What do you look for in your National Championship contender? Is it a veteran QB? Is it an elite defense? What is it about a team that leads you to believe they can go undefeated and play for all the marbles?
For me, I look for patterns in things. While I understand that past performance doesn’t indicate future success, I think there is something to be said for trends. When it comes to National Champions, one thing I look for is teams who have “big game pedigree”. More specifically, almost everyone who has won the national championship in the BCS era has recently played in a BCS game within the previous two seasons. Here’s what I mean:
|Year||Champion||Coach||HC Year||BCS within
previous 2 years
|1998||Tennessee||Fullmer||7||yes (1997 and 1996)|
|1999||Florida St||Bowden||24||yes (1998 and 1997)|
|2001||Miami FL||Coker||1||yes (2000)|
|2004||USC||Carroll||4||yes (2003 and 2002)|
Of the 15 national champions of the BCS era, 11 have played in a BCS game within the previous two seasons of their title run. In short, they know what it takes to reach that level and their veteran leadership knows what it takes to get back.
Speaking of leadership, notice the coaching experience of the teams who the championship. It’s interesting to see that of the 4 teams who didn’t have recent BCS success, all had second year coaches. Let’s explore that for a second. If you think about it, when a new coach gets hired everyone gets excited. There’s a new burst of energy. Every position is up for grabs. Teams are hungry again. In certain instances, it seems possible that the new-coach energy can continue through year two and, in the case of four teams, carry them to a national championship. Let’s see if we can find any more trends in addition to the BCS history and/or the 2nd year coach.
|Year||Champion||Previous Season Bowl||Starting QB Age onDec 31 of Season|
|1998||Tennessee||yes (orange) Jan2||20.4|
|1999||Florida St||yes (fiesta) Jan4||27.4|
|2000||Oklahoma||yes (independence) dec31||22.8|
|2001||Miami FL||yes (sugar) Jan2||20.7|
|2002||Ohio St||yes (outback) Jan1||21.5|
|2003||LSU||yes (cotton) Jan1||24.9|
|2004||USC||yes (rose) Jan1||21.8|
|2005||Texas||yes (rose) Jan1||22.6|
|2006||Florida||yes (outback) Jan 2||21.7|
|2007||LSU||yes (sugar) Jan3||22.5|
|2008||Florida||yes (capital one) Jan1||21.4|
|2009||Alabama||yes (sugar) Jan2||21.6|
|2010||Auburn||yes (outback) Jan1||21.6|
|2011||Alabama||yes (capital one) Jan1||21.3|
|2012||Alabama||yes (bcs champ) Jan9||22.3|
Every team that has won the National Championship of the BCS era played in a bowl game on December 31st or later in the previous season. This takes things one step further than just the BCS pedigree. It indicates that there has been sustained success.
Additionally, notice the QB ages as of that bowl game date. As you have seen at RotoViz, I believe that quarterback age matters for prospect development. In this case, it matters for national championship projections too. 13 of 15 champion QBs have been older than 21, including the last 11 winners. After they won the championship, they were legally able to drink the champagne.
Looking ahead to the 2013 season, there appear to be two recipes for playing for a national championship. First and foremost, everyone has been from a BCS conference. From there, two “tracks” exist that seem to be qualifiers for teams to make a title run.
Track #1) Played in a BCS bowl game within last two seasons > Played in bowl game later than Dec. 31 in the previous season > Had a starting QB who will be 21 years old on Dec. 31 of the upcoming season.
Let’s meet the teams who pass those criteria for the 2013 college football season and should be on our National Champion watch list:
Track #2) Second year head coach > Played in bowl game later than Dec. 31 in the previous season > Had a starting QB who will be 21 years old on Dec. 31 of the upcoming season.
Ohio State–Note that Ohio State didn’t play in a 2012-13 bowl game because of NCAA sanctions. I was tempted to omit them, except for the fact that they WOULD HAVE played in the BCS championship game. Plus their coach is Urban Meyer, so I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.
Just as important as who meets those criteria, it’s important to note who DOESN’T pass the test. Amazingly, 13 of the preseason top 25 are “eliminated” right off the bat. Sorry about your luck:
Using the system, we’ve narrowed 124 college football teams down to 14 teams who are in prime position to win the National Championship. From here, feel free to apply whatever criteria you want to pick your winner. I like to look at close wins/losses from last season, turnover margins, and returning defensive talent. Oh, and I might like to look at Vegas’ odds too, just in case anything catches my interest.
Being the gambling man that I am, I have landed on LSU (12-1) and Oklahoma State (30-1) as two teams that I think can make a run. Consequently, I’ve put a few dollars on both just to see what happens. A younger me would have put money on Ole Miss at 100-1 or whatever it is now, but I backed away from that ledge begrudgingly.
In 2009, this led me to winning some money off a friend when I picked Alabama over the Tebow led Gators to win the SEC and National Championship. Again in 2010, I won $400 after picking Auburn at 40-1 preseason. Last year, Florida came within a Jordan Reed-fumble of putting my 50-1 Florida ticket into the SEC title game and possibly the National Championship game.
I’m not saying that you should make these same plays. Instead, I’m just putting myself on record so that we can revisit this conversation throughout the season.