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Penn State, at 10-2 and a runner-up in the Big Ten East, is not in the college football playoff discussion. But that doesn’t mean the Nittany Lions haven’t been as good as any team this season. After all, had Penn State had played Ohio State at home and won by 1 point instead of losing on the road the Buckeyes by 1 point, the Nittany Lions wouldn’t be any “better” than they are now, while their record would be much better. An 11-1 Penn State with wins over Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, and Northwestern, and be a lock to make the college football playoff with a win over Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship Game.

Penn State ranks 7th in points scored and 7th in points allowed among the 130 teams in the FBS. The Nittany Lions are the only team in the top 10 in both categories, and Alabama (1st in points allowed, 12th in points scored) is the only other team in the top 15 in both; Washington (18th in scoring, 6th in points allowed) is the only other team to rank in the top 20 in both. Penn State has outscored opponents by 26.1 points per game, second to only Alabama (27.6) despite a harder schedule. Penn State lost two games on the road by a total of 4 points; but, even though the Nittany Lions rank 1st in the SRS, the loss to Ohio State — which goes down as the best loss of the season (edging Utah’s 3-point road loss in Washington) — is enough to eliminate them from contention.

As always thanks to Dr. Peter R. Wolfe for providing the weekly game logs. The full week 13 NCAA SRS ratings below: [click to continue…]

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The SRS ratings this week didn’t change much, with very few meaningful games among top teams.

Penn State, Notre Dame, Washington, and Iowa State fell a bit in close wins over bad teams, while Oklahoma State and Iowa suffered losses. The only other top-25 teams (by the SRS) to lose lost to even better teams: Michigan lost to Wisconsin, and N.C. State losing to Wake Forest.

Right now, three Big 10 teams crack the top four, with Georgia and Auburn combining with #1 Alabama to give the SEC three top-10 teams. The full week 12 SRS ratings are below. As always thanks to Dr. Peter R. Wolfe for providing the weekly game logs. [click to continue…]

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A week ago, Iowa beat Ohio State 55-24 and recorded the single-best SRS game score (87.5) of the 2017 season. And after the Buckeyes crushed Michigan State on Saturday, that win looks even better: it now measures a whopping 88.5 in the SRS. And yet, it is no longer the top game of the year, not after what Miami just did.

At home against the then-#1 team in the SRS, Notre Dame, the Hurricanes crushed the Irish 41-8. Because Notre Dame still has an impressive 62.2 SRS rating, the 33-point win — which gets knocked down to 27 due to home field and as part of the compression against blowouts — produced an SRS score of 89.2, the best game of the year. And the Buckeyes win over MSU? That was the third best performance of the season, scoring an SRS score of 81.7. And let’s not forget about what Auburn did to Georgia — the Tigers produced the 7th-best game of the year by SRS standards. The table below shows the single-game SRS scores from this week: [click to continue…]

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Let’s start today’s post in a different direction: with a look at the biggest surprises of the week. And there was no bigger surprise than Iowa’s blowout win over Ohio State.

After week 10 (which, of course, compresses the ratings since the year-long ratings include the week 10 results), Iowa has an SRS of 55.0, while Ohio State is at 61.6. Given that the game was in Iowa, we would have expected Iowa to lose by 3.6 points.  But Iowa won 55-24, for a difference of 31 points, and an adjusted MOV of 26 points.  That means Iowa exceeded SRS expectations by 29.6 points, the most of any FBS team this week.

Army, Bowling Green, Baylor, and Utah round out the top 5 in terms of biggest overachievers in week 10:

[click to continue…]

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You probably weren’t expecting that headline after Penn State lost its first game of the season on Saturday.

A week ago, I wrote that Penn State rose to #2 in the SRS after blowing out Michigan. Now, this week, Penn State is #1 after losing on Saturday? What happened?

