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Last week, three Big 12 teams occupied the 4-5-6 spots in the rankings, making the Big 12 look like an obvious contender to take one of the four spots in college football’s first ever playoff. Then week 7 happened.

Yesterday, West Virginia won at home against Baylor, 41-27, while Oklahoma lost in Manhattan to Kansas State, 31-30.1 TCU blew out Oklahoma State, 42-9, which only increases the pain associated with how the Horned Frogs blew the Baylor game a week ago. When SEC teams beat up each other, it shows the strength of the conference. When every other conference beats up each other, it shows how the conference isn’t as good as we thought. That’s an extreme version of the narrative, but that does seem to be the thought process for many in the media. After week 7, the Big 12’s big three is now a big four with Kansas State2 joining the mix. All four are in the top 12, but none are in the top 4. More importantly, TCU, the top Big 12 team, ends the season with Kansas, Texas, and Iowa State. It’s going to be tough for TCU to gain a lot of momentum in December with that finish to the schedule, and will TCU look that much different than say, the winner of the Oklahoma/Baylor game? Kansas State could wind up undefeated in the conference, but what will that say about the Big 12 relative to the SEC if KSU’s only loss was to Auburn?

It’s definitely too early to really think through possible scenarios, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. Below are the week 8 ratings. As always thanks to Dr. Peter R. Wolfe for providing the weekly game logs. Some more playoff thoughts about the jump: [click to continue…]

  1. The Sooners not only missed an extra point, but a 19-yard field goal in the game’s final minutes. []
  2. Why not West Virginia? Sure, the Mountaineers are 5-2 with only losses to Alabama and Oklahoma, but the SRS so far thinks WVA belongs in a lower tier than the top teams in the conference. []

The Bulldogs pushed aside the Tigers in week 7; just not in the SRS

MSU pushed aside Auburn in week 7; (but not in the SRS).

In last week’s rankings, Auburn stood head and shoulders above the rest of college football. As a result, even a 15-point loss on the road against Mississippi State wasn’t enough to nudge the Tigers from the top spot. Is this a problem? Not really. The SRS ratings are predictive; they are not designed to tell you which teams are the most deserving or which schools have accomplished the most. Instead, they are intended to give you an idea of what might happen in a future game between any two teams.

Auburn’s rating is amplified by a 41-7 victory against LSU, which stands out as the most dominant performance of the year. The Tigers also crushed Arkansas by 24, a margin that looks more impressive every week. Other than yesterday’s loss, Auburn’s “worst” performance of the year by SRS standards was a 6-point win on the road against Kansas State (#14 in the SRS), which would be the best game of the year for all but a handful of teams.

The Mississippi schools check in at #2 and #3 in the SRS this week; Alabama and Texas A&M are #8 and #9, giving the SEC West five teams in the top ten yet again. Auburn, with the double-edged sword of a brutal schedule, will have no problem getting back into the playoff discussion if the Tigers can win out. Georgia, fresh off a 34-0 thumping of Missouri, is now 7th in the SRS. But I want to focus on schools 4, 5, and 6 in the ratings. All are from the Big 12, a conference doesn’t appear to be getting much respect nationally.

The ten-team conference plays a round robin schedule, meaning each team gets nine division games. That leaves only 3 nonconference games for each school, and the class of the conference — Baylor, Oklahoma, and TCU — are already done with that part of their schedule. It makes sense to analyze these teams as a group, because for SRS purposes (and based on the two head-to-head games), these three teams are all about equal. In their nine nonconference games, they went 9-0 with an average margin of victory of 41 points, and all wins came by at least 23. Of course, that schedule was loaded with cupcakes: other than Tennessee (currently 12th in the SRS), the only semi-respectable opponents were Minnesota (#38) and Louisiana Tech (#50). And the Vols game is certainly helping: Tennessee is 3-3, but the losses were by 1 point to Florida, 4 to Georgia, and 24 to Oklahoma. [click to continue…]

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Thoughts on SEC West schedules

The SEC West is the best division in all of college football. The division is 31-6 this year, with all six losses coming at the hands of other SEC West teams. There have been only three inter-divisional games in the SEC this year, and the West teams came away with three blowout victories: Alabama over Florida (42-21), Texas A&M over South Carolina (52-28), and Ole Miss over Vanderbilt (41-3). In Power 5 play, Arkansas, Alabama, and Auburn have notched wins over Texas Tech, West Virginia, and Kansas State, while LSU knocked off Wisconsin. And Ole Miss defeated Boise State and Memphis, too.

Auburn, Mississippi, MSU, Alabama, and A&M all are in the top 10 of the SRS, and LSU and Arkansas are in the top 20. So what happens if these teams beat up on each other? Each school plays each of the other six SEC West teams. While there’s a good chance at least one of these schools goes 5-1 or 6-0 in division play, there’s also a chance we end up with a multi-team tie atop the division at 4-2. The actual tiebreakers are the typical boring type that you can imagine, but we need not restrict ourselves to the creativity capacity of executives of the Southeastern Conference. So today, I’m ranking schedules. Since this is not the tiebreaker that the SEC would actually use, you can think of this as how-to guide to rooting for people who have morals: [click to continue…]


Ole Miss pulled off the big upset

Ole Miss pulled off the big upset.

Early in the day, Mississippi State blew out Texas A&M in Starkville, 48-31. That was the first half in the most incredible football day in Magnolia State history. What happened next was much more dramatic.

Ole Miss had lost 10 straight games to Alabama, with 9 of those games coming by at least 22 points. The last three years, the Crimson Tide had won by an average of 36.7 points. Last year, a 3-0 Ole Miss team — fresh off of a blowout win in Texas — lost in Tuscaloosa, 25-0. So while the Rebels entered Saturday with a 4-0 record and a top-15 ranking, it would be fair to wonder how they would handle an Alabama team that was still Alabama.

Early on, the Tide looked like the better team. Amari Cooper was not dominating, but T.J. Yeldon looked great, en route to a 100-yard day. Quarterback Blake Sims looked smart and efficient, while Ole Miss couldn’t seem to get much going on offense like just about every opponent ever against Alabama. Still, the Rebels defense had played well enough to keep the Tide to just seven first half points, and the game looked to be 7-3 at the end of the half. That is, until what appeared to be the turning point of the game.

In the final seconds of the half, a screen pass to I’Tavius Mathers looked to be uneventful, until Cyrus Jones pulled off the trifecta — strip, fumble recovery, return for a touchdown. Replays showed that Jones committed a blatant facemask penalty, which likely lead to the fumble, but the refs didn’t see it. So after a great first half, a bad call meant Ole Miss was suddenly down 14-3. This seemed like a recipe for yet another Alabama win over the Upstart Of the Week.

But the weirdest thing happened in the second half. Ole Miss didn’t just outscore Alabama, it outplayed them. And not by an insignificant margin. Bo Wallace, Laquon Treadwell, and Evan Engram (other than a huge drop) were dominant in the second half, while the Ole Miss defense continued its excellent play. A gorgeous touchdown to Jaylen Walton gave Ole Miss a touchdown lead, but in typical Ole Miss fashion, the team botched the extra point not once, but twice.1

With Ole Miss now clinging to only a 6-point lead, you could hardly blame anyone for expecting Alabama to win the game with a last second touchdown. A 30-yard catch and run by Cooper on the final drive put the Tide in inside the Ole Miss 30. But an incredible interception by Senquez Golson sealed the victory, and the day was complete: Mississippi not only beat, but outplayed Alabama, in a crucial game in a battle for SEC West supremacy. The game (and the aftermath) was everything that was great about college football.

