The Oregon Ducks missed out on the Rose Bowl and the National Championship, but they will still be playing the Kansas State Wildcats in the Fiesta Bowl. It isn’t what the Ducks had in mind, especially given just how well this team performed overall this season. I am a huge stat geek, and my favorite statistic to evaluate teams in college sports in Sports Reference’s SRS (Simple Rating System). It isn’t the be-all, end-all of statistics (there is no such thing), but it is a great stat and one that presents some interesting findings about the Ducks 2012 season.
According to SRS, the Oregon Ducks were the best team in the 2012 college football season with a score of 23.84. The Alabama Crimson Tide was close behind with a score of 23.15, but no other team had a score of 20. Notre Dame finished third at 19.19, Kansas State fourth, and Florida fifth.
To be honest, I completely agree with that ranking based on what I saw this CFB season. Well, I do find it difficult to place the Ducks first, but the advanced stats are just another way of looking at. SRS takes into account strength of schedule, margin of victory, and rate statistics (yards per play for and allowed) and the overall rankings have more merit than the BCS rankings. In all honesty, I trust advanced metrics more than I do a computer with metrics that are unconfirmed and random opinions. I don’t actually have a beef with the BCS system and I feel like the best teams are playing in the NC, but I also love to dig into the numbers.
So let’s do a little more digging. The Ducks were the third best offense team in the nation per OSRS, behind Louisiana Tech and Baylor. On defense, Oregon ranked in the top 25 at 24 mostly due to a top 15 pass defense. Oregon’s run defense, on the other hand, was ranked outside the top 60. The rushing offense was second just behind Texas A&M, and the Ducks passing attack was just outside the top 25 in at 26th.
The advanced numbers do place the Oregon Ducks at the top of the tables (at least, SRS does), but they give an honest look at this team. The Ducks run defense could have stood to improve, and the passing attack wasn’t elite (it didn’t need to be, anyway, and 26th isn’t a bad place either). To me, the biggest flaw on this team was the lack of a kicker, and I think you can point to that as one of the reasons why this team isn’t playing in the National Championship. With a better kicking game, they probably would have defeated the Stanford Cardinal (8th in SRS, just in case you were wondering).
Losing by three points to a top ten team isn’t something to be ashamed of, especially since the Ducks still managed to be one of the best teams in the nation after losing stars like Darron Thomas and LaMichael James. And oh by the way, other key players in Carson York, Avery Patterson, and John Boyett sustained severe injuries during the year.
The Ducks were the best team in the league statistically, but they didn’t close off the game that mattered most. Alabama lost to a slightly better team in Texas A&M, and I think that’s why the Crimson Tide was ranked higher (I’m avoiding pointing to SEC bias). To be honest, I would have ranked Oregon above ‘Bama and tabbed the Ducks to win the NC (better advanced numbers, their loss was by a closer margin), but I can definitely see the logic in ranking Alabama over Oregon.
What I can’t see is the logic behind ranking Florida third over Oregon, because that makes little sense to me. The numbers paint the accurate picture of the Ducks being better this year. Don’t get me wrong, the Gators had a great season, but the only clear advantages they hold are a better strength of schedule and better defense. But in my mind, those two advantages are negated by the clear gap in class between Oregon’s vaunted offense and Florida’s offense that was ranked 50th per SRS.
The Football Outsiders advanced statistics FEI and S&P+ both have the Oregon Ducks in second, but behind two different teams. S&P+ has the Tide on top, while Oregon’s Fiesta Bowl opponents KSU lead in FEI.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.