Sunday, November 30, 2008

My Top 25 Uneasily Votes for Oklahoma

1Florida 1
2Oklahoma 1
3Texas 2
4Southern Cal 1
5Alabama 1
6Penn State --
7Texas Tech --
8Utah 1
9Ohio State 1
10Oklahoma State 1
11TCU 1
12Boise State 2
13Oregon 9
14Mississippi 4
15Cincinnati 4
16Iowa --
17Georgia Tech --
18California 2
19Boston College 4
20Ball State 1
21Georgia 8
22Pittsburgh 4
23Oregon State 8
24Missouri 10
25Michigan State --

Dropped Out: Florida State (#24).
I voted Oklahoma ahead of Texas after looking at three different criteria:

Oklahoma-Texas by the Numbers

Yards per play - Oklahoma 7.08, Texas 6.59
Yards allowed per play - Oklahoma 5.08, Texas 5.21
Per play differential - Oklahoma 2.0, Texas 1.38
Points scored per red zone trip - Oklahoma 6.30, Texas 5.86
Points allowed per red zone trip - Oklahoma 4.86, Texas 4.0
Red zone differential - Oklahoma 1.44, Texas 1.86
Turnover margin - Oklahoma +20, Texas +3

The numbers are close, but Oklahoma has an advantage. I'm a big believer in the yards per play differential stat as a measure of the strength of a team and Oklahoma has a significant advantage in this department. I was expected Oklahoma to do better on offensive yards per play; I was not expecting the Sooners to have a small edge on defense as well. Oklahoma's defensive number indicates to me that the wacky numbers that their defense has allowed are a function of Oklahoma playing at a fast pace and scoring quickly. Oklahoma's opponents have run 5.5 more plays per game than those of Texas. Oklahoma's per-play differential compares favorably with the other top teams in the country:

USC - 3.29
Florida - 3.02
Penn State - 2.38
Oklahoma - 2.0
Texas Tech - 1.63
Alabama - 1.61
Texas - 1.38

(Incidentally, Utah is at 1.06 despite having played a relatively weak schedule. I won't lose any sleep about the Utes not getting to play for the title. The 2004 Utes were at 1.86.)

Texas is at the bottom of the group, although it must be said that the Horns have played a significantly tougher schedule than Penn State or Alabama. There are also two points that should be made about Texas relative to Oklahoma. First, the Horns have been much better at red zone defense, which ameliorates the gap in yards per play a little. Second, Oklahoma has been dreadful at covering kickoffs, so Texas has a slight special teams advantage. That said, those two points are not enough to trump Oklahoma's healthy advantage in the most basic test for a football team: yards per play.

Oklahoma's superior turnover margin is the icing on the cake. Even if Texas's defense were better in terms of yardage (which it is not), Oklahoma has forced 29 turnovers (6th in the country) and Texas has forced 16 (98th in the country).

Oklahoma-Texas against Common Opponents

Dropping the results against Texas A&M and Baylor (the weaklings of the Big XII South), we can look at the Horns' and Sooners' results against Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech. Oklahoma beat all three opponents by double digits and, if I recall correctly, almost never trailed in those games. Texas lost to Texas Tech (and one can just as easily point out that the Horns trailed for almost the entire game as one can point out that they led late and were a dropped interception from winning), won narrowly against Oklahoma State, and blew Kansas out. Yes, Texas beat Oklahoma, but Texas was a little more impressive in its games against the other top teams in the division.

Oklahoma-Texas according to Sagarin

Sagarin Predictor - Oklahoma 95.50, Texas 95.32
Sagarin BCS Formula - Oklahoma 93.94, Texas 93.50

Regardless of whether you use Sagarin's superior measure that accounts for margin of victory or his bastardized version that does not, Oklahoma comes out slightly ahead of Texas, which is consistent with my perception of the teams when I sat down to do my rankings.

Two Final Points

1. The difference between the teams is small. By no means do I think that voters would be irrational to put the Horns ahead of the Sooners. A neutral-site win does matter, even if I'm more persuaded by Oklahoma's dominance over a better schedule. While I hate the idea of head-to-head results being accorded status as a bright-line test between two teams, it ought to be accorded status as a plus factor like race in admissions. Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003). The fact that voters are forced to split hairs between two very similar teams is an indictment of the current system.

2. Oklahoma getting the nod over Texas is not a total victory for the Sooners. Oklahoma gets the right to play Missouri in Kansas City, which is no gimme because of locale and the Missouri offense. If Oklahoma wins, then they play the SEC Champion in Miami. If they lose, then Texas gets the honor. In other words, Oklahoma has only won the right to try to jump another hurdle. Ask Phil Fulmer how that worked out for his 2001 Vols. Hell, Bob Stoops can look across the field on Saturday night to ask Gary Pinkel if he would have preferred not to have played that 13th game last year.

1 comment:

Business Horse said...

I know, I know, anything can happen.

But I can't see OU losing to Missouri, even if they played in Chase Daniel's dorm room. I just can't see it.