Which almost makes it seem silly to transition to college football ratings, since we are still too early in the year for these ratings to hold significant meaning. Last week, I unveiled the initial SRS ratings. In perhaps two weeks, the ratings will start to really hold up, but for now, these are mostly a gut check. As always thanks to Dr. Peter R. Wolfe for providing the weekly game logs. As a reminder, these ratings are intended to be predictive only, and not intended as a way to rank college football teams for any other purpose. [click to continue…]

  1. First, the kick clanked off the upright. A roughing the kicker penalty gave the Rebels another chance, but the second extra point attempt was blocked. []

Your Guide to Rooting Against the SEC

I got an email a few days ago with an idea for a post. Because coming up with one entire idea every day can get to be a grind after awhile, sending me such an email is Step Two to getting on my good side (Step One, of course, is submitting a guest post). I can use all the help I can get. Here was the email in full.

Vanderbilt lost to freakin’ Temple this year. While it would be great if Vanderbilt went undefeated in SEC play, that’s not going to happen. So what else can an SEC-hater root for this year that would make the SEC look bad?

If you’re rooting against the SEC as a whole — and getting involved in conference wars is a surefire way to get lost down the rabbit hole — what teams do you want to keep an eye on this year?

  • As our emailer suggested, having Vanderbilt fare well in SEC play would be one way the conference as a whole would look worse. As it stands, that’s exceedingly unlikely to happen. Vanderbilt’s best game of the year was a 10-point loss to Kentucky; the Commodores look to be the worst team in the conference, which will minimize the impact of the Temple loss.
  • SEC teams have not lost any other games against non-Power 5 conferences. So what’s next? In fact, the conference has lost just two other out-of-conference games.
  • Tennessee lost to Oklahoma 34-10, but the Sooners are the top team in the early edition of the SRS rankings. The Vols may be pretty good this year — they nearly beat Georgia last weekend — but it’s going to be hard for this loss to wind up reflecting badly on the SEC as a whole. Absent an unexpected SEC East division title, the biggest hope here would be for the Vols to be competitive with Alabama. In that case, if the Sooners and Crimson Tide are both battling for one playoff spot, that data point could be used against ‘Bama.
  • But by far the biggest blemish came when Indiana — Indiana(!) — won in Missouri, 31-27. The Hoosiers are one of the worst teams in a not very good Big Ten. In the team’s other three games, Indiana beat an FCS school, lost badly at home to Maryland, and lost to a MAC school (Bowling Green). Every game Mizzou wins could theoretically devalue the conference (or at least the SEC East) as a whole. After the Tigers beat South Carolina last weekend, Missouri is off to a good start in the team’s bid to repeat as SEC East champs. Assuming Indiana tanks, this is the one data point SEC haters can cling to so far.

[click to continue…]


The past couple of weeks, I was using a quasi-Elo style rating system to produce college football team ratings. And while after five weeks it is still far too early to put much faith in any computer ratings, we can at least begin framing the discussion of which are the most impressive teams in college football. So, as we did last year, the first edition of the college football SRS ratings are coming out at the end of September. 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, or SEC to see all SEC teams.) Right now, the number one team is Oklahoma, with an average (adjusted) Margin of Victory of 24.6 points per game against an average opponent that is 43.3 points better than average (average includes all football teams at all levels, so all FBS teams will have a positive grade). Among undefeated teams, the only teams with tougher to-date schedules than Oklahoma are Auburn and UCLA. Below shows the ratings for all 128 FBS teams.

As always thanks to Dr. Peter R. Wolfe for providing the weekly game logs. [click to continue…]

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Week Four College Football Ratings (2014)

Last week, I unveiled some ELO-style college football ratings. Next week, with five weeks of data, I plan to run the first edition of the traditional SRS ratings. But for one more week, let’s stick with the current format.

Step 1) Twenty-five FBS teams were off in week 3, leaving 103 teams to analyze.

Step 2) In 25 of those matchups, one team had an SRS rating at least 15 points higher than its opponent. In 22 of those games, the favorite one; as a result, there is no change in either team’s rating following that game, so Oregon does not get downgraded for only beating Washington by 7 points on the road. But the three “upsets” include the big surprise of the week: Indiana going into Columbia and upsetting Missouri, 31-27. For those games, we’ll include them in Step 4.

Step 3) After eliminating the 22 heavy favorites who were victorious, there are 81 teams remaining. While some of those games were against FCS schools, 16 of the heavy underdogs in those games were against FBS schools. Since those teams will not have their ratings change, that leaves 65 teams to analyze.

Step 4) For all other teams, I modified each team’s rating following the result of that game, with 85% of the new rating coming from the old rating, and 15% coming from that single game.

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


Week Three College Football Ratings (2014)

Mariota and the Ducks look as good as any team in the country

Mariota and the Ducks look as good as any team in the country.

Regular readers know that I publish weekly college football ratings using the Simple Rating System. The catch is that the SRS isn’t a viable option in the first few weeks of the season; until we have more interaction among the top teams, we can’t really generate computer ratings.  Frankly, running an SRS program today would be pretty useless.

Consider that a team like Arizona State has played Weber State, New Mexico, and Colorado. Auburn has played Arkansas (the Razorbacks are not very good) and San Jose State. Oklahoma has played Louisiana Tech, Tulsa, and Tennessee (the Vols are not very good). So what can we do?

One thing we could do is to use the concept of Elo Ratings. But calculating Elo ratings in this context is no simple task, and there’s a good chance my buddy Neil is going to do that, anyway, so I thought I would try simpler process. I’ll give a high-level overview of the process here, then present the rankings, and then provide all the nuts and bolts for those interested at the bottom of the post. [click to continue…]

FSU is a heavy favorite to wind up in the national title game again

FSU is a heavy favorite to wind up in the national title game again.

The Simple Rating System is a set of computer rankings that is focused on only two variables: strength of schedule and margin of victory. I publish weekly college football SRS ratings each season, and you can read more about the SRS there. Last year, I took the Las Vegas point spreads for over 200 college football games to come up with a set of power rankings. By taking every data point, and using Excel to iterate the ratings hundreds of times, I was able to generate a set of implied team ratings.

Well on Friday, the Golden Nugget released the point spreads for 200 games (h/t to RJ Bell). You might not think we can do much with just a couple hundred games, but by using an SRS-style process, those point spreads can help us determine the implied ratings that Las Vegas has assigned to each team.

We don’t have a full slate of games, but we do have at least 1 game for 77 different teams. Theoretically, this is different than using actual game results: one game can be enough to come up with Vegas’ implied rating for the team. Purdue may only have a spread for one game, but that’s enough. Why? Because Purdue is a 21-point underdog at a neutral field (Lucas Oil) against Notre Dame, and we have point spreads for the Fighting Irish in ten other games. Since we can be reasonably confident in Notre Dame’s rating, that makes us able to be pretty confident about Purdue’s rating, too.

