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Week Seven (2016) College Football SRS Ratings

Last week, Michigan jumped to number one in the SRS after demolishing Rutgers. The Wolverines, on bye, stayed at number one this week, but the Crimson Tide are coming after them. The top team of week 7 was Alabama, who destroyed a good conference opponent in Tennessee.  Here’s what you need to know: the Crimson Tide….

  • outgained the Vols, 613-201;
  • outrushed the Vols, 438-32, the most rushing yards by Alabama in 30 years; and
  • scored on both a punt return and an interception return, winning 49-7.

Given that the Volunteers have an SRS rating of 50.4, and that the game was in Tennessee, a 39-point road victory translates to an SRS rating of 83.4; no other team in week 7 cracked 70.

The second best win came from West Virginia; at 5-0 and now #16 in the SRS, it may be time to start watching the Mountaineers more closely.  WVU’s toughest opponents to date have been BYU and Kansas State, and both were close wins.  But the Big 12’s best hope for national relevance is for both West Virginia and Baylor to enter their December 3rd matchup undefeated. Unlikely, of course, but that’s at least a path.

Oh, and the Western Michigan hype machine should keep rolling.  The Broncos destroyed Akron, which may not sound that impressive, but for reference: WMU won 41-0 in Akron, while Wisconsin won 54-10 at home against the Zips. Running back Jarvion Franklin had 33 carries for 281 yards in the win. [click to continue…]

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Last week, I introduced the first set of the SRS ratings. This week, the Wolverines jumped from #2 to #1, on the basis of one of the most lopsided games between conference foes in recent college football history.

  • Michigan had 23 first downs; Rutgers had 2.
  • Michigan gained 600 yards; Rutgers had 39.
  • Michigan scored 11 touchdowns, en route to a 78-0 victory.

Rutgers is terrible: that 2-4 record is thanks to wins over Howard and New Mexico: that’s an FCS school and team that’s ranked 107th in the SRS.  But still, 78-0 is 78-0.  Even acknowledging that Rutgers is terrible, and adjusting the margin of victory (a 78-point road win is akin to an 81-point win; the average of 24 and 81 is 52.5), Michigan still scored the most impressive win of week six.

In other news:

  • We’ve known for a couple of weeks that Washington was for real, and Oregon was in the middle of a disaster season. That came to a head on Saturday, with the Ducks losing, at home, 70-21.
  • Under Justin Fuente, is Virginia Tech back? The Hokies lost ugly to Tennessee, but otherwise have been great this year:  winning 49-0 over Boston College (#73 in the SRS), 54-17 over East Carolina (#70), and now 34-3 on the road against North Carolina (#36).
  • The other 75+ point SRS game came from Washington State, in a 42-16 blowout over Stanford. The Cardinal looked fine through three weeks, beginning the year 3-0 with wins over Kansas State, USC, and UCLA, en route to a #7 ranking. Since then? Stanford has lost back-to-back games to the P12 teams from Washington, by a combined 86-22.

Below are the week 6 single-game SRS ratings: [click to continue…]


For the last couple of years, I have introduced the first edition of the College Football SRS Ratings after five weeks.  So with five weeks in the books, it’s time to release the first college football ratings. And while it’s too early to put too much weight on these ratings, they help to at least begin framing the discussion of which are the most impressive teams in college football.  As a reminder, here is the methodology:

1) For each game not played at a neutral site, 3 points are given to the road team. After that adjustment, all wins and losses of between 7 and 24 points are recorded exactly as such. This means that a 24-10 road win goes down as +17 for the road team, -17 for the home team.

2) With one exception, wins of 7 or fewer points are scored as 7-point wins and losses of 7 or fewer points are scored as 7 point losses. So a 4-point home win goes down as +7 (and not a 1) and a 1-point home loss is a -7 (and not a -4). The one exception is that road losses of 3 or fewer (and home wins of 3 or fewer) are graded as ties. So a 21-20 home victory goes down as a 0 for both teams.

3) Wins/Losses of more than 24 points are scored as the average between the actual number and 24. This is to avoid giving undue credit to teams that run up the score. So a 75-point home win goes down as a 48-point win.

Once we have a rating for each team in each game, we then adjust each result for strength of schedule. This is an iterative process, where we adjust the ratings hundreds of times (to adjust for SOS, you have to adjust for the SOS of each opponent, and the SOS of each opponent’s opponent, and so on.) in Excel. Then we produce final ratings, where the SRS rating is the sum of the Margin of Victory and Strength of Schedule in every week. [click to continue…]

Coaches of two of the top 3 teams in college football... again.

Coaches of two of the top 3 teams in college football… again.

Meet the new boss, Nick Saban as always.

The Golden Nugget released the point spreads for 100 games this season, and Johnny Detroit was kind enough to pass along that data for purposes of this post.  With only data for 100 games, how am I able to conclude that Vegas views Alabama as the best team (or, at least, one of the top 2 teams)  in college football? Consider:

  • Alabama is a 6-point road favorite at Ole Miss this year. That is the only game this year (of the seven we have lines for) where Mississippi is an underdog, and the Rebels are an 8-point home favorite against Auburn and a 4.5-point home favorite against Georgia.  The Rebels finished 10th in the polls last year and are projected to be the 10th-best team this year, so this line says all you need to know about Alabama.
  • Against Auburn, Alabama is a 15-point home favorite (that’s a touchdown better than Ole Miss is against Auburn).   The Tigers were not great last year, but are still projected at #20 this year.
  • In Arkansas, the Crimson Tide are 8.5-point favorites.  In the other 3 home games for Arkansas, the Razorbacks are 7.5-point dogs to LSU (the #3 team by this methodology), 1-point underdogs to Mississippi, and a 2.5-point favorite against Florida.
  • Alabama is a 15-point favorite at home against Mississippi State and a 14-point home favorite against Texas A&M.  Both of those teams are projected to be, by Vegas, top 30 teams this year.
  • In Tennessee, Alabama is a 1-point dog, but the Vols are projected as the 6th best team this year! Tennessee is a pick’em in Georgia, a 5-point favorite in College Station, an 11-point favorite at home against Florida, and a 13-point favorite in a neutral site game against Virginia Tech.
  • LSU is projected to be the 3rd best team in college football. The Tigers are an 11-point favorite at home against MSU, a 9.5-point home favorite against Ole Miss, 7.5-point road favorites in Florida and Arkansas, a touchdown favorite in Auburn, a 6-point favorite in College Station, and – only – a 2.5-point home favorite against Alabama.

