College Football Playoff – Stat Review

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By David Burns:

This article is going to explore the differences between the top four teams in the college football playoff rankings and Louisville. We are going to focus on 4 main stats: 1) Scoring Offense 2) Scoring Defense, 3) Total Offense and 4) Total Defense. Most of the highly ranked teams have one thing in common. They are all in the top 25 or close to the top 25 in all four of the aforementioned stats. That list is very small.

The following charts show each team’s rankings in those four stats. They also show what their respective rankings are against just Power 5 opponents. Since no team outside the Power 5 is the hunt, I think that is fair. It also weeds out games against FCS teams, and weaker FBS teams like Charlotte, Bowling Green, Hawaii and others. Those stats have a tendency to be skewed.

Alabama

  Vs All Vs Power 5 only
Scoring Offense #14       41.2 #9          39.6
Total Offense #23     492.2 #11      493.1
Scoring Defense #2         12.2 #5             14
Total Defense #2       259.5 #4       273.8

Ohio State

  Vs All Vs Power 5 only
Scoring Offense #2         46.5 #6          42.5
Total Offense #11     511.4 #14      490.1
Scoring Defense #3          12.7 #6           14.3
Total Defense #4        273.5 #5         296.8


Michigan

  Vs All Vs Power 5 only
Scoring Offense #6         44.5 #8        41.4
Total Offense #31     467.8 #22    464.9
Scoring Defense #1             11 #2        11.6
Total Defense #1       244.7 #2      235.5


Clemson

  Vs All Vs Power 5 only
Scoring Offense #17      38.9 #14      37.5
Total Offense #15    502.6 #10    507.1
Scoring Defense #12      18.4 #12         20
Total Defense #14       328 #15      349


Louisville

  Vs All Vs Power 5 only
Scoring Offense #1        49.6 #1          45.9
Total Offense #1      583.2 #1        559.9
Scoring Defense #16       20.3 #15         20.1
Total Defense #6       285.2 #7         304.6

Now that we have seen their stat rankings, the next question is obvious. Who did they play? Instead of breaking down who each team played by their AP, Coaches or CFB ranking, I used the same stats. I think that gives a clearer picture of how good a team’s offense or defense really is. The following charts show each team’s opponents’ rankings in the Big 4. It is broken down by opponents who had rankings in the top 10, top 25, and top 50 of each stat.

Alabama

Opponents Vs Top 10 Vs Top 25 Vs Top 50
Scoring Offense 0 0 3
Total Offense 0 0 3
Scoring Defense 1 1 2
Total Defense 0 1 2

Ohio State

Opponents Vs Top 10 Vs Top 25 Vs Top 50
Scoring Offense 1 1 2
Total Offense 1 1 2
Scoring Defense 1 1 3
Total Defense 1 1 3

Michigan

Opponents Vs Top 10 Vs Top 25 Vs Top 50
Scoring Offense 0 0 1
Total Offense 0 0 0
Scoring Defense 1 2 2
Total Defense 1 1 3

Clemson

Opponents Vs Top 10 Vs Top 25 Vs Top 50
Scoring Offense 1 2 4
Total Offense 1 1 4
Scoring Defense 1 2 4
Total Defense 1 4 5

 

Louisville

Opponents Vs Top 10 Vs Top 25 Vs Top 50
Scoring Offense 0 1 2
Total Offense 0 1 3
Scoring Defense 0 2 4
Total Defense 0 3 5

As you can see from these charts, Clemson and Louisville have played the harder schedules…..from a statistical standpoint. They have played against more teams with top 25 or top 50 ranked offensive/defensive units.   Alabama has only played 1 team (LSU) with an offense or defense ranked in the top 25 of any category. They scored 10 points in that game. That should take a lot of luster of their offensive ranking.

The next argument when comparing stats is the bottom feeder problem. If your team plays 3 top 25 defenses but also plays a bunch of bottom feeder teams…your team could look better than they really are. The chart below shows the average rank of the units each team has faced. This chart only includes Power 5 opponents.

Team Scoring Offense Total Offense Scoring Defense Total Defense
Alabama 54 49 60 72
Ohio State 69 68 58 58
Michigan 87 96 59 55
Clemson 61 54 56 49
Louisville 84 72 54 52

That #1 Michigan defense doesn’t look so dominant now. Your defense should be ranked high if the average offense you are facing is ranked 87th or 96th in the country. The lowest rank in those categories is 123rd.  Louisville’s defense also takes a hit when you look at the averages. Louisville’s #1 offense, however, looks even more impressive. All of these teams overachieved. Here’s a breakdown of how they did on average against these offenses and defenses.

  • Alabama scored 15 more points and gained 91.2 more yards than teams typically allowed.
  • Ohio State scored 18.9 more points and gained 106.5 more yards than teams typically allowed.
  • Michigan scored 18.1 more points and gained 86.2 more yards than teams typically allowed.
  • Clemson scored 11.2 more points and gained 118.9 more yards than teams typically allowed.
  • Louisville scored 22.1 more points and gained 185.6 more yards than teams typically allowed.

 

  • Alabama kept offenses 19.2 points and 173.8 yards below their season averages.
  • Ohio State kept offenses 17 points and 145.3 yards below their season averages.
  • Michigan kept offenses 16 points and 129.3 yards below their season averages.
  • Clemson kept offenses 11.7 points and 87 yards below their season averages.
  • Louisville kept offenses 7.4 points and 17 yards below their season averages.

 

As I stated at the beginning, the top ranked teams all have something in common. They are ranked in the top 25 of the Big 4 stats. I have created a new stat that I will call the “Complete Team” stat. To be a complete team, you must be ranked in the top 50 in each of the Big 4 stats. We’ll use LSU as an example. They have #6 scoring defense and the #13 total defense in the country. They held Alabama to only 10 points. They still lost. They lost because they are not a complete team. Their scoring offense is ranked 74th and their total offense is 71st. The next chart shows how many “Complete Teams” each school has played and if they have any scheduled in the next two weeks.

Team Complete Teams Played Complete Teams Scheduled
Alabama USC
Ohio State Penn State/Northwestern Michigan
Michigan Penn State/Colorado Ohio State
Clemson FSU/Louisville
Louisville FSU/Clemson

After looking at the strength of schedule through the Big 4 stats, Alabama doesn’t look as scary. Michigan’s defense doesn’t look as dominant. Despite the recent loss, Clemson actually looks better. And Louisville’s #1 offense looks even more explosive. We need more chaos.

*All of the stats in this article were obtained through www.cfbstats.com. It is a great website. You can filter darn near every imaginable stat in a wide variety of ways.

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