November 2, 2011

Comparing Opponents of the Unbeatens

Early this morning, I saw some tweets from John Walters (@jdubs88) come across the timeline that detailed the horrid set of offenses Alabama has faced this season. After thinking about it most of the day, I finally got some time to put the numbers together to see how college football's unbeatens stack up against each other in terms of the levels of offenses and defenses each team has played.

Taking the national rank (1 through 120) of "total offense" and "total defense" of each opponent for LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Boise State, and Houston, I created an average opponent ranking for each unbeaten school.

A few notes: "total offense/defense" are national rankings 1-120 based on yards gained and yards allowed per game.

Also, any argument stating that Boise State, for example, is going to face better defenses statistically than Stanford might because MWC offenses are going to be worse than Pac-12 offenses is not valid. Each conference and set of opponents is generally going to play teams whose talent and recruiting abilities are similar. So if you assume Stanford should face better defenses than Boise State because of Pac-12 competition and recruiting power, you also must assume that Stanford would have a better offense than Boise State for those same reasons--negating differences in competition based on conference and recruiting.

Unbeaten Team
Average Rank of
Opponents' Offense
Oklahoma State
Boise State

If 60 is the average offense, then Oklahoma State and Boise State have played well above-average offenses, Stanford has faced about average offenses, and LSU, Houston, and Alabama have played below-average offenses. Especially Alabama, who has played Kent State, North Texas, Penn State, Vanderbilt, and Ole Miss.

Unbeaten Team
Average Rank of
Opponents' Defense
Boise State
Oklahoma State

LSU and Alabama face above-average defenses, Boise State plays against average defenses, and Oklahoma State, Houston, and Stanford face below-average defenses.

So combining offensive rank and defensive rank of opponent's played, here are how the unbeatens stack up:

Unbeaten Team
Combined Rank of Opponents'
Offense and Defense
Boise State
Oklahoma State

As it stands this week, Boise State has played the teams with the best combination of offense and defense. If you're a non-AQ hater, don't fret: Boise still has New Mexico and UNLV left on the schedule, which will absolutely murder these numbers for them. There was a time when Houston would be facing better offenses in Conference USA than are currently there (East Carolina, UAB, SMU have all done better in recent years than they are this year).

Certainly, these numbers aren't conclusive of any one thing. But they do at least offer insight on some of the football we've seen so far this season.


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