It’s been talked about a lot of this season and even head coach Chris Klieman on more than one occasion said this year’s team is not as good overall as the 2013 national title team that went 15-0 and was rarely challenged during the season. It’s generally a safe assumption that team was deeper, especially on defense, than this year’s crew and the backfield and receivers were perhaps a half step above this year’s team in overall talent. But on the whole, is last year’s team that much better?
I’ve referenced this before but statistically, they’re about the same and in several areas, and there are some spots where this year’s team that plays Sam Houston Friday night for the right to go back to Frisco is better. Let’s evaluate the 15-game and 14-game seasons of ’13 and ’14.
- The 2014 team is better in fewer turnovers (14 to 18), punting average (44.6 to 43.7), passing defense (149 to 165), sacks given up (14 to 18) and turnover margin (plus 9 to plus 5).
- They are virtually even in passing yards (195 to 200), time of possession (33.58 this year to 33.40 last year), opponents scoring average (13.9 this year to 11.3) and average total yards given up (266 to 256).
- The 2013 team had a better scoring average at 38.7 points a game to the 33.1 this year, although you could argue last year’s team had a Division II team on the schedule and this year’s team had a tougher non-conference schedule and the Missouri Valley on the whole had a higher GPI than last year. This year’s team is averaging 12 more penalty yards a game (53 to 41).
The 2013 team bombed its way through the playoffs with beatdowns on Furman, Coastal Carolina and New Hampshire. On the flipside, those three were new to the Fargodome, which has not been the case so far this year. South Dakota State has been here a lot lately and Coastal was making its second appearance in a row. Experience makes a difference. Also, quarterback Carson Wentz has been very good since the loss at Northern Iowa completing 52 of 83 passes for 63 percent with 11 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, no turnovers in the playoffs. He also had 120 yards rushing against Youngstown. It’s an offense that is playing well heading into Friday.