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

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

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

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Thoughts on the Oklahoma/Notre Dame Debate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, for what it’s worth, Baylor is now up to #4 in the SRS. Below are the ratings through week 12:
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Last week, I looked at how the Big 12 schedule was backloaded. There are four top teams in the conference, and the six-game round robin among those teams was placed at the back third of each team’s schedule. So far, just two of those six games have been played: Oklahoma State beat TCU last weekend, and Oklahoma beat Baylor last night. That means the winner in Bedlam in two weeks — which takes place in Stillwater — has a leg up on the rest of the conference. The winner in Bedlam will be the Big 12 champion assuming they win next weekend. Of course, that’s no sure thing, given that next week Oklahoma hosts TCU and Oklahoma State hosts Baylor. And yes, for those keeping score at home, that does mean the Cowboys got home draws against TCU, Baylor, and OU this year.

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

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

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

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

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Last week’s ratings can be seen here.

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

b12 values

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

b12 teams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Colleges, The NFL Draft, and Heat Maps Since 1990

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expected VJ = 48.34 – 0.0646 * Weight

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

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


Bud Dupree Ran The Top Weight-Adjusted 40 At 2015 Combine

Last year, I looked at various data from the NFL combine and tried to put the results from some of the drills in perspective. Let’s do that again with the 40-yard dash, with data courtesy of courtesy of NFLSavant.com.

The best-fit formula to project a 40-yard dash time, given a prospect’s weight, is:

Expected 40 Time = 3.433 + 0.00554 * Weight

Alvin “Bud” Dupree, an outside linebacker from Kentucky, weighed in at 269 pounds at the combine, giving him an expected 40 time of 4.92. But in Indianapolis, he ran the dash in just 4.56 seconds, meaning he exceeded expectations by an incredible 0.36 seconds. That was the top time of 2015, and would have been the second best in 2014 behind only to Jadeveon Clowney.

The full results from the Combine this year, below: [click to continue…]


College Football Season Recap

The college football regular season is over. You can view the SRS ratings for each team here, and the single-game SRS ratings from each game involving an FBS team here. That list is sorted by the best single-game performances of the year, and Ohio State’s 59-0 thrashing of Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship Game takes the top prize there. But today I thought it would be fun to go back and look at some of the most unusual performances of the year.

Biggest Upset: Northwestern State 30, Lousiana Tech 27

Northwestern State is an FCS school with a rating of just 23.7. Louisiana Tech is actually pretty good, finishing 8-5 and 37th in the SRS with a rating of 43.4. Given that the game was in Louisiana, we would put Northwestern State as 23-point underdogs, but on September 20th, they pulled the shocking upset. Although it was not the most noteworthy upset of the day, because….

Biggest Upset involving a Power 5 school: Indiana 31, Missouri 27

Missouri won the SEC East, although the Tigers were not a great team, finishing with a 48.9 SRS rating. Of course, Indiana is kind of terrible: the Hoosiers began the year 0-7 in Big Ten play before edging by Purdue in the season finale. Given that the game was in Columbia and that Indiana finished with a 31.4 SRS rating, Missouri should have won by 20.4 points. Instead, Indiana pulled the shocking upset, and gave SEC haters something to crow about.

The table below shows the 25 biggest upsets of the year: the Virginia Tech/Ohio State game slides into the top five, as does this year’s Bedlam game, which flew a bit under the radar given what else was going on in college football last week. For each team, I’ve listed their SRS rating and their opponent’s SRS rating, along with the difference between the two teams’ ratings after taking into account home field.

[click to continue…]


2014 College Bowl Preview

The Army/Navy game concluded our college football regular season. As a result, it’s now Bowl season for the Football Bowl Subdivision. The table below shows all 38 games, along with each team’s SRS ratings, the average of the two teams’ ratings, and the difference between the two ratings.

