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Championship Criteria Explained

A while ago I wrote an article called Identifying a Champion that looked in Clashmore Mike’s study on the Blueprint for BCS Championship Success. Clashmore Mike has completed the study which was 5 parts. Clashmore Mike is a Notre Dame-centric blog that was using this analysis to see where Notre Dame had been deficient the past few years, but to also use the analysis as a tool to see where ND might be headed based on the past statistical value of Brian Kelly led football teams as compared to BCS Champions.

Being a Notre Dame homer I certainly enjoyed the read, but College Gridiron is a college football blog at large so my interest in this type of analysis isn’t so much confined to Notre Dame, but to the college football world in total. Rather, I think the metrics are put to better use if applied to everyone in an attempt to identify the future national champions themselves or to look at what each team in college football needs in order to get to a championship caliber level.

This approach is more akin to figuring out a decision tree so to speak or possibly a team philosophy that is or isn’t working. At the end of the day this is all about winning. I’ll discuss the basics of what we need, but here are the 5 parts of Clashmore Mike’s study:

Blueprint for BCS Championship Success I: Introduction & Approach
Blueprint for BCS Championship Success II: Offensive Results
Blueprint for BCS Championship Success III: Defensive Results
Blueprint for BCS Championship Success IV: Outlining the Blueprint
Blueprint for BCS Championship Success V: Measuring the Irish

Now keep in mind here that the sample size isn’t huge. At most we are looking at 20 teams because the date Clashmore Mike uses only goes back to 2000. That’s OK. It’s not like college football statistics are obsessed about the way baseball fans obsess about baseball stats. Hopefully in the future we’ll have better data, but 10-years is enough given the changing nature of football. The conclusions will be solid, but I think with only 10-years worth of data that if some team ends up winning a national championship that falls outside of the parameters shouldn’t be considered a big deal.

Part I above deals with the metrics that were found reliable indicators. I’m not going to mess with how Clahsmore Mike came to these conclusions. Read the methodology if you like. I want to focus on conclusions only. Part IV gives us the skinny on where teams need to be. Here they are:

Miscellaneous Categories

Turnover Margin: Has to be at least +6; Has to rank at least 29th

Offensive Categories

3rd Down Efficiency: Has to be at least 43%
Yards Per Play: Has to be at least 5.8; Has to rank at least 28th
Yards Per Game: Has to be at least 403; Has to rank at least 31st
Points Per Game: Has to be at least 32.1; Has to rank at least 23rd
Rushing Attempts: Has to be at least 476; Has to rank at least 34th
Rushing Yards per Attempt: Has to be at least 4.3; Has to rank at least 32nd
Rushing Yards per Game: Has to be at least 177.4; Has to rank at least 33rd
Rushing TDs: Has to be at least 24; Has to rank at least 21st
Passing Yards Per Attempt: Has to be at least 7.9; Has to rank at least 24th
Passing TDs: Has to be at least 22; Has to rank at least 21st
Completion Percentage: Has to be at least 61%; Has to rank at least 30th
Pass Efficiency: Has to be at least 138.5; Has to rank at least 15th

A couple of interesting points here. If you read Part IV you’ll see that Clashmore Mike notes that BCS Championship team usually are split 60/40 in favor of the run over the pass. The interesting thing about the statistics is that Rushing Attempts do matter whereas Passing Attempts DO NOT! The kicker is that Rushing Attempts have to be 476. That basically means a team has to run the ball 34-37 times a game based on a 13-14 game season. If an offense runs the ball that often then he almost has to have a 60/40 rushing split assuming the offense is any kind of efficient. To a certain degree it implies that the run has to set up the pass.

As a corollary, I wonder what the average yard per carry on first down is among championship teams?