You may be wondering, how do we know how good Alabama’s opponents are? Well, we can imply the ratings of each team in college football based on these points spreads.  I explained how to do this last year, but here is the refresher:

The system is pretty simple: I took the point spread for each game and turned it into a margin of victory, after assigning 3 points to the road team in each game. Do this for every game, iterate the results hundreds of times ala the Simple Rating System, and you end up with a set of power ratings.

Two quick notes about the rankings.

1) These are not intended to be surprise. The methodology may be somewhat complicated, but all these ratings are intended to do is quantify public perception.

2) These are not “my” ratings. These are simply the implied ratings based on the Vegas (or, more specifically, the Golden Nugget) points spreads; nothing more, nothing less.

Below are the ratings for 51 college football teams. In the table below, I’ve included the number of games for which we have point spreads for each team on the far left. The “MOV” column shows the home field-adjusted average margin of victory for that team, the “SOS” column shows the average rating of each team’s opponents (for only the number of games for which we have lines), and the “SRS” column shows the school’s implied SRS rating. As you can see, Alabama is projected to be the strongest team in college football, but Oklahoma is just a hair behind: [click to continue…]


Over the last week or so, I have been analyzing the top performers at the combine in various drills. Today, I want to put it all together. Let’s use Northwestern fullback Dan Vitale as our example.

In the 40-yard dash, Vitale was expected to run it in 4.76 seconds, but instead ran it in 4.6 seconds. That gave him the 28th best score. Put another way, his 40-yard time was 1.18 standard deviations better than the average score, after adjusting for weight.

In the bench press, he was even better. putting up 30 reps, 10.4 more than would be expected given his height and weight. His Z-Score in that event — i.e., how many standard deviations above average he scored — was 2.56.

You might not think of a fullback as dominating in the Vertical Jump, but Vitale excelled here, too. Given his height and weight, he would have been expected to jump 32.6 inches. Instead, he bested that by 5.9 inches, making him the 8th biggest overacheiver in this drill, and 1.97 standard deviations above average.

Vitale was not quite as good in the Broad Jump, but he still ranked 31st by outjumping his projected by 7.8 inches and 1.29 standard deviations.

In the Short Shuttle, Vitale was once again very good, posting the 12th-best adjusted time, which gave him a Z-score of 1.71.

Finally, the 3-Cone drill was his worst, as he finished 62nd and just 0.59 standard deviations above average. Still, add it up, and Vitale was 9.30 standard deviations above average in all of the drills. [click to continue…]


Raiders linebacker Ben Heeney had a nondescript rookie season after being drafted by Oakland in the fifth round of the 2015 Draft. But the Kansas linebacker dominated the 3-cone drill at the 2015 Combine.

As a reminder, here’s a description of the 3-cone drill from NFL.com.

The 3 cone drill tests an athlete’s ability to change directions at a high speed. Three cones in an L-shape. He starts from the starting line, goes 5 yards to the first cone and back. Then, he turns, runs around the second cone, runs a weave around the third cone, which is the high point of the L, changes directions, comes back around that second cone and finishes.

In general, this drill favors taller (i.e., fewer strides) and lighter players. The best-fit formula to project a 3-cone score from the 2016 combine was 7.23 – 0.028 * Height (Inches) + 0.0087 * Weight (Pounds). And Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa, who some believe is the best player in the draft, absolutely dominated this drill. Despite weighing 269 pounds, Bosa completed the drill in 6.89 seconds, the 26th-fastest time out of 217 participants. He was the only player at even 250+ pounds to finish in under 6.9 seconds.

But Bosa only had the second best rating in this drill. And frankly, it wasn’t even close. Stanford wide receiver Devon Cajuste is 234 pounds — that’s pretty big for a wide receiver — and he ran the single fastest 3-cone drill at the combine. That’s not the fastest among players that weigh 200+ pounds, or even wide receivers. It’s the fastest, period, and by 0.09 seconds. Cajuste may profile as a hybrid wide receiver/tight end, but this sort of shiftiness adds intrigue to his ability to play in the slot. According to Josh Norris, Cajuste — again, ignoring that he weighs 234 pounds! — ran the 5th best 3 cone time by any wide receiver in the last decade. [click to continue…]


The 20-yard shuttle is the Combine’s approach to measure an athlete’s agility, short-range explosiveness, and lateral quickness. Here’s the description from NFL.com:

The athlete starts in the three-point stance, explodes out 5 yards to his right, touches the line, goes back 10 yards to his left, left hand touches the line, pivot, and he turns 5 more yards and finishes.

