Dec. 6, 2011
Iowa economist says Alabama, Oklahoma State are most productive college football teams
Alabama and LSU will play for the Bowl Championship Series national title in January, but an analysis by a University of Iowa economist shows only one of them is among the top two college football teams when it comes to productivity.
Stacey Brook, an economist in the Tippie College of Business, uses 17 statistics that best measure a team's productivity on each side of the ball, and plugs them into economic formulas. He publishes the subsequent rankings each week on his blog at teamsportsanalysis.blogspot.com.
By his measure, Alabama and Oklahoma State would be playing in the Brook Bowl for the national productivity championship. Alabama moves into the top spot this week from number 6, followed by Oklahoma State, which moves from 3 to 2 after demolishing Oklahoma last weekend. LSU moves up from number 5, but only as far as number 3 despite beating Georgia in the SEC championship game.
Brook said the teams moved as they did because Oklahoma State and LSU both had extremely productive games over the weekend, but OK State proved more productive in their win. Neither of their victories was enough to make them more productive than Alabama for the season, however, which pushed the Tide into the top spot.
Houston, which had been an undefeated number 1 going into the weekend, fell to number 4 after coming up flat against Southern Mississippi in the Conference USA championship game.
Brook's statistics include such numbers as yards gained, number of first downs, touchdown scoring percent, number of offensive plays, missed and made field goals, and turnovers. He then plugs those numbers into two lengthy formulas, one to measure offensive productivity and one to measure defensive productivity. Some statistics are weighted because his research has found that they are more important to a team's success. It does not include strength of the competition.
Subtracting defensive production from offensive, he arrives at a list of the most productive teams. He admits his rankings can raise a few eyebrows -— Arkansas State is ranked 20, one spot above USC -— which he said demonstrates the limits of using polls to measure the best of anything, especially when nobody defines exactly what you should be measuring. For his own poll, Brook started with the presumption that productive teams -— and, hence, better teams -— score more points than their opponents and give up fewer points.
Brook acknowledges that undefeated LSU not being ranked in the top 2 is one of those eyebrow-raisers.
"However, Alabama played LSU better when they met earlier in the season, and if not for three missed field goals, Alabama would have won the game," he said. "Statistically speaking, missing three field goals is very rare, so the model has Alabama as a better team than both Oklahoma State and LSU, even though LSU defeated Alabama."
Brook's final top 25 ranking for the 2011 season (barring some minor changes that might occur after this weekend's Army-Navy game) is:
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500