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I'm going to be straight with you: if you're a statistics guru and have a fetish for standard deviations and regression equations, you're going to be sorely disappointed. Pipe Dreams is a football site, and I'm not John Hollinger. That said, the whole purpose here is to provide some sort of metric by which to measure your team's potential. Stats obviously play a big part in this, so I'll do my best to bring something to the table. Check the charts if you're still not satisfied.

Before crunching the numbers, let me direct your attention to that handy little bar to your right entitled, "Spreadsheet of Destiny." In the words of those classy young women, Sugababes: "Push the button." And then appreciate how a neat, two-page PDF pops out at you in its own little self-contained bubble. That took about 6 years off of my life - the "own little self-contained bubble" bit. Have a bunch of crooked digits in front of you? Good. Let's do this.

First, the caveats. These numbers don't account for things like strength of schedule, strength of conference or level of competition. The teams in the better conferences, for instance, tend to have lower margins of victory. However, all of these teams played in conferences in which running the table pretty much meant a guaranteed shot at the title (though the 13-0 2004 Auburn Tigers, ironically from the SEC, might challenge me on this), or at the very least, an automatic bid to a BCS bowl via winning the conference. We can say, in some sense then, that all of these teams are on a somewhat level playing field. Did '01 UM play as strong a slate of competition as '07 LSU? Of course not, but that doesn't mean the Hurricanes' 33.8 PPG margin of victory didn't register with voters. In most cases, perceived disparities between the strength of major conferences aren't big enough to influence the polls, especially if a team beats up on its ranked competition (or in the case of all of these champions, has a big time reputation). Still, differences in competition obviously skew the numbers.

Am I making sense? Let's boil it down to this: if your team is undefeated in late October, in a BCS conference, and has the pedigree of past champions, it's sitting pretty. These are the tangibles. Specifically, before the postseason, title teams play at least two opponents ranked in the top 15. Most, though not all, play at least four teams ranked in the top 25. Of the BCS-era champions, only the USC teams and Texas played fewer than four ranked opponents, and two of those champions - '03 USC and '05 Texas - made up for it by defeating two top-10 teams each. 2007 LSU ran a gauntlet that looks not unlike my finals week. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. One after another. The guy working the graveyard
shift has an easier schedule.

Spreadsheet of Destiny

In all, the Bengals faced seven ranked opponents - six of them in conference, one of them a three-overtime loss to No. 18 Kentucky. The payoff? The BCS formula overlooked the team's two losses (the other a 3-OT loss to unranked Arkansas), sending them to the title game over a one-loss Kansas and an undefeated Hawaii, among others (Note: the leap from No. 7 to No. 2 in the Dec. 2 rankings wouldn't have been possible had West Virginia not choked away a title bid against a seven-loss Pitt team. Looking back, this was the beginning of the end for then-WVU coach Rich Rodriguez.) In short, schedules matter. Boise States of the world, listen up: if you think you can pick off a big time school early in the season and then coast on powder puffs the rest of the way, think again.

Moving on, all of the champions swung a margin of victory of at least 16.2 PPG, so feel free to use that as a baseline - if you're not beating opponents by at least two TDs, it's time to start summoning your inner Carroll. Miami, Texas and '08 Florida about doubled these figures, as each hammered respective opponents by over 30 PPG. The 'Canes and '08 Gators actually turned it up against ranked teams. While Tebow's post-Ole Miss near-cry speech translated into a 32 PPG margin against the top 25, Miami beat its four ranked challengers by an average of 35.3 PPG. In a two-week stretch unmatched by any team ever, the Hurricanes beat No. 14 Syracuse and No. 12 Washington by a combined 124-7. (The latter game is notable in that it marked a turning point for both the Huskies' program and the Hilsons' tailgate. As of Dec. 2, 2009, Washington has gone 30-67 since the Miami debacle and is on its third coach. The tailgating hasn't been the same either. That night's 25-pound smoked turkey, which was in the smoker during the drive to the Orange Bowl, will never again be approached, let alone topped. Nov. 24, 2001 will go down in history as the OB's last truly perfect night. R.I.P., old lady.) The take-home to all of this? Don't just win. Win big.

Title Ring

The rest of the team statistics - total offense, total defense, yada, yada - collectively point to one common winning thread: champs do at least one thing really, really well. Some of the numbers I've talked about do indeed lie. But there's no getting around the fact that each and every one of these title teams ranked in the top 6 in at least one major category. Tennessee shut down the run. Florida St. scored a truckload of points through the air. Oklahoma smothered passing attacks. Ohio St. mastered the "bend-don't-break" defense. If you're on the fence about whether this is the year, scroll your finger across the old stat sheet. Do you see a lot of low numbers? If not, this probably just isn't the season. Great teams can be a jack of most trades. But they always, without fail, have an ace in the hole.

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