#1 Alabama was idle this week, but Penn State had as good a loss as you can get. The Nittany Lions had an SRS rating of 68.2 last week, and only dropped to 67.6 this week. That’s because Penn State lost by 1 point, on the road, to an Ohio State team that ranks 3rd in the SRS. But the real issue is that Alabama dropped significantly, by 3.5 points from week 8 to 9, despite not playing.

How? Alabama is 8-0 with zero of those wins coming against teams that rank in the top 45 in the SRS. Four of those wins have come against terrible SEC teams that rank outside of the top 70 in the SRS in Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Vanderbilt. The other four wins came against Florida State, Fresno State, Texas A&M, and Colorado St.

FSU lost 35-3 to Boston College this weekend, causing the Seminoles to drop from 51.1 to 44.5 in the SRS, a -6.6 point drop.

Fresno State lost 26-16 to a terrible UNLV team, causing west coast FSU to drop from 49.5 to 43.4, a -6.1 SRS point drop.

The Aggies lost 35-14 to Mississippi State, dropping Texas A&M by 3.9 points, from 46.2 to 42.3 in the SRS.

And Colorado State lost at home to Air Force by 17 points; that led to a 4.4 point SRS drop, from 43.4 to 39.0.

A week ago, Alabama’s SOS was 42.6 points; that was a little weak, but overwhelmed by the Crimson Tide’s dominance. Now? The average Alabama opponent has a 39.1 SRS rating, and that 3.5-point drop was enough to move Alabama from #1 to #4 in the SRS. It’s weird for sure to see Alabama drop this far, but look at the big picture: the Crimson Tide haven’t faced an opponent in the top 45 of the SRS, and their three best wins are against #48 Florida State, #50 Fresno State, and #58 Texas A&M. [click to continue…]

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Week 8 of the college football season didn’t see any big contenders fall. In fact, none of the top 14 teams in last week’s ratings lost. And the two best teams that lost all fell to better teams: last week’s #15 lost to last week’s #3 Penn State, #16 USC lost to #5 Notre Dame.

Let’s start with the most impressive wins of the week, which go to Notre Dame and Penn State. Beating a strong opponent helps, but both teams blew out top 20 opponents.  And Iowa State — a school that hadn’t won more than 3 games since 2012 — continued their remarkable run.  In week 6, the Cyclones shocked a great Oklahoma team to win 38-31 in Norman. The next week, Iowa State stomped on Kansas 45-0, the second largest margin of victory for Iowa State in a game in the last 15 years.  Then, on Saturday, the Cyclones upset Texas Tech, 31-13.  This marked the third straight game where Iowa State covered the point spread by more than 21 points!

The table below shows the SRS ratings from each game in week 8: [click to continue…]

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Last week, I introduced the first version of the SRS ratings. Well, there were some big upsets this week which have moved the rankings.

Clemson, which ranked 5th last week and 2nd in the polls, was upset by a Syracuse team that ranked 73rd in the SRS.

Washington, which ranked 8th in the SRS, was upset by Arizona State, which ranked 45th last week.

Washington State looked to be soaring this time a week ago: they ranked 14th in the SRS and were 6-0. But the Cougars were obliterated 37-3 by a Cal team that ranked 58th in the SRS a week ago.

Auburn, Texas Tech, Texas, and San Diego State were also SRS top 25 teams that suffered a loss in week seven.

Even Georgia moves down this week by virtue of a sluggish win over a terrible Missouri team. Entering this week, Missouri was 0-4 against FBS opponents (Auburn, Purdue, South Carolina, Kentucky) with an average loss of 23.25 points; therefore, a 25-point home win over Missouri drops 3 to 4. Right now, Ohio State and Penn State joint Alabama in the top 3.

As for the Buckeyes, yes, they rank #2 despite a 15-point home loss to Oklahoma. Why? They beat Rutgers by 56, Maryland by 48, Nebraska by 42, UNLV by 33, and Army by 31 points: those are the worst losses each of those five teams have had this year. They also beat Indiana by 28, and the Hoosiers have only had one loss worse this year (31 points to Penn State). Yes, the Oklahoma loss was bad, but it’s not easy dropping 40-point wins against Big 10 teams. Think of the SRS as a proxy for the Vegas rankings: and right now, I expect Ohio State to be a home favorite against Penn State in two weeks.

