CLEMSON -- The odds of Clemson winning a national championship at the start of this season were 100-to-1. Five victories later, those odds are 12-to-1, according to online oddsmakers.

What does a national championship team look like? Does it look like No. 8 Clemson?

The Post and Courier examined the last 10 national championship football teams, breaking down each team by certain categories to see which characteristics were commonly shared and which areas were not critical in becoming the nation's top team.


Future first-round draft picks

Every national title team since 2001 has had at least two starters who became first-round NFL draft picks. Eight of the last 10 national title teams produced a defensive lineman selected in the first round.

It means recruiting matters and suggests championship teams need at least two players who present physical mismatches.

Some title teams had overwhelming talent: Fifteen players from Miami's 2001 title team became first-round draft picks. Six starters from Alabama's 2009 team became first-round picks. Auburn's Cam Newton and Nick Fairley were each drafted in the first round in April.

How does Clemson stack up? The Tigers have several potential early-round selections. Some analysts project receiver Sammy Watkins as a first-round prospect

in 2014. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay ranks Brandon Thompson as the third best defensive tackle in the 2012 class, and rates Dwayne Allen as the top tight end in the 2012 class. Virginia Tech coordinator Bud Foster called Allen the best player in the ACC.

Dominant run defense

Taking away the run means forcing teams into long-yardage situations, essentially making opponents one- dimensional. It also speaks to the physical nature of a team. Eight of the last 10 national champions had top-20 rushing defenses, five ranked in the top 10, and four ranked in the top five nationally.

Clemson ranked 110th in the nation in defending the run two weeks ago but has improved to 77th after holding Florida State to 29 yards on 15 carries and Virginia Tech to 80 yards below its average with 133 yards on 40 carries. History suggests Clemson needs to keep improving in this area to become elite.

Third-down efficiency

Since the NCAA began keeping third-down efficiency as a statistic in 2005, five of the last six national champions finished 21st or better and converted at least 44 percent of their third downs. Auburn converted 53 percent of third downs last year. Clemson is converting 50 percent of third downs this season.

Positive turnover margin

Six champions of the last decade finished in the top 10 of turnover margin and four have finished in the top four or better. Clemson ranks 24th in the nation. Quarterback Tajh Boyd has protected the ball with a 13-to-2 touchdown to interception ratio.

Effective ground game

The last four national champions have all finished in the top 20 in rushing offenses. Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris uses the same uptempo misdirection scheme Auburn used last season.

Florida spread the field to run, and Alabama and LSU are noted for pro-style power running games. Clemson ranks 47th in the country and needs to improve in this area. Boyd has not been much of a factor with his legs, Andre Ellington is not healthy and the offensive line's performance has been up and down.

Preseason top-10 ranking

Seven of the last 10 national champions began the season in the top 10, and all began the season in the AP Top 25. Clemson is ranked eighth after beginning the season unranked. Unlike those teams ranked above them, the Tigers probably could not advance to the title game with one loss because of where they started the season.


An elite quarterback

While stars like Newton, Tim Tebow, Matt Leinart and Vince Young led their teams to college football titles and went on to become first-round NFL picks, non-star quarterbacks like Ken Dorsey, Craig Krenzel, Matt Mauck, Matt Flynn, Greg McElroy and Chris Leak also quarterbacked teams to championships over the last decade. While it doesn't hurt to have an elite quarterback, unlike the NFL, having a franchise-type quarterback is not a championship prerequisite.

Top passing game

Only two BCS title teams over the last decade have had top-20 passing offenses. Championship teams have offensive balance and are often running the clock and controlling the ball in the second half.

Proven coach

Eight of the last 10 national champs won titles with first-time, FBS national championship-winning coaches. Five coaches (Larry Coker, Gene Chizik, Jim Tressel, Urban Meyer and Pete Carroll) had four or fewer years of experience as a head coach in a power conference when winning a national title.

A kicker

Auburn kicker Wes Byrum made just three more field goals than Clemson's Chandler Catanzaro last season. Only four national championship teams over the last decade had kickers in the top 30. Great teams typically finish red zone opportunities with touchdowns, not field goals.