Measuring the title contenders

How FSU, OSU, Auburn, Alabama and Missouri compare to past champions

Updated: December 3, 2013, 2:27 PM ET
By Brian Fremeau | Football Outsiders

Ohio State/IllinoisAP Photo/Jeff HaynesOhio State quarterback Braxton Miller has the Buckeyes in prime position to play for the national title.

A thrilling Iron Bowl victory by Auburn on Saturday shook up the BCS standings and left only two undefeated AQ teams at the top of the polls. The Florida State Seminoles and Ohio State Buckeyes appear to control their own destiny as they prepare for their respective conference championship games. But three SEC teams -- Auburn, Alabama and Missouri -- also are ranked in the top five in the BCS standings and are in position to seize a title-game bid if the Seminoles and/or the Buckeyes are upset.

Those five teams are all ranked highly in our latest FEI ratings, although not in the same pecking order as the BCS standings. FEI is an opponent-adjusted drive-based system designed not to select a national champion but rather to measure overall team efficiency, the success of a team maximizing its own possessions and limiting the possession success of its opponents.

Team records are a function of performance and the strength of the opposition faced. Ohio State ranks ahead of Auburn in our FEI ratings, for instance, but, if the two teams swapped schedules, they likely also would swap records. According to our data, the Buckeyes would be 11-1 against Auburn's schedule and the Tigers would be 12-0 against Ohio State's schedule. (It should be noted that, in this alternate scenario, Ohio State would still be ranked just ahead of Auburn according to FEI).

The possession efficiency data is also useful in projecting what might lie ahead for the remaining BCS title contenders. We compared each of the top five teams in the BCS against every team in the 2007 to 2012 seasons across five key measures -- opponent-adjusted offense, opponent-adjusted defense, special-teams efficiency, field-position advantage and overall FEI rating.

Which teams from the recent past are most similar statistically to the BCS front-runners, and where might each end up when the dust settles this weekend?


To read Brian Fremeau's full story on how the nation's top teams compare to past BCS champions, sign up today.

Brian Fremeau

ESPN Insider
• Has been a contributor to ESPN Insider and ESPN The Magazine since 2009
• Creator of the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), a measure of college football team efficiency
• Contributor to Football Outsiders and his own site, bcftoys.com