The system is pretty simple: I took the point spread for each game and turned it into a marvin of victory, after assigning 3 points to the road team in each game. For example, Alabama is a 6-point home favorite against Auburn. So for that game, we assume Vegas believes the Tide are three points better than the Tigers; if we do this for each of the other 199 games, and then iterate the results hundreds of times, we can come up with a set of power ratings. [click to continue…]


College Observations from the 2014 Draft

Messing with Texas

By now, you’ve probably heard that no player from the University of Texas was drafted. Jackson Jeffcoat was the Big 12 co-Defensive Player of the Year, but that honor wasn’t enough to enable him to hear his named called on any of the three draft days.1 The draft was first instituted in 1936, and not since 1937 had an NFL draft has been Longhorn-free.  From 2000 to 2013, players selected from the University of Texas were, in the aggregate, responsible for about 37 points of value per season using the values from my pick value chart.  That’s the 10th most of any school during that period, behind only Miami (FL) (51), Southern Cal (49), Florida State (42), LSU (39), Ohio State (39), Georgia (39), Alabama (38), and Florida (38). But UT wasn’t the only school that had a rough weekend:

  • Illinois, which ranked 37th in draft value from 2000 to 2013 (14 points), was the next highest-ranked school after Texas to get shut out of the 2014 draft.  Hawaii (53rd), Rutgers (59th), and Cincinnati (66th) were other top-70 programs from ’00 to ’13 that did not have a player selected this year. A couple of other schools from power conferences — Northwestern and Kansas — were also left out in the cold.
  • For Texas and Illinois, injury was added to insult. No only were no Longhorns drafted, but three Aggies — Jake Matthews, Mike Evans, and Johnny Manziel – went in the first round, while TCU had a first round pick (Jason Verrett), Texas Tech had a second round pick (Jace Amaro) and Baylor had five players drafted.  No Illini went in the draft, but Northern Illinois had two players (including 1st round safety Jimmie Ward), Eastern Illinois had a second round pick (Jimmy Garoppolo) and even Illinois State had a player selected (Shelby Harris in the 7th round).
  • It was also a rough draft for a few other schools. Miami normally dominates the draft, but only three Hurricanes were selected: two offensive lineman and a punter.  Brandon Linder was drafted 93rd overall to Jacksonville, followed by Pat O’Donnell to Chicago at 191 and Seantrel Henderson to the Bills at 237.
  • The Georgia Bulldogs had just two players drafted, both in the fifth round: quarterback Aaron Murray and tight end Arthur Lynch.
  • Sooners fans probably want to gloat over Texas, but this was a pretty ugly year for Oklahoma, too.  The school’s highest-drafted player was Jalen Saunders at 104. That marks the first time since 1997 that no Sooner was drafted in the top 100 picks.

Small Schools Making Draft History

There were four players who came from schools that haven’t had a single player drafted in the last 20 years.

  • At pick 198, New England took defensive end Zach Moore out of Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota. He’s not only the first player ever drafted from the school, but no player from the Division 2 program has ever made it to the NFL. Last year, Concordia only ranked as the 26th best football team in Division 2 through 13 weeks (by reference, Pittsburgh State ranked 8th).
  • Finally, Terrence Fede out of Marist was drafted by the Dolphins with the 234th pick. Fede, like Desir and Moore, made history by becoming the first player ever drafted out of his school. Marist, located in New York state, plays in the Pioneer Football League, but ranked as just the 70th best FCS school last year.

The Crimson Tide Reign is Over

For three straight years, more draft capital was spent on Alabama players than those from any other school. The reign is over, as Alabama tumbled all the way down to … fourth place. Texas A&M led the way: while only three Aggies were selected, they were drafted high enough to make College Station the most valuable town for the 2014 draft with 60.3 points of value. Next up was LSU (57.0), which also led the way with 9 players drafted (but only one in the top 50). In third place was Notre Dame (54.7 points, 8 players drafted, three in the top 75), followed by Alabama (54.3, 8 players), Florida State (54.2, 7 players), Auburn (52.4, 4), Louisville (49.9, 4), and Ohio State (49.8, 6).

Texas A&M, Louisville, and Notre Dame had excellent drafts especially by their standards: none of the three ranked in the top 20 from ’00 to ’13 in draft value provided (the Fighting Irish were 21st, the Aggies were 24th, and the Cardinals were down at #50).  Other schools that had comparably big years: UCLA, Auburn, Buffalo, Central Florida, South Carolina, and Clemson. Okay, in the case of UCF it was just because of Blake Bortles (running back Storm Johnson, at pick 222, was the only other Knight drafted) and for Buffalo it was Khalil Mack and done. But still, neither program had ever had a player drafted in the top ten before, so a top-five pick is a pretty remarkable accomplishment.

  1. as Bill Barnwell points out, Jeffcoat’s tumble provided a good counter to those arguing that Michael Sam was going to go undrafted despite being the SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year solely because he was openly gay.  As it turns out, being co-DPOY isn’t worth as much as you might think.  Jeffcoat landed with the Seahawks, though, so he and Sam will both get a chance to prove their mettle in the NFL’s toughest division. []

Which College Conferences Dominate the NFL Draft?

On Sunday, I used my draft value chart to determine how NFL teams valued various positions. Today, I’ll use the same method to see which schools and conferences dominate the NFL Draft. You are not going to be surprised to discover that USC Trojans have dominated the draft over the last ten years. You’ll be even less surprised to see that SEC teams have accumulated the most draft value, and the most value per team, of any conference. But let’s put some numbers on what we all know. Here’s what I did:

1) Using these draft values, assign a value to every pick in every draft from 2004 to 2013.

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) Sum the values for each school in each conference. Note: I am using the school-conference affiliations as of the 2013 season, so the SEC gets credit for the last ten years of Texas A&M, and the ACC gets a decade worth of Pitt draft picks. (Speaking of Pitt, regular readers may recall last year’s two posts on college and NFL team connections). On the other hand, Maryland and Rutgers are not credited to the Big Ten… yet. This is almost certainly not the ideal way to handle the situation, but any other approach would be too time consuming and as a reminder, nothing about college football makes any sense, anyway.

Based on that methodology, the table below shows the 100 schools that have produced the most draft value from 2004 to 2013. By default, I’m listing only the top 10, but you can change that in the dropdown box to the left: [click to continue…]

Chris Berman has already copyrighted Teddy 'Bridge over troubled' Water.

Chris Berman has already copyrighted Teddy 'Bridge over troubled' Water.

Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that it’s 2014. With draft season now in full gear, I wanted to take a few minutes and look at the stats of the top college quarterbacks from last year. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. I couldn’t find a site that presented a full list of all college quarterback stats, including sacks, which is, of course, insane.

College football records sacks as rushing plays for the offense; as a result, knowing how many sacks Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater took last year is not that easy to find. So here’s what I did:

1) Using team game log data, I found the number of sacks for each defense in each game.

2) Next, I recorded the percentage of team pass attempts recorded by each quarterback for his offense in each game (usually close to 100%).

3) I synched up these two sets of data, and multiplied each quarterback’s percentage of team pass attempts by the number of sacks by his opponent’s defense in that game.

That provided me with some useful estimated sack data. From there, I calculated each quarterback’s Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt average, which is simply (Gross_passing_yards + 20*PassTDs – 45*INTs – Estimated_sack_yards_lost) / (Pass_attempts + Estimated_sacks). I did this for the 140 quarterbacks with the most pass attempts in the FBS (sorry, Jimmy Garoppolo fans) in 2013.

Since the number of pass attempts vary wildly at the college level, I also calculated a Value Over Average statistic. The 140 quarterbacks had an average ANY/A of 6.44, so the Value metric (which is what the table is sorted by) is simply (ANY/A – 6.44) * (Pass_attempts + Estimated_sacks). Here’s how to read Bridegwater’s line, the Louisville quarterback who many believe will be the first quarterback selected in the draft.

