Over the past week or so, Coaching Search has thrown out a few of their routinely-interesting and completely random set of offseason charts outlining offensive and defensive performance.
For coaches who don’t have Brent/Saxon-level grasp of the mathematics and multivariate statistical models at play here, the recent returns at least give they, and you, a quick and dirty thumbnail of what it takes to win a conference title and at least be in the discussion for a national title.
First, here are there charts:
Here are our quick and dirty takeaways of the three, and what they mean in terms of championship-level play:
Only 10 teams have allowed fewer than 25 points per game for four straight years. You may recognize many of them as regular playoff participants — Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, with a Washington thrown in for good measure. Three of those have made it to multiple to playoff, and three have won a national title in that span. Of the list of 10, 80% of those teams won a conference title in that span.
As for scoring, 17 teams hit 30 points per game for four straight years. Of those 17, every College Football Playoff team has made it to postseason play: Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Ohio State, Washington; three made multiple playoff appearances (Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson) and all three won national titles. One of those has appeared in every College Football Playoff to date (Alabama.)
On the other hand, only two teams that have averaged more than 6.0 yards per play have made the playoffs — Ohio State (the only team to make both lists) and Oregon. In fairness, many did go on to win their conference: but were primarily midmajor squads. And the only one to sniff a national title was also a team that allowed fewer than 25 points per game over a four-year span.
The numerical takeaways here are the same as what your lying eyes tell you, and what conventional football wisdom has long told you:
- Conference title teams field very good offenses — consistently hitting 30 points per game will get you in the discussion for the playoffs, no matter if you’re grinding it out or mixing in explosive plays.
- The focus cannot solely be on explosive plays, however. Few teams that have averaged 6 yards per play have fielded a team that has gotten them in the playoff discussion. Only once did that team win a College Football Playoff championship. Still, an explosive offense is very often enough to win a midmajor title, the B12 or P12.
- A championship-winning team absolutely requires a consistently-elite defense. Holding teams under 25 points per game will usually win you a Power 5 conference, but it is an absolute necessity to win a national title in the era of playoff football.
Taken together, you can see how these play out on the field and in the standings. Wisconsin and LSU’s annually-fantastic defense have been offset by anemic offenses. Baylor’s explosive offense has given way to a terrible defense that, while good enough for a B12 title, never got them to the playoffs. But, in the SEC, Ole Miss’ explosive offense wasn’t even enough -- they can be in the discussion, but without defensive consistency, they can’t make it to Atlanta, much less the CFP. Boise State and Western Kentucky meanwhile, show that a high-scoring offense can win you titles in the G5 — indeed, it may be required to win you a title there.
In short, the CFP has had its intended effect: Only complete teams with outstanding offensive and defensive balance are good enough to run a 15-game gauntlet and walk away with the College Football Playoff trophy. It’s hard to argue with the results: 2014 Ohio State, 2015 Alabama, 2016 Clemson are all damned worthy champions and all had incredible balance.
Aside from generating massive amounts of revenue, the stated mission of determining the best in college football has been accomplished. The best, most balanced teams are winning.
There are surely more takeaways that can be gleaned from these charts and past performances. For our purposes, we really focused on the last three years and the CFP. Take a look at the lists and give us your thoughts.