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Week Thirteen NCAA SRS Rankings: Where Do We Stand?

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

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

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

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It was a very good week for Oklahoma.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Week Ten (2016) College Football SRS Ratings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Week Eight (2016) College Football SRS Ratings

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

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

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

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

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Week Seven (2016) College Football SRS Ratings

Last week, Michigan jumped to number one in the SRS after demolishing Rutgers. The Wolverines, on bye, stayed at number one this week, but the Crimson Tide are coming after them. The top team of week 7 was Alabama, who destroyed a good conference opponent in Tennessee.  Here’s what you need to know: the Crimson Tide….

  • outgained the Vols, 613-201;
  • outrushed the Vols, 438-32, the most rushing yards by Alabama in 30 years; and
  • scored on both a punt return and an interception return, winning 49-7.

Given that the Volunteers have an SRS rating of 50.4, and that the game was in Tennessee, a 39-point road victory translates to an SRS rating of 83.4; no other team in week 7 cracked 70.

The second best win came from West Virginia; at 5-0 and now #16 in the SRS, it may be time to start watching the Mountaineers more closely.  WVU’s toughest opponents to date have been BYU and Kansas State, and both were close wins.  But the Big 12’s best hope for national relevance is for both West Virginia and Baylor to enter their December 3rd matchup undefeated. Unlikely, of course, but that’s at least a path.

Oh, and the Western Michigan hype machine should keep rolling.  The Broncos destroyed Akron, which may not sound that impressive, but for reference: WMU won 41-0 in Akron, while Wisconsin won 54-10 at home against the Zips. Running back Jarvion Franklin had 33 carries for 281 yards in the win. [click to continue…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet the new boss, Nick Saban as always.

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

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

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

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

Two quick notes about the rankings.

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

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

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

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Final 2015 College Football SRS Ratings/Bowl Preview

With the college football regular season now officially over, let’s look at the final SRS ratings from 2015:

