What's the difference between an average team, a good team, and a great team? Well, we can't really determine which teams are which until the end of the season and all games have been played, but by simply looking at statistics such as turnovers lost, turnovers forced, 3rd down efficiency on both offense and defense, and penalties can give us a good idea as to which teams will likely turn out the be one of the best in the nation if they keep doing what they are doing,
For example, through 5 games team A has thrown 12 touchdowns and has rushed for an additional 10 touchdowns. Also, they have lost 3 turnovers, but forced 15 turnovers. That makes them + 12 in the turnover margin, which should be considered the most important statistic in college football. What team is this? The #1 ranked team in the nation, Alabama.
Another good example is #6 South Carolina. South Carolina has a very stingy defense and it shows as in their first five games they have forced 73 third down situations. Of those 73 third downs, their opponents have only been able to get the first down 20 times. That is about 27% third down efficiency for their opponents, making South Carolina's defense 73% efficient on 3rd down situations. Their opponents have also gone for it on fourth down 10 times, and only converted 3 the of them.
#7 Kansas State is a good football team because they are a disciplined football team. Throughout the first 5 games of the season, they have only committed a total of 9 penalties. Many teams have committed more penalties in a single game than Kansas State has all season. By not committing penalties Kansas State doesn't do what many potentially good teams around the nation constantly do, and that's shooting themselves in the foot, causing them to lose game against teams they should not be losing against.
When two good teams face off head to head what starts to separate the good teams for the great ones, after turnovers, 3rd downs and penalties, are things like red zone production and big play ability. Of course these aren't the only things that define very good football teams, but they are no doubt a trend among the elite programs around the nation that compete for the national championship.