Who Will Win The 2013 BCS National Championship?

Image via Oakley Foxtrot/Flickr
Image via Oakley Foxtrot/Flickr

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)
2000 Oklahoma Stoops 2 no
2001 Miami FL Coker 1 yes (2000)
2002 Ohio St Tressel 2 no
2003 LSU Saban 4 yes (2001)
2004 USC Carroll 4 yes (2003 and 2002)
2005 Texas Brown 8 yes (2004)
2006 Florida Meyer 2 no
2007 LSU Miles 3 yes (2006)
2008 Florida Meyer 4 yes (2006)
2009 Alabama Saban 3 yes (2008)
2010 Auburn Chizik 2 no
2011 Alabama Saban 5 yes (2009)
2012 Alabama Saban 6 yes (2011)

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:

Alabama

Stanford

Clemson

Louisville

Florida

LSU

Oklahoma State

Notre Dame

Michigan

Wisconsin

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.

Texas A&M

Ole Miss

Pitt

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:

Oregon

Georgia

South Carolina

Florida State

Texas

Oklahoma

Nebraska

Boise

TCU

UCLA

Northwestern

USC

Oregon State

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.

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