Crunching Boise State's title-game hopes 

October, 14, 2010

Today's winners in Stats & Analytics:

Alex Ovechkin, Boise State, Roddy White

Today's losers:

Randy Moss, Green Bay Packers, Nick Saban

Today, I've got some bad news for Boise State fans that I really don't want to deliver: Your team is riding high now, and may well make it to the BCS title game. But the Broncos won't belong there -- unless they can somehow blow out every remaining opponent by seven touchdowns.

Before I explain, let me say this: I have always liked Boise State the way I like Avril Lavigne -- as evidence that great hits like the 2007 Fiesta Bowl or "Sk8er Boi" can come out of nowhere and from anywhere, and as a poke in the eye at killjoys like Nick Saban and rock critics who forget that football, like pop music, is supposed to be fun.

Also, Boise State's detractors accuse Chris Petersen and the Broncos of being gimmicky, but gimmicks aren't gimmicks unless opponents figure them out and render them useless. The eephus pitch is a gimmick. Boise State's offense, based on shifting personnel and schemes, is just intelligent. (If you want to understand better how it works, read this fine analysis by a high school defensive coordinator in North Brunswick, N.J. Seriously.)

But the WAC is weak, so I always assumed Boise State would never rise to objectively quantifiable greatness until it added at least two more nonconference powerhouses to its schedule. I was wrong. In Football Outsiders' new FEI ratings, the Broncos rank No. 2 in the country, millimeters behind Oregon. FEI is an opponent-adjusted rating of college teams based on how efficient they are at scoring and preventing scoring, drive by drive, in non-garbage time possessions. It's the best measure out there of the quality of college football teams.