NOW INTO COURT, through undersigned blogger, comes The University of Notre Dame (hereinafter “ND,” “The Irish,” “The Fighting Irish” or “Notre Dame”) to move this Honorable Court for Judgment declaring that it be ranked Number One in the Bowl Championship Series (hereinafter “BCS”). Petitioner does not seek for Judgment declaring that it is “the best” team in college football but, rather, that the objective data supports only one premise: the Irish are Number One. In the alternative, and only in the event that this Court finds the Irish have not met their burden of proof, Notre Dame prays that this Court order the immediate scrapping of the BCS and that it be replaced by a giant hopper of ping pong balls.
Notre Dame’s case is premised upon the strength and quality of its schedule, its defensive prowess and a head-to-head comparison to the teams currently ranked first (Oregon), second (Kansas State) and, where appropriate, fourth (Alabama). The comparison to Alabama is admittedly flawed, as Notre Dame is undefeated and Alabama is not, having suffered its first, soul- crushing loss on Saturday. Still, Alabama is offered to provide context and contrast. Compared to its peers, the Fighting Irish are clearly the Number One Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team in the country.
The undersigned has already explained his personal thoughts on ND’s 2012 schedule. So, it bears noting in week eleven that the Irish have thus far turned the table to their advantage and run off an impressive ten (10) wins in a row. To date, ND has played, and defeated four teams in the Top 25: #10 (MSU), #18 (UM), #17 (Stanford), #8 (OK) and will play #18 (USC). The average ranking of ND’s Top 25 competition is, thus, 14.2.
In comparison, Number One ranked Oregon has played or will play #22 (AZ), #23 (Washington), #17 (USC), #13 (Stanford) and #16 (Oregon State), for an average ranking of 18.2. Kansas State, the nation’s Number Two (pun intended), has played or will play #6 (OK), #13 (West Virginia), #14 (Texas Tech), #24 (Oklahoma State) and #15 (Texas), for an average opponent ranking of 14.4, to date. Alabama, the fourth ranked team in this week’s BCS rankings, only plays four ranked opponents and lost to the lowest ranked of the bunch, Texas A&M. PAWWWWWWWWWWWWL!
As a final point, Notre Dame offers its absence of Football Championship Series (FCS) opponents. Of the other undefeated FBS schools, Oregon pads its schedule with Tennessee Tech and K-State tussles with Missouri State. Alabama, for what it’s worth, takes on the always dangerous West Carolina Catamounts. Objectively, Notre Dame, then, plays a schedule with higher-ranked opposition, all of which comes from the top tier of college football. Notre Dame is the ONLY undefeated FBS team that does not play an FCS opponent.
On the defensive side of the ball, Notre Dame easily outstrips its undefeated peers. ND is #1 in “scoring defense,” a metric that tracks “points against,” rating an 11.1. ND is also ranked #8 in total defense, another metric, this one tracking yards allowed per play and per game. Oregon is #30 in scoring defense and #47 in total defense. K-State is #14 scoring defense and #34 in total defense. Remember, too, that ND is doing this against a pure FBS schedule
Where Notre Dame can be challenged is on the offensive side of the football, as ND ranks a mere 91. Oregon has the #1 offense while K-State trots out the eighth best offense in the land. But when you drill down on those rankings by examining the defensive rankings of the competition, ND’s 91 doesn’t seem that bad and Oregon’s Number One seems pretty empty, to wit:
Notre Dame has played the #55 (Navy), #68 (Purdue), #11 (UM), #7 (MSU), #17 (Stanford), #38 (Pitt), #118 (Miami), #22 (Oklahoma), #109 (BC) and #4 (BYU) defenses. That’s an average total defense score for ND’s 10 FBS opponents of 44.9.
Kansas State and Oregon defensive opponents are (pun intended) offensive. Oregon’s average opponent ranking is 70.11, having played #60 (Arkansas State), #25 (Fresno State), #119 (Arizona), #84 ( Washington State), #41 (Washington), #30 (Arizona State), #122 (Colorado), #59 (USC) and #89 (California). K-State’s 69.11 is only marginally better: #118 (Miami), #72 (North Texas), #22 (Oklahoma), #105 (Kansas), #96 (Iowa State), #112 (West Virginia), #19 (Texas Tech), #57 (Oklahoma State) and #21 (TCU).
So, in the only metric where ND falls behind its peers, scoring offense, it has a valid excuse: MUCH higher quality (all FBS), much better (+25 ranking points) opposition.
In conclusion, Notre Dame has gone undefeated through a demonstrably harder schedule. This FACT has not gone unnoticed by the BCS computer polls: ND is ranked #1 in four of six (Colley Matrix, Kenneth Massey, Jeff Sagarin, Dr. Peter Wolfe) and #2 in the other two (Anderson & Hester, Richard Billingsley). It is in the human, subjective polls that Notre Dame loses ground. Accordingly, Notre Dame should be entitled to Declaratory Judgment that it is Number One.
(Author’s note: I could not have written this article without the stats published by cfbstats.com and by Brian Hardin (@NDHardin) over the last day).