RkTeamConfDivConf RkGMOVSOSSRSREC
1OklahomaB12B1211220.34262.311-1
2AlabamaSECSEC-West11317.842.960.712-1
3Ohio StateB10B10-East11218.839.157.911-1
4ClemsonACCACC-Atl11315.941.757.613-0
5Notre DameIndInd11211.843.25510-2
6Florida StACCACC-Atl21214.84054.810-2
7StanfordP12P12-North11312.941.754.711-2
8North CarolinaACCACC-Coas31315.738.454.111-2
9BaylorB12B1221216.337.854.19-3
10TCUB12B1231213.739.45310-2
11Michigan StB10B10-East21310.942.15312-1
12MississippiSECSEC-West21212.84052.89-3
13MichiganB10B10-East31211.940.352.29-3
14TennesseeSECSEC-East31210.740.551.28-4
15IowaB10B10-West41312.238.851.112-1
16Southern CalP12P12-South2136.843.750.58-5
17Oklahoma StB12B1241210.439.750.110-2
18LSUSECSEC-West4116.343.549.88-3
19West VirginiaB12B125127.641.549.17-5
20ArkansasSECSEC-West5126.242.8497-5
21Mississippi StSECSEC-West612939.948.88-4
22Bowling GreenMACMAC-East11314.134.748.810-3
23NavyAmerAmer-West11213.535.148.610-2
24HoustonAmerAmer-West21317.131.448.412-1
25WisconsinB10B10-West51211.636.648.29-3
26WashingtonP12P12-North3128.239.8486-6
27UtahP12P12-South4127.740.3489-3
28MemphisAmerAmer-West31212.735.147.89-3
29FloridaSECSEC-East7137.140.647.610-3
30OregonP12P12-North5126.740.647.39-3
31UCLAP12P12-South6126.540.446.98-4
32ToledoMACMAC-West21113.133.746.89-2
33PittsburghACCACC-Coas4124.342.546.78-4
34CaliforniaP12P12-North7125.141.546.67-5
35Texas A&MSECSEC-West8125.640.4468-4
36North Carolina StACCACC-Atl5128.237.545.77-5
37Western KentuckyCUSACUSA-East11316.32945.311-2
38LouisvilleACCACC-Atl612441.245.17-5
39GeorgiaSECSEC-East912837459-3
40NorthwesternB10B10-West6124.740.344.910-2
41TempleAmerAmer-East4131133.944.910-3
42Texas TechB12B126122.641.844.47-5
43Virginia TechACCACC-Coas7123.840.544.36-6
44South FloridaAmerAmer-East51210.334.144.38-4
45Brigham YoungIndInd21210.13444.19-3
46NebraskaB10B10-West7123.54043.55-7
47Penn StateB10B10-East812240.742.87-5
48Georgia TechACCACC-Coas812-0.142.842.83-9
49Miami FLACCACC-Coas9121.241.342.58-4
50AuburnSECSEC-West1012-0.842.7426-6
51Washington StP12P12-North8123.638.341.98-4
52Arizona StP12P12-South9120.840.941.76-6
53Boise StMWCMWC-Mntn11212.628.841.48-4
54Kansas StB12B127120.540.741.26-6
55DukeACCACC-Coas10124.436.540.97-5
56TexasB12B12812-4.144.540.45-7
57Western MichiganMACMAC-West3125.135.240.37-5
58San Diego StMWCMWC-West21312.327.339.710-3
59Appalachian StSunSun11215.224.339.510-2
60Georgia SouthernSunSun21210.42939.48-4
61Northern IllinoisMACMAC-West4136.932.339.28-5
62IndianaB10B10-East912-1.340.3396-6
63IllinoisB10B10-West1012-241395-7
64Iowa StB12B12912-7.145.738.63-9
65ArizonaP12P12-South10120.537.938.36-6
66CincinnatiAmerAmer-East6124.833.438.27-5
67VirginiaACCACC-Coas1112-5.843.637.84-8
68Central MichiganMACMAC-West5124.733.137.77-5
69Air ForceMWCMWC-Mntn3138.529.137.78-5
70Southern MissCUSACUSA-West21313.224.237.49-4
71MinnesotaB10B10-West1112-4.541.837.35-7
72Boston CollegeACCACC-Atl1212-1.438.236.93-9
73East CarolinaAmerAmer-East7120.436.436.85-7
74MarshallCUSACUSA-East31212.523.936.59-3
75MissouriSECSEC-East1112-3.239.436.25-7
76Arkansas StSunSun31210.425.736.19-3
77SyracuseACCACC-Atl1312-5.541.435.94-8
78Utah StMWCMWC-Mntn4122.133.735.86-6
79MarylandB10B10-East1212-9.845.535.83-9
80South CarolinaSECSEC-East1212-5.841.435.73-9
81Louisiana TechCUSACUSA-West4128.626.835.48-4
82Wake ForestACCACC-Atl1412-7.341.734.33-9
83ConnecticutAmerAmer-East812-1.435.233.86-6
84VanderbiltSECSEC-East1312-5.539.233.74-8
85Middle Tennessee StCUSACUSA-East512627.633.77-5
86Ohio U.MACMAC-East6123.629.232.88-4
87KentuckySECSEC-East1412-4.136.532.35-7
88ColoradoP12P12-South1113-4.235.731.54-9
89AkronMACMAC-East7122.828.431.37-5
90TulsaAmerAmer-West912-2.533.731.36-6
91PurdueB10B10-West1312-11.142.331.22-10
92RutgersB10B10-East1412-7.738.330.64-8
93TroySunSun412-0.830.629.84-8
94San José StMWCMWC-West512-0.529.929.45-7
95BuffaloMACMAC-East812-0.829.328.55-7
96Colorado StMWCMWC-Mntn6122.126.228.27-5
97Georgia StSunSun512-0.226.626.46-6
98Oregon StP12P12-North1212-15.641.926.32-10
99New MexicoMWCMWC-Mntn7120.625.125.77-5
100NevadaMWCMWC-West812-1.627.225.66-6
101UNLVMWCMWC-West912-5.829.723.83-9
102SMUAmerAmer-West1012-15.739.323.62-10
103MassachusettsMACMAC-East912-8.832.223.43-9
104Florida Int'lCUSACUSA-East612-1.925.223.45-7
105ArmyIndInd312-6.529.823.32-10
106Ball StMACMAC-West1012-11.534.222.63-9
107Florida AtlanticCUSACUSA-East712-6.529.122.63-9
108South AlabamaSunSun612-9.630.420.85-7
109TulaneAmerAmer-West1112-1434.420.43-9
110Louisiana-LafayetteSunSun712-5.325.620.34-8
111KansasB12B121012-25.345.420.10-12
112Kent StMACMAC-East1112-10.930.9203-9
113RiceCUSACUSA-West812-6.425.919.55-7
114IdahoSunSun812-10.629.919.44-8
115Miami OHMACMAC-East1212-11.83119.13-9
116Texas-San AntonioCUSACUSA-West912-9.628.118.53-9
117Fresno StMWCMWC-West1012-13.63218.43-9
118Texas St-San MarcosSunSun912-11.128.717.63-9
119WyomingMWCMWC-Mntn1112-1431.317.32-10
120Hawai`iMWCMWC-West1213-15.23115.83-10
121New Mexico StSunSun1012-13.128.815.73-9
122Louisiana-MonroeSunSun1113-13.228.615.42-11
123Old DominionCUSACUSA-East1012-10.62615.45-7
124Eastern MichiganMACMAC-West1312-15.630.514.91-11
125UTEPCUSACUSA-West1112-1024.814.85-7
126Central FloridaAmerAmer-East1212-20.635.414.80-12
127North TexasCUSACUSA-West1212-21.533.111.61-11
128UNC-CharlotteCUSACUSA-East1312-15.326.711.32-10

[click to continue…]

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

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

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

[click to continue…]

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

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

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

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

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

And, for what it’s worth, Baylor is now up to #4 in the SRS. Below are the ratings through week 12:
[click to continue…]

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

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

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

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

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

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Last week’s ratings can be seen here.

