Who will win the 2013 national title? One of these 14 teams
According to college football magazine publisher/data miner/expert Phil Steele, there are 14 teams that have a shot at winning the national title. And before you ask, no, not all 14 teams hail from the SEC.
Steele examined common statistical threads from the season before each of the last 21 national champions, runners up and controversial No. 3's (2003 USC, 2004 Auburn) and compared them with 2012 stats to determine which schools meet the criteria to hoist the crystal ball at the Rose Bowl in January.
For instance, each of the last 21 national titles lost no more than five games in the previous season, scored at least 23.1 points per game and allowed no more than 27.5 points per game. Those three metrics alone whittled the list from 125 down to 38 eligible teams.
Next, Steele looked at offensive and defensive yards per game which, due to the large-scale offensive revolution and the pourous 2010 Oklahoma State defense, eliminated only Kent State (410 yards per game allowed in 2012) from contention. Six more teams were eliminated after failing to beat the 1995 Florida team's 160 rush yards allowed per game, bringing the total down to 31.
Six more teams were eliminated when looking at first downs allowed, yards per carry allowed and completion percentage allowed. Steele looked at five more offensive categories and was only able to eliminate one team so, after 20 statistical metrics and 24 teams still remaining, he decided to examine some trends.
No team from a non-power conference has a realistic chance to play for the title under the current system, thereby knocking the pool down to 16 teams. Steele then eliminated Penn State (due to NCAA sanctions) and Oregon State due to its 3-9 record two years prior, a mark no national title team has duplicated in the two years before its championship over the past 21 seasons.
After applying 23 different measuring sticks, only 14 teams passed the bar on each one: