Top teams in UPS Index set to make one final push against top competition
By CHRIS ALTRUDA
(AP) -- As 2012 draws to an end and 2013 commences, elite teams - and elite players, like Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel - have a chance to shine one last time as the top football schools in the country make one final push for the top spot in the UPS Team Performance Index.
Using an advanced proprietary formula featuring offensive yards per play, defensive yards allowed per play, various special teams statistics and a microindex of miscues that rewards disciplined teams, UPS has teamed with STATS LLC to normalize those numbers across 120 FBS schools.
From there, balance is measured for all of a team's individual units, with the final index weighted toward excellence in those areas and overall winning percentage.
Four of the five Bowl Championship Series games will be played this week - the Orange, Rose, Sugar and Fiesta Bowls - with the national title to be determined Monday, Jan. 7, between Alabama and Notre Dame.
The Orange Bowl generated plenty of headlines when Mid-American Conference champion Northern Illinois (12-1) ranked high enough in the BCS standings to earn an at-large selection at the expense of teams from the power six conferences. But the UPS Index highly values the Huskies, who are third and ranked higher in overall balance than their opponent Florida State, which finished the regular season ninth.
Quarterback and dual threat Jordan Lynch powers the Huskies, having amassed 2,962 passing yards and 1,771 rushing yards while accounting for 43 total touchdowns. He also has shown a master's grasp of his offense, throwing just five interceptions in 353 attempts.
"You're going to have to (stop him) as a group," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "We're going to have to have a great team effort. We're going to have to be very sound in everything we do and we'll have to mix things up, give him multiple looks and do different things."
If there's one team that can stop him, it's the Seminoles (11-2). Their defensive unit boasts the best component rating in the index and held eight of their 13 opponents under 300 total yards. Teams are averaging just 2.8 yards per carry versus Florida State, while Lynch has gained 6.5 yards every time he runs with the ball.
The Fiesta Bowl, however, should see a very different kind of game as two efficient offenses with distinct styles will be on display when Kansas State (UPS No. 2) and Oregon (No. 4) face off. The Wildcats (11-1), who average 40.7 points, are led by Heisman finalist Collin Klein, who had 2,490 passing yards to go with 890 rushing yards and 22 TDs on the ground.
"He's awfully good at what he does," Big 12 coach of the year Bill Snyder said. "And he's awfully good as a leader and he's awfully good as a field manager, and he's awfully good in all the physical aspects of the game - and he's a tremendous person."
Oregon counters with Marcus Mariota guiding a fast-paced attack that amassed 610 points, complemented by standout running back Kenjon Barner, who had 1,624 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.
While there should be plenty of points in the desert, Stanford and Wisconsin will showcase bruising running backs in the Rose Bowl. Despite the fact that the Cardinal - ranked 12th in the index - did not grade out well offensively, Stepfan Taylor finished with 1,442 yards and 12 TDs. The Badgers, No. 30, will counter with Monte Ball, who churned out 1,730 yards and 21 TDs on the ground.
The other BCS game of the week, the Sugar Bowl, pits Louisville versus Florida. The Cardinals, at No. 31 in the index, are the lowest-ranked team playing a BCS bowl game. They will count on Teddy Bridgewater to put up points against a Gators team ranked sixth due largely to a standout defense that conceded only five passing touchdowns and recorded 19 interceptions.
Manziel, who became the first freshman to win the Heisman, will lead Texas A&M - ranked 13th in the index - against former Big 12 rival Oklahoma (UPS No. 20). The top dual-threat signal-caller in the country, Manziel accounted for 4,600 total yards and 43 TDs, including 1,181 running with 19 scores on the ground.
Of the dozen bowl games played last week, Arizona State graded out the best on the strength of its 62-28 rout of Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. The Sun Devils rolled up 648 yards of total offense, with quarterback Taylor Kelly going 17 of 19 for 268 yards and four touchdown passes to give his team a 163.7 rating in that category. As a result, they jumped nine spots in the index, to No. 32.
Duke, on the other hand, ranked last of the 24 teams in action. The Blue Devils were eviscerated by big plays in a 48-34 loss to Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl, as the Bearcats six TDs averaged 45.8 yards. Duke dropped 11 spots to 85th, while Cincinnati kicked up three places to No. 11.
Updated December 31, 2012