Bridgewater provided the 5th most passing value by this formula, completing 303 of 427 passes for 3,970 yards with 31 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He took 25.5 sacks and lost 185 yards, and had a sack rate of 6% (if I included the percent sign, the table would not sort correctly). Bridgewater also averaged 13.1 yards per completion and had a 9.34 ANY/A average, which combined with his number of dropbacks, means he added 1,310 adjusted net yards of value over average. By default, the table below only shows the top 25, but you can sort and/or search to find each of the 140 quarterbacks (and you can change the number of quarterbacks displayed via the dropdown box to the left). [click to continue…]


Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald Was Your Combine MVP

Building on yesterday’s post, I decided to crown a combine MVP because it’s February and there’s nothing else to do. I looked at each player’s combine results, courtesy of the great NFLSavant.com, in four different tests.

40-yard dash

There were 268 players with 40-yard dash times posted at NFL Savant. I ran a regression using weight as the input and 40-yard time as the output, and the best-fit formula (R^2 of 0.75) was:

[math]Expected 40 Time = 3.433 + 0.00554 * Weight[/math]

Using this formula, Jadeveon Clowney, with a weight of 266 pounds, would be projected to run the 40 in 4.91 seconds. Since he actually ran the 40 in 4.53 seconds, he gets credited for finishing +0.38 seconds above expectation. That was the best of any player in Indianapolis this year. The table below shows, for each of the 268 players (the table, by default, displays only the top 10, but you can change that in the dropdown box), their weight, their actual 40 time, their expected 40 time, and the difference. Auburn tackle Greg Robinson hopes be a top-five pick, and his 40 time does a good job displaying his athleticism. Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald comes in third, but there will be plenty of reasons to talk about him later. [click to continue…]


Love the Bowl Championship Series or (more likely) hate it, tonight marks the end of college football’s 16-year BCS experiment. Designed to bring some measure of order to the chaotic state college football had been in under the Bowl Alliance/Coalition, the BCS did streamline the process of determining a national champion — though it was obviously not without its share of controversies either.

If various opinion polls conducted over the years are any indication, the public is ready to move on from the BCS to next season’s “plus-one”-style playoff system. But before it bids farewell forever, how does the BCS grade out relative to other playoff systems in terms of selecting the best team as a champion?

Back in 2008, I concluded that it didn’t really do much worse of a job than a plus-one system would have. But that was more of an unscientific survey of the 1992-2007 seasons than a truly rigorous study. Today, I plan to take a page from Doug’s book and use the power of Monte Carlo simulation to determine which playoff system sees the true best team win the national title most often.

(Note: If you just want the results and don’t want to get bogged down in the details, feel free to skip the next section.) [click to continue…]


Which Four Teams Would Make a College Playoff in 2013?

We can officially declare the BCS dead (1998-2013). As it turns out, the final edition of the BCS rankings was not controversial. It took awhile, but with the losses by Ohio State and Northern Illinois, Florida State was the only team in the Football Bowl Subdivision to finish the year without a blemish. The champion of the Pac-12 had two losses, while the one loss champions of the Big 12 (blowout loss) and Big 10 (one win against a team in the SRS top 25) had unimpressive resumes compared to the one-loss SEC Champion (4-1 record against teams in the SRS top 25). No team distinguished itself from the AAC or any other the other conferences, nor did any of the independent teams. That left the voters with two easy choices to fill two slots.

But starting next season, there will be a four-team playoff in college football. In general and on average, a four-team playoff is preferable to a two-team playoff: leaving out the fifth best team is easier to stomach than leaving out the third place team. A four-team playoff may not be ideal, but it’s the system we will have. So which teams would be deserving of the third and fourth golden tickets if the playoffs began in 2013?

There are only four legitimate candidates: Alabama, Stanford (Pac-12 champion), Baylor (Big 12 champion), and Michigan State (Big 10 champion). Any other team could be dismissed quickly: Fresno State, Northern Illinois, Central Florida, and Louisville each lost just one game, but easy schedules make that accomplishment less impressive. Among two-loss teams, Stanford had the most difficult schedule and was the only to win its conference: South Carolina, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Clemson were good teams, but don’t have elite resumes. The two teams that could make the best case would be Oregon and Ohio State, but both teams can’t make credible arguments after losing their conference to another team in consideration.1 Which team you would pick out of those four would say more about the voter than the team in question. But before we go through the criteria, first, the final college football SRS ratings. [click to continue…]

  1. I will leave the argument as to whether head-to-head is the best tiebreaker, particularly between Ohio State and Michigan State, for another day. []

Let’s just assume that Auburn defeats Missouri this afternoon and Ohio State defeats Michigan State tonight. Which team would have pulled off the more impressive feat: Ohio State, going undefeated against a relatively easy schedule, or Auburn going 12-1 against a harder schedule? That’s a tricky question to answer, but here is one way to think about it.

To make the math easier for everyone — and the answer won’t be practically different otherwise — let’s eliminate the eight easiest games on each team’s schedule. For Ohio State, that means elminating wins over Florida A&M, Purdue, San Diego State, California, Buffalo, Illinois, Penn State, and Indiana. For Auburn, we remove wins over Western Carolina, Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Washington State, Tennessee, and Mississippi. A team arguing that it should be the #2 team in the country is going to win those games over 95% of the time. Granted, this slightly disadvantages the Tigers as they had a slightly harder bottom eight, but you can include those games if you want to do more heavy lifting. For now, let’s just focus on each team’s toughest five games.

Ohio State will have gone undefeated against Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan, Iowa, and Northwestern. Is that more or less impressive than going 4-1 against Alabama, Missouri, LSU, Texas A&M, and Georgia? One way to can answer this question is by looking at a team’s win probability in each game.

Let’s assume that Ohio State has an SRS rating of 62.1. Why that number? You’ll see why in a minute. When the Buckeyes hosted the Badgers (SRS of 53.8), how likely was Ohio State to win? If we give three points for home field, that would make the Buckeyes 11.3-point favorites. And we can use the following formula to determine how likely an 11.3-point favorite is to win a given game:

(1-NORMDIST(0.5,-(home_fav),13.86,TRUE)) + 0.5*(NORMDIST(0.5,-(home_fav),13.86,TRUE) – NORMDIST(-0.5,-(home_fav),13.86,TRUE))

Based on this formula, an 11.3-point favorite would win 79.2% of the time. Against Michigan State (48.8), Ohio State would be a 13.3 point favorite if the Buckeyes had an SRS rating of 62.1, which translates into an 83.1% win probability. For Michigan, Iowa, and Northwestern, the spreads and win probabilities would be 15.4/86.7%, 20.3/92.8%, and 22.6/94.8%, respectively.

Now, what are the odds that Ohio State would win all five of those games? That is simply the product of 79.2%, 83.1%, 86.7%, 92.8%, and 94.8% — which is 50%. That’s not a coincidence, of course: the reason I picked 62.1 is because that’s what rating Ohio State would need to have in order to have a 50% chance of going undefeated against those five teams. In reality, the Buckeyes have a rating of 56.1, which indicates that — like just about every undefeated team — they were a little bit lucky to go undefeated (assuming, of course, that they beat Michigan State).

Now, let’s use that same 62.1 rating number to go through Auburn’s schedule. At home against Alabama (rating of 56.4), a team with an SRS rating of 62.1 would be a 5.7-point favorite, and have a 65.9% chance of winning. In Atlanta against Missouri (55.7), the team would be a 6.4-point favorite, and have a 67.8% chance of success. The team would be 8 point favorites in Baton Rouge — the game Auburn lost — against LSU (51.1), and have a 71.8% chance of winning. The games at Texas A&M (48.9) and at home against Georgia (48.5) would have 76.9% and 88.4% chances of victory.