As always thanks to Dr. Peter R. Wolfe for providing the weekly game logs. Below are the SRS ratings through 7 weeks: [click to continue…]

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For the last few years, I have introduced the first edition of the College Football SRS Ratings after five weeks. I’m a week late this year, so 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…]

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Myles Garrett Is Your 2017 Combine Champion

Myles Garrett is in good shape.

Over the last few days, we have looked at how the top college athletes performed in various drills at the NFL combine, after adjusting for height and weight. Today, we look at the full results and crown a combine champion.

That is a pretty easy thing to do, as it turns out. Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is likely going to be the first overall pick in the draft, and his performance in Indianapolis cemented such a distinction. Garrett had the 2nd best performance in three separate drills: the 40-yard dash, the bench press, and the vertical jump. Then, he produced a 5th-place finish in the broad jump, while sitting out the 3-cone drill. Garrett competed in four of these five events and his averaged finish was 2.8. That’s tremendous.

The table below shows the results in these five drills. I have also included an average rank, excluding all events where a player didn’t participate. That’s not the best way to do this, but I don’t know of a simpler method to rank them. The far right column shows how many of the 5 events each player competed in, so that can be a useful guide. It’s clear to me that the runner up for Combine King is Solomon Thomas rather than Aviante Collins. Thomas had an average rank of 7.6, but he competed in all five events. Collins has a higher rank at 5.0, but the TCU tackle only competed in the 40 and the bench press. To me, a 1-7-8-8-14 is more impressive than a 5-5-dnp-dnp-dnp, but to keep things simple, I just used a simple average. [click to continue…]

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Thomas was a combine superstar

As you can imagine, heavier players fare much worse in the 3-cone drill, and taller players have a slight advantage, too. Here was the best-fit formula from the 2017 combine:

7.3397 -0.0317 * Height (Inches) + 0.0091 * Weight (Pounds)

Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey is one of the more interesting prospects from this draft, and he dominated in the 3-cone drill, finishing in 6.57 seconds, just one hundredth of a second behind the leader. Given his dimensions — 71 inches, 202 pounds — he’d be expected to complete the drill in 6.93. McCaffrey therefore finished the drill in 0.36 seconds more than expected, the 7th-best adjusted performance in this drill.

The top performance belonged to a different Stanford player, defensive end Solomon Thomas, who finished a full 0.50 seconds above expectation. The full results, below: [click to continue…]

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Hey, look who it is again.

Yesterday, we looked at the vertical jump, which is biased towards lighter players. The star at the combine was Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu, who had both the top vertical jump and the top weight-adjusted vertical jump. Well, Melifonwu also had the longest broad jump at the combine.

The broad jump is also biased in towards lighter players, but it’s also biased towards taller players. As a result, we need to adjust broad jump results for both weight and height: the best-fit formula from the results of the 2017 combine is:

Broad Jump = 84.14 + 1.0766 * Height (Inches) – 0.1940 * Weight (Pounds)

For Melifonwu, he weighed 224 pounds and was 76 inches tall; that means he’d be projected to jump a solid 122.5 inches. That’s a pretty high projection, showing that Melifonwu’s body is well-tailored for this drill. But even still, he exceeded that jump by 18.5 inches, courtesy of his remarkable 141 inch jump. As a result, he once again had both the top jump and the top adjusted jump: [click to continue…]

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Being able to jump high might be useful for a safety

Let’s begin with the most remarkable of today’s feats: Myles Garrett is getting pretty good at this number two thing. After finishing second in the weight-adjusted 40 and second in the height and weight adjusted bench press, Garrett has again finished second in a combine drill, this time the weight-adjusted vertical.

