WhatIfSports: Ohio State is #1

The Ohio State Buckeyes are the best college football team in the country and the Big East is much better than you think.

Now this is not to say that LSU and the rest of the SEC are weak. Nor does this mean that teams like Boston College, Arizona State and Oregon have absolutely no chance at winning a national championship. But, according to analysis done by award-winning sports simulation website WhatIfSports.com, Ohio State is the prohibitive favorite for the BCS title.

WhatIfSports utilized its free SimMatchup technology to "play" games between the Buckeyes and five of the better teams behind them in the BCS standings. Each game was simulated 1,000 times and scores were tracked to find the likely outcomes of the matchups.

The website has been doing this for every college football game since the bowls last season. To date, WhatIfSports has correctly predicted the winners of 77.4% of those games by "playing" them over and over again. The simulation engine considers every relevant and available team and individual statistic in order to account for all of the interactions that occur within each game. The data used is entirely based on stats from this season that are adjusted by strength of schedule.

Ohio State, the top-ranked team in the BCS, played 1,000 games against #2 Boston College, #3 LSU, #4 Arizona State, #5 Oregon and #7 West Virginia (more on why later) – fortunately, fatigue is not a factor. The Buckeyes won each matchup pretty convincingly.

As you can see from the results below that include what percentage of games each team wins, how many of those were blowouts, how many of those were close and the highest and lowest point totals out of all 1,000 games, despite its ranking, Boston College appears to be the easiest opponent of the five teams. BC may have the second best rush defense in the nation, but the pass defense is not spectacular and its offense is very average. The Eagles rank 62nd in the country in both yards per pass attempt and yards per rush.

Interestingly, the trend is similar at the opposite extreme. The worst ranked team of the five, West Virginia, gives Ohio State its toughest test. Everyone knows about the Moutaineers' seventh ranked scoring offense and top ranked rushing attack (by yards per rush), but the defense is even better, giving up just 14.9 points a game and 2.85 yards per rush.

Theoretically, this is the absolute best approach to use when trying to answer the question, "Would (insert-undefeated-local-team-I-have-loved-since-birth-but-plays-a-weak-non-conference-schedule here) beat (insert one-loss-team-in-a-more-powerful-conference here)?" Your answer may always be, "YES!", while WhatIfSports.com's answer would be something more along the lines of how likely it is to happen. As long as no team defeats another team 1,000 out of 1,000 times in the sim; and, as long as games are not actually played 1,000 times in real-life, there will never be absolute certainty with an exercise of this nature. But because it looks at every minute statistical detail of the game and completely removes human opinion or bias, WhatIfSports gets closer than anything else could to knowing the answers to these questions.

What does this mean? This means that if WhatIfSports.com can simulate every possible matchup in "DI-A" 100 times, as it has done, it can use the winning percentages from those 700,000+ games to deterministically (without any human bias) evaluate all teams to come up with the best possible ranking of how well teams have played this season. Following the results of the games with Ohio State, the Top 60 college football teams in the country are ranked using this approach.

OSU remains the best team, with the aforementioned West Virginia Moutaineers at #2, SEC favorites LSU at #3, the undefeated and underrated Kansas Jayhawks at #4 and their Big 12 counterparts Oklahoma at #5. There are three Big East teams in the top ten, which is more than any other conference. And, even though, it is undefeated on the year, Hawaii barely wins more than half of its games, just making this list in the 53rd spot.

The Moutaineers are just a fluky Friday game with a banged up quarterback away from being in the forefront of the national championship picture. According to WhatIfSports.com, they should still be there.

Results from 1,000 Ohio State Games

Win Pct - Overall

Average Score

Wins by > 14

Wins by < 4

Highest Score

Lowest Score

#1 Ohio State

81%

26

413

47

55

6

#2 Boston College

19%

12

27

125

31

0

Win Pct - Overall

Average Score

Wins by > 14

Wins by < 4

Highest Score

Lowest Score

#1 Ohio State

59%

22

191

259

44

6

#3 LSU

41%

19

63

217

35

3

Win Pct - Overall

Average Score

Wins by > 14

Wins by < 4

Highest Score

Lowest Score

#1 Ohio State

72%

26

241

186

49

9

#4 Arizona State

28%

18

69

149

37

3

Win Pct - Overall

Average Score

Wins by > 14

Wins by < 4

Highest Score

Lowest Score

#1 Ohio State

64%

33

204

234

42

7

#5 Oregon

36%

27

78

178

40

6

Win Pct - Overall

Average Score

Wins by > 14

Wins by < 4

Highest Score

Lowest Score

#1 Ohio State

55%

34

134

314

47

7

#7 West Virginia

45%

30

98

234

49

7

Top 60 Teams Ranked by Winning Percentage (everyone plays everyone 100 times)

Rank

Team

Win Pct

1

Ohio State

97.6%

2

West Virginia

96.2%

3

LSU

95.9%

4

Kansas

93.0%

5

Oklahoma

92.6%

6

Oregon

90.3%

7

Arizona State

89.1%

8

Florida

88.1%

9

Rutgers

86.2%

10

South Florida

83.5%

11

California

82.5%

12

Auburn

81.3%

13

Clemson

80.6%

14

Boston College

80.3%

15

Penn State

79.9%

16

Kansas State

79.2%

17

USC

79.2%

18

Michigan

79.2%

19

Oklahoma State

78.0%

20

Texas

76.3%

21

Connecticut

75.7%

22

Kentucky

75.5%

23

Boise State

74.5%

24

Virginia Tech

74.4%

25

Georgia Tech

74.2%

26

Georgia

73.5%

27

UCLA

72.7%

28

Arkansas

71.1%

29

Missouri

69.5%

30

Florida State

69.4%

31

Oregon State

69.1%

32

Louisville

69.0%

33

Air Force

68.5%

34

Cincinnati

67.7%

35

South Carolina

66.6%

36

Michigan State

66.1%

37

Miami (FL)

65.4%

38

Wisconsin

64.6%

39

Wake Forest

64.0%

40

Brigham Young

63.7%

41

Houston

61.5%

42

Utah

60.9%

43

Tennessee

60.9%

44

Alabama

60.6%

45

Navy

58.8%

46

Nevada

58.6%

47

Purdue

58.3%

48

Illinois

58.0%

49

North Carolina

58.0%

50

Pittsburgh

56.9%

51

New Mexico

55.5%

52

Fresno State

54.4%

53

Hawaii

54.1%

54

Maryland

53.8%

55

Texas A&M

53.8%

56

Vanderbilt

53.3%

57

Texas Tech

52.8%

58

Tulsa

52.5%

59

UCF

50.8%

60

Colorado

50.7%