At the beginning of the 2008 season the jury was still very much out on Colt McCoy. You worried he would struggle again with turnovers and Texas could expect another very solid but ultimately disappointing season. You know the team needed a big year from him to contend. Suddenly, your 2009 self appears and hands you a piece of paper, then disappears. It show glorious numbers, 3800 yds, 77% completion rate, 45 total TDs vs. 8 picks. You crumple the paper and walk away saying "Texas is winning a lot of games this year."
Cut to the present. Texas is a consensus top 3 team, with many of us expecting a national title. If you could phone your friends at the 2010 Elias Sports Bureau, what stat are you asking for (other than Wins-Losses you clever fellow) to predict if we won the BCS title or not? Even though Colt is still our most important player, his stat line probably won't give us the insight we want. Fairly or not, we expect a similarly outrageous year from him statistically regardless of how the season ends. The stats of "lesser" teammates, however, might reveal more details of the season. If I knew Malcolm Williams finished 2009 with say, 60 rec/960 yds/9 TDs I might reasonably infer that the offense successfully added a downfield component. Given how well I expect the short and mid-range passing game with Shipley and Collins to function, I would be even more confident about the season than I am now. Now some may think that's too low a prediction for Malcolm, others too high. But the point being that either way it tells us something significant about the 2009 offense.
This exercise is most interesting to me at the player level, because it's much easier to predict outcomes using team stats. To win a title we need further defensive improvement, so obviously PPG Against would largely answer our questions. But cutting deeper, we know that with a weakened pass rush the secondary needs to produce more turnovers. We know that our opponents are going to throw the ball a LOT. And as of now we expect Chykie Brown to be our shutdown corner. Given those facts, if Chykie Brown had 7 interceptions in 2009 I would feel pretty good. If he had 2 INTs, I would worry the defense hadn't made enough strides from last year to win a title. Now it's possible that Chykie only had 2 picks b/c teams just stopped throwing at him. Or maybe Curtis Brown made the leap and became the shutdown guy, getting 7 INTs himself. In either case the defense could have become elite without my chosen statistic revealing it. But if I've got the Elias guy on the phone, I'm rolling the dice with Chykie.
Some other telling stats might include Sam Acho sacks (We all expect Kindle to get his. Someone else needs to provide a pass rush when he gets doubled), DJ Grant receptions, and so on. Which stats do you think will tell us if Texas lives the dream again?