12-20-14Utah45.3Colorado St41.1Royal Purple Las Vegas BowlLas Vegas NV43.24.1
12-20-14Utah St37.8UTEP29.6Gildan New Mexico BowlAlbuquerque NM33.78.2
12-20-14Western Michigan34Air Force32.8Famous Idaho Potato BowlBoise ID33.41.2
12-20-14Nevada34.2Louisiana-Lafayette30.2R+L Carriers New Orleans BowlNew Orleans LA32.24
12-20-14South Alabama25.9Bowling Green23.9Raycom Media Camellia BowlMontgomery AL24.92
12-22-14Memphis41.6Brigham Young38.2Miami Beach BowlMiami FL39.93.4
12-23-14Marshall46.3Northern Illinois34Boca Raton BowlBoca Raton FL40.112.3
12-23-14Navy34.6San Diego St32.1San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia BowlSan Diego CA33.42.4
12-24-14Western Kentucky35.5Central Michigan30.2Popeyes Bahamas BowlNassau BA32.85.2
12-24-14Rice30.6Fresno St29.8Hawaii BowlHonolulu HI30.20.8
12-26-14Louisiana Tech43.4Illinois33.7Zaxby`s Heart of Dallas BowlDallas TX38.59.8
12-26-14North Carolina St37.8Central Florida36.8Bitcoin St. Petersburg BowlSt. Petersburg FL37.31
12-26-14North Carolina37Rutgers34.2Quick Lane BowlDetroit MI35.62.8
12-27-14Southern Cal51.3Nebraska47.7National University Holiday BowlSan Diego CA49.53.6
12-27-14Arizona St47.5Duke42.4Hyundai Sun BowlEl Paso TX455.2
12-27-14Miami FL44.1South Carolina41.6Duck Commander Independence BowlShreveport LA42.82.5
12-27-14Virginia Tech41.8Cincinnati39Military BowlAnnapolis MD40.42.9
12-27-14Boston College42.5Penn State37.3New Era Pinstripe BowlBronx NY39.95.2
12-29-14Oklahoma52.8Clemson47.1Russell Athletic Florida Citrus BowlOrlando FL49.95.7
12-29-14Texas A&M47.6West Virginia47.2AutoZone Liberty BowlMemphis TN47.40.4
12-29-14Arkansas52.2Texas41.9Advocare V100 Texas BowlHouston TX4710.3
12-30-14Georgia56.9Louisville47.1Belk BowlCharlotte NC529.9
12-30-14LSU52.3Notre Dame42.9Franklin American Mortgage Music City BowlNashville TN47.69.4
12-30-14Stanford48.3Maryland39.9Foster Farms BowlSanta Clara CA44.18.4
12-31-14TCU60.5Mississippi58Chick-fil-A Peach BowlAtlanta GA59.32.5
12-31-14Mississippi St55.5Georgia Tech50.7Capital One Orange BowlMiami Gardens FL53.14.8
12-31-14Arizona48.6Boise St44.8VIZIO Fiesta BowlGlendale AZ46.73.8
01-01-15Alabama61.6Ohio State57.6Allstate Sugar BowlNew Orleans LA59.64.1
01-01-15Baylor57.4Michigan St56.1Goodyear Cotton Bowl ClassicArlington TX56.81.3
01-01-15Oregon61Florida St51.6Rose Bowl Presented by Northwestern MutualPasadena CA56.39.4
01-01-15Auburn55.9Wisconsin49.7Outback BowlTampa FL52.86.3
01-01-15Missouri48.9Minnesota44Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus BowlOrlando FL46.54.8
01-02-15Kansas St53.7UCLA50.3Valero Alamo BowlSan Antonio TX523.4
01-02-15Tennessee47Iowa41TaxSlayer BowlJacksonville FL446.1
01-02-15Washington44.2Oklahoma St37.8TicketCity Cactus BowlTempe AZ416.4
01-02-15Pittsburgh40Houston33.1Lockheed Martin Armed Forces BowlFort Worth TX36.57
01-03-15Florida47.4East Carolina38Birmingham BowlBirmingham AL42.79.4
01-04-15Arkansas St34.1Toledo33.8GoDaddy BowlMobile AL340.4

Best Bowls

The Sugar Bowl, featuring Alabama and Ohio State, checks in as the best game of Bowl season, as measured by the average ratings of the two teams. The Crimson Tide have the best SRS rating, while Ohio State has the 5th highest rating.

The other playoff matchup comes in the Rose Bowl, but Florida State’s poor rating actually drops them game to #4 behind the Peach Bowl (TCU/Ole Miss) and even the Cotton Bowl Classic (Baylor/Michigan State).

The worst game? That’s South Alabama and Bowling Green in the new Camelia Bowl. Yes, the inaugural game of a new Alabama Bowl game featuring two six-loss teams will kick off at 9:20 on the opening night of Bowl season. Make sure you have your schedule cleared for that one.

Biggest Mismatches

Marshall and Northern Illinois face off in a game that, on the surface, appears to be a very good one. Marshall is 12-1 and a legitimately good team. On the other hand, while Northern Illinois is 11-2, a bunch of close wins against MAC teams doesn’t make UNI a good team. The Huskies lost by 38 against Arkansas and by 17 at home against a bad Central Michigan team. Northern Illinois is 12.3 points worse than Marshall in the SRS, which makes traveling to Boca Raton even more depressing.

Arkansas/Texas, Georgia/Louisville, and Louisiana Tech/Illinois are all 10-point mismatches, too. Of course, Bowl season has a habit of deviating from the regular season script, so don’t blame me when all the underdogs win. According to Vegas, the Foster Farms Bowl at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara is the most lopsided matchup. One reason for that: Stanford is the de facto host here, and the Cardinal are 14 point favorites against Maryland. [click to continue…]


The college football regular season is over. Florida State ends the year as the only unbeaten team, even if the defining characteristic of the Noles’ season was their inability to ever earn any style points. FSU ends the regular season a mind-boggling 3-10 against the spread, which is all you need to know about how the team played relative to expectations on a weekly basis.

Most agree that Alabama and Oregon are the top two teams in the country; the SRS agrees with the consensus! The Crimson Tide have emerged with an SRS rating of 62.0, with the Ducks narrowly behind at 61.5.  The Seminoles are down at 15 in the SRS, which is unsurprising to regular readers.  The SRS is a predictive system, like Las Vegas; this implies that Florida State would be an underdog to all the top teams, which is hard to argue against.

Of course, FSU will take one of the four golden tickets, as will Alabama and Oregon.  The fourth spot in the first ever college football playoff will come down to TCU, Ohio State, or Baylor.  The SRS is not necessarily a great way to decide which team should advance — after all, that should be based more on resume than on best team — but it can be instructive to look at the ratings.  In this case, those three teams check in at #3, #5, and #6.

As always thanks to Dr. Peter R. Wolfe for providing the weekly game logs. Some more playoff thoughts about the jump:

[click to continue…]


The Baylor/TCU Question

Today, TCU will finally play Iowa State, the worst team in the Big 12, and Baylor will finally play Kansas State, the best team in the Big 12 after Baylor and TCU. At that point, both the Horned Frogs and Bears will have faced each other and nine common opponents.1 The chart below shows how each team fared against those ten common opponents, treating Baylor/TCU as one team.

On the X-Axis is each opponent, in (roughly) descending order from left to right in terms of strength. For both Baylor and TCU, the other team was its toughest opponent, while Iowa State and SMU were the two easiest opponents both teams faced. On the Y-Axis is the home field adjusted margin of victory. Of note: TCU lost by 3 to Baylor, but the game was played in Waco, so both teams get a 0 for that game. TCU is represented by the purple dot below, with Baylor’s results displayed in green:

baylor tcu [click to continue…]

  1. In addition to the remaining 8 teams in the Big 12, both TCU and Baylor beat SMU in nonconference play. []

College Football Rivalry Weekend

A couple of quick notes on rivalry weekend, using the latest SRS ratings. All rankings come from the College Football Playoff.

