Tonight when Alabama faces Notre Dame for the BCS National Championship at Sun Life Stadium in Miami the old adage of "Defense Wins Championships" will be on full display for all to see.
It is widely accepted that the Crimson Tide and the Fighting Irish have two of the top defenses in the Nation. And not just because some talking head on ESPN like the lisping Lou Holtz said so but because statistically it is a fact.
So we though we would take a closer look at statistical rankings of the two National title contenders and then compare them to the ACC Champion (FSU) and your University of Miami Hurricanes to see where each team stacks up.
As many of you may already know there is another familiar truism that goes something like this: "There are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics." Statistics do not always tell the truth, but in this case the stats do offer insight into the reasons why Alabama and Notre Dame are playing in tonight's BCS title game.
But first an editorial comment: If you have been watching any of the television coverage of the festivities leading up to tonight's game you would swear that the entire City of Miami was located right in the middle of South Beach and that the game was going to be played by shirtless, sun-tanned players covered in oil right there in the sand and surf along Ocean Drive.
Sure, it plays well on TV (and definitely helps Miami in recruiting) and boosts ratings but in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Sun Life Stadium is actually located in Miami Gardens which is about 15 miles away and about as much like South Beach as Orlando. But I digress.
I went to the www.NCAA.org web site where these stats are available to all college football fans to do a little research about the teams in tonight's game in South Florida. The site ranks teams in every imaginable category of performance but also breaks it down into 17 major statistical categories for all teams.
Here are the overall average national rankings for each the four teams we are looking at (national ranking in each category / 17) :
- Alabama: #22
- Notre Dame: #41
- Florida State: #28
- Miami: #67
Alabama ranks in the top 25 teams in 11 of the 17 major categories. Included in these categories are top 5 rankings in the following areas:
- Total Defense: #1
- Rushing Defense: #1
- Scoring Defense: #2
- Passing Defense: #2
Notre Dame ranks in the top 25 teams in 7 of the 17 major categories. Included in these categories are top 5 rankings in the following areas:
- Scoring Defense: #1
- Rushing Defense: #4
- Total Defense: #5
I found it somewhat surprising that Florida State actually is ranked ahead of Notre Dame overall and ranks in the top 25 team nationally in 10 of the 17 major categories. Included in these categories are top 5 rankings in the following areas:
- Passing Defense: #1
- Total Defense: #2
- Rushing Defense: #3
Not as surprising after a challenging 7-5 season and a team that clearly had serious struggles on the defensive side of the ball was the University of Miami lack of presence in the top 25 national rankings. The Hurricanes rank among the top 25 teams nationally in just 2 of the 17 major categories. Included in these categories is a top 5 ranking in just one of the major areas:
- Kickoff returns: #2
- UM also ranked #25 in passing offense
When looking at the Atlantic Coast Conference and rankings within the conference, FSU also ranked ahead of Miami in the major statistical categories.
The Seminoles ranked in the top 5 in 13 of the 17 categories in the ACC and were ranked either #1 or #2 in 8 of the 17 areas within the conference.
Miami on the other hand ranked in the top 5 in only 7 of 17 categories in the ACC and was ranked #1 or #2 in just 2 of the 17 categories within the conference (kickoff returns and turnover margin).
These statistics clearly show that the Miami Hurricanes and head coach Al Golden have much work to do in Coral Gables if they want to compete for the BCS title in 2013 and beyond. We will have much more on that subject in a future article that looks more in detail at the specific areas that UM must improve in next year to compete at the highest levels of college football.