Sunday, December 21, 2014

Playoff Primer: Playoff Teams vs Currently Ranked Opponents (CRO)

Which of these 4 teams will win the College Football Playoff
January 1, 2015 will dawn the new era of the college football playoffs in Pasadena and New Orleans. After decades of whiffing on opinion champions, computer match-ups, and a mixed bag of BCS-BS we have now arrived with the long overdue playoff that pretty much 98% of College Football is happy with aside from a few hundred thousand people that live in the Lone Star State. Controversy is always going to be there whenever you have a "selection committee" vs on-field predetermined guidelines on qualification. Do I think the committee got it right? Not exactly, I would have put Baylor in the #4 seed instead of Ohio State but hard to argue considering how good the Buckeye's looked in the B1G Championship Game. You also have to consider the ambiguous stance the Big-12 had for their champion or lack thereof which sent a clear message that conferences need to define who their champion is. I found it ironic that the Big-12 was left out considering their attempt to put the committee in a quandary by sending Co-Champions forward instead of crowning Baylor Champion according to their tie breaking criteria identified at the beginning of the season. Anyway that water has flowed under the bridge and out to sea at this point so time to look forward at some very intriguing playoff match ups.

Alabama vs Ohio State: Arguably the two most respected coaches of our generation will face off in the Sugar Bowl on New Years Day.  So many big story lines here, so much history, so many championships between these two tradition-wealthy programs when you look at the pure entertainment value it's simply gold.

Story line: It's easy to start with the coaching match up as both have won multiple championships in the past decade. Ohio State will have an opportunity to show America that it can play with and beat the big boys from down south. The last few times that teams from the B1G have been on this stage it has not gone well for them. Alabama will be out to prove that the SEC is still the top dog in college football and the road to the championship goes through them while they attempt to launch Nick Saban into coaching immortality.

Games vs season ending Top 25 and other notable: 

Ohio State over #18 Wisconsin 59-0 and #8 Michigan State 49-37. Notable Loss to unranked Va Tech 21-35 at home (second game of season for a young team), however the two big wins were on the road (MSU) and at a neutral site (Wisc).

Alabama over #7 Miss St 25-20 (a game that never felt in jeopardy), #16 Missouri 42-13, #19 Auburn 55-44, #23 LSU 20-13 (a game that never felt in control), and a loss to #9 Ole Miss 17-23. Other notable game would be a 59-0 win against Texas A&M that finished 7-5 (though a less than stellar OOC schedule).

Statistical Measurement: How teams perform against teams ranked in the current polls are the metrics we focus on. We don't put much into wins over clearly outmatched competition because there are so many other factors that play into a teams performance in a game like that. It's not a perfect system however we feel looking at how teams perform against top competition only brings enough clarity to help someone to fill in the blanks for at least a semi-educated conclusion.

Yards Per Play (YPP) vs Currently Ranked Opponents (CRO)

Ohio State ranks #1 in Offensive YPP vs CRO. Though they have only played 2 teams that ended the regular season ranked in the top 25, averaging 9.15 ypp is a eye opening number and should be plenty to get the Tide's attention. Penn State is actually #1 in this metric which the Buckeye's defeated in OT earlier in the season. Looking deeper at how those teams are defensively, Wisconsin ranks #39 and Michigan State #58 in YPP vs CRO. Alabama ranks #9 in the country yielding 5.15 YPP. National offensive ranks of those CRO the Tide has played are highlighted by Ole Miss at #14, Auburn #16, Miss St #23.

Alabama ranks #20 offensively in YPP at 5.97 vs (5) CRO. Those defenses and their ranks are highlighted by Missouri #20 and Ole Miss #27 along with unranked West Va at #24. Ohio State defense ranks #7 in this metric yielding a meager 4.99 YPP vs CRO offenses Michigan State #18, and Wisconsin #27.

Scoring Points Per Game (PPG) vs CRO

Ohio State ranks #1 offensively in this metric averaging 54 PPG vs the scoring defenses of #49 Wisconsin (37 ppg) and #59 Michigan State (39 ppg). Alabama ranks #7 holding their five (5) CRO to an average of 22.6 points per game and those offenses ranked #25 WVU (28.5), #26 Auburn (28.3), and #33 Miss State (27.3).

Alabama ranks #14 offensively in this metric averaging 31.8 PPG vs the scoring defenses of #3 Ole Miss (18.4), #5 Arkansas (20.3), and #11 LSU (25.2). Ohio State ranks #4 allowing 18.5 points per game vs CRO offenses #17 Michigan State (30.3) and #31 Wisconsin (27.7).

Turnover Margin vs CRO

Ohio State ranks #8 at +1.0 per game and Alabama ranks #19 at +.40 per game.

Takeaways: Even though Ohio State has a clear statistical advantage that very well may be only a small portion of the story. One consideration of comparison is to ask if they swapped schedules how would each team have fared. I'm sure most opinions will depend on your allegiance and geographical location but we'll get into this next week when we do predictions. For now it looks to be a very competitive game for the most part and some very intriguing story lines.

Oregon vs Florida State: This could easily be the most exciting game of the post-season. Good vs Evil, Heisman 2014 vs Heisman 2013, and teams that are so similar yet so different.

