Yesterday, we looked at 10 teams that needed statistical advantages in order to win games in 2013. Today, we’ll look at the teams whose seasons (and trends) cut in the opposite direction. These teams won in spite of the stats, not because of them:
10 – TROY
Last season, the Trojans were 2-4 in FBS games when they gained more first downs than their opponents. They were 3-2 when gaining fewer first downs. This pattern continued for the Alabama-based school in other statistical categories. Troy’s record when gaining more passing yards (2-4) was worse than its record when gaining fewer passing yards (3-2). The Trojans were also 3-3 in games with a negative turnover differential. Their record in FBS games in which they were even or better in turnover differential: 2-3, a slight decline.
9 – MIAMI (FLORIDA)
Last season, the Hurricanes played seven regular-season FBS games in which they gained fewer first downs than their opponents. They went 5-2 in those games.
8 – OKLAHOMA STATE
The Cowboys were unbeaten during the regular season in 2013 under three scenarios: When they gained fewer total yards than an opponent (3-0); when they gained fewer rushing yards (4-0); and when they gained fewer passing yards (4-0). Oklahoma State’s regular-season losses came in games when coach Mike Gundy’s team posted a statistical advantage in those three categories.
7 – FLORIDA ATLANTIC
The Owls were 4-2 last season when committing more penalties than the opposition. They were 2-4 when committing fewer penalties than their foes.
6 – WASHINGTON
The Huskies committed more penalties than their opponents in nine of 11 FBS games from the 2013 regular season. That didn’t stop them from winning (most of the time). Washington went 6-3 in those nine games. The Huskies split the two games in which they were even or lower on the penalty count.
5 – ARKANSAS STATE
The Red Wolves had a better record (4-2) in games when they were outpassed by an opponent, compared to when they racked up more passing yards in a game (2-3). Arkansas State, at least in terms of its win-loss record, was better when committing more penalties in games (4-3) as opposed to being even or lower (2-2). The Red Wolves were 1-0 when committing more turnovers, but 2-4 in games with an even turnover differential.
4 – OHIO STATE
In some respects, the Buckeyes depended on statistical advantages, especially in the realm of rushing yards. They outrushed opponents in all 12 FBS games from the past regular season. However, in other aspects of competition, Ohio State cut against the grain. Urban Meyer’s team went 8-1 when it was outpassed by an opponent; 5-1 when it committed more penalties; and 4-0 when it committed more turnovers. One wonders what Woody Hayes would have thought of those statistical realities. At any rate, Ohio State’s talent (and perhaps the lack of strength on its schedule) enabled this team to transcend numbers a year ago.
3 – MICHIGAN
The Wolverines were 3-0 when committing more turnovers last season, 3-5 when not (3-4 with a positive turnover differential, 0-1 with an even turnover differential). Phrased differently, Michigan won ugly, and since its offense wasn’t pretty, other teams could commit more turnovers than the Wolverines yet still gain ample chances to win, sometimes cashing them in.
2 – FRESNO STATE
The Bulldogs were another team that went 4-0 in 2013 when committing more turnovers than the opposition. Derek Carr and the rest of the offense were routinely able to compensate for mistakes.
1 – AUBURN
It makes sense that the Tigers would not be easy to categorize. Sure, this team — like Ohio State — consistently outrushed its opponents, winning one of football’s more important statistical battles. Auburn outrushed opponents in 10 of 12 FBS regular-season games. However, in several other ways, coach Gus Malzahn’s team defied the numbers. Auburn was 5-0 last season when gaining fewer first downs than an opponent; 8-1 when getting outpassed; 4-0 when committing more penalties; 4-1 when committing more turnovers; and 7-0 when losing the time-of-possession battle on a regular-season gameday.
To the very end in 2013, these Tigers were different kinds of cats.