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

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

Meet the new boss, Nick Saban as always.

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

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

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

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

Two quick notes about the rankings.

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

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

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

RKTeamGMOVSOSSRS
1Alabama78.31.69.9
2Oklahoma59.10.59.6
3LSU77.70.68.3
4Clemson411.3-3.77.6
5Florida St.68.6-1.17.4
6Tennessee56.00.96.9
7Ohio St.54.31.65.9
8Michigan45.8-0.55.2
9Oklahoma St.32.51.23.7
10Ole Miss71.70.62.4
11Stanford73.9-1.52.3
12Georgia52.4-0.22.2
13Washington30.71.52.2
14Oregon85.5-4.01.5
15Louisville2-2.84.21.4
16Houston34.3-3.40.9
17USC93.3-2.50.8
18Notre Dame74.8-4.40.4
19UCLA53.1-3.10.0
20Auburn7-3.52.5-1.0
21N. Carolina1-8.57.4-1.1
22Florida5-5.94.6-1.3
23TCU4-1.80.5-1.3
24Texas A&M5-6.75.3-1.4
25Nebraska3-3.21.5-1.6
26Arkansas7-3.92.1-1.8
27Boise St.13.5-5.5-2.0
28Mississippi St.6-2.40.1-2.3
29Texas Tech11.0-3.3-2.3
30Michigan St.4-4.52.1-2.4
31West Virginia4-4.31.6-2.6
32Iowa2-4.51.8-2.7
33Wisconsin3-5.82.9-2.9
34Texas4-5.82.4-3.3
35Miami (Fl)3-4.80.9-3.9
36Cincinnati1-5.00.9-4.1
37Pittsburgh1-12.57.6-4.9
38Virginia Tech3-6.21.1-5.1
39BYU5-2.9-2.6-5.5
40Arizona3-4.3-1.3-5.6
41Utah5-3.9-2.0-5.9
42Arizona St.5-5.2-1.9-7.1
43Memphis1-8.50.9-7.6
44Georgia Tech2-12.84.9-7.9
45South Carolina2-12.02.6-9.4
46N. Carolina St.2-13.53.9-9.6
47California3-11.51.5-10.0
48Vanderbilt1-14.02.4-11.6
49Virginia1-14.51.5-13.0
50Navy2-0.5-12.6-13.1
51Army1-12.5-13.1-25.6

In the table below, I’ve listed each game. It’s fully searchable and sortable; for example, you can type “Oklahoma” in the search box to see all Sooners games this year (although you will also get all OSU games, too). Here’s how to read the Oklahoma-Texas line. Oklahoma plays Texas in a neutral site game in Dallas. Oklahoma is a 12-point favorite, which gives the Sooners a 12-point HFA-adjusted margin of victory. Since Texas has a rating of -3.3, that means OU has an SRS rating of +9.4 for this game. Do this for every game for each team, and you get the ratings in the table above.

