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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 shows the ratings for all 128 FBS teams.

As always thanks to Dr. Peter R. Wolfe for providing the weekly game logs.

4Southern CalP121P12-South421.333.754.93-1
9West VirginiaB123B12416.636.252.83-1
11Ohio StateB102B10-East518.132.450.55-0
15Texas A&MSEC4SEC-West515.833.749.55-0
16Notre DameInd1Ind-West514.634.549.14-1
18Boise StMWC1MWC-Mntn520.22848.24-1
20North CarolinaACC3ACC-Coas516.930.747.64-1
22Kansas StB124B12415.431.847.23-1
28Brigham YoungInd2Ind-West50.845.346.13-2
29Florida StACC4ACC-Atl419.326.345.64-0
32North Carolina StACC5ACC-Atl521.323.244.54-1
33Oklahoma StB126B1251628445-0
34Georgia TechACC6ACC-Coas510.43343.42-3
36Western KentuckyCUSA1CUSA-East514.328.642.94-1
39Virginia TechACC9ACC-Coas54.436.941.32-3
42Michigan StB107B10-East58.832.2415-0
43East CarolinaAmer3Amer-East52.538.440.93-2
44Mississippi StSEC8SEC-West51030.540.53-2
45Georgia SouthernSun1Sun513.426.539.94-1
47Louisiana TechCUSA2CUSA-West511.82839.83-2
49Iowa StB127B1244.833.838.52-2
53Air ForceMWC2MWC-Mntn46.631.4382-2
54Arizona StP127P12-South50.337.237.53-2
56Texas TechB128B1255.431.336.73-2
57Miami FLACC10ACC-Coas412.623.836.43-1
58Bowling GreenMAC2MAC-East51.934.536.43-2
59Middle Tennessee StCUSA3CUSA-East59.526.435.92-3
61Penn StateB1010B10-East57.628.335.94-1
67Northern IllinoisMAC3MAC-West53.830.934.72-3
69Ohio U.MAC4MAC-East510.623.734.34-1
70Utah StMWC3MWC-Mntn4-1.535.433.92-2
71Oregon StP1210P12-North4-4.638.333.62-2
72Wake ForestACC12ACC-Atl51.13233.12-3
75Central MichiganMAC5MAC-West5-1.233.532.32-3
76Boston CollegeACC13ACC-Atl59.92231.93-2
77South CarolinaSEC14SEC-East5-4.736.531.82-3
78San José StMWC5MWC-West51.72930.72-3
86Appalachian StSun2Sun415.513.228.73-1
89Southern MissCUSA5CUSA-West58.519.828.33-2
90Ball StMAC8MAC-West5-5.633.327.72-3
93Arkansas StSun3Sun5-3.530.426.92-3
94Western MichiganMAC9MAC-West4-8.934.625.81-3
96Florida Int'lCUSA6CUSA-East50.824.2252-3
98Washington StP1212P12-North4122.623.62-2
99Colorado StMWC7MWC-Mntn53.519.422.92-3
104South FloridaAmer10Amer-East4-1.923.721.81-3
105San Diego StMWC9MWC-West5-1.823.221.42-3
107Texas-San AntonioCUSA7CUSA-West5-11.430.819.41-4
108South AlabamaSun6Sun5-8.527.619.13-2
109Texas St-San MarcosSun7Sun4-1129.918.91-3
110Florida AtlanticCUSA8CUSA-East4-8.42718.71-3
112Kent StMAC11MAC-East5-2.320.518.22-3
115Central FloridaAmer12Amer-East5-1228.816.80-5
118New MexicoMWC10MWC-Mntn54.111.315.43-2
119Fresno StMWC11MWC-West5-15.330.715.41-4
120Eastern MichiganMAC12MAC-West5-8.523.314.81-4
121Miami OHMAC13MAC-East5-13.82713.21-4
122Old DominionCUSA10CUSA-East5-12.522.710.22-3
124Georgia StSun10Sun4-9.517.47.91-3
125North TexasCUSA12CUSA-West4-23.429.25.80-4
126New Mexico StSun11Sun4-13.919.65.80-4
  • Okay, it’s no surprise to see Alabama or Oklahoma at the top. These blue bloods of college football both have played very well this year, and have great points for/points allowed ratios despite difficult schedules. But what about Michigan at #3? Yes, it’s very early, but the Wolverines have outscored opponents 122-14 over the last four games. The one loss came on the road in week 1 to Utah, who ranks #7 in these ratings, by just 7 points.
  • How about Navy checking in at #5?? Navy has beaten East Carolina, Air Force, and UCONN by the combined scores of 106-50. No, it’s not reasonable to expect the Midshipmen to keep this up, but so far, it’s been a great year for Navy.
  • Remember, the SRS only looks at points scored, points allowed, game location, and schedule strength. So how come Michigan is ahead of Utah? Well, Utah obviously recorded huge scores in the blowout win over Oregon and in the victory against Michigan. But the Utes beat #70 Utah State, at home, by just 10 points, while a 21-point victory against #119 Fresno State also lowers these ratings. Michigan’s blowouts are carrying the day right now, while Utah’s schedule strength is hurting them. But that will change as the Utes go through the Pac-12 gauntlet.

