College Football

The 10 Most Balanced Teams in College Football

Jonathan McDanalContributor IIIOctober 9, 2013

The 10 Most Balanced Teams in College Football

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    The most balanced teams in college football aren't necessarily the best, though there are a lot of great teams on this list. It starts on offense. A balanced attack hits defenses where they are weakest.

    Sometimes that's a rushing play, and sometimes it's an aerial strike. The most balanced offenses in the nation strike equally from either direction. However, there's still something missing: defense.

    A balanced team doesn't yield 40 points per game and score 60, though that wouldn't stop one from winning a national title. A well-rounded squad lights up the opponent's scoreboard while saving all the electricity on the other side. (See? Balance.)

    So, with that in mind, here are the 10 most balanced teams in college football's 2013 season so far.

    *Scoring process:

    Subtracted the passing yards per game and rushing yards per game for all college football teams. Ranked all teams based on the difference (smallest difference was No. 1). Took the top-20 teams and ranked them by scoring defense. The top-10 defenses out of the top 20 most balanced teams made the list.

    Overall record broke any ties.

    *All links go to the specific pages at CFBStats.com

10. Texas State Bobcats

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    Texas State averages 141 passing and 159.6 rushing yards per game. That isn't particularly good, but it is well-balanced. The Bobcats are 3-2 this season with losses to Texas Tech and Louisiana-Lafayette.

    Whether they use Tyler Arndt or Tyler Jones under center, the Bobcats can bank on a completion percentage over 60 from their quarterback position. On top of that, all three of their leading rushers (Robert Lowe, Chris Nutall and Tyler Jones) are putting up over five yards per carry.

    Texas State may not have the flashiest or most successful offense in the country (scoring offense rank is 94th), but the balance is definitely there. The Bobcats' scoring defense, ranked 47th in the country, put them in at the bottom of this list.

9. Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Arkansas owns the No. 43 scoring defense in the nation, and that made all the difference. The Hogs gain an average of 216 yards on the ground and 175.3 through the air this season, and that's the second-biggest yardage discrepancy on this list.

    The Hogs' two best running backs (Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams) have gained over 1,100 yards through just six games this season, and they have been instrumental in Arkansas' 3-3 start.

    The receiving corps haven't run up as many yards as the run game, but it has outscored the run game 10-8 in touchdowns. Arkansas definitely has balance, even if an 0-2 start against SEC opponents has put it out of the conference title race.

8. USC Trojans

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    USC is a prime example of balance not always equating to success. The Trojans have the most statistically balanced offense in the country with a 0.8 yards-per-game difference between the rushing and receiving groups. However, the Trojans have already started an underwhelming 3-2, and their head coach has been fired.

    Still, the averages of 189.8 (passing) and 190.6 (rushing) yards per game cannot be overlooked. The passing attack is 102nd in the country, so USC's struggle under center is quite statistically evident.

    The tailbacks are doing everything they can, though. Tre Madden and Justin Davis are both earning more than five yards per carry, but it just isn't good enough without a solid quarterback.

    This team has the foundation to be great, but the scoring defense has got to tighten back up. It is still tied with Stanford for 36th in the country, but it just gave up 62 points to Arizona State.

    The balance is still there, but another performance like that would push them right out of contention for a list like this.

7. Stanford Cardinal

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    Stanford is the first undefeated team on this list, and its 36th-ranked defense has been a large part of that. Specifically, the defense stifled the Washington Huskies at all the right times during the 31-28 win in Week 6.

    The Cardinal's two-pronged offensive attack splits yardage well, gaining 198 aerial yards and 210.2 ground yards each game. Kevin Hogan, the quarterback, has completed more than 60 percent of his passes, and he's racked up a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 11-to-4.

    On the other side of the offense, every running back with at least 10 carries is averaging no fewer than 4.6 yards per touch. The tailbacks have scored 10 touchdowns this season, almost perfectly matching the receivers' 11.

    The fact that the squad allows just 21.2 points per game makes Stanford downright formidable.

6. Memphis Tigers

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    Memphis has the worst record of anyone on this list at 1-3, but the Tigers have earned their spot. First, they are hitting 193.3 passing and 179 rushing yards per game. That's a minimal 14.3-yard difference.