RKROADH/RN SITEHOMELINEHFA-MOVSOSSRS
1ALABAMAROLE MISS-692.411.4
2ALABAMAHAUBURN-1512-1.011.0
3OKLAHOMAHOKLAHOMA ST.-9.56.53.710.2
4OKLAHOMARWEST VIRGINIA-9.512.5-2.69.9
5ALABAMARARKANSAS-8.511.5-1.89.7
6OKLAHOMARTCU-811-1.39.7
7ALABAMAHMISSISSIPPI ST.-1512-2.39.7
8ALABAMAHTEXAS A&M-1411-1.49.6
9OKLAHOMAHOHIO ST.-6.53.55.99.4
10LSUHALABAMA-2.5-0.59.99.4
11LSURFLORIDA-7.510.5-1.39.2
12LSURAUBURN-710-1.09.0
13LSUHOLE MISS-9.56.52.48.9
14ALABAMARTENNESSEE+126.98.9
15ALABAMARLSU+2.50.58.38.8
16LSURARKANSAS-7.510.5-1.88.7
17OKLAHOMANDALLASTEXAS-1212-3.38.7
18FLORIDA ST.RN. CAROLINA ST.-1518-9.68.4
19CLEMSONHSOUTH CAROLINA-20.517.5-9.48.1
20FLORIDA ST.HCLEMSON-3.50.57.68.1
21TENNESSEENBRISTOL TNVIRGINIA TECH-1313-5.17.9
22TENNESSEEHALABAMA-1-29.97.9
23CLEMSONRGEORGIA TECH-12.515.5-7.97.6
24LSURTEXAS A&M-69-1.47.6
25CLEMSONHPITTSBURGH-15.512.5-4.97.6
26FLORIDA ST.HN. CAROLINA-11.58.5-1.17.4
27FLORIDA ST.RLOUISVILLE-361.47.4
28FLORIDA ST.HFLORIDA-11.58.5-1.37.2
29CLEMSONRFLORIDA ST.+3.5-0.57.46.9
30TENNESSEEHFLORIDA-118-1.36.7
31TENNESSEERTEXAS A&M-58-1.46.6
32OHIO ST.HNEBRASKA-118-1.66.4
33FLORIDA ST.RMIAMI (FL)-710-3.96.1
34OHIO ST.RWISCONSIN-69-2.96.1
35OHIO ST.ROKLAHOMA+6.5-3.59.66.1
36MICHIGANROHIO ST.+305.95.9
37LSUHMISSISSIPPI ST.-118-2.35.7
38OHIO ST.RMICHIGAN ST.-58-2.45.6
39MICHIGANHWISCONSIN-11.58.5-2.95.6
40OHIO ST.HMICHIGAN-305.25.2
41TENNESSEERGEORGIAPk32.25.2
42MICHIGANRIOWA-4.57.5-2.74.8
43MICHIGANRMICHIGAN ST.-47-2.44.6
44OKLAHOMA ST.HWEST VIRGINIA-107-2.64.4
45OLE MISSHAUBURN-85-1.04.0
46GEORGIAHTENNESSEEPk-36.93.9
47STANFORDHUSC-630.83.8
48OLE MISSHGEORGIA-4.51.52.23.7
49OKLAHOMA ST.HTEXAS-107-3.33.7
50OKLAHOMA ST.ROKLAHOMA+9.5-6.59.63.1
51STANFORDRUCLAPk30.03.0
52STANFORDRCALIFORNIA-1013-10.03.0
53STANFORDRARIZONA-5.58.5-5.62.9
54OREGONHSTANFORD-3.50.52.32.8
55GEORGIAHAUBURN-6.53.5-1.02.5
56WASHINGTONROREGON+211.52.5
57OLE MISSRVANDERBILT-1114-11.62.4
58USCHNOTRE DAME-520.42.4
59WASHINGTONHSTANFORD-302.32.3
60NOTRE DAMEHSTANFORD-302.32.3
61OREGONRUSC+1.51.50.82.3
62OLE MISSRARKANSAS-14-1.82.2
63STANFORDRWASHINGTON+302.22.2
64GEORGIAHGEORGIA TECH-1310-7.92.1
65OREGONHARIZONA ST.-129-7.11.9
66OLE MISSRLSU+9.5-6.58.31.8
67WASHINGTONHUSC-410.81.8
68GEORGIANJACKSONVILLEFLORIDA-33-1.31.7
