Declaratory Judgment

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).

About Bayou Irish

Featured Columnist: Notre Dame Football & Other Notre Dame Sports
Hating Hurricanes Since 1990.

Bayou Irish is a Jersey boy and Double Domer who fell under New Orleans' spell in 1995. He's been through Katrina and fourteen years in the Coast Guard, so we cut him some slack, mostly in the form of HLS-subsidized sazeracs. But, when he's not face down on the bar and communing with the ghosts of Faulkner and Capote at the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone, he's our man in SEC-land, doing his best to convince everyone around him that Graduation Success Rate is a better indicator of success than the number of MNC's won in the last five years.

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  • Linus

    What the computers don’t see is (A) margin of victory and (B) the players on the field. Notre Dame doesn’t hold up to UO or KSU in either category. Sorry.

    • NDtex

      You do realize that SEC teams that have recently won titles live on low MOV right? Just take a look at Aurbun in 2010. They had victories against sub-500 teams that were within a TD.

      Why do they get the benefit of the doubt and ND doesn’t? It’s absurd. Especially when ND is flat out not letting opponents score.

      And if you’d like to talk about MOV, let’s talk about how Oregon only beat their best opponent, USC by 11. ND beat their best opponent, OU by 17. But I guess they are better since they scored 60? Please.

      Continuing with MOV, K-State only beat North freakin’ Texas by 14, OU by 5, Iowa State by 6, and TCU by 13.

      Notre Dame has better performances against far higher quality opponents.

      And the players on the field?! LOLOLOL — you must not watch ND football at all and/or only watch highlights of teams like Oregon.

  • DS

    Margin of victory is a poor metric, as it does not take into account the poor defensive opposition. Would you give more credit to Oregon beating the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Steel Curtain by 1 or for Oregon beating St. Mary’s High School for the Bling by 6 million? I know I use extremes in the example, yet the logic still applies…weak opponents and weak defenses give up more points, regardless of the style of offensive plays (non huddle vs. clock managing ground games).

    Players on the field has nothing to do with showing a team’s greatness over another team. I know it is the NFL, however, remember the Superbowl with 19 – 0 New England? Larger star quality players against the Giants, yet who won?

    Also, if your opponent is weak enough to not stop a 2nd or 3rd string, then can you say with any validity that your team is playing tough, quality opponents? And does the running up of scores against such weak teams show how strong a team is? It shows your team is better than a weak team. Is margin of victory against weak teams any indication of how how your team will fair against any of the top 10 teams? Not at all.

    This is why the Human Polls in college football is the weak link of the system. At the end of the season, the polls look far different than preseason. So why do you base your belief in the strength of your team based on faulty opinions? Oregon and K-State are higher ranked than ND for 2 reasons…1) they started higher in preseason ranking, and 2) (in Oregon’s case) the perception voters have of margin of victory. If you eliminate those 2 and rankings are done at the end of the year, objectively, ND would come out higher than at least one, if not both of those teams. That would be based on the metrics that you have…Number of Wins, Points allowed, Yards Allowed, Strength of opponent (SoS). This still does not mean ND is the best in the nation, since neither of the 3 teams played each other. Just means the rankings would be different.

    Since we are dealing with the system we have now, then it goes back to the metrics that count in figuring out who plays in the NCG. Margin of victory and style points is not and never will be valid metrics to this end. The “Eye Test” is so subjective, and wholly inaccurate. However, it is what it is, as voters will not change now. Yet, please stop saying that those are valid metrics. Otherwise, you just sound like a 10 year old that still clings to his blanket and is impressed with flashy uniforms.

    • DS

      This was in reply to Linus.

  • Bayou Irish

    Eff it. You’re right. The players on the field. I keep forgetting about the players on the field. These are the same players on the field not scoring on ND? These are the same players on the field with top 10 defenses that we’re playing? These are the same players on the field who are 10-0? These are the same players on the field named Te’o, Golson, Nix and Tuitt? This whole argument has devolved into a Choose Your Own Adventure book where at page 11 you have the question: “Are you Notre Dame?” And the answer: “If yes, turn to page YOU SUCK BECAUSE NOTRE DAME”

  • Jere

    It’s important to point out that the rankings cited were at the time of the game. A more compelling argument, in my opinion, is to reference the current rankings, of which ND has beaten the #12, #14, and #23 ranked teams (BCS) while Kansas State has beaten the #12, #23, and #24 ranked teams.

    Additionally, you go through great pains to show that the KSU and Oregon offenses have played against weak defenses. However, you have not shown that ND’s defense has played against strong offenses. I don’t know how the numbers work out, but you at least have to apply the same analysis to both situations.

  • http://www.kings.edu Themidnightrambler

    this is strictly hypothetical….supposing we get snubbed and play in whatever bowl being undefeated and win…do we get a share of the NC? iguess it depends upon who we play but at this point im not sure. I cannot understand how the polls have us as substantial inferiors to KS and ORE. p.s. I think we’d beat both GO IRISH

  • Bayou Irish

    Jere: Okay. I didn’t take a lunch so I could crunch the numbers. Using cfbstats.com’s “scoring offense,” Notre Dame has played the #81, #65, #110, #56, #63, #62, #64, #13, #106 and #70 offenses (Navy, Purdue, MSU, Michigan, BYU, Stanford, Miami, OK, BC and Pitt). That averages out to a 69.

    Alabama averages 59.1 as an FYI. So, I think the comparison works out in favor of ND — ‘Bama lost to the best offense it faced (Texas A&M) while ND stiffled its best opponent, Oklahoma.

    Another thing: when LSU throttled Oregon, everyone chalked it up to “they hadn’t played an SEC DEFENSE.” Now that ND is putting up SEC defensive numbers versus similar offenses, where’s that talk now?

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