Numbers don't lie. They can deceive, but they sure as hell don't lie. We started a project a few weeks ago to analyze all 119 FBS teams' performances. What we found was both expected and, frankly, surprising in some cases. We checked and rechecked the work, and we've finally come up with the most statistically balanced teams of 2008.
Before we get into the big reveal, we should establish some parameters. All teams were analyzed based on 17 statistical categories (all based on season-end stats from the NCAA). These 17 categories range from offensive rankings to defensive rankings to special teams rankings. We set each ranking equal in weight to all the other rankings for each team. Thus, "Total Offense" means as much as "Net Punting".
Now, you'll probably notice that "Strength of Schedule" isn't included in this analysis. We volleyed this back and forth for some time and decided it wasn't needed in this case. Rankings are rankings, like it or not. For example, Navy would still have probably had the best rushing statistics ranking if they had a slightly tougher schedule. Plus, most "Strength of Schedule" indices aren't 100% objective. Again, our analysis is what it is - there's no subjectivity in the stats used to determine these rankings.
The ultimate goal of this research was to establish the best statistically balanced teams. It's obvious that these top teams were the best-coached all around, and their performances were consistent week in and week out. Oddly enough, some top teams lost as much as five games, but statistically, they were a sound team against their given competition. Basically, "on paper", these teams were the best of 2008.
The OTP Top 25 Statistically-Ranked Teams:
1) Penn State (11-2, average stat rank - 19.0588). Note: In only two categories were they ranked below 27th out of 119 (passing offense and punt returns). Impressive and obviously a well-balanced team.
2) Boise State (12-1, average stat rank - 19.2353). Note: While mediocre in rushing offense (54th) and kickoff returns (47th), they excelled in defensive passing efficiency (2nd) and scoring defense (3rd).
3) Florida (13-1, average stat rank - 20.7059). Note: Surprisingly a mediocre passing offense (61st) and a near-abysmal tackles for loss rank (88th). Excellent in defensive passing efficiency (3rd) and turnover margin(2nd).
4) USC (12-1, average stat rank - 21.2353). Note: Killer defensive passing efficiency, scoring defense, and passing defense (1st). Net punting (98th) and punt return (73rd) hurt.
5) TCU (11-2, average stat rank - 21.7059). Note: Great rush defense and total defense (2nd), mediocre passing offense (72nd) and poor net punting (87th).
6) Oklahoma (12-2, average stat rank - 29.0588). Note: The most Top 3 rankings of any team in 2008 with 6 categories in the top three. Net punting (85th) and passing defense (99th) need some work in 2009.
7) Troy (8-5, average stat rank - 29.9412) . Note: Yes, we're surprised by this one too. Sacks (3rd), tackles for loss (4th), and sacks allowed (4th) saved Troy from being a 30-40th ranked team in our analysis.
8) Texas (12-1, average stat rank - 31.7647). Note: Great numbers offensively with five top ten rankings. But rushing offense (41st), punt returns (75th) and passing defense (104th) were surprisingly bad for Texas.
9) Utah (13-0, average stat rank - 32.6471) . Note: Broke the top ten in one category: turnover margin (10th). Still a statistically-sound team with a lot of numbers ranging from 11-35. Punt returns (96th) knocked the average down.
10) Mississippi (9-4, average stat rank - 32.7647) . Note: Great rushing defense stats along with sacks and tackles for loss, but poor passing defense. Offensively, a high-20s team.
11) Ball State (12-2, average stat rank - 33.1176) . Note: Offensive line was great - 4th in sacks allowed. Total offense rank of 17 and punt return ranking of 5 helped quite a bit. But the rush defense (84th) and total defense (69th) kept Ball State from the top ten.
12) Oregon State (9-4, average stat rank - 36.1765). Note: Great sacks rank and tackles for loss (4th). Better-than-average offense with rankings in the mid-30s.
13) California (9-4, average stat rank - 36.5882). Note: Terrible passing offense (83rd), but defensive passing efficiency (6th) and turnover margin (7th) worked in their favor.
14) Florida State (9-4, average stat rank - 37.3529). Note: #1 in tackles for loss and 4th in sacks, offset by an 82 in passing offense and 86 in passing efficiency.
15) Georgia (10-3, average stat rank - 37.4706). Note: Pretty bland all around, but a good passing offense (16th) and punt returns (4th).
16) Arizona (8-5, average stat rank - 39.4118). Note: Needs some help with kickoff returns (105th), but other than that, most stats fell into the top 50.
17) Ohio State (10-3, average stat rank - 39.7647). Note: Conference champion aside, this team blew when it came to passing offense (105th) and kickoff returns (108th). Mayday, mayday!
18) Oregon (10-3, average stat rank - 40.4118). Note: Stellar offense led by rushing (2nd). Secondary may need some help with a 111 for pass defense. Top ten in sacks (8th) and tackles for loss (4th).
19) Cincinnati (11-3, average stat rank - 40.5294). Note: Net punting? Yes, they were the best. But a turnover margin of 93, and a rushing offense of 95 weighed down most of the better rankings like sacks (9th) and rushing defense (19th).
20) Alabama (12-2, average stat rank - 41.2353). Note: Saban did his job with the defense with a rushing defense of 2 and a total defense of 3. But that offense needs a spark, especially the passing (97th).
21) Rutgers (8-5, average stat rank - 42.2353). Note: A wholesomely bland showing, but a passing offense of 18 and scoring defense of 19 show promise.
22) South Florida (8-5, average stat rank - 43.1765). Note: Top 10 in rushing defense and total defense, but working on th turnover margin (97th) will help South Florida crack that top 15 for sure.
23) Iowa (9-4, average stat rank - 43.4706). Note: Mostly respectable defensive ranks only hurt by sacks (96th) and passing offense (90th).
24) Oklahoma State (9-4, average stat rank - 43.6471). Note: Their offense played like men (see what I did there?). Offensively a top ten team in all but passing offense (38th), but get that defensive coordinator a hot seat - 93rd in total defense, 109th in passing defense, and 107th in sacks. Goo.
25) Missouri (10-4, average stat rank - 43.7647). Note: Great offensive numbers aside from rushing offense (52nd), but being the 3rd worst team in passing defense and 98th in total defense didn't do Missouri many favors.
Notable teams: Tulsa 29, Texas Tech 31, Northern Illinois 38, Kentucky 40, Tennessee 46, Notre Dame 48, Eastern Michigan 55, Central Michigan 56, Rice 79, Buffalo 86, Michigan 90, Louisville 96, Indiana 100, Syracuse 113, Washington 119
RV: Ahh, statistical analysis, my favorite. I have to say, this should be one of the more discussed posts in the offseason. While Troy being anywhere near this analysis is interesting, I feel that it makes sense if you try and break down why they would be up so high. Without looking at their roster or coaches, I'd say they had a ton of upperclassmen on both lines with coaches that have tons of experience. Now, this won't be true with everything but it is something we can use as the basis of conversation in a slow offseason. We don't mind distributing this list amongst friends, but please just ask. Edge put in a crapload of work and it'd be a shame for one of you heathens to steal it. And we fully expect you to try.
But seriously, I'm excited to sit down and see how the MAC teams all look in regards to their schedules and each other. Does anyone else agree that this is a great indicator of experience + coaching? I plan on using this analysis, along with The CFB Bible, to do a lot of preseason and in-season work. How else do you guys think we could use this?