When it comes to the vertical jump, weight is by far the most important thing that matters. For every additional 16.7 pounds a player weights, his expected vertical declines by one inch. That’s because the best-fit formula for projecting the vertical jump at the 2017 combine was 46.38 – 0.0597 * weight (pounds). Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu weighed 224 pounds in Indianapolis, which would project him to jump an even 33 inches if he was average at this drill.

Well, Melifonwu was anything but average. He jumped an incredible 44 inches: for comparison’s sake, Florida State / Jacksonville safety Jalen Ramsey had a 41.5 inch vertical last year, tied for the most of any player at the 2016 combine. And that was at 209 pounds. Melifonwu was 15 pounds heavier and jumped 2.5 inches higher. That’s a remarkable feat, and brings to mind some of the great verticals from the 2015 combine.

And while Melifonwu was 11 inches better than expected, Garrett was right on his heels at +10.9 inches. Garrett weighed 272 pounds at the combine, but still jumped an insane 41 inches. That’s only three fewer inches than Melifonwu at 48 pounds heavier. Now because the average player lost 16.7 inches for every pound, that makes Melifonwu’s jump just slightly better, but the two of them were far ahead of the rest of the pack. Below are the full results: [click to continue…]

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Lawson, when he’s not on the bench press

Yesterday, I looked at the best weight-adjusted 40-yard dash times at the 2017 NFL Combine. The Browns are expected to select Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett with the first overall pick, and with good reason: he had the 2nd best weight-adjusted 40-yard dash time, and he comes in 2nd place again today in the height and weight adjusted bench press.

In 2015, Clemson/Atlanta Falcon Vic Beasley was the bench press champion, using a formula involving expected bench press reps based on a player’s height and weight.  That turned out to be pretty predictive of future success; on the other hand, last year’s winner was Nebraska fullback Andy Janovich, who wound up being a 6th round pick and a minor contributor as a rookie with the Broncos.

The best-fit formula to project bench press reps for the 2017 Combine was:

17.401 -0.3354 * Height (Inches) + 0.1075 * Weight (Pounds)

Using that formula, Garrett — at 76 inches and 272 pounds — would be projected to bench press 225 pounds for 21.1 reps. In reality, Garrett produced a whopping 33 reps, or 11.9 more than expected. The only way to top him was Auburn’s Carl Lawson, who measured at 74 inches and only 261 pounds. Being shorter is better, but being lighter is worse, and Lawson would be projected using the regression to have 20.6 reps on the bench press. Instead, he had 35, or 14.4 more than projected, easily the largest margin at the combine.
[click to continue…]

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O.J. Howard is fast.

As I have done for the last few years, this week I will be using the raw NFL combine data and adjusting 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 2017 combine was 3.283 + 0.00606 x weight. ((This time around, I excluded punters, kickers, and long snappers when running regressions, as those players aren’t invited to their combine for their raw athleticism (and removing them made the numbers a little tighter). As you can see

Let’s use Alabama tight end O.J. Howard as an example.  He weighed 251 pounds at the combine, which means he would be projected to run the 40-yard dash in 4.81 seconds. Instead, he ran it in just 4.51 seconds, a full 0.30 better than expected.

That was the best performance of any player at the combine. A very close second was produced by the presumptive number one pick in the draft, Myles Garrett. The Texas A&M defensive end weighed 272 pounds, so using the formula above, a player of Garrett’s size should run the 40 in 4.93 seconds.  But Garrett was 0.29 seconds better than expected, completing the drill in 4.64 seconds. Garrett reportedly bested that time by running 40 yards in 4.57 seconds at his Pro Day, too. [click to continue…]

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Week Fourteen NCAA SRS Rankings: Alabama Finishes #1

The college regular season is over, other than Army/Navy this weekend. Let’s start with a review of the final week of the season for the B12, and the conference championship games for the rest of major college football.

