Notre Dame Fighting Irish – Luckiest Team in College Football

Is luck something that can be measured? Probably not, but it’s never too late to try. Many people argue that that Notre Dame, despite finishing the season at number one on both the BCS standings and the polls and undefeated, aren’t the best or second best team in the nation. Taking into account the Pythagorean way of looking at things, these people might be right.

Usually used to measure baseball and basketball wins, the Pythagorean expectation uses this basic formula, based upon the number of runs  scored by baseball teams during games –

The exponent has been changed in both basketball and baseball to try and find a more accurate way of measuring the actual record of a team compared to the one they were expected to finish with. This has also been used in football, although because of the shorter seasons, it doesn’t have the same kind of effect.

Notre Dame are ranked first in the nation on defense, allowing only 10.3 points per game this season, keeping teams at six points or less five times. Still, their offense wasn’t a wonder to behold, averaging only 26.8 points per game, including three wins that came by three points or less. They were lucky enough not to lose against Stanford in a dramatic overtime game and that Pittsburgh, one of the weakest teams on their schedule, couldn’t make a rather easy field goal in a triple overtime game.

According to The Mathlete on mgoblog, Notre Dame were quite lucky to end up as the number one team in country and going undefeated. Actually, Ohio State, who also finished the season at 12-0 and don’t get to play in a bowl game (or for the conference title) because of NCAA sanctions, were also among those the Pythagorean formula found to get quite lucky.

Notre Dame had a Pythagorean expectation of 9.9 simulated wins, which makes them the fourth most luckiest team in the nation. Only Ball State (9-3, 6.4 expected wins), Ohio State (12-0, 9.5 expected wins) and Mississippi State (8-4, 5.8 expected wins) were “luckier” than the Fighting Irish.

Does this mean Notre Dame don’t deserve to be in the BCS national championship game? Of course it doesn’t. College Football isn’t a perfect system, everyone knows that. As long as you’re in the right conference (ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and being Notre Dame), going undefeated will get you to the national championship game, unless three teams do that, which rarely happens. BCS busters are a different story, and even a playoff won’t manage to change the fact that the powers controlling College Football want big names in the big games, no matter what system is used to determine the teams facing off.

Notre Dame just didn’t impress in quite a few games this season, especially against weaker opponents. They actually looked to be at their best in their two biggest games of the season – the win at Oklahoma that made everyone take notice of the team that could go all the way, and the finale win over USC, determining they go to the BCS championship game. While Oregon and Florida, two one loss teams who most would agree are better than Notre Dame (especially Oregon) need to take care of business next time, and not cry about the “luck of the Irish.”

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