#15 Auburn at #1 Alabama (-8.5)

In the SRS, Alabama is first overall with a rating of 61.7; Auburn is 7th overall, which may surprise some folks, courtesy of a 57.5 rating. Given that the game is in Tuscaloosa, that would imply a spread of -7.2, not too far off of the 8.5-point line. Auburn is probably a top ten team in Vegas’ ratings as well, so this Iron Bowl may be closer than some experts think.

Florida at #2 Florida State (-7.5)

Sure, FSU is ranked #2 in the country while Florida is an unranked and disappointing 6-4. But the teams are pretty close in the SRS, with the Seminoles at #17 (51.6) and the Gators at #24 (49.4). We would expect the spread in Tallahassee to be FSU -5.2, again, closer than you might think. A Florida upset would be surprising, but not shocking.

#3 Oregon at Oregon State (+19.5)

This one should not be all that close: Oregon has a 60.3 in the SRS, which would imply a 23.8-point spread over the Beavers (33.5). Don’t believe anyone who invokes the phrase “throw the records out” when they preview this game.

#4 Mississippi State at Ole Miss (+2.5)

The SRS narrlowly prefers Ole Miss despite the worse record: the Rebels should be 3.6-point favorites given the ratings of each team. This game is a true toss up, but also one where the spread is about 6 points off of the SRS.

#5 TCU at Texas (+5)

Given the records for each team — 9-1 for the Horned Frogs, 6-5 for the Longhorns — you might be surprised that the spread is just five points. TCU has an SRS rating of 59.4, while Texas is down at 44.4. We would expect TCU to be 12-point favorites, so the spread being off by a full touchdown here is an eye-opener. On the other hand, Texas has been playing better of late, so the upset watch is on in Austin.

Michigan at #6 Ohio State (-21)

This is one spread that lines up perfectly with the SRS: Ohio State is 17.7 points better than Michigan on a neutral field, so being three touchdown favorites at home makes sense.

#7 Baylor vs. Texas Tech (+24.5)

Baylor (59.5) is 4th overall in the SRS, while the Red RAiders are down at #82 (32.4). That would imply a home spread of Baylor -30, so I guess Vegas views this game as ever-so-slightly more competitive than the SRS.

Stanford at #8 UCLA (-5.5)

UCLA has an SRS of 53.5, good enough for 15th overall. Stanford is a competitive 6-5, but the Cardinal’s 46.6 rating puts them down at 32nd in the SRS. Given that the game is in LA, a 10-point spread would make sense. The Bruins have a very uphill battle to crack the top 4, but a win over Stanford is the first domino that must fall (well, a Texas win tonight would help, too).


The week 13 college football slate was not very exciting, so let’s just get straight to the updated rankings:

8Mississippi StSEC5111740.457.410-1
9Michigan StB1011118.538.156.69-2
10Ohio StateB102111838.256.210-1
12Kansas StB1241012.64254.58-2
17Florida StACC11113.138.551.611-0
18Georgia TechACC21112.838.150.99-2
21Southern CalP124118.741.750.47-4
25Texas A&MSEC11116.742.549.27-4
27Arizona StP1251110.238.648.89-2
29West VirginiaB125114.543.848.36-5
31Miami FLACC5116.540.5476-5
34Notre DameInd1115.440.946.37-4
37South CarolinaSEC12112.341.844.16-5
40Boise StMWC11110.533.443.99-2
41Colorado StMWC21112.929.942.810-1
43Virginia TechACC7112.240.342.55-6
46Boston CollegeACC811438.442.36-5
48Louisiana TechCUSA2119.532.642.17-4
49North CarolinaACC1011-0.941.540.66-5
50Utah StMWC3129.630.940.59-3
51East CarolinaAmer21011.129.240.37-3
57Penn StateB109113.136396-5
59Brigham YoungInd2118.629.738.47-4
60Georgia SouthernSun11113.822.936.78-3
61Central FloridaAmer4108.328.436.77-3
62Oklahoma StB12711-5.34236.65-6
63Western MichiganMAC11111.724.936.68-3
65North Carolina StACC1211-0.236.2366-5
66Washington StP121011-6.341.435.13-8
67Arkansas StSun2115.329.434.76-5
68Western KentuckyCUSA3114.929.734.66-5
75Oregon StP121111-437.533.55-6
80Air ForceMWC5117.425.332.78-3
82Texas TechB12811-1042.432.44-7
84Northern IllinoisMAC3115.726.432.29-2
85Iowa StB12910-11.443.4322-8
86San Diego StMWC6112.828.331.26-5
87Central MichiganMAC4122.928.231.17-5
91Fresno StMWC711-3.33329.75-6
92Middle Tennessee StCUSA711-0.630.129.56-5
93Appalachian StSun4115.123.9296-5
94Bowling GreenMAC5110.428.228.67-4
96Florida Int'lCUSA812-2.33027.74-8
99South AlabamaSun511-2.529.326.76-5
100San José StMWC1011-733.326.33-8
101Florida AtlanticCUSA911-8.434.526.13-8
102Texas St-San MarcosSun6112.423.726.16-5
104Ball StMAC711-1.827.325.54-7
106Wake ForestACC1411-10.635.625.13-8
107South FloridaAmer711-8.232.724.54-7
108Ohio U.MAC811-529.524.45-6
109Old DominionCUSA1011-5.629.724.15-6
111New MexicoMWC1111-8.832.323.53-8
113Texas-San AntonioCUSA1111-9.632.923.33-8
114Southern MissCUSA1211-12.935.9233-8
116North TexasCUSA1311-4.626.922.34-7
117Miami OHMAC1111-9.63121.32-9
121Kent StMAC1210-12.33118.71-9
124New Mexico StSun911-11.526.6152-9
126Georgia StSun1111-17.43012.61-10
128Eastern MichiganMAC1311-19.63111.42-9