As you can imagine, heavier players fare much worse in this metric, and shorter players have a slight advantage, too. The best-fit formula from the 2016 Combine using height and weight as inputs is: 4.00 -0.012 * Height (Inches) + 0.005 * Weight (Pounds). In other words, for every 20 pounds a player weighs, he would be expected to take an extra tenth of a second to complete the drill. UCLA center Jake Brendel is 6’4 and weighs 303 pounds; that’s not exactly the formula for dominating this drill. But he wound up completing the workout in just 4.27 seconds, the exact same time it took Notre Dame wideout Will Fuller (6’0, 186 pounds). Based on Brendel’s profile, we would have projected him to take an extra 0.40 seconds to finish, which means he is your 2016 Short Shuttle champion. [click to continue…]


Ohio State outside linebacker Darron Lee had a productive collegiate career, but really raised eyes at the 2016 Combine. Lee had the 6th best weight-adjusted 40-yard time, and then added to that with an incredible performance in the broad jump.

This drill is biased in favor of taller and lighter players; as a result, the best-fit formula to project the Broad jump at the 2016 combine was 119.2 + 0.49 * Height (Inches) – 0.164 * Weight (Pounds). Alabama’s Derrick Henry, who had the 5th best weight-adjusted 40-yard time, had the 2nd-best broad jump. [click to continue…]


Virginia Tech defense end Dadi Nicolas is going to have to switch positions in the pros, but there’s no doubting his athleticism. At just 235 pounds, Nicolas projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker/situational pass rusher in the NFL.

At the NFL Combine, seven players jumped over 40 inches in the vertical jump drill. The first six of those players weighed 188, 194, 194, 202, 209, 209 pounds. The seventh was Nicolas, who weighed 235 pounds: that’s light for a defensive end, but really, really heavy for a guy who has a 41″ vertical.

The best-fit formula to project vertical jumps at the 2016 NFL combine was 46.96 – 0.06 * Weight (Pounds). So Nicolas, at 235, would be projected to jump 32.8 inches. That means the Hokies star, who led the ACC in tackles for loss in 2014, outjumped expectations by 8.2 inches, the most of any player in Indianapolis. [click to continue…]


Last week, I looked at weight-adjusted 40-yard dash times from the NFL Combine. Today, I want to analyze the bench press.  Last year, Clemson/Atlanta Falcon Vic Beasley was your bench press champion, using a formula involving expected bench press reps based on a player’s height and weight.  This year, that honor belongs to Nebraska fullback Andy Janovich.  The fullback position may be of declining importance in the modern NFL, but this can only help Janovich’s stock.

The best-fit formula to project bench press reps for the 2016 Combine was:

37.97  -0.65 * Height (Inches) + 0.119 * Weight (Pounds)

By this formula, the 73-inch, 238-pound Janovich “should” have benched 225 pounds 18.8 times; instead, he put up 30 reps.  Arizona State guard Christian Westerman led the way with 34 reps, but at 6’3, 317, he only produced 9.3 more reps than expected.

Thanks to NFLCombineResults for the raw data. [click to continue…]


As I did the last couple of years, I used the raw NFL combine data and adjusted them various metrics.  With respect to the 40-yard dash, the only adjustment I’ve made is for weight, as no other variable (e.g., height) impacts a player’s 40 time quite like weight. The best-fit formula to predict 40-yard dash time during the 2016 combine was 3.38 + 0.00577 x weight.

Oklahoma defensive end Charles Tapper weighed in at 271 pounds, which would “project” to a 40-yard time of 4.94.  Tapper, though, ran the 40 in a blistering 4.59 seconds.  That’s not quite Jadeveon Clowney (266, 4.53), but it’s comparable to what Bud Dupree (269, 4.56) did last year. Tapper ran the top weight-adjusted 40-yard dash time of 2016, with Todd Gurley’s former running back mate, Keith Marshall, the runner up. Thanks to NFLCombineResults for the raw data. [click to continue…]

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Final 2015 College Football SRS Ratings/Bowl Preview

With the college football regular season now officially over, let’s look at the final SRS ratings from 2015:

3Ohio StateB10B10-East11218.839.157.911-1
5Notre DameIndInd11211.843.25510-2
6Florida StACCACC-Atl21214.84054.810-2
8North CarolinaACCACC-Coas31315.738.454.111-2
11Michigan StB10B10-East21310.942.15312-1
16Southern CalP12P12-South2136.843.750.58-5
17Oklahoma StB12B1241210.439.750.110-2
19West VirginiaB12B125127.641.549.17-5
21Mississippi StSECSEC-West612939.948.88-4
22Bowling GreenMACMAC-East11314.134.748.810-3
35Texas A&MSECSEC-West8125.640.4468-4
36North Carolina StACCACC-Atl5128.237.545.77-5
37Western KentuckyCUSACUSA-East11316.32945.311-2
42Texas TechB12B126122.641.844.47-5
43Virginia TechACCACC-Coas7123.840.544.36-6
44South FloridaAmerAmer-East51210.334.144.38-4
45Brigham YoungIndInd21210.13444.19-3
47Penn StateB10B10-East812240.742.87-5
48Georgia TechACCACC-Coas812-0.142.842.83-9
49Miami FLACCACC-Coas9121.241.342.58-4
51Washington StP12P12-North8123.638.341.98-4
52Arizona StP12P12-South9120.840.941.76-6
53Boise StMWCMWC-Mntn11212.628.841.48-4
54Kansas StB12B127120.540.741.26-6
57Western MichiganMACMAC-West3125.135.240.37-5
58San Diego StMWCMWC-West21312.327.339.710-3
59Appalachian StSunSun11215.224.339.510-2
60Georgia SouthernSunSun21210.42939.48-4
61Northern IllinoisMACMAC-West4136.932.339.28-5
64Iowa StB12B12912-7.145.738.63-9
68Central MichiganMACMAC-West5124.733.137.77-5
69Air ForceMWCMWC-Mntn3138.529.137.78-5
70Southern MissCUSACUSA-West21313.224.237.49-4
72Boston CollegeACCACC-Atl1212-1.438.236.93-9
73East CarolinaAmerAmer-East7120.436.436.85-7
76Arkansas StSunSun31210.425.736.19-3
78Utah StMWCMWC-Mntn4122.133.735.86-6
80South CarolinaSECSEC-East1212-5.841.435.73-9
81Louisiana TechCUSACUSA-West4128.626.835.48-4
82Wake ForestACCACC-Atl1412-7.341.734.33-9
85Middle Tennessee StCUSACUSA-East512627.633.77-5
86Ohio U.MACMAC-East6123.629.232.88-4
94San José StMWCMWC-West512-0.529.929.45-7
96Colorado StMWCMWC-Mntn6122.126.228.27-5
97Georgia StSunSun512-0.226.626.46-6
98Oregon StP12P12-North1212-15.641.926.32-10
99New MexicoMWCMWC-Mntn7120.625.125.77-5
104Florida Int'lCUSACUSA-East612-1.925.223.45-7
106Ball StMACMAC-West1012-11.534.222.63-9
107Florida AtlanticCUSACUSA-East712-6.529.122.63-9
108South AlabamaSunSun612-9.630.420.85-7
112Kent StMACMAC-East1112-10.930.9203-9
115Miami OHMACMAC-East1212-11.83119.13-9
116Texas-San AntonioCUSACUSA-West912-9.628.118.53-9
117Fresno StMWCMWC-West1012-13.63218.43-9
118Texas St-San MarcosSunSun912-11.128.717.63-9
121New Mexico StSunSun1012-13.128.815.73-9
123Old DominionCUSACUSA-East1012-10.62615.45-7
124Eastern MichiganMACMAC-West1312-15.630.514.91-11
126Central FloridaAmerAmer-East1212-20.635.414.80-12
127North TexasCUSACUSA-West1212-21.533.111.61-11