Defensive Categories

3rd Down Efficiency: Has to be 33% or lower
Yards Per Play: Has to be 4.5 or lower; Has to rank in the top-10
Yards Per Game: Has to be 303 or lower; has to rank in the top-10
Points Per Game: Has to be 16.4 or lower; has to rank in the top-8
Rushing Yards Per Attempt: Has to be 3.4 or lower; has to rank in the top-25
Rushing Yards Per Game: Has to be 109 or lower; has to rank in the top-23
Rushing TD: Has to be 9 or lower; has to rank in the top-10
Passing Yards per Attempt: Has to be 5.7 or lower; rank in the top-9
Passing Yards per Completion: Has to be 11.8 or lower; rank in the top-27
Passing Yards per Game: Has to be 200 or lower; rank in the top-30
Passing TD: Has to be 14 or lower; rank in the top-16
Completion Percentage: Has to be 50% or lower; rank in the top-19
Passer Efficiency: Has to be 101.3 or lower; rank in the top-9

Wow! Take a look at those rankings! If you ever wondered whether or not defense wins championships, the previous rankings should tell all you need to know!

Now The Big Question: Do you have to hit all the marks?

The simple answer is no. You don’t have to hit all of them, but I’d be willing to say you need to hit 75%-80% of them. Clashmore Mike sums it up best in Part IV:

These results ultimately lead to a question: Can a team win a title without performing at the levels outlined above? Yes, without one or two. But for teams that do not align with the majority of the items in this blueprint, winning the BCS national championship is certainly not a high-probability proposition.

A COUPLE OF REAL WORLD EXAMPLES

Last night we saw Ohio St. play Marshall & Miami-FL play Florida A&M. These are obviously games put on the schedule for the Buckeyes & Hurricanes to dominate, but how well did they do according to these specific metrics? It would seem reasonable to think both Ohio St. & Miami-FL would dominate the essential metrics against inferior competition if the are truly national championship contenders, as both teams believe they are. Keep in mind I’m using the raw totals and not rankings because all the games haven’t been played this week. Clearly the rankings are more important, but this is just for fun.

Turnover Margin: Ohio St. +3; Miami-FL 0 (Ohio St. makes it, Miami-FL doesn’t)
3rd Down Efficiency: Ohio St. 33%; Miami-FL 50% (Miami-FL makes it, Ohio St. doesn’t)
Yards Per Play: Ohio St. 7.8; Miami-FL 6.5 (Both make the cutoff)
Yards Per Game: Ohio St. 529; Miami-FL 405 (Both make the cutoff)
Points per Game: Ohio St. 45; Miami-FL 45 (Both make the cutoff)
Rushing Attempts: Ohio St. 41; Miami-FL 36 (Both make the cutoff)
Rushing YPC: Ohio St. 6.8; Miami-FL 4.3 (Both make it; Miami-FL just barely!)
Rushing Yards per Game: Ohio St. 280; Miami-FL 155 (Miami-FL misses the mark)
Rushing TDs: Ohio St. 2; Miami-FL 2 (Both make the cutoff)
Passing Yds per Attempt: Ohio St. 9.2; Miami-FL 9.6 (Both make the cutoff)
Passing TD: Ohio St. 3; Miami-FL 3 (Both make the cutoff)
Completion %: Ohio St. 66.7%; Miami-FL 73.1% (Both make the cutoff)
Passer Efficiency: Ohio St. 180.8; Miami-FL 184.2 (Both make the cutoff)

Those are the miscellaneous & offensive factors. Of the 13 totals categories, Ohio St. met 12 while Miami-FL met 11. Both teams certainly show signs of being BCS Championship quality. If we had to nitpick we might say Miami-FL is fairly borderline with their running attack. If the Hurricanes want to be BCS Championship worthy, they must have a better running attack going forward. Let’s look at the defensive metrics.