    Secondly, their defense is ranked 23rd in the country. It's allowing just 19 points per game. Memphis' problem is finding the end zone with its balance attack. It's scoring just 19.3 points per game, but it's also lost two of its games by one possession.

    The Tigers are riding their 700-plus-yard rushing and receiving corps to the land of opportunity, but their quarterback has a 2-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He's blowing their chances, and in one-possession games, he has cost them wins.

5. Iowa Hawkeyes

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    Matthew Holst/Getty Images

    Iowa opened the season 4-2 with an aerial attack that's 209.3 yards per game and a rushing game that's posting 207.5. The Hawkeyes' defense has stood firm, and it's yielding just 16.8 points per game (good for 19th in the nation).

    The Hawkeyes are having a little trouble finding the end zone, though. The team has scored only 17 times (eight through the air), and 15 total points decided both matches in the loss column. Their scoring offense is 68th in the country, and it's already cost them two games.

    Iowa is a lethal opponent, especially if you overlook the minuscule nine-yard total difference between each facet of the offense. They'll get you either way.

4. Michigan State Spartans

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    Matthew Holst/Getty Images

    Michigan State marks the transition into top-10 defenses. The Spartans rank seventh in the country, and they've allowed just 13.4 points per game.

    They got into the final 20 by tagging defenses for 178.4 (passing) and 176.6 (rushing) yards per game. What's impressive about that is their lopsided play-calling. They have run 201 rushing plays to just 92 passes.

    That makes their near-equal performance all the more impressive. Michigan State will run at you until you expect it, then it will tag you for twice the yardage through the air.

    The Spartans have exploited this to a 4-1 record, with just one loss (by four points) to Notre Dame. Clearly, balance is successful as long as you have a defense to back it up.

3. Oklahoma Sooners

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    Oklahoma yields just 13 points per game, which is the sixth-lowest mark in the country. The Sooners have used that defense to score some tight wins this season, like the 16-7 win over West Virginia, the 35-21 win over Notre Dame and the most recent 20-17 victory over TCU.

    The Sooners do have a little bigger gap between their aerial and ground attacks, though. They are passing for 209.2 yards per game and rushing for 246. While that's not the most balanced offense on the list, their stellar defense has pushed them up the overall balance scale to the top three.

    Oklahoma is just as happy to send the ball through the line with Brennan Clay (6.6 yards per carry), as it is to find Sterling Shepard (12.7 yards per catch) or Jalen Saunders (9.7 yards per catch) on a route to the end zone.

    All three of those players have scored three touchdowns apiece, and Oklahoma's ripped off a 5-0 start as a result.

2. Florida Gators

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    Florida fell to the Miami Hurricanes 21-16 back in Week 2, and the Gators have been clawing their way back ever since. (They've gone 3-0 vs. the SEC since the loss.) Their defense has allowed just 12.2 points per game and never again as much as the 21 to Miami.

    This defense is carrying the team, but the emergence of Tyler Murphy under center has changed the face of the offense. He's gone 39-of-54 for 530 yards, five touchdowns and just one interception since Jeff Driskel was taken out by a leg injury. (Driskel had tossed two touchdowns to three interceptions before his fall.)

    Without Murphy at the helm, this team wouldn't be sniffing the balanced list, but he's brought them up to a 201.4-yard average in the passing game. The rushing attack has been solid since the beginning, and it's producing a respectable 192 yards per game.

    Murphy completed the equation, and he's turned Florida back into a top-three team. Too bad it's here and not on the AP list, right?

1. Oregon Ducks

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    Oregon is the most offensively unbalanced team on this list. The Ducks have put up a difference of 41.2 yards per game between their passing and rushing attacks. However, that 294.6-to-335.8-yard pass-to-rush ratio was god enough to get them onto the initial list of 20 teams.

    The Ducks are a run-first offense, and they still manage to put up nearly 300 yards per game through the air. They do not hesitate to pull the down-field trigger, and their two top receivers are each averaging almost 20 yards per catch thanks to that mentality.

    Oregon's No. 2 scoring defense, giving up just 11.8 points per game, has thrust it to the top of the list. It's gotten the Ducks to 5-0, and it's put them at No. 2 in the two major polls. What better example is there of complete balance?

    Feel free to answer that in the comments.

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