Washington’s destruction of Colorado lead the way, while yet another Alabama blowout only comes in second due to the weaker opponent (yes, Florida is nearly ten points worse than Colorado; 2016 is weird). Also, Temple with a huge upset win over Navy comes in third. [click to continue…]

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Week Thirteen NCAA SRS Rankings: Where Do We Stand?

The rankings haven’t changed much from last week. Here’s how the top 15 teams in the SRS last week fared in week 13:

  • #1 Alabama handled Auburn in the Iron Bowl, 30-12. The Crimson Tide is a lock for the playoffs, even if they lose in the SECCG (which they’re not going to do).
  • #2 Ohio State beat Michigan in perhaps the game of the college football season, 30-27 in double overtime. Ohio State seems like a lock for the playoffs; the Buckeyes regular season is over, as Penn State won the Big 10 East.
  • #3 Michigan lost to Ohio State. Michigan’s playoff chances appear dead in the water.
  • #4 Washington had the single best game of the week, according to the SRS, beating Washington State in the Apple Cup, 45-17.  It was the 5th best single game score of the year. Washington looks to be in a “win and they’re in” situation, as the Huskies will face Colorado in the P12CG.
  • #5 Clemson blew the doors off of South Carolina, 56-7, to finish the regular season 11-1.  The Tigers are in a “win and they’re in” scenario against Virginia Tech in the ACCCG.
  • #6 Colorado beat Utah, at home, 27-22, to capture the Pac 12 South.  The Buffaloes may well be in a “win and they’re in” situation in the P12CG against Washington.  More on that in a bit.
  • #7 Wisconsin handled Minnesota, 31-17.  Wisconsin won the Big 10 West, and will face Penn State in the B10CG.
  • #8 Southern Cal beat Notre Dame, 45-27, but USC’s season is over now that Colorado has won the South.
  • #9 Louisville shockingly lost to Kentucky, 41-38. Louisville finished the year 9-3, with two straight bad losses.
  • #10 Washington State lost to Washington, ending WAZZOU’s playoff hopes.
  • #11 Oklahoma was off.  The Sooners can still win the conference at 10-2 with a win in the de facto B12CG this weekend against Oklahoma State.
  • #12 Penn State beat Michigan State, 45-12.  The Nittany Lions will face Wisconsin in the B10CG.

Below are the week 13 SRS results: [click to continue…]

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It was a very good week for Oklahoma.

The Sooners were easy to write off early in the 2016 season, after two bad losses in the first three weeks. Oklahoma failed to cover by 23 points against Houston (33-23 loss, as a 13-point favorite) and Ohio State (45-24, as a 2-point favorite), which appeared to knock them out of the national discussion.

But Houston did the Sooners a favor by knocking off Louisville on Thursday night, eliminating (for now) the Cardinals from the playoff picture. Houston recorded a single-game SRS score of 79.5 for that performance, the top game of the week. And the better Houston looks, the more forgivable that loss is from Oklahoma’s perspective.

Oklahoma also doubled-up on West Virginia, 56-28, the third-best game of the week. And the fourth-best game of the week came from Oklahoma State, who destroyed TCU. The Sooners and Cowboys face off in two weeks in a de facto Big 12 playoff game: the teams are 8-0 and 7-1 in conference play, respectively, with every other team having at least two conference losses.

Below are the single-game ratings from week twelve: [click to continue…]

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The story of the college football season had been the lack of any crazy upsets. It felt as though we were on a predetermined path to the college football playoffs, with Alabama, Clemson, Washington, and the Ohio State/Michigan winner taking the four spots.

Then, Saturday happened. The six best teams this year have combined to lose just five games, and *three* of them came in week eleven:

  • Pittsburgh went into Clemson and won, 43-42. This was a shocking upset: the Tigers were favored by 21.5 points.
  • Less of an upset was seeing USC (+10) go in to Seattle and double up the Huskies, 26-13.  This registered as the 2nd most dominant win of the week, behind only Ohio State’s 62-3 thrashing of Maryland.
  • And then the most shocking development of the weekend: Michigan, #1 in the SRS last week, falling to Iowa in Iowa City.  The Wolverines were 24-point favorites, and would have been 22.7-point SRS favorites over a Hawkeyes team that ranked 44th in the SRS a few days ago.