Finally, here are the single-game SRS ratings for each FBS team in week 5. Obviously the big wins by Alabama and Florida top the charts.

Oklahoma_B1244West Virginia24HomeWin2017B1252.769.7
Arizona St_P1238UCLA23RoadWin1518P1246.964.9
Baylor_B1263Texas Tech35NeutWin2826B1236.662.6
Boise St_MWC55Hawai`i0HomeWin5538MWC22.260.2
Navy_Amer33Air Force11HomeWin2219MWC37.956.9
Louisville_ACC20North Carolina St13RoadWin710ACC44.454.4
North Carolina_ACC38Georgia Tech31RoadWin710ACC43.353.3
Notre Dame_Ind22Clemson24RoadLoss-20ACC51.451.4
Western Kentucky_CUSA49Rice10RoadWin3933CUSA17.950.9
Texas A&M_SEC30Mississippi St17HomeWin1310SEC40.450.4
East Carolina_Amer49SMU23RoadWin2626.5Amer22.649.1
Clemson_ACC24Notre Dame22HomeWin20Ind4949
Brigham Young_Ind30Connecticut13HomeWin1714Amer3549
Ohio State_B1034Indiana27RoadWin710B1038.248.2
Pittsburgh_ACC17Virginia Tech13RoadWin47ACC41.248.2
Oklahoma St_B1236Kansas St34HomeWin20B1247.147.1
Georgia Southern_Sun51Louisiana-Monroe31RoadWin2023Sun22.345.3
Toledo_MAC24Ball St10RoadWin1417MAC27.644.6
Cincinnati_Amer34Miami FL23HomeWin118ACC36.344.3
Florida St_ACC24Wake Forest16RoadWin811ACC3344
Kansas St_B1234Oklahoma St36RoadLoss-20B1243.943.9
Vanderbilt_SEC17Middle Tennessee St13RoadWin47CUSA35.842.8
Missouri_SEC24South Carolina10HomeWin1411SEC31.842.8
Boston College_ACC7Duke9RoadLoss-20ACC42.742.7
Central Michigan_MAC29Northern Illinois19HomeWin107MAC34.641.6
Auburn_SEC35San José St21HomeWin1411MWC30.641.6
Virginia Tech_ACC13Pittsburgh17HomeLoss-4-7ACC48.241.2
Louisiana Tech_CUSA43Louisiana-Lafayette14HomeWin2925Sun16.141.1
Purdue_B1021Michigan St24RoadLoss-30B1040.940.9
Indiana_B1027Ohio State34HomeLoss-7-10B1050.440.4
West Virginia_B1224Oklahoma44RoadLoss-20-17B125740
Mississippi St_SEC17Texas A&M30RoadLoss-13-10SEC49.439.4
Bowling Green_MAC28Buffalo22RoadWin69MAC29.938.9
Georgia Tech_ACC31North Carolina38HomeLoss-7-10ACC47.537.5
Iowa St_B1238Kansas13HomeWin2522B1215.437.4
Ohio U._MAC14Akron12RoadWin27MAC28.635.6
Penn State_B1020Army14HomeWin67Ind28.535.5
Air Force_MWC11Navy33RoadLoss-22-19Amer54.335.3
Washington St_P1228California34RoadLoss-6-7P1242.235.2
Utah St_MWC33Colorado St18HomeWin1512MWC22.834.8
Wake Forest_ACC16Florida St24HomeLoss-8-11ACC45.534.5
LSU_SEC44Eastern Michigan22HomeWin2219MAC14.733.7
Southern Miss_CUSA49North Texas14HomeWin3528CUSA5.733.7
South Alabama_Sun24Troy18RoadWin69Sun24.433.4
North Carolina St_ACC13Louisville20HomeLoss-7-10ACC42.932.9
Connecticut_Amer13Brigham Young30RoadLoss-17-14Ind4632
Massachusetts_MAC24Florida Int'l14HomeWin107CUSA24.931.9
Duke_ACC9Boston College7HomeWin20ACC31.831.8
Memphis_Amer24South Florida17RoadWin710Amer21.731.7
California_P1234Washington St28HomeWin67P1223.630.6
Ball St_MAC10Toledo24HomeLoss-14-17MAC46.829.8
Michigan St_B1024Purdue21HomeWin30B1029.329.3
Army_Ind14Penn State20RoadLoss-6-7B1035.828.8
South Florida_Amer17Memphis24HomeLoss-7-10Amer38.228.2
Arkansas St_Sun49Idaho35HomeWin1411Sun17.128.1
Texas Tech_B1235Baylor63NeutLoss-28-26B1253.827.8
Tulane_Amer45Central Florida31HomeWin1411Amer16.727.7
Buffalo_MAC22Bowling Green28HomeLoss-6-9MAC36.327.3
Middle Tennessee St_CUSA13Vanderbilt17HomeLoss-4-7SEC34.227.2
Akron_MAC12Ohio U.14HomeLoss-2-7MAC34.227.2
Texas-San Antonio_CUSA25UTEP6RoadWin1922CUSA5.227.2
Marshall_CUSA27Old Dominion7HomeWin2017CUSA10.227.2
Eastern Michigan_MAC22LSU44RoadLoss-22-19SEC46.127.1
San Diego St_MWC21Fresno St7HomeWin1411MWC15.326.3
South Carolina_SEC10Missouri24RoadLoss-14-11SEC3726
Northern Illinois_MAC19Central Michigan29RoadLoss-10-7MAC32.225.2
San José St_MWC21Auburn35RoadLoss-14-11SEC3524
Colorado St_MWC18Utah St33RoadLoss-15-12MWC33.921.9