[click to continue…]


Derrick Henry capped off a regular season with his second monster game in a row. After rushing 46 times for 291 yards against Auburn last week, Henry had 44 carries for 189 yards against Florida in the SEC Championship Game. Henry finished the year (at least, prior to the playoff) with 1,986 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns. [Update: Henry added 56 carries and 233 yards with five touchdowns in two playoff games (and one reception for -6 yards.]

Alabama running backs have been dominant since Nick Saban arrived. Take a look at the table below, showing all rushing stats for players with at least 600 rushing yards in a season since 2009.

Rush             Rece            
Rk             Player Year  School  Att  Yds Avg TD  Rec Yds  Avg TD
1       Derrick  Henry 2015 Alabama  339 1986 5.9 23   10  97  9.7  0
2    Trent  Richardson 2011 Alabama  283 1679 5.9 21   29 338 11.7  3
3         Mark  Ingram 2009 Alabama  271 1658 6.1 17   32 334 10.4  3
4          Eddie  Lacy 2012 Alabama  204 1322 6.5 17   22 189  8.6  2
5         T.J.  Yeldon 2013 Alabama  207 1235 6.0 14   20 183  9.2  0
6         T.J.  Yeldon 2012 Alabama  175 1108 6.3 12   11 131 11.9  1
7       Derrick  Henry 2014 Alabama  172  990 5.8 11    5 133 26.6  2
8         T.J.  Yeldon 2014 Alabama  194  979 5.0 11   15 180 12.0  1
9         Mark  Ingram 2010 Alabama  158  875 5.5 13   21 282 13.4  1
10   Trent  Richardson 2009 Alabama  145  751 5.2  8   16 126  7.9  0
11   Trent  Richardson 2010 Alabama  112  700 6.3  6   23 266 11.6  4
12       Kenyan  Drake 2013 Alabama   92  694 7.5  8   12 135 11.3  1
13         Eddie  Lacy 2011 Alabama   95  674 7.1  7   11 131 11.9  0

Henry also stands out for being one of just seven running backs since 2009 with 1800+ rushing yards, 20+ rushing TDs, and less than 200 receiving yards.

                                             Rush             Rece
Rk               Player Year          School  Att  Yds Avg TD  Rec Yds  Avg TD
1         Derrick  Henry 2015         Alabama  339 1986 5.9 23   10  97  9.7  0
2       Donnel  Pumphrey 2014 San Diego State  276 1867 6.8 20   23 160  7.0  0
3         Melvin  Gordon 2014       Wisconsin  343 2587 7.5 29   19 153  8.1  3
4             Tre  Mason 2013          Auburn  317 1816 5.7 23   12 163 13.6  1
5           Montee  Ball 2012       Wisconsin  356 1830 5.1 22   10  72  7.2  0
6    Stefphon  Jefferson 2012          Nevada  375 1883 5.0 24   22 170  7.7  1
7          Toby  Gerhart 2009        Stanford  343 1871 5.5 28   11 157 14.3  0

Henry will be one of the more fascinating players to project as an NFL back. On one hand, he’s just the next line in the Alabama running back factory, which has yet to take the NFL by storm. On the other, he’s also been the most successful, and he’s one of the more uniquely one-dimensional in recent history. At 6’3, 245 pounds — if we could trust those measurements — he’d also be one of the most uniquely built running backs in NFL history.

What do you think of Henry?


As I wrote on Sunday, the college football playoff looks pretty clear, absent any big upsets on Saturday.

One spot will go to Oklahoma, the 11-1 champions of the Big 12.  The Sooners have been an early favorite of the SRS: OU ranked 2nd in the first edition, produced after five weeks, and regained that #2 spot three weeks later, despite the loss to Texas in the interim.  The Sooners finished the regular season as the #1 team in the SRS.

