NCAAF Picks: National Championship Semifinals Stats & Trends

Ted Sevransky

Wednesday, December 30, 2015 8:08 PM GMT

Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015 8:08 PM GMT

We look at last year's college football four team playoff to find useful stats & trends that can help us with our college football picks for this year's semifinal games.

There isn’t much history to rely on when it comes to examining the college football four team playoff.  In the two semi-final games last year, we saw one favorite enjoy an easy blowout – Oregon beating Florida State 59-20 in a second half runout as an eight point favorite on the college football odds board.  We also saw one underdog win the game in outright fashion – Ohio State knocking off Alabama 42-35 as a nine point dog.  Both games flew Over the total with room to spare, with the two games producing 77 and 79 points. 

The championship game between Ohio State and Oregon produced another outright underdog winner with the Buckeyes 42-20 blowout, but the game became the only of the three playoff games to stay Under the total, with the closing total lined in the 72.5 range. 

While we don’t have a long history to examine with these semifinal games – hard to find trends and angles with a one year sample size – we certainly do have a pretty good idea of what national championship teams look like.  And by thoroughly examining the national champs over the past ten years, we can get a much better idea of the types of statistical profiles that tend to produce champions.

Texas in 2005, Florida in 2006, LSU in 2007, Florida in 2008, Alabama in 2009, Auburn in 2010, Alabama in 2011 and 2012, Florida State in 2013 and Ohio State in 2014 had more commonalities than one might think at first glance.

The #1 commonality the last ten champions had is elite level talent.  That may sound obvious – it is obvious – but there are metrics worthy of mention that give a clear advantage to Alabama over the other three title contenders.  Each of the last ten champs had a recruiting ranking among the top dozen in all of college football in their previous four seasons.  

This year, Michigan State, Clemson and even Oklahoma do NOT rank among the top dozen college football teams in recruiting rankings over the last four years.  Alabama ranks #1 in that regard, by a fairly wide margin.  Based on this metric, the Crimson Tide deserve to be the favorite to win it all.

Defensive line dominance is a clear commonality among recent champs.  Nine of the last ten title winners have featured at least one All American on the defensive line.  That’s bad news for Oklahoma.  Alabama has A’Shawn Robinson.  Clemson has Shaq Lawson.  Michigan State has Malik McDowell.  The Sooners are the clear weak link when it comes to elite talents on the defensive line.

Eight of the last ten national champs have ranked among the Top 7 teams in the country in pass efficiency defense.  Alabama finished the season ranked #5 this year while Clemson finished #7.  Oklahoma wasn’t far behind at #12.  Michigan State ranked #67, way behind the rest of the group.

Note the emphasis on defense with the best predictive stats for college football picks.  The high octane offenses attract the most public attention in the betting markets, but it’s likely to be the team that stands tall defensively who brings home the national title on January 11.

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