I've taken a step back & analyzed our football program. I made me feel very good and, I hope, it does the same for you.

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By Buck Weaver on 16:30:41 01/07/09

I'll admit that I was a little depressed after Monday's loss to Texas so I decided to do a little analysis of the nation's top football programs. Much of this information is "known" although it's good to corroborate with actual facts. However, there were a few surprises.

Being a Buckeye fan, I wanted to see how we stacked up against the top programs. If only this country had analysts & media who covered college sports full-time, this type of analysis might actually be performed. However, since that's sadly not the case, I decided I'd perform the analysis myself.

I selected USC, Texas, OSU, Florida, Oklahoma, LSU, Penn State and Georgia as the top programs. This selection was pretty arbitrary but I think is supportable. I also chose to analyze the last four seasons (2005-2008). Again, an arbitrary selection but it allows enough time to show consistency or performance and eliminate one-year anomalies.

I should also note that all information is prior to Oklahoma's impending loss to Florida in the BCS Championship Game.

A recap of each program's four-year record is listed below:

Four-Year Record Winning %:
USC 88.2%
Texas 86.5%
OSU 84.3%
Florida 82.7%
Oklahoma 79.2%
LSU 78.8%
Penn State 78.4%
Georgia 76.5%

One of the first things that I was interested in was Margin of Victory. In my definition, MOV equates to the number of wins greater than 7 points. This definition is partly due to laziness (I didn't want to crunch numbers on games won by a score of 63-21) but also reflects that it eliminates the "run up the score" approach followed by some coaches.

Wins > 7 points:
OSU 88.4%
USC 82.2%
Oklahoma 81.0%
Penn State 80.0%
Texas 77.8%
Florida 74.4%
Georgia 66.7%
LSU 65.9%

I must admit that this result was shocking to me. OSU has won 88% of its games in the last four years by more than 7 points which leads the statistics among top teams. It is also interesting to note that the top SEC programs are laggards on this statistic which might be indicative of the overall competitiveness of the SEC during this timeframe.

Much has been made in the media of OSU being blown-out in some games. Accordingly, I was interested in how often elite teams lost by more than 17 points.

Losses by > 17 points:
Oklahoma 4 36.4%
Texas 2 28.6%
Penn State 3 27.3%
LSU 3 27.3%
OSU 2 25.0%
Georgia 3 25.0%
Florida 1 11.1%
USC 0 0.0%

In fact, only two of OSU's losses were by more than 17 points. Unfortunately, these losses (Florida & USC) were on a national stage with national audiences watching. Thus, they are more memorable than big losses by other programs which tended to happen earlier in the season and against regional competition.

I was also intrigued with how these elite teams did within their conference.

Conference Losses:
LSU 100.0%
Florida 88.9%
Texas 85.7%
USC 83.3%
Georgia 83.3%
Penn State 81.8%
Oklahoma 63.6%
Ohio State 37.5%

I was a bit surprised by this data. OSU is the only elite program to have more losses from out-of-conference opponents. While many will surmise this outcome reflects the weakness within the Big Ten, Penn State's results suggest otherwise. In my opinion (and to be supported by the next table), OSU has faced some unbelievably challenging out-of-conference competition. Again, the other elite teams seem to lose their games in regional match-ups which equates to smaller audiences seeing the loss; thus, OSU suffers from a perception issue that doesn't trouble the other elite programs.

Finally, I was interested in the "quality of losses" which I defined as the cumulative season losses for each team that beat an elite team. I then created an index taking the "combined losses of victorious opponents" number and dividing by "number of losses".

Quality of losses index:
OSU 1.38
Oklahoma 2.64
Florida 3.00
Penn State 3.00
Georgia 3.33
LSU 3.55
Texas 4.14
USC 4.33

This statistic is pretty amazing. The combined losses of teams that beat OSU in the last four years is 11. The outcome (which we all knew intuitively) is that OSU has lost exclusively to some very high quality teams. Comparatively, USC has only one "high quality" loss (Texas) and five very low quality losses resulting in a poor index of 4.33.

We are indeed a very elite program. Our win percentage of 83% trails only two other programs. While we have lost some big games by large margins, we have only lost to either elite opponents or teams having exceptional years. Our program suffers from a poor national perception because we have lost on the biggest stages - not because we are losing by greater margins or more frequently. Further, with the exception of USC, I would challenge in other elite program to play the teams we did in this four-year stretch (Texas @ Austin, LSU @ New Orleans, USC @ LA, Florida in BCS Championship) and fare any better.

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