Miami FL_ACC23Cincinnati34RoadLoss-11-8Amer29.821.8
Kent St_MAC20Miami OH14HomeWin67MAC13.120.1
UCLA_P1223Arizona St38HomeLoss-15-18P1237.419.4
Appalachian St_Sun31Wyoming13HomeWin1815MWC4.219.2
Louisiana-Monroe_Sun31Georgia Southern51HomeLoss-20-23Sun39.816.8
Kansas_B1213Iowa St38RoadLoss-25-22B1238.416.4
Idaho_Sun35Arkansas St49RoadLoss-14-11Sun26.815.8
Louisiana-Lafayette_Sun14Louisiana Tech43RoadLoss-29-25CUSA39.714.7
SMU_Amer23East Carolina49HomeLoss-26-26.5Amer40.814.3
Florida Int'l_CUSA14Massachusetts24RoadLoss-10-7MAC21.114.1
Wyoming_MWC13Appalachian St31RoadLoss-18-15Sun28.613.6
New Mexico_MWC38New Mexico St29HomeWin97Sun5.712.7
Old Dominion_CUSA7Marshall27RoadLoss-20-17CUSA28.811.8
Miami OH_MAC14Kent St20RoadLoss-6-7MAC18.111.1
Fresno St_MWC7San Diego St21RoadLoss-14-11MWC21.410.4
Hawai`i_MWC0Boise St55RoadLoss-55-38MWC48.110.1
Troy_Sun18South Alabama24HomeLoss-6-9Sun1910
Rice_CUSA10Western Kentucky49HomeLoss-39-33CUSA42.99.9
New Mexico St_Sun29New Mexico38RoadLoss-9-7MWC15.38.3
Georgia St_Sun3341HomeLoss-8-11fcs19.38.3
Central Florida_Amer31Tulane45RoadLoss-14-11Amer18.37.3
North Texas_CUSA14Southern Miss49RoadLoss-35-28CUSA28.20.2
UTEP_CUSA6Texas-San Antonio25HomeLoss-19-22CUSA19.3-2.7

Leave your thoughts in the comments. And get used to these ratings becoming a Sunday tradition.

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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. []

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 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…]


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 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…]


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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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. []

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…]


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…]


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. []

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.
[click to continue…]


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…]


Non-FBS College Football Ratings Through 13 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 teams at all other levels.  This week, I will separate out the non-FBS teams based on their levels of play (instead of just lumping all non-FBS teams together). As always, thanks to Dr. Peter Wolfe for providing the final scores for every college football game.

Let’s start with the FCS schools:
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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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Non-FBS College Football Ratings Through 12 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 team.  So let’s take a look at the ratings through twelve weeks for all non-FBS teams. After posting the ratings, I’m going to dip my toe into the Butler/Marist debate. As always, thanks to Dr. Peter Wolfe for providing the final scores for every college football game. [click to continue…]


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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Non-FBS College Football Ratings Through 11 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 team.  So let’s take a look at the ratings through eleven weeks for all non-FBS teams. As always, thanks to Dr. Peter Wolfe for providing the final scores for every college football game. [click to continue…]


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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