Alabama, at 11-1, is the 2nd-ranked team in the SRS.  The Crimson Tide represent the establishment in college football, and that title is well-earned.  Alabama is great every year, and this season is no different.   A win against Florida in the SEC Championship Game seems predestined: the SRS makes ‘Bama a 13-point favorite, while the Vegas line is up to 17.5 points (likely because Florida is playing worse now than it was in the beginning of the year, with an eligible Will Grier). [click to continue…]


After twelve weeks, there were still about a dozen teams jockeying for the final four spots. And with Notre Dame’s loss in Palo Alto, we no longer have to ask that pesky Oklahoma/Notre Dame question.

This year seems likely to be the perfect one for a four-team playoff, as the gap between the 4th and 5th most deserving teams — assuming results go as planned next weekend — matches the natural divide from the on-field results.

  • The SEC has one dominant team this year, Alabama. Assuming the Crimson Tide defeat Florida in the SEC Championship Game, Alabama will make the playoff. But the SEC did get a little lucky: if not for Arkansas gaining a first down on an absurd lateral, Ole Miss would have won the SEC West this year. What would the committee do with an 11-2 Mississippi team that beat Bama but lost 38-10 to Florida and by 13 points to Memphis, but won the SEC and beat the Gators in the rematch? Tough to say, but I think we’re all better off that we don’t have to ask that question this year. Assuming Alabama wins, the Tide will finish at 12-1 and very deserving of a playoff spot, while every other SEC team will have at least three losses.
  • The Big 10 had four good teams this year, but it happened to have one of them in the Big 10 West, which may as well have been in Mountain West. With 14 teams and just 8 conference games (the same as the SEC), each team plays one game against the other six teams in its division, and only two games against the teams from the other division. This is how a team like Kentucky can finish with a weak schedule despite “playing in the SEC” — the Wildcats faced Auburn and Mississippi State from the West, the weak SEC East, and a soft nonconference schedule. Iowa had a similar setup, getting Maryland and Indiana from the Big 10 East, the underwhelming Big 10 West, and a pretty easy nonconference schedule (other than Pitt). The difference: Kentucky went 5-7, while Iowa rode this schedule to 12-0. Over in the Big 10 East, Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State were the class of the division. They went undefeated against the rest of the East, but Michigan State swept Michigan and Ohio State, albeit in skin-of-teeth fashion: the Spartans never led in either game until the clock hit triple zeroes. Regardless, we now have a great B10 Championship Game, and the winner of Iowa/Michigan State will obviously be a very deserving playoff team. Iowa would be 13-0, and Michigan State would be 12-1 with wins over Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa, and Oregon, with the one loss coming in controversial fashion on a bad call against Nebraska.
  • The Big 12, like the Big 10, had four good teams this year. Unlike the Big 10, all four teams played each other in the conference’s round robin schedule. Oklahoma went 3-0 against Oklahoma State, Baylor, and TCU, which was enough to make up for the Sooners slip against Texas earlier in the year. The Cowboys, Bears, and Horned Frogs all finished 10-2 (assuming TCU beats Texas next weekend), making an 11-1 OU team the clear deserving choice. It doesn’t hurt that Oklahoma also had the most impressive nonconference win of the group, a 31-24 double overtime victory in Tennessee.

[click to continue…]


Thoughts on the Oklahoma/Notre Dame Debate

If there’s one good rule of sportswriting, it’s that premature writing is sure to backfire. With Oklahoma (and Gameday) traveling to Stillwater, and Notre Dame on the road in Stanford, there’s a better than even chance that either Oklahoma or Notre Dame finishes with one loss. According to ESPN’s FPI, the Sooners have a 67% chance of beating1 rival Oklahoma State, while Notre Dame is an underdog this weekend, expected to beat the Cardinal just 38% of the time.  By the power of multiplication, this implies only a 26% chance of both Notre Dame and Oklahoma finishing the regular season with an 11-1 record.

The SRS says that Oklahoma is the better team, but the only means the Sooners would be favored on a neutral field. But when it comes to making the playoff, we are more interested in rewarding performance than putting the best four teams in.  Two years ago, I wondered whether Ohio State going 13-0 in a watered-down Big 10 was more impressive than Auburn going 12-1 in the SEC.  Now, I ask:

Which is harder: Going 11-1 against Oklahoma’s schedule or 11-1 against Notre Dame’s schedule?

[click to continue…]

  1. Of note: This ignores the fact that Sooners star quarterback Baker Mayfield left the game last week with a head injury, and is not certain to play this weekend. []

The chaos continues in college football. In week 12, two more undefeated teams lost, with Ohio State losing at the last second to Michigan State, and Oklahoma State losing, 45-35, against Baylor. That leaves just two undefeated teams remaining in the Football Bowl Subdivision: Clemson and Iowa. The Tigers are now #3 in the SRS, mostly because both Oklahoma and Alabama have slightly higher margins of victory and strengths of schedule than Clemson.

Iowa is down at #15 in the SRS, mostly because of strength of schedule. the Hawkeyes played a terrible North Texas team and an FCS Illinois State out of conference, while Indiana, Minnesota, and Maryland aren’t doing much for Iowa’s schedule. On the top end, only three opponents — Wisconsin (#26), Pittsburgh (#28), and Northwestern (#47)– rank in the top sixty. Against that backdrop, Iowa’s margin of victory simply isn’t good enough to vault them into the top ten of the simple rating system. (For comparison’s sake, Baylor, North Carolina, and Navy have all faced weaker schedules, but have strong enough MOVs to rank ahead of Iowa.)

But this is mostly an academic discussion. For purposes of the 2015 season, Iowa remains in great position to make the playoff. The Hawkeyes have a sneaky tough matchup in the season finale, as Iowa travels to Lincoln, Nebraska to face a 5-6 Cornhuskers team that will be fighting for its own postseason berth. Yeah, Nebraska has six losses, but those games have come by a combined 23 points, and Nebraska has lost several of those games in the final seconds.