[click to continue…]


Comparing the Pac-12 South and the SEC West

The Pac-12 South now has 5 teams in the top 20 of the college football playoff rankings: UCLA at #9, Arizona State at 13, Arizona at 15, Utah at 17, and USC at 19. All five teams also appear in the top 25 of the AP Poll, with 2-8 Colorado being the only Pac-12 South team left out in the cold. Meanwhile, the SEC West has lost some of its luster after a disastrous week 11: only four of seven SEC West teams are in either sets of rankings, with LSU, Texas A&M, and Arkansas now unranked.

Simple math tells us that placing 5 out of 6 teams in the top 25 is more impressive than 4 out of 7; on the other hand, 25 is a pretty arbitrary cut-off point. Three SEC West teams appear in the top 8 of the playoff rankings, compared to zero Pac-12 teams. The same is true of the AP Poll, where Alabama, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss are all ahead of #11 UCLA, the highest-ranked Pac-12 South squad. If you were to combine the two divisions, the rankings would look something like this:

  • SEC West (Alabama)
  • SEC West (MSU)
  • SEC West (Ole Miss)
  • P-12 South (UCLA)
  • P-12 South (Arizona State)
  • P-12 South (Arizona)
  • SEC West (Auburn)
  • P-12 South (Utah)
  • P-12 South (USC)
  • SEC West (LSU)
  • SEC West (Texas A&M)
  • SEC West (Arkansas)
  • P-12 South (Colorado)

From that vantage point, the Pac-12 South doesn’t look so hot: the #1 team in the SECW is ahead of the #1 team in the P-12S, the #2 is ahead of #2, #3 is ahead of #3, #4 is ahead of #4, and the 6th and 7th best teams are ahead of the 6th best team.  The only advantage the Pac-12 South has, perhaps, is that it’s 5th best team — USC — has a slightly better resume than that of the 5th best team — LSU — in the SEC West.

But all of the above is based solely on the rankings.  When you look deeper at each team’s season, the differences become more stark.

For starters, Colorado is a terrible team, while the SEC West boasts no bad teams.  Arkansas is 5-5, courtesy of a 1-4 record in the SEC West and a loss to Georgia; on the other hand, the Razorbacks also blew out Alabama-Birmingham, Texas Tech, and Northern Illinois, three teams that are very comparable to Colorado.  Against Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi State — three top ten teams — the Hogs are 0-3 but with an average margin of defeat of just 7 points.

If we want to just look at the quality teams in each division, then, we are looking at 5 teams in the Pac-12 South and 7 in the SEC West.  It’s probably unfair to do such a comparison to the SEC West, but let’s do it anyway.

Head to Head

Let this be a good reminder of how frustrating college football analysis can be: not only have there been zero games this year between the SEC West and the Pac-12 South, but there have been no interconference games at all between the SEC and the Pac-12. In fact, there’s only one team in the country that’s even played a team from both divisions: Memphis, which lost 24-3 in Oxford and 42-35 at the Rose Bowl.


The seven SEC West teams have just three losses in non-division play this year, which is three times as many as it had week ago.  Those three loses were by Arkansas and Auburn to a very good Georgia team, and by Texas A&M to a pretty good Missouri squad.

The five Pac-12 teams have five interdivision losses: UCLA and Utah both lost to an excellent Oregon team, which is pretty understandable.  From there, though, the wheels fall off the track pretty quickly: USC lost to 6-4 Boston College, Arizona State lost to a 4-6 Oregon State, and Utah lost at home to a 3-7 Washington State team.  The Utes led 21-0 in that game and 27-14 in the 4th quarter, but wound up losing 28-27 in one of the more inexplicable losses of the year.

Judged solely by losses, the SEC West is the far superior division.  The biggest wart is probably Auburn’s blow out loss against UGA, but Utah also lost by 24 at home to Oregon, so the Pac-12 South can’t say it has avoided blow outs, either.


The most impressive non-division win from either set of schools this year probably belongs to the Pac-12:1 Arizona’s 7-point win in Eugene over the Ducks. After that, though, one could argue that the next seven best wins came from the SEC West.

Close calls aside, there’s nothing to criticize about when it comes to wins on the road against Kansas State (Auburn) or on a neutral field against Wisconsin (LSU). Those two teams a combined 15-2 in all other games. A neutral site victory against 6-5 West Virginia (Alabama) counts for something, too.  Tennessee and Florida are both inconsistent SEC East teams, but (1) the SRS has both teams in the top 25, and (2) both teams are in the top 30 of Sagarin’s pure predictor ratings.  The Football Outsiders ratings have both squads slightly lower, but in any event, SEC West teams have registered a 4-0 record against those two teams.

What about the Pac-12? After Oregon, the next best win is either: (1) any of the wins by ASU, Southern Cal, or Utah against Stanford, (2) Arizona State against Notre Dame, or (3) UCLA against Texas.  Those are all solid wins, but those five are pretty comparable to the five against West Virginia, Tennessee, and Florida.


The Pac-12 South now has five top 25 teams, but the number 25 is a pretty arbitrary bench mark. The SEC West, despite having an additional team, is stronger top to bottom. The SEC West has entirely avoided losses to bad teams, something the Pac-12 South can’t quite represent. And when it comes to non-division wins, it’s a close call, but the SEC West probably has the better case to be made. The Pac-12 South remains a great division, but it’s clear that even after a rough week 11, the SEC West is still the top division in college football.

