With the BCS Championship Game set between Florida and Oklahoma, a lot of time and effort will go towards analyzing the two teams. Before we leave everyone else for third place or worse, I figured it would be fun to look at what historians call counterfactuals. You and I know them as “what ifs.”
Florida and Oklahoma are obvious inclusions, as is Texas since some voters out there still think the Longhorns should be No. 1. I went ahead and included USC as well because of how dominant their defense has been, and it’s hardly their fault that the Pac-10 stunk it up big time.
The methodology I used was the same as I used for the SEC title game last week. I looked at what effect each team had on its BCS conference opponents and used that against the other’s season averages to project yardage and points for the game. I am not going to make all the tables for all these matchups, but if you want to see some that illustrate the methodology, have a look at the prior post.
I do two projections for each game. One is using real numbers, meaning statements like “Florida holds its opponents to 12.48 points below their season averages,” and one is using percentages, meaning statements like “Florida holds its opponents to 52 percent below their season averages.” I should mention that I left TCU in Oklahoma’s calculations because the MWC is better that at least the Big East and the Frogs are in the top-15 of the polls.
For the time being, I give more credence to the real number projections because they did a better job at projecting the SEC title game. They had a 35-21 Gator win (actual was 31-20, which becomes 34-20 if UF doesn’t miss a field goal), and they had Florida outgaining Alabama 372 to 325 (actual was UF 358 and Bama 323). The percentages projected the yards slightly better but had the scores too low.
That is a sample size of one though, so I know that the percentages could end up being better in general.
First up is the actual BCS title game with Florida versus Oklahoma. The real numbers project a UF victory of 41-40, with the Sooners outgaining the Gators by a count of 481 to 440. The percentages predict a much more comfortable Gator win of 41-26, with Florida narrowly outgaining the Sooners 449 to 435.
If the Longhorn fans had their way, it would be Florida versus Texas. The real numbers project an instant classic Gator win of 36-35, with the Longhorns barely outgaining their foes 415 to 400. The percentages do the same thing in this game as with UF-OU, as they project a 32-20 Gator win with Florida outgaining Texas 406 to 359.
If we wanted to have an East Coast/West Coast game, we’d have Florida versus USC. The real numbers project a narrow Florida win of 28-24, with USC massively outgaining Florida 385 to 313. The percentages are not as kind to UF as they have USC winning a low-scoring 18-14 contest with the Trojans outgaining the Gators 364 to 275.
If the rematch had happened, we’d have Oklahoma versus Texas. The real numbers project the Sooners avenging their loss with a 42-37 win, having outgained the Longhorns 495 to 436. The percentages see these teams basically even in points with Texas winning 35-34, though the Sooners are projected to outgain Texas 471 to 431.
A replay of 2004 would give us a game with Oklahoma versus USC. The real numbers have Bob Stoops avenging his 2004 loss with a 35-33 win, though with USC outgaining OU 439 to 408. The percentages see the Trojans doubling up the Sooners 32-16, with the Men of Troy massively outgaining OU 439 to 322.
Finally, the matchup of the two on the outside looking in is Texas versus USC. The real numbers project a narrow Trojan win of 27-24, with USC outgaining Texas 399 to 310. The percentages don’t see it that close, with USC rolling the ‘Horns 25-12 and outgaining them 396 to 266.
Here are the results of this fictional tournament. The real numbers see Florida going 3-0, Oklahoma going 2-1, and Texas and USC each going 1-2. The percentages see USC going 3-0, Florida going 2-1, Texas going 1-2, and Oklahoma going a surprising 0-3.
The real numbers say the system got it right, while the percentages favor the Gators and Trojans. No matter, almost all of these hypothetical games are close. These are all good teams and choosing between them is basically a task of splitting hairs. An actual tournament wouldn’t definitively say which team is best of them, but it would at least give us a most deserving team.
If there’s another matchup of teams you’d like me to do, tell me in the comments and I’ll try to get around to it some time. I’ll do Utah if you want, since I think the MWC is as good as or better than the Big East and maybe the Pac-10, but the WAC is not, so sorry but no Boise State.