The main factor focused on is the relative strength of each top 10 squad's opposition in the two above yardage numbers. For illustrative purposes, if Miami gained 600 yards of offense against an opponent allowing twice the NCAA average, for that game the ‘Canes would deliver an adjusted yard total of 300. Conversely, squaring off against a great defense that allows only half the NCAA average would make a 300 yard offensive performance the equivalent of 600 yards. This adjustment formula tends to make all teams' schedules equal and middle of the road in difficulty, at least in theory.
An additional step is eliminating all games against I-AA competition (with one exception), not only involving the top 10 teams (BCS or AP), but also their opponents' opposition as well. It matters little when Virginia Tech defeats an Eastern Illinois Central State A&M, even if the Hokies win 100-0. Only when a I-AA squad defeats the supposedly superior I-A counterpart do I count the results. (This rarely happens, though has a few times this season, and shows in the strength of a top 10 squad's competition.) I believe a I-A squad should be punished for losing to such a foe, but not rewarded for winning. The BCS formula creators feel the same way, though they even penalize the I-A team further than necessary in my opinion. Many of us rarely agree with the BCS on much of anything though, so even some common ground is refreshing. [More on the BCS in a later column.]
Offense (Yards per game):
Analysis: Miami clearly possesses a potent offense, leading both in terms of actual and adjusted yards per game. The latter, in fact, soars to 515.9 ypg. Again, this factors in the defenses being faced, so the ‘Canes have obviously met several solid defensive units.
One wonders how Notre Dame has managed such a sterling win-loss record, but before losing to Boston College last week, the Irish had doubled their opposition in takeaways, by a 24 to 12 margin, and scored five touchdowns from those as well. Such fortune ran out versus the visiting Eagles, though, as Tyrone Willingham's green-clad surprise squad gave away five turnovers and predictably lost as a result.
Texas, despite ever improving, ranks third from the bottom when opposing defensive adjustments are made. Note, however, facing stop units like OU's and K-State's has more than compensated for a North Carolina, Tulane, or Houston, as UT's adjusted figure elevates to nearly 400 total yards per game.
Washington State (434.9 actual, 439.9 adjusted) displayed its high-octane offense when it rolled up 516 yards against a strong USC defense.
Speaking of the Trojans and the Pac-10, despite the stereotype of the conference playing soft defense, USC's adjusted figure rose the second most of all (42.9 yards), so the Trojans must be facing at least some stout defensive units. Non-conference games against Auburn and Kansas State certainly also contributed to the increase.
Defense (Yards per game):
Analysis: The fact that Oklahoma places No. 1 in total defense, both in actual and adjusted yards allowed likely surprises no one. The Sooners' adjusted figure, due to facing a group that includes a few potent offenses, convincingly outpaces the competition. Notre Dame gains considerable ground after noting its offensive deficiencies above, turning in the third and second-best defensive numbers of the top ten. Texas stands firm defensively, ranking just behind OU in actual yards allowed, and still yielding just 288.4 adjusted yards per game.
Now for the total yardage differential:
Offense gained minus Defense allowed (Yards per game):
Analysis: Texas parallels its No. 4 ranking in the polls and the BCS with actual and adjusted yardage differentials of the same stature. Miami leads all in the top 10 by outgaining its opposition by 180 yards per contest. That number grows when factoring the opposition into account (201.6 ypg). Judging by owning the highest difference between actual and adjusted (improvement of 59.6 ypg), USC appears to have played among the toughest schedules of the group.
Ohio State, currently rated No. 2 in the BCS, has benefited from a comparatively easy group of opponents, as its adjusted figures are slightly lower than the actual.
Generally, as expected, the top teams in terms of outgaining their opponents also reside in the loftiest positions in the ratings and polls. The exception, both in actual and adjusted numbers, is above-mentioned USC. The Trojans are the only top 10 team to have garnered two defeats. However, both involved close road contests against excellent squads in Washington State and Kansas State. One victory among those two would have placed them right in the hunt for the national title. Even so, Pete Carroll, in just his second year, has again pointed the once-powerhouse USC program on the right path.
Total yards, both offensively and defensively, only tell part–though a significant part–of the story. A further breakdown of the schedules of these top programs into BCS and non-BCS conference opposition will further enhance the validity of these adjusted figures. Still, it always enlightens to delve deeper into the statistics to glean more meaning from them.
Bert Hancock has owned two college football-related web sites and was designated "Lead Writer" of one of the first independent web sites dedicated strictly to UT sports. At the University of Texas, where he received a Bachelor of Business degree, his area of specialty was in statistics and probabilities. His "Strength In Numbers" column appears weekly on InsideTexas.com.