Fresno State & Alabama: What only these 2 teams can claim
After 10 weeks of the college football season & a big win against #3 LSU, Alabama has clearly separated itself as the best team in college football. While much of the talk this week will focus on Alabamas dominance and where teams like Clemson, Notre Dame, Michigan, Georgia, Oklahoma, West Virginia & Washington State will land in the playoff ranking, there is a another team that is having one of the best seasons statistically that nobody is talking about. No, its Not Central Florida.
That team is the Fresno State Bulldogs! While much of the focus outside of the Power 5 this year has been on Central Florida, Fresno state has quietly become one of the best teams that nobody is talking about and they are putting up staggering numbers in many key statistical categories.
After an early season loss to Minnesota, I can understand why they haven't gotten as much attention as UCF, and I am not suggesting they should be in the playoff mix. However, what they have been able to accomplish this year has been special & I do believe they deserve special recognition.
In a class with Alabama? (Statistically ,Yes)
While Im not suggesting that Fresno belongs on the field with Bama or Clemson, I am amazed about what they have been able to do in the Stat column. In fact, Out of 130 FBS teams, there are only 3 teams that rank in the top 10% in both Points Per Game & Defensive Points Per Game. Those 3 teams are Alabama, Clemson & Fresno State.
If you follow my Blog , you may recall a recent article around the combination analysis of Offensive & Defensive Points per game. In this article I pointed out how the predictive strength of combined Off & Def PPG on wins is 76%. That is significantly higher than either of the two categories by themselves. That is why its important to look at where teams rank in both categories rather than just one or the other. You can see from the picture below, that only Alabama, Clemson & Fresno State make the top 10% in both categories ( pretty impressive). Fresno is currently scoring more than 40 points per game and holding opponents to less than 12.3 points per game!
Lets Take it a few Steps Further
So out of 130 FBS teams, we are left with 3 teams that rank in the top 10% in both scoring offense and scoring defense. As you know, there are a handful of other categories that are significant main drivers of Wins. One of those categories that I have written about recently is Turnover Margin. Where as creating turnovers alone is not a significant main driver of wins, Turnover Margin is. So when I further analyzed those 3 teams and added in Turnover Margin, only 2 of them ranked in the top 10% of Turnover Margin, Alabama & Fresno State.
Just for the heck of it, I threw Red Zone defense in to the analyzer. Red Zone defense is an important category because it measures how well your defense limits scores when opponents are inside the 25 yard line. Once again, as you can see from the picture below, both Alabama & Fresno State ranked in the 10% of both Turnover Margin & Red Zone Defense.
But Wait there is More
So far thats 4 categories where only Alabama & Fresno State rank in the top 10% across all 4 categories. Well if 4 is good , 6 would be great! So, I decided to look at 3rd Down efficiency on both offense & Defense. Both 3rd Down offense & 3rd Down defense have a linear effect on Wins. As you can see below, as 3rd Down Conversion % increases, wins increase & As your Opponents 3rd down conversions Decrease, your win total increases!
As you can see from the pictures above, teams who can constantly convert on 3rd downs are able to extend drives and give themselves more scoring opportunities. In addition, those teams who can get critical stops on 3rd Downs can get their defense off the field. In both cases, being better on 3rd downs, leads to wins. As a former coach, I understand how much practice time is devoted to 3rd down offense & defense. So after analyzing 3rd downs, I discovered that again Alabama & Fresno State ranked in the top 10% in both 3rd Down Offense & Defense in terms of Conversion %.
After starting with 130 FBS teams, only Alabama & Fresno State can claim to be in the top 10% of teams in each of the 6 Key Categories discussed here. Think about how difficult of an accomplishment that is, especially when the only other team to do this is Alabama!
So hats off to Fresno State for being 1 of only 2 teams ranking in the top 10% in all of the following 6 categories
3rd Down Offense
3rd Down Defense
Red Zone Defense
We will see how the rest of the season plays out for Fresno, and with a big game against Boise State this weekend, we will see if they can keep up this type of performance. This analysis does make you understand why Boise State is a home Underdog for the first time in 19 years. Stay tuned for my side by side game analysis for this match up , as well as a few others later in the week.
For more insight and analysis, please subscribe to our blog.Our subscribers can stay up to date on all new articles and analysis. In addition, be sure to visit our gamely store , as new items are added daily. Below you can see the complete infographic for Fresno State's ranking and averages in the categories discussed.