Three teams remain in complete control of their playoff destiny: Clemson, Alabama, and Iowa. If all the favorites win, that will leave the committee with a very interesting decision for the final spot, having to choose between Oklahoma and Notre Dame. And if Iowa loses, but Michigan State finishes 12-1, the Spartans may simply take Iowa’s spot, so that won’t help solve any Sooner/Irish debate. It’s still too early to panic for any of the contenders — I think we are only in the middle of the chaos — but the end of the regular season is shaping up to be very, very interesting.

Last week, I noted that the Big 12 would be fine, unless the winner of Bedlam lost on Saturday. And while Oklahoma did beat TCU, Oklahoma State suffered its first loss of the season, setting up a nightmare scenario for the Big 12. If the Cowboys beat the Sooners, the Big 12 may have Baylor as its only hope of making the playoffs.

And, for what it’s worth, Baylor is now up to #4 in the SRS. Below are the ratings through week 12:
[click to continue…]


Last week, I looked at how the Big 12 schedule was backloaded. There are four top teams in the conference, and the six-game round robin among those teams was placed at the back third of each team’s schedule. So far, just two of those six games have been played: Oklahoma State beat TCU last weekend, and Oklahoma beat Baylor last night. That means the winner in Bedlam in two weeks — which takes place in Stillwater — has a leg up on the rest of the conference. The winner in Bedlam will be the Big 12 champion assuming they win next weekend. Of course, that’s no sure thing, given that next week Oklahoma hosts TCU and Oklahoma State hosts Baylor. And yes, for those keeping score at home, that does mean the Cowboys got home draws against TCU, Baylor, and OU this year.

If the Bedlam winner wins next week, too, they are almost certainly going to make the college football playoff. The only way they don’t is if literally everything here happens:

  • Ohio Sate beats Michigan State, Michigan, and wins in the B10 Championship Game
  • Notre Dame wins in Boston against Boston College and in Palo Alto against Stanford
  • Clemson beats Wake Forest and South Carolina and then wins in the ACC Championship Game
  • The winner of the SEC Championship Game wins their in-state rivalry game (UF-FSU and Bama-Auburn)
  • The committee decides that Notre Dame is more deserving than the B12 champ.

The odds of that happening would be, by my back-of-the-envelope calculations, under five percent. So while the Big 12 won’t occupy a top four spot in this week’s playoff standings, and may even fail to place a team in the top five, there’s little reason to think the B12 won’t send a team to the playoffs for the second year in a row. That is, unless the Bedlam winner loses at home next week.

Below are the SRS ratings through eleven weeks. As always thanks to Dr. Peter R. Wolfe for providing the weekly game logs. [click to continue…]


Last week’s ratings can be seen here.

The schedules of Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and TCU are very backloaded. Other than Oklahoma’s game against Tennessee, none of the four teams had much of a threat in the nonconference schedule, and the B12 schedule just so happened to be incredibly backloaded. These four teams are the class of the Big 12, but many of their games were scheduled for later in the year. Below are the SOS ratings of each opponent in each game for these four teams, with weaker games in red and tougher games in blue:

b12 values

Let’s use that same formatting but insert the opponent’s names. For Oklahoma, the three games against the other three teams are the last three games on the Sooners schedule. For the other three schools, the three round robin games are three of their final four games. There is a bit of randomness involved — if Texas or Kansas State or West Virginia was good this year, we wouldn’t have this situation — but it does make for an excellent final month of the season.

b12 teams

Below are the SRS ratings through ten weeks. As always thanks to Dr. Peter R. Wolfe for providing the weekly game logs. [click to continue…]

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As they did last week, the Clemson Tigers top the SRS ratings through nine weeks. Little changed in the top five, this week, or well, anywhere in the top 25. In fact, none of the teams in the top 20 of the SRS last week lost in week nine. The highest ranked teams to lose were West Virginia (#21) and Cal (#22), but both of those teams lost to higher-ranked teams (TCU and USC, respectively).

As a result, the standings will look pretty similar to what we saw last week. Below are the SRS ratings through nine weeks. As always thanks to Dr. Peter R. Wolfe for providing the weekly game logs. [click to continue…]

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It’s time to start taking Clemson seriously. The Tigers began the season 6-0, but none of the wins were particularly dominant. Clemson beat up on a pair of non-Power 5 schools (Appalachian State and FCS Wofford), had solid but unspectacular home wins over mediocre ACC teams (Georgia Tech and Boston College), and squeaked by a decent Louisville team and a very good Notre Dame team.

But yesterday, Clemson laid waste to Miami, with a 58-0 final score going down as the most lopsided loss in Hurricanes history. At this point, the smart money is on Clemson to finish the regular season undefeated, landing the Tigers one of college football’s four golden tickets.

Clemson still has to face Florida State, and while the Tigers have lost three straight to the Seminoles, that game is in Clemson, and right now, Clemson is 10 points better in the SRS. The other remaining games: N.C. State (36th in the SRS), Syracuse (72nd) and Wake Forest (84th) in the ACC, before a season-ending rivalry game against South Carolina (77th).

The other interesting riser this week: Oklahoma. Given how good Baylor and TCU were last year, and the fact that the Sooners lost to Texas, it’s easy to think of the Big 12 as a two-team race. Not so fast! Oklahoma looks to be outstanding this year, and that 7-point win in Tennessee — the Vols’ worst loss this year — is looking better each week. The Sooners just destroyed a Texas Tech team that nearly (and probably should have) beaten TCU, so circle November 14th, November 21st, and November 27th on your calendars: those are the dates Oklahoma travels to Baylor, TCU travels to Norman, and the Bears head to Fort Worth, respectively. Given that each team hosts one game in this round robin, the ultimate Big 12 disaster scenario is a 1-1 record for each team during these games (well, other than Oklahoma State upsetting one of these teams, too). [click to continue…]


Last week, Michigan topped the SRS. Following the Gift Six, the Wolverines fall to the fifth spot after one of the craziest games in recent history. Jumping into the top spot is Baylor, after the Bears scored 56+ points for the sixth time in six games this year.

Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman already has 16 touchdowns this year. 16! In six games!  Okay, the Bears have only played two games of note — against Texas Tech two weeks ago and against West Virginia on Saturday — but the Bears also have the track record to show that they’re a top five team.  Are they truly the best team in college football? We won’t find out more until a date with Oklahoma in four weeks, and the showdown with TCU two weeks later still looms as a de facto playoff game.

Without further ado, below are the SRS ratings through seven weeks. As always thanks to Dr. Peter R. Wolfe for providing the weekly game logs. [click to continue…]

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Last week, I introduced the first edition of the SRS for the 2015 college football season. This week, we have a new number one: the Michigan Wolverines.

Michigan scored 38 points in a win over Northwestern yesterday; that matches the number of points allowed by the team all season. Michigan has now posted three consecutive shutouts, and all six games have come against FBS competition, allowing just 6.3 points per game in the process. Boston College is second in points allowed versus FBS competition, at 10 per game, but the Eagles are averaging only six points per game in those contests.

Michigan’s averaging a respectable 29.5 points per game this year; as a result, the Wolverines have an average points differential of 23.2 per game. The only teams better than that? Baylor (with a ridiculous 43.75 points per game differential) and Boise State (24), but Michigan’s tougher SOS gives the Wolverines the jump in the SRS.

Without further ado, below are the SRS ratings through six weeks. As always thanks to Dr. Peter R. Wolfe for providing the weekly game logs. [click to continue…]


Last year, I introduced the first edition of the College Football SRS Ratings after five weeks.  And while it’s too early to put too much weight on these ratings, they help to at least begin framing the discussion of which are the most impressive teams in college football.  As a reminder, here is the methodology:

1) For each game not played at a neutral site, 3 points are given to the road team. After that adjustment, all wins and losses of between 7 and 24 points are recorded exactly as such. This means that a 24-10 road win goes down as +17 for the road team, -17 for the home team.

2) With one exception, wins of 7 or fewer points are scored as 7-point wins and losses of 7 or fewer points are scored as 7 point losses. So a 4-point home win goes down as +7 (and not a 1) and a 1-point home loss is a -7 (and not a -4). The one exception is that road losses of 3 or fewer (and home wins of 3 or fewer) are graded as ties. So a 21-20 home victory goes down as a 0 for both teams.

3) Wins/Losses of more than 24 points are scored as the average between the actual number and 24. This is to avoid giving undue credit to teams that run up the score. So a 75-point home win goes down as a 48-point win.

Once we have a rating for each team in each game, we then adjust each result for strength of schedule. This is an iterative process, where we adjust the ratings hundreds of times (to adjust for SOS, you have to adjust for the SOS of each opponent, and the SOS of each opponent’s opponent, and so on.) in Excel. Then we produce final ratings, where the SRS rating is the sum of the Margin of Victory and Strength of Schedule in every week.

After five weeks, what are the results? As usual, the table is fully searchable (type “-0” for example, to see a list of undefeated teams, SEC to see all SEC teams, or ACC-Coas if you really want to see how the ACC Coastal is doing). Right now, the number one team is Alabama.  Despite the Crimson Tide already having one loss, Bama has an average (adjusted) Margin of Victory of 17.6 points per game against an average opponent that is 39.9 points better than average (average includes all football teams at all levels, so all FBS teams will have a positive grade). Below are the ratings for all 128 FBS teams. [click to continue…]


The Golden Nugget has released point spreads for a large number of college football games.  And these spreads can tell us a lot about how Vegas views these teams.  That’s because, for the most part, the spreads are consistent.

Let’s look at Ohio State, the defending national champions and a team the Golden Nugget released lines for four games. The Buckeyes are 14-point home favorites against Michigan State, 16-point road favorites against Michigan, 19-point home favorites against Penn State, and 16-point road favorites against Virginia Tech. So how good is Ohio State? Well, that depends on how good Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State, and Virginia Tech are. As it turns out, those teams aren’t half bad, so Ohio State must be really, really good. Let’s ignore the games where two of Michigan State, Michigan, and Penn State play each other (since that won’t tell us much about Ohio State), and look at the rest:

  • Michigan State is a 6-point road favorite in Nebraska and a 1-point home favorite against Oregon. This would imply that Ohio State is about 9 points better than the Ducks1, an annual college football contender.
  • The only non-Big 10 game for Penn State where a line was released was Penn State -28 against Army.
  • Michigan is a 33-point home favorite against UNVL, a 4-point road dog against Utah, a 14-point home favorite against Oregon State, and a 7-point home favorite against BYU. The Wolverines aren’t great, but remember that Ohio State is favored by 16 against them in Ann Arbor.
  • Virginia Tech is a 9-point home favorite against Pittsburgh, a 4-point road favorite against virginia, a 9.5-point road dog against Georgia Tech, and a 6-point road dog against Miami. And, remember, a 16-point home dog against Ohio State.

But we don’t need to strain our brains trying to piece together these ratings. As I showed last year and in 2013, we can take the point spreads from each game to determine what Vegas’ implied ratings are for 70 college football teams. [click to continue…]

  1. Michigan State would be viewed as 2 points worse on a neutral field than Oregon, while being 11 points worse than Ohio State on a neutral field. []

Colleges, The NFL Draft, and Heat Maps Since 1990

You may recall that last year, I looked at which college conferences dominate the NFL draft. Today, I want to look at which teams have dominated the draft since 1990.  And while there are no surprises, it’s fun to put numbers to what we all can sense.  Here’s what I did:

1) Using these draft values, assign a value to every pick in every draft from 1990 to 2014.