  1. At least if you exclude Margin of Victory. If you include that, one could make the case for the 34-3 win by Ole Miss over Tennessee, which registered a whopping 79 on the SRS, the 9th best result this year. []

Checkdowns: College Football QB ANY/A, 2014

Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt is the basic measure I use to measure quarterback performance. ANY/A, of course, is calculated as follows:

(Passing Yards + 20*PassingTDs – 45*INTs – SackYardsLost) / (Sacks + Attempts)

Finding college football sack data is notoriously challenging, but ESPN does at least list sack numbers (but not sack yardage lost) for quarterback. But if we assume each quarterback loses 6.7 yards per sack1, then we can calculated estimated ANY/A. And we can also calculate estimated value.

This year in college football, the average ANY/A is 6.13. Let’s use Oregon’s Marcus Mariota as an example. The Heisman frontrunner has thrown for 2,780 yards and 29 touchdowns on 277 attempts, while being sacked 23 times and throwing just two interceptions. As a result, Mariota has an ANY/A of 10.39. That’s 4.26 ANY/A above average, and over the course of Mariota’s 300 dropbacks, that means he’s provided 1,278 of Adjusted Net Yards of value over average. As it turns out, that’s the most in college football. The table below is fully sortable and searchable, and it lists the 172 quarterbacks this season with at least 50 pass attempts:

