Scoring margin wins championships?

Defense wins championships.  That's the old adage, provided you put up a few more points than you give up.

I was recently thinking about the prolific 2005 Texas team that set an NCAA record for points scored.  We also had a good defense that limited the number of points allowed.  Texas was #1 in scoring offense at 50.2 ppg and #8 in scoring defense at 16.4 ppg.  I decided to break out some serious math skills (a.k.a. subtraction) and look at scoring margin or margin of victory.

In 2005, Texas was #1 with an average margin of victory of 33.8 ppg.  #2 was USC at 26.3 ppg.

The BCS had it right for the final game, and #1 played #2 and #1 won.

I decided to look at seasons since 2004 to look if scoring margin was as clear a signal as it was in 2005. (All stats courtesy of

All rank #s below represent scoring margin/margin of victory


BCS title game:  #3 USC (25.2) beat #10 OU (18.0)
#1 Louisville (30.1), #2 Utah (25.8)
#11 Texas  (17.4)


BCS title game:  #12 Florida  (16.2) over #4 tOSU (21.8)
#1 Hawaii (22.8), #2 Boise State (22.1), #3 BYU (22.1)
#7 Texas (21.1)


BCS title game:  #33 LSU (6.7) over #16 tOSU (13.7)
Florida #1 (30.7)
Texas #6 (23.6)


BCS title game:  Florida #4 (23.4) over OU #6 (21.2)
Texas #1 (29.0)
Boise State #2 (26.7), TCU #4 (26.3), #5 Cincinnati (21.5)

Looking back at the last five years of BCS championship games:

  • 2004, 2005 and 2008 all ended with the team with the highest scoring margin as the winner of the BCS title game.
  • A top scoring margin team from the Big 12, SEC, Pac-10 and Big-10 frequently earns a trip to the BCS title game - exceptions are #1 Texas in 2008 (.0128) and #1 Florida in 2007. Lesser conferences need not apply.
  • 4 of the 10 participants were ranked higher than 6th in scoring margin #10 OU, #12 Florida, #33 LSU, #16 tOSU and 2 of those teams won the game. tOSU lost both of those games.


It currently looks like the BCS championship game could very well pit two top teams in terms of scoring margin, through last weekend:

#1 Texas              29
#2 Boise State    26.7
#3 TCU                 26.3
#4 Florida             23.4
#5 Cincinnati       21.5
#6 Oklahoma      21.2
#7 Alabama         20

#6 Oklahoma proves that you can win with a lot of "style points" and still not crack the AP top 25.

Texas could finish #1 in scoring margin for the third time in five years, though none of us will care unless we win the game on Jan 7th, 2010


Here's a somewhat related post from a few weeks back - The State of... the BCS? A Discussion on Margin of Victory As Part of the Computers.

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