Now, the odds of winning all five of those games is just 21.8%, which is a very long-winded, mathematical way of saying what we all know: Auburn faced a harder schedule. But what are the odds of going 5-0 or 4-1 against that schedule? Well, the odds of going 4-1 is just a bit more complicated.

    • The probability of beating Missouri, LSU, A&M, and Georgia, but losing to Alabama, is 11.3%;
    • The probability of beating Alabama, LSU, A&M, and Georgia, but losing to Missouri, is 10.4%;
    • The probability of beating Alabama, Missouri, A&M, and Georgia, but losing to LSU, is 8.6%;
    • The probability of beating Alabama, Missouri, LSU, and Georgia, but losing to A&M, is 6.6%; and
    • The probability of beating Alabama, Missouri, LSU, and A&M, but losing to Georgia, is 2.9%.

Therefore, the likelihood of going 4-1 is 39.6%; that means the likelihood of a team with an SRS rating of 62.1 going 4-1 or 5-0 against those five teams is 61.4%. While there are many assumptions implicit in this post, the conclusion is that it is harder to do what Ohio State will do if it wins tonight than what Auburn will do.  Adding in the bottom 8 opponents for each team won’t change the numbers much (you can run the numbers using the above formula).

What would change the numbers is changing the ratings of some of the team’s opponents.  If, for example, Alabama had a rating of 69 instead of 56.4, then a team of a a quality equal to 62.1 would win that game only 38.9% of the time, and the odds of going 4-1 or 5-0 against that schedule would be 50/50. But that’s a pretty significant increase to Alabama’s grade, of course.

For a team to have a 50% chance of winning at least four out of five games against Alabama, Missouri, LSU, A&M, and Georgia, they would need a rating of 59.8. But a team with a rating of 59.8 would only have a 40.5% chance of not dropping a game to Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan, Iowa, or Northwestern.

Of course, I’ve followed college football long enough to not wait until Sunday to make this post. That’s because there is only a 30% chance of both Ohio State and Auburn winning today. We could perform the same analysis for Missouri, but the results would only look worse for the SEC crowd, as those Tigers have had an easier schedule than Auburn.  Assuming a rating of 62.1, a team would have a 36.8% chance of beating Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina, A&M, and Ole Miss, and a 78.0% chance of winning at least four of those games. In fact, a team would only need a rating of 56.0 to have even odds of going 5-0 against those teams.

The more interesting case, however, is Florida State. Assuming a rating of 62.1, the Seminoles would have a 69.8% chance of winning in Clemson, and then over a 90% chance of winning every other game (Duke will be the second toughest game of the year for FSU). That means a 62.1 SRS team would have a 53.0% chance of going 5-0 against Clemson, Duke, Florida, Pittsburgh, and Boston College; a team that had only a 50% chance would need a rating of 61.4, slightly lower than what Ohio State has produced.

That doesn’t mean Ohio State is more deserving of a spot than Florida State in the BCS National Championship Game, as FSU’s dominance is an element that can’t be overlooked. But I wouldn’t argue with you if you said that it was easier for FSU to go undefeated than it is for Ohio State.


Week 14 College Football SRS Ratings & The Iron Bowl

We are out of words. You should be dead, Auburn, because we saw you die. And here you are, breathing in the flesh, able to say this: you made the Alabama Crimson Tide kick the winning touchdown for you.

It’s hard to top that recap from EDSBS of one of the greatest games in college football history. Two weeks after pulling off the ending of the season — the Prayer at Jordan-Hare — Auburn gave us the ending of our lives. Entering week 14, Alabama had fielded the best special teams in the nation; on Saturday, all of the Tide’s goals were ripped from them following three missed field goals and a game-winning field goal return touchdown.

Toomer's Corner.

In a second, Alabama lost to its most bitter rival. With that, the Tide lost the SEC West division title, which means the team won’t have a chance to win the SEC Championship or the BCS Championship (barring the unthinkable). In an odd twist, the most dominant team of our era has now won just one division title in the last four years.

Of course, the SRS is not so sensitive to missed field goals that are returned for touchdowns. The Crimson Tide ranked third in last week’s SRS, a ranking which felt one spot too low. Following the Iron Bowl loss, Alabama’s rating dropped from 61.1 to 59.4, moving Nick Saban’s team down to… third. The beauty of a predictive system is that it need not change due to a close road loss to a top team, and that’s what happens here. Auburn jumps from 14 to 11 but no higher, as a 14-point road loss to LSU, a 4-point home win against MSU, and a 7-point home win against Washington State still count.

Ohio State, in fact, actually drops one slot, as the close win in Ann Arbor dropped the Buckeyes behind idle Oklahoma State. Does that mean the Buckeyes don’t deserve to be in the BCS National Championship Game if they defeat Michigan State? Of course not. Last year, Notre Dame was ranked 6th on December 9th in the SRS, but the Fighting Irish surely deserved a spot in the BCSNCG by virtue of being the lone undefeated (and eligible) team in college football. Ohio State deserves the same treatment this year.
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FCS Playoffs Preview

I’ll be honest: I know nothing about FCS football. But that’s what the SRS is for! If you want to read a real FCS playoff preview, SB Nation has a good one, as does the Sports Network, but let’s be honest, I have no idea how good those previews are. If you were to tell me that SB Nation just made up the name “Terrence West”, I couldn’t offer a counterargument.

That said, here is what the SRS says about the first round of the playoffs. Here’s how to read the table below: South Dakota State has an SRS rating of 30.1, the 8th best among FCS schools. In the first round of the playoffs, they go on the road to face Northern Arizona, which has an SRS rating of 23.5, the 27th best school in the FCS. As a result, the projected Margin of Victory – always shown from the perspective of the home team, is 3.6 points in the favor of the visitors. The table is sorted in terms of Game Quality, in case you need to determine which one of these games to watch. Game Quality is a proprietary statistic which meas… nah, even I’m not that crazy. The Game Quality rank is just a combination of the average SRS ratings of the two teams and the projected competitiveness of the game.

SRS Rating
SRS Rating
Proj MOV
1South Dakota St30.18Northern Arizona23.527-3.6
2Bethune-Cookman24.626Coastal Carolina27.5125.9
3Samford22.930Jacksonville St25.5215.6
4Furman18.943South Carolina St23.3297.4
5Southern Utah17.346Sam Houston St25.22310.9
6Lafayette16.352New Hampshire26.41613.1
7Sacred Heart15.354Fordham23.42811.1
8Tennessee St2524Butler8.973-13.1

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Oklahoma State won one for the Drinen

Oklahoma State won one for Drinen.

Every year, a few mind-blowing upsets occur this time of year, and every year, we are shocked when it happens. Three of the top five single game performances of the season occurred on Saturday, including the best individual game rating of the year. Oklahoma State’s blowout win against Baylor produced an SRS score of 88.5, topping Florida State’s win at Clemson by three points. Meanwhile, Arizona shocked Oregon, giving the Wildcats (82.9 score) just the third 80+ point SRS rating in a game in 2013. And in less exciting but still noteworthy news: Washington crushed Oregon State (#27 in last week’s SRS ratings) in Corvalis, 69-27.