1Marcus MariotaORE18627727802922310.391278
2Garrett GraysonCSU2043113024265209.621157
3Cody KesslerUSC2383392919293228.911005
4Jared GoffCAL2624193398304238.29956
5Brandon DoughtyWKU2844253507318178.26945
6Rakeem CatoMRSH1682842613267119.3937
7Zach TerrellWMU1932772668196139.28914
8Blake SimsALA170276245418379.3898
9Connor CookMSU159274246619589.1839
10Bryce PettyBAY1642832421213138.85805
11J.T. BarrettOSU1652582356298208.78739
12Gunner KielCIN1682792485241078.63716
13Trevone BoykinTCU2293863021245177.85693
14Kenny HillTA&M2143212649238157.88590
15Shane CardenECU2634183216205197.47586
16Brad KaayaMIA16026724032210148.18577
17Jake WatersKSU1882952569145207.9560
18Kale PearsonAFA86140134213299.74539
19Connor HallidayWSU35452638733211207.11538
20Deshaun WatsonCLEM791181197122810.27521
21Dak PrescottMSST17328725212010157.85520
22Bo WallaceMISS1902972554228237.75519
23Justin ThomasGT75145139615499.45512
24Everett GolsonND22737430442712217.35483
25Brett HundleyUCLA2203052547174297.52466
26Drew HareNIU141230172014178.05456
27Jameis WinstonFSU22133628441812147.34426
28Gary NovaRUTG13923922121610167.74412
29Seth RussellBAY406872271012.01400
30Blake FrohnapfelUMASS24143733452310226.99395
31Wes LuntILL1412161671143107.74364
32Nick MarshallAUB125210168814587.75354
33Grant HedrickBSU23032227951713187.15346
34Dylan ThompsonSC21736127942210187.03341
35Taylor HeinickeODU22836728922511247340
36Driphus JacksonRICE1412451960154197.4335
37Cody SokolLT20033725132410146.98298
38Hutson MasonUGA1502221638163137.39296
39Clint TrickettWVU28141932851810266.79294
40Mike BercoviciASU101164132210377.84292
41Trevor KnightOKLA162279219714967.13286
42Cooper RushCMU1912932416189237.02281
43Marquise WilliamsUNC2343692773208226.82270
44Davis WebbTTU2113452539241346.9269
45Anu SolomonARIZ2564413058257226.69259
46Joe LicataBUFF20431823922511156.9256
47Taylor LambAPP157253196313787.1255
48Will GardnerLOU1272211669123137.21253
49Paxton LynchMEM1953032299126136.9246
50Darell GarretsonUSU9113511408397.67222
51Joshua DobbsTENN61997907228.18208
52Luke FalkWSU841209038177.65193
53Treon HarrisFLA33565654159.29193
54Jaquez JohnsonFAU1522631778153126.77178
55Travis WilsonUTAH1322211558132166.84169
56Cyler MilesWASH1512291627122176.76156
57Brandon AllenARK1602761905155116.64148
58Michael CummingsKU113195149273136.78135
59Phillip ElyTOL41685414128.04134
60Taylor KellyASU1131971498145176.72128
61Kent MyersUSU43575314178.11127
62Nick ArbuckleGAST21435428121912286.45124
63Cody ClementsUAB1542281910118206.6116
64Kevin EllisonGASO631098655347.11111
65Jake RudockIOWA1722691863124136.51108
66Logan WoodsideTOL151252177314776.53104
67Tommy Armstrong Jr.NEB1282481889149126.4890
68Jacoby BrissettNCST1973332278195246.3685
69Chad VoytikPITT1362201688126186.4679
70Kevin HoganSTAN1872932155157216.3775
71Lamar JordanUNM50946995256.8269
72Andrew HendrixM-OH2074203062228396.2868
73Caleb RoweMD34544895417.3165
74Justin HolmanUCF14525520091610206.3560
75Tyler JonesTXST2203442403207266.2547
76C.J. BeathardIOWA39695003146.6941
77Chad ChalichIDHO36644912216.6836
78Derrius VickOHIO8414210356396.3634
79Austin GrammerMTU19229522981510246.2333
80Munchie LegauxCIN41624063126.3715
81Matt JohnsUVA8615610448516.1910
82Nate SudfeldIND10116711516386.1910
83Patrick MahomesTTU52946216266.11-2
84Fredi KnightenARST2313802578175296.11-7
85Johnny McCraryVAN611148069626.06-8
86Taysom HillBYU8813297573146.07-8
87Blake JurichSJSU52816295455.99-11
88Dontreal PruittTROY44775331145.94-15
89Kyle AllenTA&M7913088411585.98-20
90Dajon WilliamsUNT46776077495.89-20
91Sean MannionORST2333682688127306.06-27
92Christian StewartBYU1402441633135175.95-45
93Jameill ShowersUTEP122219141711595.93-45
94Reggie BonnafonLOU519266241155.57-59
95Joel StaveWIS571046886455.45-73
96Joe GraySJSU2013172215109115.9-73
97Keenan ReynoldsNAVY429270753155.34-84
98Brandon SilversTROY162237156083175.79-85
99Mitch LeidnerMINN881711310108155.64-90
100Ozzie MannBALL921619476275.54-99
101Terrel HuntSYR831459831435.43-104
102Grant RohachISU27542832144.33-104
103Mike WhiteUSF90182128887105.55-110
104Steven BenchUSF36764662254.72-114
105Mitch TrubiskyUNC29563143314.08-117
106Angel SantiagoARMY336444011114.55-118
107Tyrone SwoopesTEX1913252152126205.76-126
108Nick MullensUSM1943232207119145.72-137
109Patrick TowlesUK2113632542147335.77-141
110Greg Ward Jr.HOU102145100565125.22-142
111Brandon BridgeUSA1192311457104175.5-156
112Anthony JenningsLSU92192135396195.38-157
113Terrance BroadwayULL1552591771129145.54-161
114Cody FajardoNEV2093392202149135.65-167
115Brandon ConnetteFRES29532992343.11-172
116Kendal ThompsonUTAH325232422103.34-173
117Dane EvansTLSA21339026452012235.69-180
118Tanner McEvoyWIS651127095634.51-186
119Jack MilasBALL10419211337555.15-193
120Colby KirkegaardWYO1743012214118335.55-194
121Chandler WhitmerCONN1212141471116255.24-211
122Stephen RiversVAN25633340322.86-213
123Andrew McNultyUNT7814090945104.65-222
124Nick MontanaTULN42723001213.06-224
125JD SpragueOHIO94194118333124.99-235
126Reginald Bell Jr.EMU6111276944174.3-235
127Sefo LiufauCOLO29845328422614155.62-236
128Quinn KaehlerSDSU137235165689175.15-247
129Alex McGoughFIU1272491624147255.19-257
130Sam B. RichardsonISU1883231938146185.36-262
131Josh GreerUNT24501710241-277
132Maty MaukMIZZ15629417841910155.22-280
133James KnapkeBGSU22539625141210135.42-289
134Matt DavisSMU558952123143.23-299
135Anthony BooneDUKE2213912232167115.38-300
136Cole WeeksUSM5911276125153.74-303
137Austin ApplebyPUR9918910758694.57-309
138Tyler MurphyBC1011841293910164.58-310
139Reilly O'TooleILL6311474556153.68-316
140Chuckie KeetonUSU51924262432.8-316
141Tommy WoodsonAKR761438065664-317
142Greyson LambertUVA12220412758994.55-335
143Tucker CarterUTSA7813880625103.74-353
144Daxx GarmanOKST15227720411212314.98-354
145Wade FreebeckVAN34723761571.57-360
146Kyle PohlAKR191340199896155.09-368
147Cole StoudtCLEM145235144458114.51-397
148Brian BurrellFRES16828917691610224.8-414
149AJ LongSYR7212872746133.19-414
150Danny EtlingPUR8916280065113.59-439
151Montell CozartKU6412870157112.97-439
152Justin WorleyTENN1572521579128294.5-457
153Rob BoldenEMU419539945111.7-469
154Zander DiamontIND388128213111.01-470
155Michael BrewerVT21835622371512234.86-479
156Austin RobinsonUTSA7312658514112.56-488
157John O'KornHOU8917294468113.44-491
158Pete ThomasULM2384062524115415.02-495
159Tyler RogersNMSU2253612363152044.76-500
160Devin GardnerMICH1392271557813194.08-503
161Blake DeckerUNLV20034925281015334.8-509
162C.J. BrownMD1472791723119274.43-518
163Colin ReardonKENT20035521681215104.56-570
164Tanner LeeTULN14426015521213154.02-579
165P.J. WalkerTEM16430818661214164.22-616
166Jeff DriskelFLA9718492861092.79-645
167Garrett KrstichSMU9617484926162.69-652
168Ikaika WoolseyHAW1733542060910294.17-751
169Matt LinehanIDHO20034123191017373.98-810
170Trevor SiemianNW2213802121610303.88-922
171Christian HackenbergPSU2073732318714373.85-932
172John WolfordWAKE1722991626913342.98-1047
  • It’s important to remember that much more so than in the NFL, strength of schedule is a significant variable in all college football analysis. That is completely ignored here. In addition, coaching and scheme matter more, too, and that is not considered in this analysis. This is simply a quick and dirty look at the numbers.
  • Jameis Winston checks in only at #27. This is not because ANY/A is a bad way to measure quarterback play — in fact, Winston ranked 2nd in the SOS-adjusted version of this last year, while averaging 10.2 ANY/A. He’s had a down year, at least statistically.
  • Down at the very bottom of the list, in second to last place? Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg. It’s been a rough year for the Nittany Lions offense, as the offensive line is in shambles. Hackenberg, considered to be a possible first round pick in 2016, will need to put together a much better season statistically in 2015 if he wants to keep that dream alive.
  1. Based on the results here. []

The SEC West closed system is no more. If so inclined, one could note that Alabama lost to Ole Miss, and Ole Miss lost to Auburn, and Auburn lost to Georgia, and Georgia lost to both Florida and South Carolina, and Florida and South Carolina both lost to Missouri, and Missouri lost to Indiana. And Indiana is terrrrrible.