69OLE MISSRTEXAS A&MPk3-1.41.6
70USCHCALIFORNIA-14.511.5-10.01.5
71OREGONHVIRGINIA-17.514.5-13.01.5
72LOUISVILLEHFLORIDA ST.+3-67.41.4
73LOUISVILLERHOUSTON+2.50.50.91.4
74OREGONRNEBRASKAPk3-1.61.4
75USCRWASHINGTON+4-12.21.2
76OREGONHWASHINGTON-2-12.21.2
77AUBURNHTEXAS A&M-5.52.5-1.41.1
78USCRUTAH-47-5.91.1
79UCLAHUTAH-107-5.91.1
80STANFORDROREGON+3.5-0.51.51.0
81HOUSTONHLOUISVILLE-2.5-0.51.40.9
82HOUSTONRMEMPHIS-5.58.5-7.60.9
83HOUSTONRCINCINNATI-25-4.10.9
84USCHARIZONA ST.-118-7.10.9
85GEORGIAROLE MISS+4.5-1.52.40.9
86OLE MISSHALABAMA+6-99.90.9
87AUBURNRMISSISSIPPI ST.Pk3-2.30.7
88NOTRE DAMEHMICHIGAN ST.-63-2.40.6
89NOTRE DAMEHMIAMI (FL)-7.54.5-3.90.6
90OREGONRUTAH-3.56.5-5.90.6
91USCRUCLA+2.50.50.00.5
92NOTRE DAMEHVIRGINIA TECH-8.55.5-5.10.4
93NOTRE DAMENJACKSONVILLENAVY-13.513.5-13.10.4
94STANFORDRNOTRE DAME+300.40.4
95USCRARIZONA-36-5.60.4
96MISSISSIPPI ST.RLSU+11-88.30.3
97UCLAHUSC-2.5-0.50.80.3
98OREGONRCALIFORNIA-710-10.00.0
99USCHOREGON-1.5-1.51.50.0
100UCLARARIZONA ST.-47-7.1-0.1
101TCURTEXASPk3-3.3-0.3
102UCLARBYU-25-5.5-0.5
103NOTRE DAMERN. CAROLINA ST.-69-9.6-0.6
104TEXAS A&MHOLE MISSPk-32.4-0.6
105TEXAS A&MHLSU+6-98.3-0.7
106USCRSTANFORD+6-32.3-0.7
107UCLAHSTANFORDPk-32.3-0.7
108TCUHARKANSAS-41-1.8-0.8
109FLORIDANJACKSONVILLEGEORGIA+3-32.2-0.8
110FLORIDARFLORIDA ST.+11.5-8.57.4-1.1
111N. CAROLINARFLORIDA ST.+11.5-8.57.4-1.1
112TEXAS A&MRALABAMA+14-119.9-1.1
113FLORIDARTENNESSEE+11-86.9-1.1
114TEXAS A&MHTENNESSEE+5-86.9-1.1
115NOTRE DAMERUSC+5-20.8-1.2
116NEBRASKARIOWA+1.51.5-2.7-1.2
117FLORIDARARKANSAS+2.50.5-1.8-1.3
118AUBURNHARKANSAS-3.50.5-1.8-1.3
119AUBURNRGEORGIA+6.5-3.52.2-1.3
120WEST VIRGINIAHTCU-30-1.3-1.3
121ARKANSASRMISSISSIPPI ST.+21-2.3-1.3
122TCUHOKLAHOMA+8-119.6-1.4
123ARKANSASRAUBURN+3.5-0.5-1.0-1.5
124NEBRASKAHOREGONPk-31.5-1.5
125ARKANSASHOLE MISS+1-42.4-1.6
126ARKANSASHALABAMA+8.5-11.59.9-1.6
127AUBURNHLSU+7-108.3-1.7
128MICHIGAN ST.HMICHIGAN+4-75.2-1.8
129ARKANSASHFLORIDA-2.5-0.5-1.3-1.8
130BOISE ST.HBYU-6.53.5-5.5-2.0
131NEBRASKAROHIO ST.+11-85.9-2.1
132MICHIGAN ST.HOHIO ST.+5-85.9-2.1
133MISSISSIPPI ST.RALABAMA+15-129.9-2.1
134AUBURNRALABAMA+15-129.9-2.1
135ARKANSASHLSU+7.5-10.58.3-2.2
136FLORIDAHLSU+7.5-10.58.3-2.2
137IOWAHMICHIGAN+4.5-7.55.2-2.3
138ARKANSASRTCU+4-1-1.3-2.3