It looks like we’re headed for a Florida State-Alabama showdown in the BCS National Championship Game. FSU’s last two games should not pose any issues: the Seminoles are rated 27 points higher than Florida, and will be a three-touchdown favorite in the ACC Championship Game. In fact, the difference between the ratings of Florida and Georgia Southern is smaller than the difference between Florida and Florida State (you can view the ratings of FCS teams here). And we’ll get to that Georgia Southern game in a minute.

For Alabama, the schedule is a little more challenging. The Tide are “only” 9 points ahead of Auburn in the SRS, but that’s a little misleading. If we remove Alabama’s games against Colorado State, Georgia State, Chattanooga, Kentucky, and Tennessee — all games the Tide won by over 21 points — their rating would jump to 64.4. For Auburn, the only team they beat by more than three touchdowns that lowered their rating was Western Carolina; do that, and the Tigers are at 52.9. That puts Alabama 11.5 points better than Auburn. The Iron Bowl is in Auburn this year, and the Tigers are 10.5 point underdogs, so perhaps the SRS is still underrating the Tide by a point or two. An SEC Championship Game against Missouri would be another tough test, but first, those Tigers must defeat Johnny Manziel and the Aggies to earn a trip to Atlanta.

Below are the SRS ratings through 13 weeks. As always, thanks to Dr. Peter Wolfe for providing the final scores for every college football game. [click to continue…]


Comparing the schedules of Ohio State and Baylor

In the unlikely event that either Alabama or Florida State drop a game, Ohio State and Baylor will each have very good arguments that they deserve to move into the top two of the BCS standings. Through 12 weeks, Baylor ranks higher than Ohio State in the SRS ratings thanks to a higher margin of victory and strength of schedule. But I want to delve into the SOS argument a little bit more today.

First, let’s just assume each team wins out, even though that’s no sure thing. Ohio State defeated Indiana today, but still must beat Michigan and Michigan State. Baylor plays Oklahoma State tonight, and then has Texas Tech and Texas to close the year. But let’s assume both schools finish the year undefeated: who will have faced the harder schedule?

Baylor plays every team in the Big 12 — giving the Bears 9 conference games — and faced Buffalo, an FCS school, and a Sun Belt school (Louisiana-Monroe). Ohio State will also play 9 conference games, including the Big 10 championship — and conveniently also played Buffalo and an FCS school, along with a Mountain West team (San Diego State), and California.

We can obviously throw out the games against Buffalo and the FCS school. Louisiana-Monroe ranks 106th and Cal ranks 96th, so those two games are a wash. Since beating San Diego State (78th in the SRS) is nothing special, picking between Baylor and OSU predictably turns into a referendum on the Big 12 and Big 10. So let’s look at the SRS ratings of each of the conference opponents and San Diego State for the Buckeyes and Bears.

Here’s how to read the first line. The toughest opponent for Baylor (after adjusting for home field) is Oklahoma State, who Baylor plays tonight in Stillwater. The Cowboys have an SRS rating of 54.8. The toughest opponent for Ohio State was Wisconsin, who the Buckeyes played at home, and the Badgers have an SRS rating of 57.4. After accounting for home field, that means Baylor’s toughest game was 3.4 points harder than Ohio State’s (54.8 + 3 – (57.4 -3) ).

Baylor Opponent
OSU Opponent
1Oklahoma StRoad54.8WisconsinHome57.43.4 (Baylor)
2Kansas StRoad49.1Michigan StIndianapolis47.84.3 (Baylor)
3OklahomaHome46.3MichiganRoad42.72.3 (OSU)
4TCURoad40.1NorthwesternRoad38.61.5 (Baylor)
5Texas TechArlington42.4IowaHome43.42.0 (Baylor)
6TexasHome44.3IndianaHome39.35.0 (Baylor)
7West VirginiaHome34.6IllinoisRoad334.4 (OSU)
8KansasRoad27.7Penn StateHome36.52.9 (OSU)
9Iowa StHome29San Diego StHome31.22.2 (OSU)

By this measure, Baylor’s toughest two games were harder than Ohio State’s toughest two games (although if you ignore home field, you’d argue that Ohio State faced the toughest opponent). Ohio State gets credit for having the third toughest game, but at each of the next three slots, the Bears have the SOS edge.

At the bottom of the schedule, the Buckeyes pick up some ground, but I don’t think the back end of the schedule is the appropriate mechanism to separate national title contenders. Yeah, Illinois, Penn State, San Diego State and Purdue is a tougher set than West Virginia/Kansas State/Iowa State, but any elite team should have no problem sweeping those games.

It’s very close, but if Baylor wins out, I’d vote for Baylor over Ohio State. The Bears clearly have the edge if you take style points into consideration, but even if you ignore margin of victory and all the statistics, I still think Baylor’s season is more impressive.  It’s close, but I’d say that an average great team would have had a harder time going undefeated against Baylor’s schedule than it would against Ohio State’s schedule.


Week 12 College Football SRS Ratings: Auburn Stays Alive

Entering week 12, there were 7 teams with legitimate paths to the national championship. The four undefeated teams came in with cupcake games, while two of the three one-loss teams had tough challenges. So what happened?

  • Alabama was a 23-point favorite at Mississippi State (53rd in the week 11 SRS ratings). It wasn’t pretty, but the Crimson Tide left Starkville with a 20-7 win.
  • Florida State also simply needs to win out, and the Seminoles hosted Syracuse (69). FSU was a 37.5-point favorite, and the game wasn’t even that close. After one quarter, Jameis Winston was 10 for 10 for 170-yards, and the Seminoles were up 28-0, en route to a 59-3 win. That was the largest win of the week, and gives FSU four of the top nine single-game SRS scores of the season.
  • Behind the undefeated behemoths of the SEC and ACC are undefeated teams in two other major conferences: the Big 10 and Big 12. Ohio State was a 33.5-point favorite in Illinois (#74), while Baylor was a 27.5 point favorite against Texas Tech (#41) in Arlington. Ohio State jumped out to a 28-0 lead against Illinois, and won 60-35, but the game got a little close in the middle. It was only 35-21 in the third quarter, and 44-28 in the 4th, but Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller (combined 40 carries for 430 yards and 5 touchdowns) were too much for the Illini to handle.
  • Baylor fell behind 14-0 early, but still managed to cover the spread after winning 63-34. After the hot start from the Red Raiders, the Bears scored 8 touchdowns in the next 36 minutes of game time. Quarterback Bryce Petty “struggled” in this game, which means he only completed 17 of 31 passes, but still picked up 335 yards and three touchdowns (to go along with two rushing scores). So far, the Bears have been up to the challenge as the meat of the schedule arrived in November, although the toughest test comes next week in Stillwater. The crazy part is that if it wasn’t for West Virginia, this Oklahoma State-Baylor game would be as hyped as any Big 12 game in recent memory: two explosive offenses, two undefeated teams, a B12 title and a possible BCSNCG berth on the line.
  • Three one loss teams were also knocking on the door. Stanford had the hardest SOS through 11 weeks of any team with no more than one loss, and the Cardinal owned the best win (as measured purely by SOS) of any team in the country. Stanford traveled to Los Angeles to face a USC team (#20) that had gone 4-1 since interim head coach Ed Orgeron took over for Lane Kiffin. Stanford was a 3.5-point favorite over the Trojans, but a strong fourth quarter gave USC the win. Kevin Hogan threw two late interceptions, and kicker Andre Heidari hit a 47-yarder in the final minute, completing the upset for Coach O and the Trojans. We can officially rule Stanford out of the BCS race, and absent any upsets, pencil in Oregon-Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
  • Two one-loss SEC teams entered week 12 with quasi control-their-own-destiny fates. Missouri and Auburn know that winning out means an SEC championship and a win over Alabama. No one really knows if that would be enough to vault them into the BCS National Championship Game, but for idle MIZZOU, the debate will have to wait another week (the bye week comes at an opportune time, with Ole Miss and Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M coming up the next two weeks).
  • Auburn was a three-point home favorite against Georgia (#25), and got off to a hot start, outgaining Georgia 149 to 4 and grabbing a 10-0 lead after the first quarter. With 10 minutes left, the Tigers led 37-20, but three touchdowns in eight minutes — the last on a run by Aaron Murray on 4th-and-goal that just barely (if at all) got in — gave Georgia a 38-37 lead. All looked lost, until on 4th and 18, Nick Marshall threw a 73-yard touchdown to Ricardo Louis on the play of the year.