The Auburn loss to Georgia was enough to ruin this crazy streak: prior to Saturday, Auburn, Alabama, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, and Texas A&M were a combined 35-0 against the rest of college football this season. But on Saturday:

  • Auburn lost badly to Georgia, 34-7. The Bulldogs are very good — and even better with Todd Gurley back — and now rank 5th in the SRS. But Georgia still did somehow lose to both Florida and South Carolina, who are a combined 9-9 this year against FBS opponents. As for the Tigers: I had been leading the Auburn bandwagon because they have easily played the toughest schedule to date in college football — oh, and Alabama is still on the schedule — but this was the straw that broke Auburn’s playoff chances.
  • LSU was shut out against Arkansas, 17-0. The Razorbacks had been 4-5, albeit with losses to Alabama, Mississippi State, Auburn, Georgia, and Texas A&M.
  • Texas A&M lost to Missouri, 34-27. The Tigers, of course, had the most embarrassing SEC performance of the season, losing to an Indiana team that is 0-6 in conference play. That’s 0-6 in the Big Ten, for you folks keeping score at home. And Missouri lost to them. As a result, any team that loses to Missouri gets to wear that shame by osmosis, and indirectly, you could stretch that all the way to Alabama.

Of course, the SRS is not based purely on wins and losses: in some ways, it isn’t based at all on wins and losses, as it is focused solely on points differential (adjusted for close games, blowouts, and home field) and strength of schedule. The table below shows the week 12 college football SRS ratings, with Alabama now moving into the top spot. As always thanks to Dr. Peter R. Wolfe for providing the weekly game logs. Some more playoff thoughts about the jump: [click to continue…]


The SEC West and Maximum Likelihood

The upper crust of college football

The upper crust of college football

Eight years ago, Doug Drinen wrote about the Maximum Likelihood rating system, a computer model which one could use to rank college football teams. The short, non-mathy version is this: the probability of Alabama beating Team X is equal to the rating of Alabama divided by the sum of Alabama’s rating plus the rating of Team X. You can use that formula for every game in each season, which would leave you with an enormous series of equations. From there, you would give each team a rating, and keep tinkering with the ratings until the ratings you have for each team provides the system with the maximum possible likelihood of the actual results.

To do this, you would want to give Alabama a high rating, because that would increase the likelihood of the system as a whole reflecting what’s happened on the field. In fact, you might why would we ever limit Alabama’s rating: after all, if we keep jacking up the Tide’s rating, what’s the harm? In this case, there is only one reason not to give Bama an insanely high rating: a loss in Oxford to Ole Miss on October 4th.

Speaking of the Rebels, what should their rating be? A really high one, although it needs to be capped by Mississippi’s losses to both Auburn and LSU. What about Auburn and LSU? Well, both sets of Tigers lost to Mississippi State, Auburn lost to Texas A&M, and LSU lost to both Alabama and Auburn.

You might think “okay, this seems reasonable: all these losses will help control the ratings.” But there’s a problem about to emerge. Sure, LSU and Auburn lost to MSU, but the Bulldogs are undefeated, so there’s no reason not to give Mississippi State a rating of a zillion. And we already know that Alabama is going to get a high rating, so LSU’s loss to the Tide won’t hurt much. LSU lost to Auburn, but isn’t Auburn’s rating really high? The Tigers don’t get dinged for losing to MSU, while the Texas A&M loss doesn’t hurt because A&M’s only losses are to Alabama, Mississippi, and MSU. [click to continue…]

The Tide escaped Baton Rouge with a win and its playoff goals in sight

The Tide escaped Baton Rouge with a win and its playoff goals in sight.

The playoff picture is beginning to emerge. With most teams having just three games left in the college football regular season, we get a sense of the task ahead for the college football playoff committee. And, unfortunately, it feels as though the committee is going to use some variation of the following logic:

Step 1: Rank teams in ascending order by losses

Step 2: Rank teams by some combination of eye test and recency of last loss

There are still three undefeated teams: Mississippi State, Florida State, and Marshall. MSU and FSU seem likely to take the top 2 spots, and there does not appear to be much thought given to the process other than that. Marshall is not in the conversation, and for good reason: they have a bottom three strength of schedule according to the SRS (you can sort by SOS in the table below).

Mississippi State still ranks just 7th in the SRS, but remember, that’s a predictive ranking. I would put the Bulldogs atop my mythical rankings for playoff purposes, too. But Florida State? FSU has three notable wins on its resume, and none of them were in convincing fashion. Those wins came against Clemson (#25), Notre Dame (#31), and Louisville (#32), and one would think that the 2nd best team in the country would defeat those teams more convincingly. Regardless, as defending champions and riding a 25-game winning streak, nobody will argue against the Seminoles.

But the next two spots? That’s where the debate begins. Ignoring 9-1 Colorado State (very soft strength of schedule), 8-1 Duke (same), and 8-1 Nebraska (only one win — against SRS #23 Miami — against an SRS top-65 team), there are 6 teams with one loss that seem likely to take the #3 through #8 spots in the next edition of the playoff rankings. A best guess as to where those teams land on Tuesday:

