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Who Had the Best Decade? Auburn or Alabama: A Weighted Review

By on January 21st, 2010 in Football Comments Off
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The recent Scarbinsky column about Auburn having a better decade than Alabama is sure to generate a lot of buzz. I was working on an examination of the conference as a whole even before yet another bare-knuckled brawl between the Tigers and the Tide was initiated. Scarbinsky’s column was just a reference to Chris Low’s over at ESPN, who gives a fairly detailed subjective analysis of who the top teams were in his opinion, but in the end, it’s just his opinion. If you’re a meat and potatoes stats guy, you want something more substantial. What do the numbers say? I think we need to take a closer look.

I’ve always liked the rankings index over at CFB Data Warehouse. You can analyze over a particular decade, quarter-century, or all-time. Their biggest fault for all-timerankings is that they basically use national championship data provided by each team as a given rather than using the more widely accepted consensus data, but they also use hard stats like winning percentage, major bowls, and most importantly,strength of schedule, to compute their rankings. Yet, I’ve still thought those stats don’t tell the whole story. Other important events like conference championships, poll rankings and even Heisman trophies might ought to play a part. For our comparison between the Tigers and the Tide, we’re going to delve into a few more categories than even that. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

National Titles: Since we’re not comparing disputed titles of old, a BCS crown is solid gold. The prime goal of any FBS team each year is to do what it takes to win a national championship. (Whether or not every team in FBS has an equal probability of doing so is subject to much debate and will not be discussed here.) As a result, the highest ranking in points must be given for a crystal football. Score Alabama 100 points for the 2009 BCS crown.

Conference Titles: The second highest priority for teams, especially in BCS conferences, is to win a conference title.  Before the advent of the notion of the SEC champ being a virtual lock for the BCS CG, SEC crowns were about the highest honor for a southern team that didn’t go undefeated. And since the advent of the CCG, never has more importance been placed on the conference title than there is now. To an SEC school, the conference crown is almost as good as a national one. As a result, winning one results in 50 points. Alabama and Auburn each won one, so score 50 each.

Divisional Titles: No, I’m not talking about this split divisional champ garbage. If you went to Atlanta, then you were the divisional champion–no exceptions. Failure to win the tiebreaker may get you a banner in your stadium, but no points in this poll. Each divisional title is worth 25 points. Auburn and Alabama each had two appearances in Atlanta, so score 50 points more for each one.

Top 5 Bowl Wins and Appearances: The largest payouts traditionally belong to the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta and Cotton Bowls. The BCS title game, being a separate game itself, also counts towards this group. Each win in one of these games counts 50 points; each appearance, 25. Won won the Sugar in 2004 and the Cotton in 2006. Alabama won the BCS in 2009, won the Cotton in 2005 and appeared in the Sugar in 2008. Score 100 points for Auburn, 125 for Alabama.

Regular Bowl Wins and Appearances: 10 points for each win, 5 for each appearance. Auburn had four other Bowl wins and three appearances for 55 points. Alabama had two Bowl wins and two appearances for 30 points.

Wins and Conference Wins: Will each count for two points, conference wins also being counted again to demonstrate the toughness of acheiving them. Auburn won 88 games in the decade and 53 conference games. Score them 282. Alabama won 79 and 47. Score them 252.

Head-to-Head Wins: The only metric for some people–certainly very important in the scheme of things, and must be weighted heavily in a direct comparison. Auburn won the decade 7-3, but Alabama made their last two count. At 25 points assigned for each win, that gives Auburn 175 and Alabama 75.

Poll Rankings: For the AP and Coaches Poll, final rankings are the best indicator of the strength of a team for that year. Top 10 finishes will be awarded 25 points and top 20 will be awarded 15. Auburn had two top 10 rankings in each of 2004 and 2006, scoring 100 points. They had two top 20 rankings in each of 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2007, earning 120 points, for a total of 220. Alabama had one top 20 ranking in 2002, scoring 15 points, and two top 10 rankings each of 2005, 2008 and 2009, worth 150 points, for a total of 165 points.

Heisman Trophy: Worth 25 points for CFB’s highest award, the first ever for Tuscaloosa.

Final tally: Auburn-932 points. Alabama-872 points. In spite of a national championship, Auburn appears to have had a better decade than Alabama in direct comparison to them. In other words, had it not been for the head-to-head competition, Alabama should have won. But in the state of Alabama, comparison is what we do. Don’t agree with my weighting? Want to include some additional metrics? I’ve tried to be as objective as I can be. Let me hear about it if you think I’m wrong. About the only additional category I’d love to include is a SOS ranking–which I will borrow from CFBDWH as soon as they get it up. Until then, on to the 2010s and War Eagle!!

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