It didn’t take the straightest route, but after week 12, the national picture barely changed. The Iron Bowl in two weeks will be the de facto SEC West Championship Game, but more importantly it could be a quarterfinal matchup for the national title. The winner of Alabama/Auburn goes to the SEC Championship Game, which — if Missouri wins out — may be a de facto semifinal game. Whether a one-loss Auburn/Missouri gets in over an undefeated Baylor or Ohio State is tough to say, of course, although both of those teams could have a loss by then. And don’t worry: if either set of Tigers can upset Alabama, we will surely hear about how dominant the SEC is, which is very hard to argue.
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The SEC is a dominant 8-6 against BCS teams

This year, the SEC is 8-6 against BCS conferences, courtesy of:

  • A 2-2 record against the AAC (South Carolina over Central Florida, Texas A&M over SMU; Kentucky lost to Louisville and Arkansas lost to Rutgers);
  • A 2-2 record against the ACC (Alabama over Virginia Tech; South Carolina over North Carolina; Clemson over Georgia, Miami over Florida)
  • A 1-0 record against the Big 10, courtesy of a Missouri victory over Indiana
  • A 2-1 record against the Big 12 (Ole Miss over Texas and LSU over TCU, while Oklahoma State beat Mississippi State)
  • A 1-1 record against the Pac-12 (Auburn over Washington State, Oregon over Tennessee)

But if we want to do an honest analysis, we should recognize that the AAC is a BCS conference in name only: those schools are 4-12 against the other BCS conferences and Notre Dame/BYU (for the rest of this post, I will refer to ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC, Notre Dame and BYU as BCS teams), and even that is misleading. Louisville, Central Florida, and Houston are the only AAC teams in the top 70 of the SRS. Outside of Louisville and Central Florida, the AAC is 1-12 against BCS teams, with the sole win being coming when Cincinnati beat Purdue (#110 in the SRS).

So let’s leave out the AAC and just look at how the ACC, B10, B12, P12, SEC, and Notre Dame/BYU have done in games against each other.


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Last week, the top five was Florida State, Baylor, Oregon, Alabama, and Arizona State. Florida State won big (by 56), while Baylor and Alabama won big games (against Oklahoma and LSU) by comfortable margins. Arizona State won by a point at Utah, an underrated team (despite the record, Utah ranks 24th in the SRS). Of course, the big story of the week was Stanford (who lost to Utah earlier in the year) upsetting Oregon. Oregon understandably will drop in the rankings, but this late in the season, one game doesn’t swing the SRS nearly as much. After all, each game is given the same weight. Oregon gets credited with a 50.7 SRS score for losing in Palo Alto, which essentially says for one game, the Ducks were about the 20th best team in the country. Alabama gets 69.9 points for defeating LSU at home by 21. But while the Crimson Tide move up, and moves the Ducks down, Alabama did not pass Oregon in the SRS.

Say what? Yes, the SRS still has FSU, Baylor, and Oregon ahead of Alabama. I’ll explain more in a minute, but first, the SRS ratings through eleven weeks. As a reminder, you can read about the methodology here. As always, thanks to Dr. Peter Wolfe for providing the final scores for every college football game.
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Jameis Wins a ton

Jameis Wins a ton.

The Florida State Seminoles have done everything a championship team should do. FSU obliterated a 4-0 Maryland team 63-0, the most dominant win of the first five weeks of the season. That performance has only been eclipsed by one game since: the Seminoles 51-14 victory on the road against Clemson, a team that is currently ranked 10th in this week’s version of the SRS. In week 10, FSU was a 21-point favorite against an undefeated but underwhelming Hurricanes team: the Seminoles and Jameis Winston struggled a bit early, but won 41-14. That win gives FSU three of the top nine single game performances of the season.

Of course, FSU is still on the outside looking in when it comes to the BCS. If Oregon and Alabama remain undefeated, that’s your national championship game, a matchup college football fans have been pining for each of the past few seasons. Obviously an undefeated FSU team would deserve to be in the title game, just like an undefeated Alabama and undefeated Oregon would, too. Such is life in (thankfully, the last year of) college football’s two-team playoff system. But if we’re forced to split hairs, is FSU better than Alabama and/or Oregon? And what do we make of an Ohio State team that’s now 21-0 under Urban Meyer?

Let’s start with the SRS ratings through ten weeks. As a reminder, you can read about the methodology here. As always, thanks to Dr. Peter Wolfe for providing the final scores for every college football game.
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Non-FBS College Football Ratings Through 10 Weeks

Every week, I publish my college football ratings for FBS teams. To generate those ratings – using this methodology — my program also generates ratings for non-FBS teams. Since there is less interest in those numbers, I rarely publish them, but here are the ratings through ten weeks for all non-FBS teams.
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Shaw helped USC win the Battle of The Columbias Trophy. Yes, that is a real thing.

Shaw helped USC win the Battle of The Columbias Trophy. Yes, that is a real thing.

Last week, five teams emerged as the upper crust of college football. That number has dropped to four, after Missouri lost to South Carolina in typical heartbreaking style. The Tigers led 17-0 entering the fourth quarter, but that was before USC starting quarterback Connor Shaw — who had been held out due to injury — was inserted into the game. Shaw led the Gamecocks on a furious comeback to force overtime. After MIZZOU scored a touchdown on the first possession, Shaw threw his third touchdown pass on 4th-and-goal from the 16 yard line. On the second possession, USC was up first and kicked a field goal. Missouri looked to match South Carolina, but a 24-yard field goal bounced off the left upright, giving Tigers fans the gut punch loss of the season.

Elsewhere, most things went according to plan. Johnny Manziel played like a Heisman Trophy winner (25/35, 305 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT), while Teddy Bridgewater (25/29, 344, 3, 0), Bryce Petty (20/32, 430, 3/0), and Jameis Winston (16/26, 292, 3/1) continued their dominant seasons. A couple of embattled schools pulled off impressive wins over conference rivals: Michigan State won 42-3 against Illinois, while Texas continued to put September in the rear-view mirror by stomping TCU, 30-7.

Below are the SRS ratings through nine weeks. As a reminder, you can read about the methodology here. As always, thanks to Dr. Peter Wolfe for providing the final scores for every college football game.
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Famous Jameis

Famous Jameis.