Oh, and in addition to Ohio State taking care of business, Alabama crushed MSU, 51-3, for the 3rd best SRS game of the week.  Below are the single-game SRS ratings from week 11: [click to continue…]

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Week Ten (2016) College Football SRS Ratings

A little late to the party this week, so here are last week’s ratings as a reminder. Given the late publishing date, I am also including the games from Tuesday and Wednesday night, which means Western Michigan is now 10-0 in these rankings.

The big win of week ten was by Ohio State, as the Buckeyes recorded the single biggest SRS win of the season. Playing at home against Nebraska (ranked 31st, SRS of 48.8), the Buckeyes won 62-3. That’s a 56-point HFA-adjusted margin of victory, which gets adjusted down to a 40-point win after the adjustment we use here in the SRS (i.e., the average of 24 and 56). That translates to an 88.8 single-game rating, which trails only Alabama’s 52-6 neutral site win over USC (90.5) for the top rating of the season. [click to continue…]

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The most dominant win of week 9 came from…. Tulsa? Entering the week, Memphis was 5-2, with only road losses against ranked teams in Memphis and Navy. Memphis ranked 38th in the SRS last week, and was a 6-point favorite at home against Tulsa. But the Golden Hurricane broke open the game in the second half, scoring the final 24 points en route to a 59-30 victory. Running back James Flanders had 33 carries for 249 yards and 5 touchdowns, including scores of 52 and 48 yards.

In slightly more relevant week 9 news, there was some B12 on B12 crime this weekend, as the last two remaining teams in the conference went down.  Oklahoma State had the 2nd best SRS performance of the week, winning by 17 against previously unbeaten West Virginia. Texas was a bit less impressive, but still had the third best B12 performance of the week in a 35-34 home victory against Baylor.

But perhaps the most notable performance of the week came from Auburn, as the Tigers went on the road and scored 13 fourth quarter points to beat Ole Miss in Oxford, 40-29.  Auburn now seems like a legitimate candidate to beat Alabama, or at least give the Tide a competitive game in the Iron Bowl.

Below are the single-game SRS results from this weekend. As always, thanks to Peter R. Wolfe for providing the game scores. [click to continue…]

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Week Eight (2016) College Football SRS Ratings

Last week, Michigan, Alabama, and Ohio State were far ahead of the pack according to the SRS. The top 6 remains unchanged this week other than Clemson and Louisville switching spots. That might be surprising given that Ohio State lost in Happy Valley, but Penn State now ranks 22nd in the SRS (they ranked 34th last week) and the Buckeyes had a large lead on #4 Clemson last week. Ohio State gets a 51.0 for losing at Penn State, but Clemson had a 56.1 last week for a home win over N.C. State.

The three big wins of the week came from Auburn, Louisville, and Alabama. At this rate, the Crimson Tide look ridiculous: Alabama’s worst game of the year was a 59.7, scored in a 5-point road win against Ole Miss. Two other games (34-6 over Kentucky, 48-0 over Kent State) had similar scores. But against the three teams Alabama has faced with an SRS of at least 50, the Ride have won by a combined 134-30 (USC, Tennessee, A&M).

But after Auburn’s destruction of Arkansas this weekend, there’s at least reason to think the Iron Bowl should be interesting. On Saturday, the Tigers rushed for 544 yards and 7 touchdowns on 56 carries — that is insane. In fact, it’s the most by any SEC team in a regular season game since at least 2000: it’s also one less yard than the famed 2013 Tigers had in the SEC Championship Game against Missouri.

As for Louisville? Well, they obliterated that NC State team that nearly (and should have) beaten Clemson last week. Below are the single-game week 8 SRS ratings:
[click to continue…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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