3rd Down Efficiency: Ohio St. 29%; Miami-FL 29% (Both make the cutoff)
Yards Per Play: Ohio St. 3.6; Miami-FL 2.2 (Both make the cutoff)
Yards Per Game: Ohio St. 199; Miami-FL 110 (Both make the cutoff)
Points Per Game: Ohio St. 7, Miami-FL 0 (Both make the cutoff)
Rushing YPC: Ohio St. 2.1, Miami-FL 1.3 (Both make the cutoff)
Rushing Yards per Game: Ohio St. 44; Miami-FL 52 (Both make the cutoff)
Rushing TD: Ohio St. 0; Miami-FL 0 (Both make the cutoff)
Passing Yds Per Attempt: Ohio St. 4.4; Miami-FL 5.3 (Both make the cutoff)
Passing Yds Per Completion: Ohio St. 8.6; Miami-FL 11.6 (Both make the cutoff)
Passing Yds Per Game: Ohio St. 155; Miami-FL 58 (Both make the cutoff)
Passing TD: Ohio St. 0, Miami-FL 0 (Both make the cutoff)
Completion Percentage: Ohio St. 51.4%; Miami-FL 45.5% (Ohio St. misses the cutoff)
Pass Efficiency: Ohio St. 82.9; Miami-FL 71.6 (Both make the cutoff)

The cutoff for completion % if you’ll remember is 50% and Ohio St. was at 51.4%. Miami-FL was a perfect 13/13 in defensive categories while Ohio St. was a near perfect 12/13.

Combining the metrics, both Ohio St. & Miami-FL hit 24 of the 26 criteria for being a BCS Championship team. Miami-FL could be a little weak in their running attack.

That is where we want to go with this! Both teams should expect to dominate these categories because they are playing inferior talent. When Ohio St. plays Iowa or Miami-FL plays Virginia Tech, the categories get a little murky because of the high level of competition. Because we see from the the metrics that Miami-FL struggled a bit to hit BCS Championship caliber marks in their rushing attack, we know to look for that particular facet of football the next time we watch Miami-FL.

Next week when the Hurricanes play Ohio St. in Columbus, their ability to run the football will tell us A TON about whether or not Miami-FL has a shot at beating the Buckeyes. If they run the ball against Ohio St. the way they ran the ball against Florida A&M, then I don’t think you can begin to argue that Miami-FL will win the game.

Doing teams like Miami-FL & Ohio St. are easy because they are so good. But let’s take a look at Indiana. The Hoosiers beat Towson St. last night 51-17 in a blowout opener in Bloomington. You’d think the Hoosiers would look incredible on the metrics for BCS Championship quality teams after hammering a FCS team that went 2-9 a season ago. But do they? Let’s see.

Turnover Margin: Indiana +3 (meets cutoff)
3rd Down Efficiency: Indiana 20% (doesn’t meet cutoff)
Yards Per Play: Indiana 6.4 (meets cutoff)
Yards Per Game: Indiana 360 (doesn’t meet cutoff)
Points per Game: Indiana 51 (meets cutoff)
Rushing Attempts: Indiana 26 (doesn’t meet cutoff)
Rushing YPC: Indiana 6.0 (meets cutoff)
Rushing Yards per Game: Indiana 155 (doesn’t meet cutoff)
Rushing TDs: Indiana 3 (meets cutoff)
Passing Yds per Attempt: Indiana 6.8 (doesn’t meet cutoff)
Passing TD: Indiana 2 (meets cutoff)
Completion %: Indiana 60% (doesn’t meet cutoff)
Passer Efficiency: Indiana 139.4 (meets cutoff)

Indiana is 7/13 here. This is a good example of HC Bill Lynch getting in the way. Indiana won this game in blowout fashion 51-17, but he’s letting a little bit of the hype cloud his point of view. Indiana missed their marks on rushing attempts & rushing yards per game. But notice it wasn’t because the Indiana rushers (notably Darius Willis) wasn’t getting the job done. It was because the Indiana rushers simply weren’t getting the ball. BCS Championship teams are running the ball 60% of the time. Last night against Towson, Indiana ran the ball 46% of the time. It’s almost role reversal. Matt Canada is the OC, but Lynch controls the gameplan and while the end result looks nice, it certainly shows that the Indiana offensive staff doesn’t get the simple ratio of run to pass required to win big.