Last week, Florida State topped the SRS ratings. And that was before the Seminoles posted the single best performance of the season, winning at Clemson 51-14 on Saturday Night. They scored an 85.5 in the SRS against the Tigers, so FSU now has the top two games of the season (the team’s 63-0 shutout against Maryland had been the previous SRS leader). Freshman phenom Jameis Winston threw for 444 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 34 passes, and is vaulting to the front of Heisman leaderboards. How impressive was the win? Even if you ignore margin of victory, simply winning at Clemson stands as the most impressive road win of the season. The Tigers have an SRS of 53.5, and no team with a higher SRS score has lost at home this season. And it would be a surprise if the Seminoles didn’t finish the season undefeated.

Four of FSU’s final six regular season games come against teams outside of the top 75 in the SRS. FSU is a 29-point favorite this weekend against NC State, and should be similar favorites against Wake Forest, Syracuse, and Idaho (well, that game should be off the board). The only real challenges the rest of the way come from in-state rivals Miami and Florida, but for now, FSU seems like the best team not just in Florida, but in the country.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed in college football, a reality several teams were painfully reminded of this weekend. Louisville and Heisman/2014 No. 1 overall draft pick favorite Teddy Bridgewater lost, at home, to a sneaky good Central Florida team. If UCF can beat Houston in two weeks, the American Athletic Conference is likely theirs, along with an automatic BCS berth. Through eight weeks, the AAC has just three teams in the top half of the 125 FBS teams, so Central Florida’s path to a BCS Bowl won’t feature too many road blocks.

The one loss for the Knights was out of conference to South Carolina, a team who fell on SEC Upset Weekend. Despite a good game (and one monster hit) out of Jadeveon Clowney, the Gamecocks lost on a last-second field goal at Tennessee, 23-21.

That was one of five intraconference upsets in the SEC this weekend. Georgia lost on the road against Vanderbilt 31-27, despite the Bulldogs entering the game as 6.5-point favorites. Missouri had a higher SRS rating than Florida, but was a three-point underdog in Columbia against the Gators. The Tigers outgained Florida 500-151, and Henry Josey led the way with 18 carries for 136 yards and a score. LSU was a 9.5-point favorite in Oxford, but Zach Mettenberger threw three interceptions and Ole Miss jumped out to a 17-0 lead. The Tigers came back to tie the game, but the Rebels hit a 41-yard field goal as time expired to steal the win.

Johnny Manziel went down with an injury against Auburn, but you wouldn’t know it from his stat line: 28/38 for 454 yards, 4 TDs, 18 carries for 48 yards, 1 TD. Manziel also threw two interceptions, and missed one series with an injury, which might have made the difference in a shootout. Aggie wideout Mike Evans, who is a Vincent Jackson clone, caught 11 passes for 287 yards and four touchdowns. But Auburn, which entered College Station as 12.5-point underdogs, ultimately scored last, pulling out a 45-41 win. Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall had a great game, too, throwing for 236 passing yards and two touchdowns on 23 pass attempts, while adding 100 yards and two scores on the ground.

Only one game went according to script in the SEC, which is a pretty good way of describing just about every Alabama game ever. The Crimson Tide defeated Arkansas 52-0, in typical ruthless fashion. A.J. McCarron was 15/21 for 180 yards and 3 touchdowns, Kenyan Drake had 104 yards and two scores on 8 carries, and T.J. Yeldon had 88 yards and a score on 12 carries. Backup Derrick Henry even ran for an 80-yard touchdown in the final minutes, just because.
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Mariota and the Ducks continue to roll

Mariota and the Ducks continue to roll.

After seven weeks, the idle Seminoles remain atop the SRS Ratings. New readers can read the background about the Simple Rating System here, but the SRS simply takes margin of victory for each team (with some minor tweaks to minimize running up the score and to give credit for close wins) and adjusts that differential for strength of schedule. The top three comprises the same teams as last week, but following a big win in Washington, Oregon leapfrogged Baylor into the number two spot. Quarterback Marcus Mariota now has 17 passing touchdowns, eight rushing touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Among players with at least 150 pass attempts, he leads college football in Adjusted Yards per Attempt, with presumptive number one pick in the 2014 Draft — Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater — three tenths of a yard behind him. (If you lower the threshold to 100 attempts, both Bryce Petty (Baylor) and Jameis Winston (Florida State) would vault Mariota.)

The 4-5-6 spots are occupied by SEC teams, with newcomer Missouri sandwiched next to SEC stalwarts Alabama and LSU. Missouri was identified as a sleeper in last week’s ratings — the Tigers actually ranked ahead of Georgia entering that game — and then pulled off one of the weekend’s big upsets by winning in Athens. But with Mizzou, the other shoe never waits very long to drop: quarterback James Franklin was injured against Georgia, and is out at least six weeks with a separated shoulder. The Tigers have averaged 45.7 points per game this year, so Missouri is very much a team built around its dynamic offense. It’s hard to imagine Missouri beating both Florida and South Carolina the next two weeks, even with both games coming at home. On the other hand, if the Tigers can do that, there’s a good chance they’ll enter the final game of the regular season with an undefeated record. That game comes against Johnny Manziel and former Big XII rival Texas A&M. If they get to that game, we’re going to just have to assume that this 2013 is Jason Lisk’s year and we’re all just living in it. His Chiefs and Tigers are a combined 12-0 right now, and none of that makes any sense.

There were two other “big upsets” this week among ranked teams. Number five Stanford lost in Utah, in a game that wasn’t as surprising as you might think. Last week, Stanford was “only” 11th and Utah was 30th in the SRS; in fact, the Cardinal only drop to #13 in the SRS this week, while the Utes jump up to #21. The other big upset was in the Red River Shootout, in a game that was hard to see coming. Texas lost to #36 (in the SRS) Ole Miss by 21 points at home earlier this year, so who saw them winning in Dallas against Oklahoma on Saturday? Right now, Baylor is the only team in the top 20 in the SRS from the Big 12, although the Bears had their own struggles against #40 KSU in week seven.

The #7 team in the SRS is Clemson, and the Tigers host Florida State next week in a matchup of two teams ranked in the top five (albeit not in the SRS). That looks to be one of the best games of the year, and is where College Gameday will be in week eight. That’s an 8PM kickoff, so plan accordingly. And now, the week seven SRS ratings. As always, this is an ever-evolving picture, but after seven weeks, you can begin to feel pretty confident in these ratings. As always, thanks to Dr. Peter Wolfe for providing the final scores for every college football game.
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Last week, the Baylor Bears came in at number one in the first edition of the 2013 SRS Ratings. But the Bears ranked #1 on the strength of blowouts against bad teams; how would Baylor fare against West Virginia, who upset Oklahoma State just one week ago?

Art Briles’ squad raced out to a 56-14 lead, eventually won 73-42, and have cemented themselves as the new cool kids in town. But that doesn’t mean Baylor remained atop the SRS ratings. No, after Florida State and Jameis Winston dismantled Maryland, the Seminoles now rank number one:
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Five weeks in, the first edition of NCAA SRS ratings

Petty and Seastrunk have yet to break a sweat

Petty and Seastrunk have yet to break a sweat.

It’s still too early to put much faith in any computer ratings, but we can at least begin framing the discussion of which are the most impressive teams in college football. As always, thanks to Dr. Peter Wolfe for providing the final scores for every college football game. As a reminder, here’s the system for producing SRS ratings.

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, or SEC to see all SEC teams.) Right now, the number one team is Baylor, with an average (adjusted) Margin of Victory of 41.5 points per game against an average opponent that is 27.7 points better than average (average includes all football teams at all levels, so all FBS will have a positive grade). Among undefeated teams, no opponent has faced a tougher SOS than Alabama. Below shows all 125 FBS teams.
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