139TEXAS TECHHTEXAS-41-3.3-2.3
140WISCONSINRMICHIGAN ST.+30-2.4-2.4
141TEXASNDALLASOKLAHOMA+12-129.6-2.4
142MISSISSIPPI ST.RBYUPk3-5.5-2.5
143MIAMI (FL)HFLORIDA ST.+7-107.4-2.6
144TCURWEST VIRGINIA+30-2.6-2.6
145AUBURNROLE MISS+8-52.4-2.6
146MICHIGAN ST.RNOTRE DAME+6-30.4-2.6
147MISSISSIPPI ST.HARKANSAS-2-1-1.8-2.8
148MISSISSIPPI ST.HSOUTH CAROLINA-9.56.5-9.4-2.9
149MICHIGAN ST.HWISCONSIN-30-2.9-2.9
150WEST VIRGINIAHOKLAHOMA+9.5-12.59.6-2.9
151WEST VIRGINIANLANDOVERBYU-2.52.5-5.5-3.0
152IOWAHNEBRASKA-1.5-1.5-1.6-3.1
153WISCONSINHOHIO ST.+6-95.9-3.1
154WISCONSINRMICHIGAN+11.5-8.55.2-3.3
155WEST VIRGINIAROKLAHOMA ST.+10-73.7-3.3
156TEXASROKLAHOMA ST.+10-73.7-3.3
157TEXASRTEXAS TECH+4-1-2.3-3.3
158TEXAS A&MRAUBURN+5.5-2.5-1.0-3.5
159VIRGINIA TECHHMIAMI (FL)-30-3.9-3.9
160MISSISSIPPI ST.HAUBURNPk-3-1.0-4.0
161CINCINNATIHHOUSTON+2-50.9-4.1
162MIAMI (FL)RNOTRE DAME+7.5-4.50.4-4.1
163TEXASHTCUPk-3-1.3-4.3
164PITTSBURGHRCLEMSON+15.5-12.57.6-4.9
165UTAHHBYU-3.50.5-5.5-5.0
166BYUHUCLA+2-50.0-5.0
167UTAHHOREGON+3.5-6.51.5-5.0
168MIAMI (FL)RVIRGINIA TECH+30-5.1-5.1
169BYUNLANDOVERWEST VIRGINIA+2.5-2.5-2.6-5.1
170VIRGINIA TECHRNOTRE DAME+8.5-5.50.4-5.1
171ARIZONAHUSC+3-60.8-5.2
172BYUHMISSISSIPPI ST.Pk-3-2.3-5.3
173BYURBOISE ST.+6.5-3.5-2.0-5.5
174ARIZONAHARIZONA ST.-4.51.5-7.1-5.6
175VIRGINIA TECHNBRISTOL TNTENNESSEE+13-136.9-6.1
176ARIZONAHSTANFORD+5.5-8.52.3-6.2
177UTAHHUSC+4-70.8-6.2
178BYURUTAH+3.5-0.5-5.9-6.4
179ARIZONA ST.HUTAH-2.5-0.5-5.9-6.4
180UTAHRARIZONA ST.+2.50.5-7.1-6.6
181UTAHRUCLA+10-70.0-7.0
182ARIZONA ST.HUCLA+4-70.0-7.0
183ARIZONA ST.RARIZONA+4.5-1.5-5.6-7.1
184ARIZONA ST.RUSC+11-80.8-7.2
185ARIZONA ST.ROREGON+12-91.5-7.5
186MEMPHISHHOUSTON+5.5-8.50.9-7.6
187GEORGIA TECHRGEORGIA+13-102.2-7.8
188GEORGIA TECHHCLEMSON+12.5-15.57.6-7.9
189CALIFORNIAHOREGON+7-101.5-8.5
190N. CAROLINA ST.HNOTRE DAME+6-90.4-8.6
191SOUTH CAROLINARMISSISSIPPI ST.+9.5-6.5-2.3-8.8
192SOUTH CAROLINARCLEMSON+20.5-17.57.6-9.9
193N. CAROLINA ST.HFLORIDA ST.+15-187.4-10.6
194CALIFORNIAHSTANFORD+10-132.3-10.7
195CALIFORNIARUSC+14.5-11.50.8-10.7
196VANDERBILTHOLE MISS+11-142.4-11.6
197VIRGINIAROREGON+17.5-14.51.5-13.0
198NAVYNBALTIMOREARMY-12.512.5-25.6-13.1
199NAVYNJACKSONVILLENOTRE DAME+13.5-13.50.4-13.1
200ARMYNBALTIMORENAVY+12.5-12.5-13.1-25.6