Story line: It begins with the Quarterbacks both of which are projected to be first round draft picks in the NFL draft this year. Both posses a Heisman Trophy, both are their respective team leaders, each are dual threats running and passing but only one is a national champion. As similar as these quarterbacks are on the field, they are the polar opposite off the field and their public perceptions are only one small example. Not to be forgotten are both start freshman at running back, have underrated defenses, speed at every position, have struggled with their offensive lines, and have been injury struck this season. FSU turns the ball over much more often than Oregon which is also of intrigue.

Games vs Top 25 and other notable:  Florida State over #12 Ga Tech 37-35 in the ACC Championship Game, #17 Clemson (Without Jameis Winston) 23-17 in OT, and at Louisville 42-31.

Oregon over #8 Michigan State 46-27 at home, #10 Arizona 51-13 in the PAC-12 Championship Game, at #14 UCLA 42-30, at #22 Utah 51-27, and a home loss to #10 Arizona 24-31 in October.

Yards Per Play (YPP) vs CRO

On offense Florida State ranks #9 at 6.66 YPP vs CRO. The national ranks of those (CFP Top 25 Teams) defenses FSU faced are #13 Clemson,  #15 Louisville, and #34 Ga Tech. Interesting to look through the defensive ranks of the other teams FSU has played shows they've played a lot of good defensive teams at least statistically #5 Virginia, #16 Va Tech, #17 Syracuse, #19 Florida, #27 Boston College, #30 Wake Forest and #35 Miami but those teams are not included in this YPP metric since they are not ranked in the CFP Top 25. The Oregon defense ranks #25 yielding 5.58 YPP. The Oregon defensive metric was built against the offensive ranks #11 UCLA, #18 Michigan State, #51 Arizona (twice), and #62 Utah. Also note that Oregon played against other offenses #21 Cal, #31 WSU, #33 Stanford, and #45 Colorado but games against those teams are not included in the YPP metric since they are not ranked in the CFP Top 25. Interesting to note that statistically Utah at #62 was the poorest ranked offense Oregon defended all season.

Oregon ranks #10 offensively in YPP vs CRO at 6.63. The national ranks of those (CFP Top 25 Teams) defenses the Ducks faced are #8 UCLA, #26 Arizona (twice), #49 Utah, and #58 Michigan State. Other notable defenses Oregon played rank #6 Stanford, #22 Washington, #45 Oregon State, and #51 WSU. FSU ranks #52 yielding 6.27 YPP vs CRO. FSU has built that resume against the ranked offenses of #25 Ga Tech, #38 Louisville, and #88 Clemson. Also note FSU has faced other offenses #13 Miami and #30 BC but games against those teams are not included in the YPP metric since they are not ranked in the CFP Top 25.

Scoring Points Per Game (PPG) vs CRO

The Seminoles rank #12 scoring an average of 34.0 ppg vs CRO. Those opponents defensive scoring average vs CRO are #6 Ga Tech, #23 Clemson, and #35 Louisville. Also note that FSU also played against #16 BC, #19 Syracuse, and #25 UVA. Oregon ranks #13 in scoring defense vs CRO holding them to 25.6 ppg. The Ducks defense played scoring offenses #10 UCLA, #17 Michigan State, #34 Arizona (twice), and #52 Utah. Note that the Ducks also played #7 Cal and #23 WSU.

Oregon ranks #4 averaging 42.8 ppg vs CRO. Those opponents defensive scoring average vs CRO are #11 UCLA, #20 Arizona (twice), #33 Utah, and #58 Michigan State. Other noteworthy defenses Oregon played are #8 Stanford, #45 Oregon State, and #46 Washington. FSU ranks #21 allowing 27.7 ppg vs CRO. FSU has defended against the ranked offenses of #15 Ga Tech, #41 Louisville, and #77 Clemson. Other notable offenses FSU faced are #39 Notre Dame, #43 Florida, and #48 Miami.

Turnover Margin vs CRO

The Seminoles rank #44 and are -1 on the season. The Noles CRO rank #16 Louisville, #21 Ga Tech, and #26 Clemson. Other teams the Seminoles have played rank #21 Wake Forest (tied), #26 Syracuse and #42 UVA. Oregon ranks #3 and is +9 vs CRO #21 Arizona & Michigan State (tied), #25 UCLA, and #49 Utah. Other teams Oregon has played #16 Cal and #46 Oregon State.

Takeaways: The Rose Bowl is shaping up to be a very competitive game with no clear statistical advantage for either team. It could be argued that FSU played stronger defenses and Oregon against stronger offenses however both teams are NFL talent laden with play makers on both sides of the ball. Should be an excellent and entertaining prelude to the Championship Game.

It doesn't matter who you are or where you are from one thing is for certain, the new playoff system is a major upgrade for the College Football Postseason. My prediction is that when we are all gone from this earth that fans will look back on the years prior to 2014-2015 and laugh about how the champion was decided. Please enjoy this 2014-15 playoff because my fellow fans we are all witnessing a history that was created by the uproar due to systems that have failed us in the past. So no matter who wins on the field this inaugural playoff is a reward for fans and victory for the future of College Football!


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