2) Calculate the amount of draft capital assigned to each college team by summing the values from each draft pick for each player from that college.

3) Create a heat map of the results, where red = more draft value and blue = less draft value.

Below are the top 75 schools in draft value created over the last 25 years.  You won’t be shocked to see that Florida State ranks 1st, with its players being worth 1,165 points of draft value over that span.  And with Jameis Winston headlining a host of Seminoles expected to be drafted this year, Florida State can probably comfortably settle into that top spot for the foreseeable future. [click to continue…]


Here’s how NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein described Kansas inside linebacker Ben Heeney:

Undersized inside linebacker with a big motor and willingness to take chances. Lacks the athleticism to recover from mistakes in the running game and is too tight to cover in space against the pass.

But at the combine, Heeney didn’t appear out of his athletic class. He ranked a respectable 49th in the 40 yard dash and 58th in the broad jump, while performing at perfectly average levesl in the vertical jump and bench press.

But it’s the 3-cone drill where Heeney starred.   Based on my research from last year, the best-fit formula to project a prospect’s performance in the 3-cone drill is:

Expected 3-Cone = 6.98 – 0.023 * Height + 0.0081 * Weight

For every 12.3 pounds of weight, a player’s expected 3-cone time increases by 0.1 seconds.  Height, meanwhile, is positively correlated: taller players tend to perform better in this drill, which is probably due to stride length/having to take fewer steps.   Heeney, as Zierlein noted, is a bit undersized at inside linebacker: he weighed in at 231 pounds and stood at six feet even (though that combination has worked out well for other inside linebackers).

Given that height/weight combination, we would expect Heeney to complete the 3-cone drill in 7.20 seconds. But Heeney finished it just 6.68 seconds, 0.52 seconds better than expected. According to NFLSavant.com, Heeney is just the 9th inside linebacker in combine history to break 7 seconds in the 3-cone drill; Prior to Heeney, the top two times came in 2012, when undrafted Chris Galippo ran it in 6.90, and Luke Kuechley did it in 6.92.

The table below shows the results of all 207 participants in the 3-cone drill at the combine.  Thanks to NFLSavant.com for the data. [click to continue…]

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Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones made history at the 2015 combine, with an unbelievable broad jump of 147 inches. And the video was every bit as impressive as it sounds. Keep in mind that no other player in combine history has ever even hit the 140 inch mark, giving Jones a full 8″ lead on every other broad jump ever recorded in Indianapolis.

On the other hand, Alvin “Bud” Dupree did something special, too. Remember, the Kentucky outside linebacker weighed in at 269 pounds, and he managed to jump 138 inches. In combine history, no other player over 260 pounds has jumped more than 129 inches; lower the weight to over 250 pounds, and the best mark after Dupree is 131 inches. So the Wildcats edge rusher was really in a class of his own, too.

There were 249 prospects in Indianapolis who performed in the broad jump. I performed a regression analysis using weight and height as my inputs, since both variables were highly significant in predicting the broad jump. Here is the best-fit formula: [click to continue…]


As a general rule, shorter and heavier guys tend to dominate the bench press. When I looked at this last year, the best-fit formula to predict the number of reps of 225 a prospect could achieve was:

Expected BP = 30.0 – 0.560 * Height + .1275 * Weight

What does that mean? All else being equal, if Prospect A is 7 inches shorter than Prospect B, we would expect Prospect B to produce about 4 more reps than Prospect A. And for every eight pounds of body weight a player has, we would expect one additional rep out of that prospect.

Which brings us to Clemson outside linebacker Vic Beasley. Standing 6’3 and “only” 246 pounds, Beasley doesn’t exactly fit the profile of a bench pressing machine. But in Indianapolis, he pumped out an incredible 35 reps, tied for the third most at the combine (no other player under 300 pounds had even 33 reps). Given his height and weight, the formula above would project Beasley for 19.4 reps, which means he exceeded expectations by a whopping 15.6 reps. No other player came close to exceeding expectations to such a significant degree.

The table below shows the results of all players who participated in the bench press at the combine.  All data comes courtesy of NFLSavant.com.

[click to continue…]


One of the biggest headlines from the combine were the jumps from Byron Jones, a cornerback from Connecticut. Most impressive was his broad jump, which was not only 8 inches better than everyone else in Indianapolis, but also 8 inches better than anyone else in combine history. More on his broad jump in a future post, but Jones’ 44.5″ vertical too shabby, either: it was the best since 2009, when Ohio State and eventual Chiefs safety Donald Washington jumped 45 inches (a feat later matched by one other player at this year’s combine).

But Jones didn’t have the most impressive vertical at the combine, because at 199 pounds, there’s an expectation that he would do fairly well in that drill.  Given his weight, we would expect Jones to jump about 35.5 inches, based on the best-fit formula derived here, and defined below:

Expected VJ = 48.34 – 0.0646 * Weight

One way to think of that formula is that for every 15.5 pounds of player weight, the expectation on the vertical is one fewer inch.  So at 230 pounds, the expectation would be 33.5 inches.  Which brings us to Alvin “Bud” Dupree, whom we lauded yesterday for the top performance in the 40-yard dash.  At 269 pounds, he would be expected to jump roughly 31.0 inches.  Instead, the Kentucky edge rusher jumped a whopping 42.0 inches — or 11.0 inches over expectation — making it the best weight-adjusted performance of any player in Indianapolis.

Below are the results of the Vertical Jump for every player at the combine. All data comes courtesy of NFLSavant.com. [click to continue…]

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