EUGENE OR - OCTOBER 2: Quarterback Darron Thomas #1 of the Oregon Ducks celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter of the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Autzen Stadium on October 2 2010 in Eugene Oregon. Oregon won the game 52-31. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
UPDATE: The Oregon Ducks And Some Antagonistic Numbers is now up at the mothership.
Allow me to defend myself for one last time regarding the 2010 team, then move on for good. Context, timing and luck matter. Your best team does not always win the most games, and your worst team isn't guaranteed a winless record. Oregon is the perfect example. The 2007 Ducks were likely the best team in the country before quarterback Dennis Dixon went down (Adj. PPG with Dixon: 43.3; without: 24.5). The 2010 Ducks, meanwhile, were worse offensively and slightly worse overall, but their schedule, their injuries luck and their overall timing was much, much better.
You win in college football by putting a good team on the field and hoping that the breaks fall your way at some point. And over the last four years, Oregon has been the seventh-best overall team in the country. The 1994 Nebraska team was not better than the 1978 or 1983 Huskers, but the breaks fell their way (odd to say considering Tommie Frazier's blood clots), and they made the right plays at the right time. The 1996 Florida Gators were not Steve Spurrier's best team in Gainesville. The 1997 Michigan Wolverines were potentially worse than any number of 1970s Michigan squads that didn't win the national title. In the end, the banners still hang, and the rings still shine whether you're truly the best team or not. (Though as we see with today's nerd tidbit, the numbers and the wins usually match up at the end of the season.) I have reached my happy place with the 2010 Ducks, accepting that they probably weren't as good as my eyes told me at the time, accepting that my numbers still probably had them too low, and knowing that if not for Michael Dyer's hand, they may have been national champions all the same.
Anybody who reads Varsity Numbers remembers the existential crisis I went through as my S&P+ consistently ranked Oregon quite low throughout the 2010 season. I'll go into more detail during today's Oregon profile, but I thought now was a good time to look at the differences between the end-of-season AP polls and F/+ rankings. (And yes, I'm using F/+ because that's the 'official' FO ranking, and it smooths out the rough edges in both my ratings and Brian Fremeau's.)
Below are all of the teams who finished in the AP Top 5 between 2005-10, ranked in order of their final F/+ rating. You'll see below that 20 of the 30 teams finished in the F/+ Top 5 as well, and 23 ranked no worse than sixth. Most of the time the best teams are able to assert themselves, both on the field and on paper, but there have been some outliers, and 2010 Oregon was not the biggest of the bunch.
|Year||Team||Record||AP Rk||F/+ Rating
It's worth noting that 2006 West Virginia, 2008 Missouri and 2008 Georgia -- the three lowest-ranked BCS conference teams on this list -- were all ranked rather high the following preseason (fifth, sixth and first, respectively), and all three finished significantly lower (10th, 19th and 13th). Just a thought when considering the third-ranked Ducks this fall.
(And a note to Oregon fans: my favorite Mizzou team of my lifetime finished below your Ducks. Nobody is immune.)