Wins and losses go only so far when trying to pick apart a bowl matchup. Penn State (10-2) has one more win than LSU (9-3), but far too many in the mainstream media have gone with the Tigers to beat the Lions. Why? Well, I think we know: OMG-ESS-EE-SEE-SPEED!
I will tell you one thing the pundits are not using to reach their Capital One Bowl predictions: facts.
I try not to shill for anyone, but it's tough to argue against Phil Steele's ability to predict college football seasons. So, why would predicting the bowl season be any different? It's not, really. You see, Steele uses facts and statistics to predict football games; not some empty public perception of a league (SEC) so dominant that not a single team could ever beat it.
Sorry, but just because you call the SEC "fast" does not make its individual teams automatically better than the opposition .
Steele published one of the most interesting blog posts I've seen from any sane analyst this bowl season—this year’s top 10 differences in net yard rankings between bowl participants.
Why should Penn State fans care? Because the Lions are tied for first (w/Texas Tech-Michigan State) in Net Yard Ranking Difference (NYRD); the Lions are 43 spots ahead of LSU — Penn State is No. 7 in NYRD nationally (+89.3 ypg), while LSU is No. 50 nationally (-45.3 ypg).
That's right, folks. The Tigers come into the Capital One Bowl having been outgained by their opponents by almost 50 yards per game.
The net yards difference between Penn State and LSU is 134.7 yards per game, which is the fourth-best (in favor of Penn St) going into the bowl season.
As Steele broke it down in normally-concise fashion, his stats showed that of the top five 2008-09 bowl teams with the biggest net yard differences (NYD), four of them won their bowl games; one of them included USC's 208.3 NYD over Penn State going into last season's Rose Bowl. So Lions fans have first-hand knowledge of what can happen when this stat is not in your team's favor.
Just to name a few teams that have a better NYRD than LSU: Oregon State, Arizona, Missouri, Wisconsin, Iowa, Tennessee, South Carolina, Northwestern, Stanford, USC, Georgia, and Auburn. Including those SEC teams I just mentioned, a total of eight SEC teams have a better NYRD than the Tigers going into the bowl season.
To wrap this all up, I'd just like to remind pundits who seem to think LSU is a lock to win this game, that you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.¹