  • #3 Oregon – the Ducks ranked 4th last week, and won in convincing fashion at Utah in week 11, while #3 Auburn slipped at home against Texas A&M.
  • #4 Alabama – a chance the Tide move ahead of Oregon because of a “big win” against a high-profile opponent in LSU. Will the committee penalize Alabama for needing overtime to beat LSU, or praise Alabama because by virtue of the game going to overtime it means LSU is a really good team (This, of course, is known as SEC country logic)?
  • #5 TCU – the Horned Frogs were 6th last week, and handled Kansas State, which ranked 7th in the rankings last week. Could TCU jump Alabama or Oregon? After all, #6 beating #7 should count more than beating #16 (LSU in last week’s rankings) or #17 (Utah), but don’t hold your breath for a team like TCU getting a wave of momentum. In fact, we might even see the Horned Frogs drop, because…
  • #6 Baylor – the Bears demolished Oklahoma in Norman in week 11. And Baylor defeated TCU back in week seven. The committee is supposed to value head-to-head, but does that mean Baylor should be ranked ahead of TCU? That argument would hold more weight, at least to me, if Baylor hadn’t lost by 14 points to West Virginia, a team that TCU happened to beat. If West Virginia had just one conference loss, Baylor, TCU, and West Virginia would all be tied and be 1-1 in the three-team round robin; instead, crediting Baylor for West Virginia losing other conference games somehow makes that Baylor loss… better? I don’t follow that logic, but who knows what the committee will do. Frankly, choosing between the top two Big 12 teams is an exercise in hair splitting. Will the recency of Baylor’s loss be held against the Bears vis-a-vis TCU? That sounds silly, but Baylor dropped below TCU after losing to West Virginia, and perhaps the Bears will never rise above them again.
  • #7 Arizona State – the Sun Devils crushed Notre Dame, and were ranked ahead of Baylor last week. Perhaps ASU will remain in the 6 spot, but frankly, the committee can punt on this question. If Arizona State and Oregon both win out, the Pac-12 championship game will turn into a de facto play-in game for the college football playoffs. Arizona State lost by 25 points to UCLA — will that weigh on the committee’s mind in choosing among the 1-loss teams? ASU’s best wins are against USC, Utah, Notre Dame, and Stanford, which still leaves a bit to be desired.
  • #8 Ohio State – just a guess, but the assumption here is the committee puts OSU in the 8 slot this week. Ohio State convincingly defeated Michigan State this week, easily the most impressive performance by the Buckeyes this year. But a home loss to Virginia Tech looks terrible in retrospect, and OSU’s second best win was against… Maryland? Penn State? Cincinnati? If Ohio State is ranked in the top 8 this week, it’s a sign that the committee is basically operating on 4th grade level. First, rank the team by losses, then….

When we go to the 2-loss teams, Auburn and Ole Miss stand out. The Tigers in particular deserve to be ahead of both Ohio State and Arizona State, in my opinion, and Auburn’s resume would only get stronger with road wins against Georgia and Alabama. Auburn has defeated Ole Miss, LSU, and Kansas State, wit two of those games coming on the road. If going 3-2 in five games that are @Ole Miss, vs. LSU, @KSU, @Mississippi State, and vs. Texas A&M supposed to be less impressive than going 4-1 @Michigan State, vs. Virginia Tech, @Maryland, @Penn State, and vs. Cincinnati? I am not buying that logic at all, and that still ignores Auburn’s wins against Arkansas, Louisiana Tech, and South Carolina, teams that all rate as tougher than Penn State and Cincinnati.

As for Ole Miss, the Rebels went 3-2 vs. Alabama, @Auburn, @LSU, vs. Texas A&M, and vs. Tennessee. Is it clear that such a record is worse than going 4-1 vs. UCLA, @Southern Cal, vs. Utah, vs. Notre Dame, and vs. Stanford? And Ole Miss still has a chance to pad its resume with a win on the road against Mississippi State.

If the committee is using strength of schedule solely as a tiebreaker after sorting teams by losses,1, then shame on the committee. The table below shows the week 11 college football SRS ratings, with Alabama now moving into the top spot. 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. You know, after eliminating Marshall, Colorado State, Duke, and Nebraska for strength of schedule. []



From one perspective, Saturday brought one of the cruelest moments in years. In a must-win game for Ole Miss, the Rebels played a back-and-forth contest with perhaps the best team in college football. Trailing 35-31, Bo Wallace and the offense took over on the Mississippi 48-yard line with just over three minutes remaining. The Rebels moved quickly down the field, and on short pass to Laquon Treadwell appeared to turn into the go-ahead score. Just as Treadwell crossed the goal line, he was tackled from behind, suffering an injury that you knew was bad as soon as it happened. As it turned out, Treadwell broke his leg, and then the insult came. Upon review of the score, while Treadwell crossed the goal line, the ball did not, and he fumbled as he was taken down. Auburn recovered in the end zone, and the Tigers would prevail. [click to continue…]

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In many ways, week 9 was an uneventful week of college football. Of the top 18 teams in last week’s SRS, only one lost in week 9. On the surface, the loss by Ole Miss — ranked 2nd in the SRS last week and 3rd in the polls — was a big loss. But as long as the Rebels keep winning, it wasn’t a big deal at all. Ole Miss, like Mississippi State, like Alabama, like Georgia, and like Auburn (more on them later) all control their own destiny for the playoffs. Ole Miss still has to play Auburn, Arkansas, and MSU, so it’s not as though things will be easy for the Rebels; but they do control their own destiny, just as they did a week ago.

Among top-30 SRS teams last week, only three others lost, and in two of those games it was to fellow top-30 teams. Utah (#22 in last week’s SRS) defeated Southern Cal (#19) on a touchdown pass with 8 seconds left, to give the Utes a 24-21 home win. Tennessee (#24 last week) lost at home to Alabama in the Lane Kiffin Bowl. The one real surprise was Virginia Tech (#29) losing 30-6 at home to a Miami team that was just 43rd in the SRS entering week 9.

The table below shows the SRS ratings through nine weeks. Breaking up the SEC West stranglehold at the top is TCU, and the Horned Frogs now lead the nation in scoring. It appears as though style points may not be an issue, so for TCU, the biggest hurdle may just be finishing the year 11-1. For the Horned Frogs, the toughest two games remaining are the next two: at West Virginia next week, and against Kansas State a week later. As always thanks to Dr. Peter R. Wolfe for providing the weekly game logs. Some more playoff thoughts about the jump: [click to continue…]

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