. Whereas with offense, it was a bad thing for the teams to underperform their averages, with defense what I was looking at was how the teams' opponents performed against them. Therefore, the more the standard deviation was below the average, the better the defense performed. That being said, #2 teams put on very dominant defensive performances in the national championship game relative to the eggs the #1 teams laid. In the aforementioned five most important statistics to me, the average standard deviations for the #2 teams' defensive statistics were all lower than the average standard deviation for the #1 teams' defensive statistics.

Again, what I was looking at were the average standard deviations of the five #1 teams and five #2 teams and comparing those to each other. As a result of what those average standard deviations told me, the offenses of the #1 teams should feel no hesitation in placing the majority of the blame on the respective defenses. Well, except for Ohio State.



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