The other bothersome point to all of this is that we KNOW quarterback Ben Chappell can pass. We also know that Indiana has a plethora of receivers who can catch. Demarlo Belcher showed us this last night even in the absence of Tandon Doss, but what Indiana HAS had trouble with in the past is their rushing attack. Last night the rushing attack was firing on all cylinders and yet Indiana didn’t go with it for the majority of the time. This will have other implications on the defensive side of the ball too as Indiana’s inability to use clock time by running the ball will result in downright awful defensive numbers. Let’s look.

3rd Down Efficiency: Indiana 25% (meets cutoff)
Yards Per Play: Indiana 5.1 (doesn’t meet cutoff)
Yards Per Game: Indiana 392 (doesn’t meet cutoff)
Points Per Game: Indiana 17 (doesn’t meet cutoff)
Rushing YPC: Indiana 5.4 (doesn’t meet cutoff)
Rushing Yards per Game: Indiana 227 (doesn’t meet cutoff)
Rushing TD: Indiana 0 (meets cutoff)
Passing Yds Per Attempt: Indiana 4.7 (meets cutoff)
Passing Yds Per Completion: Indiana 10.3 (meets cutoff)
Passing Yds Per Game: Indiana 165 (meets cutoff)
Passing TD: Indiana 2 (doesn’t meet cutoff)
Completion Percentage: Indiana 45.7% (meets cutoff)
Pass Efficiency: Indiana 87.0 (meets cutoff)

Indiana is once again 7/13 giving them a total of 14/26 against an FCS school that was 2-9 a year ago. Here is where you have to be scared if you are Indiana. The first is that IU got fairly lucky in getting 3 picks which led to scores. Being +3 in TO margin is sweet no matter how you slice it. That puts Indiana on pace to be +36 which would most likely make them a 9-3/10-2 team for crying out loud! The problem though is that despite those turnovers & the points the Hoosiers got from them, Towson was able to run the ball 55% of the time despite having to pass the ball to dig themselves out of a hole.

Towson ran the ball with ease against Indiana and still found a way to do so 55% of the time despite being blown out. Indiana had a big lead for the majority of the game & still the IU coaching staff failed to run the ball at least 50% of the time. If Towson QB Chris Hart doesn’t throw those 3 picks, Towson probably runs the ball 60%-61% of the time. They thus control the clock for the most part and they ran the ball down Indiana’s throat.

For Indiana to be any kind of decent they are going to have to keep Darius Willis healthy and they are going to have to run the ball 60% of the time. It makes the most sense. Sure Indiana can pass, but they need to realize that the threat of the pass has to be the key to opening up the running game. It CANNOT be the other way around. Indiana cannot be a pass first team. The problem of course is that it leaves the Indiana defense out on the field entirely too long. It’s nice to think Indiana can score 50+ppg, but that’s not going to happen in the Big 10. NO WAY.

SO WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THE THREE EXAMPLES?

1. OHIO ST – Nothing. They showed against Marshall why they are one of the best teams in college football. They could have been better on 3rd down conversions, but that’s it.

2. MIAMI (FL) – The only knock on Miami-FL is their running attack. It was close to not meeting BCS Championship criteria in a couple of categories which hurts their ability to beat big time teams in big time games. It’ll certainly be worth watching when they play Ohio St.. It could also be a factor when the play Virginia Tech & Florida St.

3. INDIANA – Nobody expects Indiana to measure up against BCS Championship teams, but the game against Towson gives us an idea of what we could expect. The first is that Indiana’s rush defense is really really bad. The 2nd is that it at least doesn’t appear that Indiana’s play callers understand percentage plays when it comes to running & passing the football. If Clashmore Mike’s study told us anything, it’s that BCS Championship quality teams run the football. Indiana seemingly wants to be a passing team first. That will not work.

Tons of thanks go out to Anthony Pilcher who wrote the Clashmore Mike series on BCS Championship Blueprints.

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September 3, 2010 - Posted by | BCS, Championships, Clashmore Mike, Indiana, Miami-FL, Ohio St

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