For those of you who’ve read either of the first two weeks of the College Football Champion Index™, you know that a section is specifically dedicated to the Arkansas Razorbacks. This week, more general coverage of the Top 10 is further below. [Having put out four posts this week, regretfully this is not totally finished, but I won’t realistically have time to do so. Nonetheless, there are still a few points to be made. I’ll do better next week. ]
Arkansas vs. Alabama through the CFCI Lens
The short explanation of the College Football Champion Index™ is that the CFCI comes from studying the statistical performances of BCS Champions over the last 11 years and determining the categories which separate the best in college football from the rest. Although it’s in its infancy and may be tweaked, applying the same method to the 2008, 2009, and 2010 seasons found that the CFCI chose all of the Top 15 from the Final AP Top 25 Poll and consistently selected 20 or 21 of the Final AP Top 25 and the Final USA Today Top 25 Polls. What may be unique is that the CFCI in its current version makes these assessments without considering strength of schedule (SoS may still be added if other ways cannot be found to refine the CFCI further). It’s expected to be more accurate later in the season. The Performance Index is just that while the Elimination Index factors in losses to eliminate a team from BCS Championship contention. However, even at this point in the season, if a team is not performing up to Champion standards, it’s very difficult to predict that the team will do so in its conference schedule.
After the first three weeks, Alabama has played what most consider to be a more difficult schedule by virtue of playing Penn State. Alabama ranks 13th in the Performance Index with a 0.916 rating over Arkansas which ranks 16th with a rating of 0.905 out of a possible 1.000. For the Elimination Index the teams rank 10th and 12th respectively after considering that two teams with higher performance ratings have suffered losses.
In terms of first downs, Arkansas and Alabama both meet or exceed the BCS Champion’s stats at this stage while on the other side of the ball the Crimson Tide permits only 6 points per game, and the Hogs are keeping opponents to just under 13 points. Both are within Champion standards. As a part of Total Defense both teams rack up the points in Rushing Defense, but when it comes to Pass Defense, the Razorbacks are allowing almost twice as many yards through the air than the Tide (214 v. 114). Nonetheless, for the CFCI the Hogs almost meet the College Football Champion standard so the separation between the two schools is minimal.
When the teams are compared for Scoring Offense, as might be expected, the Razorbacks more than exceed the standard while the Tide just meets it. Alabama’s biggest deficiency rests with Passing Efficiency Offense. At 122, the Tide QBs have managed a pretty poor rating which is well below the Champion Index standard. The Hogs more than meet the Passing Efficiency Standard. Both teams are at -1 or more in Turnover Margin leaving each with about half the points allotted for that category. With Alabama and Arkansas having only 4 and 3 Sacks each for the Season, both are well below the CFCI standard and earn about the same points. Interestingly, Alabama does not meet the standard for 3rd Down Conversion percentage where the Arkansas exceeds it. As part of Total Offense, it is easily within expectations that Arkansas does not quite meet the Rushing standard and exceeds the Passing standard while Alabama flip flops the same.
In three short weeks, the CFCI is very much hit-and-miss when it comes to predicting games and really wasn’t designed for that purpose. The Index is more to track teams’ movements to the BCS National Championship and might end up proving (on an outside chance) that when viewed in the correct way, strength of schedule doesn’t matter. However, when LSU played Mississippi State, the difference in the two ratings was .135 or on a 100 point scale, 13.5. LSU won by 13. It was probably a coincidence. At the same time, the CFCI showed Auburn to be a substantially better team than Clemson, but the South Carolina Tigers took that victory in convincing fashion. Applying the same standards which are indicative of BCS Champions to each team, thus far Alabama only shows to be slightly better, but it’s difficult to say that a team is “weak” in an area because it barely misses a BCS Champion standard. That’s where every team wants to be.
Out of all of the numbers, the most likely place to look for a weakness in Alabama is in the lowest ranking of the bunch, but even then the analysis requires some understanding. Alabama ranks 76th in in the country in Passing Efficiency understanding that the Tide have played A.J. McCarron AND Phillip Sims. Sims’ passing efficiency rating against Kent State was an atrocious 65 while A.J. McCarron clocked in at 140. It was a similar story against North Texas where McCarron had a very good rating of 147 and Sims had a passable 127 rating. At least in these two games, A.J. (Apple Jack?) showed he could manage the passing game to get close to the BCS Champion standard. A 144 rating would have the Tide rank between 40th-45th in the country where the BCS average rank is 45th. However, in the game everyone looks to in order to determine Alabama’s superiority, i.e. the Penn St. game, McCarron and Alabama turned in a 116 rating where he was the only QB to play for the Tide. To put his overall performance passing the ball into perspective, the numbers behind the CFCI can do just that. For McCarron’s play alone his average passing efficiency rating is 134 points. If you look at Evaluating the Hogs’ Chances for a BCS Championship you’ll see that no BCS Champion for the last 11 years has had a season Offensive Pass Efficiency rating of less than 133.
Consider this against Penn State:
Alabama Passing against Penn State
|Pass Play||Drive||Pass Result||Yards|
Try Sorting by Yards
It fits with what I’ve seen on the field from A. J. McCarron. Last season against Auburn late in the game, McCarron looked pitiful. At times this season against Kent St. and North Texas he’s connected on longer throws 30 to 40 yards down the field.
If there’s a way the Hogs can stop the Tide. It’s here.
College Football Champion Index™ Week 3
|Performance Rank||Performance||CFCI Index Wk. 3||Elimination||Elimination Rank|
|31||0.864||San Diego St.||0.864||21|
|45||0.833||North Carolina St.||0.555||53|
|97||0.662||New Mexico St.||0.331||99|
|117||0.516||San Jose St.||0.206||117|
Sort as you like.
“What have you done for me lately?” might be the theme of this Week’s College Football Champion Index’s unforgiving results. Without a strength of schedule component (although we’re leaving the option open for the latter part of the season), last week’s team which best feasted on cupcakes dropped fast, hard and far in one week.
Bowling Green can say it was fun while it lasted. Dropping 18 spots in performance and 37 in elimination, the Falcons can look forward to next year. Stepping up to replace them, Ohio University feasted for another week on Marshall. If they do well against Rutgers next week, they may roll for a few weeks afterward and force a strength of schedule evaluation. …continued below
At No. 2 vaulting all the way from No. 16 last week is Va Tech. The Hokies feasted on the Arkansas State Red Wolves 26-7 last Saturday, while through 3 weeks, they post single digit NCAA rankings in the defensive categories which count the most. With Marshall coming up next week, Va Tech looks to go back to the table for seconds before having to contend with Clemson and the U in the following weeks.
Although challenged by Arizona St., this is a cumulative season ranking system and Illinois’ increase, despite only a 17-14 win, is attributed to feeding off excess stats from the first few games of the season. Slips by the Illini or any other team after “the fat” is gone won’t be soft landings. On October 15, 2011, Illinois will have the opportunity to prove it’s worthy when it faces Ohio St.
College Football Championship Index Prior Weeks