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Numbers don't lie: Boise State was pretty good last season

Math ruins a lot of things. Most notably, college football's postseason.

But the right kind of math, the type of math that ends with BSU equaling awesome, is always welcome here at OBNUG. So, too, Oregon game prediction threads in early May.

The math I'm talking about today is a new metric from the geniuses at Football Outsiders - a stats-based, common sense national football site that dabbles in college football from time to time. And so long as they keep coming up with formulas that put the Broncos in the top 10 of all college football, they can dabble all they want.

The formula that Football Outsiders discovered is called the "+" concept, and rather than confuse you all with my convoluted recap of what it means (fact: I'm still not really sure what it means), I'll just let FO explain it:

(The goal is to) figure out a way to factor a team's strength of schedule into statistics to truly find the best offense, defense, and possibly overall team. You read "+" ratings the same way you would read OPS+ or something similar in baseball: 100 is exactly average, under 100 is bad, and over 100 is good.

Make sense? Basically, FO devised a way to equally measure all the teams in college football regardless of conference or size. In other words, it's the anti-BCS formula.

With the "+" concept in mind, here is a table of the top 10 teams in the country last year.

2008 Final "+" Rankings
Rank Team Record Off. S&P+ (Rank) Def. S&P+ (Rank) Total S&P+ Final AP Rank
1 USC 12-1 146.3 (3) 141.7 (3) 288.0 3
2 Florida 13-1 152.1 (1) 135.1 (4) 287.2 1
3 Oklahoma 12-2 151.7 (2) 129.3 (7) 280.9 5
4 TCU 11-2 103.5 (52) 170.3 (1) 273.8 7
5 Texas 12-1 124.6 (10) 146.4 (2) 270.9 4
6 Penn State 11-2 145.7 (4) 120.5 (15) 266.2 8
7 Boise State 12-1 120.5 (15) 133.0 (5) 253.4 11
8 Ohio State 10-3 120.5 (16) 132.3 (6) 252.7 9
9 Alabama 12-2 126.6 (9) 123.5 (8) 250.1 6
10 Missouri 10-4 124.4 (11) 116.7 (20) 241.1 19

Fascinating stuff, right?

I am of the mind that Boise State's ranking in this chart is much more accurate of a ranking than their final spot in the AP poll last year (No. 11). According to the "+" rankings, Boise State had the fifth best defense in the country (I concur, as does Colin Kaepernick) and that fact alone really carried them in the rankings. The 15th-ranked offense was just gravy.

Seriously, though, look at the numbers. The reason Boise State can claim a spot in the top ten is based solely on the fact that its defense had a greater separation from the defenses of other teams in the country. At No. 5 nationally, the BSU "D" was nearly a full 10 points better than the team three spots down from them, Alabama. On the contrary, to reach a similar 10-point gap on the offensive side of the ball, you would have to go from Boise State's No. 15 all the way to Pittsburgh's No. 38.

Of course, you may also have noticed that Utah is not even in the top ten chart pictured above. The Utes came in at No. 16, a full 20 points below the Broncos and 40 points below their MWC rivals, TCU.

2008 Final "+" Rankings
Rank Team Record Off. S&P+ (Rank) Def. S&P+ (Rank) Total S&P+ Final AP Rank
16 Utah 13-0 116.7 (22) 116.5 (21) 233.1 2


Why no love for Utah? The best explanation could be that while Utah was good in the statistic that mattered most (scoreboard), they were not anything special in any of the other categories. Their No. 21 offense and No. 22 defense scream "preseason Fresno State." They simply did not have the numbers of an elite team, yet they found a way to win last season regardless.

The Football Outsiders crew promises some more in-depth college football statistics over the course of the offseason, and I'll be sure to plagiarize and copy as much of it as I can ... unless it shows poorly on Boise State, in which case, I'll ignore it.

And if you still need convincing that this new "+" statistic is really accurate, look no further than this:

Washington State, No. 118: Interesting only because they're the lowest-ranked major-conference team, ranked higher than only No. 119 Idaho and No. 120 Western Kentucky.

Idaho at the bottom. Yep, this formula got it right.