The top five teams based on implied vegas ratings are, in order, Alabama, Oklahoma, LSU, Clemson, Florida State. In Phil Steele’s top 10 rankings, he has Alabama at 1, Oklahoma at 3, at 5, Clemson at 2, and FSU at 4; in other words, that’s the same top five, just in a different order. ESPN’s FPI’s top six teams are FSU-LSU-Oklahoma-Clemson-Tennessee-Alabama. That, of course, is the same top six as these implied ratings. Bill Connelly at SB Nation? His top five was, as of February, also Alabama, LSU, Clemson, Oklahoma, Florida State.

That makes me feel very confident in these ratings. And the beauty is, they go 51 teams deep. One of the more interesting teams to analyze is Houston, and they provide a good example of how these ratings “work” — and, in my opinion, why. Bill C. has Houston down at 53; ESPN has them only at 47, and Steele has them at 20. The Implied SRS has them at 16. Why is that?

Houston plays just three games with point spreads, and two of them are useless:

  • Houston is a 5.5-point road favorite in Memphis.  Unfortunately for our purposes, Memphis does not have another game in this sample.
  • Houston is a 2-point road dog in Cincinnati. Unfortunately for our purposes, Cincinnati doesn’t have another game in this sample, either.
  • At home against Louisville, Houston is a 2.5-point favorite.  That might not sound good, but the SRS has Louisville at 16.  Why is that? Well, Louisville has only one other game, but it’s at home against FSU and Louisville is just a 3-point dog.  So, by the transitive property, Houston is only 6.5 points weaker than Florida State. Given that the Seminoles are a top-5 team, this is strong evidence that Houston is pretty good!

So yeah, Houston’s entire rating is driven by being just a half point worse than Louisville.  But I think that’s okay: after all, the fact that Louisville is only 6 points worse than Florida State is all we need to know that Louisville is pretty darn good. Also of note: Louisville is in the top 20 in both the FPI and Bill’s ratings.   And while “small sample size” is a reasonable criticism in lots of instances, I don’t think it’s applicable here, given that these are projections and not results.

As always, please leave your thoughts in the comments.

  • WR

    4 SEC teams in the top 10, 5 in the top 12, and 8 in the top 25. ESPN will love these rankings.

    • Heh. Let’s take a look at the week 1 lines from 5Dimes as a sanity check:

      Alabama is a 10-point neutral site favorite vs. USC. And this says Alabama is “only” 9 points better than USC, so maybe this system underrates the SEC 😉

      Texas A&M is 1.4 points worse than UCLA in this system…. and the Aggies host UCLA in week 1. We would figure that A&M would be a 1.5-point favorite, then, and they’re a 2-point favorite.

      LSU is 11.2 points better than Wisconsin here. In week 1, LSU plays Wisconsin in Green Bay, and is favored by 10 points. Sounds about right.

      Georgia is 3.3 points better than UNC….in week 1, UGA is a 3-point favorite against UNC in Atlanta.

      Clemson is 8.6 points better than Auburn in this system; in week 1, Auburn is a 7.5-point home dog, so that would say that maybe we are biased in favor of the SEC here 😉

      Florida State is 5 points better than Ole Miss here….in Orlando, FSU is a 6.5-point favorite.

      I think the ratings generally seem to jive, then, with what is up at 5Dimes.

      • WR

        I think this exercise shows why it’s a bad idea to use point spreads to rank teams. LSU is ranked number 3. Last season, LSU’s biggest win, by far, was over Florida, a team that won a mediocre east division, lost to Alabama, and then lost 41-7 to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. Tennessee’s biggest wins were over an overrated Northwestern team, and a win over Georgia. The Bulldogs were so pleased with their results that they fired their coach. If you go by on-field results, there’s no reason to rate these teams as high as they are here. I don’t understand why LSU and Tennessee get the benefit of the doubt over the best teams in leagues like the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC. It’s clear that their rankings are the product of overrating the SEC, and relying on recruiting rankings. When you put 5 teams form the same conference in the top 12, it has an artificial inflationary effect on the value of every SEC game. It’s part of the reason why so many people believe that the SEC is the best league in the country. The problem is that that claim doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

  • Richie

    UCLA at 19. I predict they will start off hot, work their way up to about #10 or #11, then blow a game they should win. Then get blown out by a good team the following week. Then they will either be eliminated from the conference championship, or they will play USC with the chance to go to the championship and lose to USC.

  • DCAbloob

    The Golden Nugget also has a separate odds listing for week 1 games. This system would be more accurate if those games were included incorporated into this calculation. You’d have another data point for Houston for one thing.