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

b12 values

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

b12 teams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 are the ratings for all 128 FBS teams. [click to continue…]

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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. []
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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…]

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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.

DateFavoriteSRSUnderdogSRSBowlLocationAvgDiff
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…]

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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…]

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

RkTeamConfConf RkGMOVSOSSRSREC
1AlabamaSEC11117.444.361.710-1
2OregonP1211119.540.860.310-1
3GeorgiaSEC21118.341.659.99-2
4BaylorB1211022.936.659.59-1
5TCUB1221019.340.159.49-1
6MississippiSEC31114.243.8588-3
7AuburnSEC4119.847.757.58-3
8Mississippi StSEC5111740.457.410-1
9Michigan StB1011118.538.156.69-2
10Ohio StateB102111838.256.210-1
11OklahomaB1231112.842.955.78-3
12Kansas StB1241012.64254.58-2
13WisconsinB1031117.43754.49-2
14ArkansasSEC6119.644.253.86-5
15UCLAP122117.945.653.59-2
16LSUSEC7117.945.253.17-4
17Florida StACC11113.138.551.611-0
18Georgia TechACC21112.838.150.99-2
19MissouriSEC8119.141.550.69-2
20ArizonaP1231110.839.750.59-2
21Southern CalP124118.741.750.47-4
22TennesseeSEC9111.747.949.65-6
23MarshallCUSA11124.924.749.611-0
24FloridaSEC10107.641.849.46-4
25Texas A&MSEC11116.742.549.27-4
26NebraskaB104111138.249.28-3
27Arizona StP1251110.238.648.89-2
28LouisvilleACC31111.436.948.38-3
29West VirginiaB125114.543.848.36-5
30ClemsonACC4119.337.947.28-3
31Miami FLACC5116.540.5476-5
32StanfordP126117.139.546.66-5
33UtahP127113.54346.47-4
34Notre DameInd1115.440.946.37-4
35MinnesotaB10511639.245.28-3
36TexasB126112.242.144.46-5
37South CarolinaSEC12112.341.844.16-5
38WashingtonP12812539.144.17-5
39DukeACC6119.834.143.98-3
40Boise StMWC11110.533.443.99-2
41Colorado StMWC21112.929.942.810-1
42MemphisAmer11113.329.442.78-3
43Virginia TechACC7112.240.342.55-6
44IowaB106114.637.842.57-4
45MarylandB107111.54142.57-4
46Boston CollegeACC811438.442.36-5
47VirginiaACC9110.841.542.35-6
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
52CincinnatiAmer3107.732.139.87-3
53PittsburghACC11112.936.739.75-6
54CaliforniaP12911-2.44239.65-6
55NorthwesternB10811-140.639.55-6
56KentuckySEC1311-2.641.839.25-6
57Penn StateB109113.136396-5
58MichiganB101011-0.939.338.55-6
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
64NavyInd3103.432.936.35-5
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
69NevadaMWC4110.733.634.46-5
70RutgersB101111-4.338.634.36-5
71ToledoMAC2112.431.834.27-4
72RiceCUSA4112.731.233.87-4
73HoustonAmer5107.126.533.66-4
74Alabama-BirminghamCUSA5110.732.833.55-6
75Oregon StP121111-437.533.55-6
76SyracuseACC1311-7.140.433.33-8
77PurdueB101211-942333-8
78TempleAmer6104.428.6335-5
79IllinoisB101311-8.241.132.95-6
80Air ForceMWC5117.425.332.78-3
81ColoradoP121211-10.643.132.52-9
82Texas TechB12811-1042.432.44-7
83IndianaB101411-840.232.23-8
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
88UTEPCUSA6110.429.930.36-5
89KansasB121011-11.441.530.23-8
90Louisiana-LafayetteSun3110.928.929.87-4
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
95WyomingMWC811-9.437.528.14-7
96Florida Int'lCUSA812-2.33027.74-8
97Hawai`iMWC912-6.633.6274-8
98VanderbiltSEC1411-15.141.926.83-8
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
103AkronMAC611-0.526.425.95-6
104Ball StMAC711-1.827.325.54-7
105Louisiana-MonroeSun711-5.330.425.14-7
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
110MassachusettsMAC911-427.823.83-8
111New MexicoMWC1111-8.832.323.53-8
112TulaneAmer811-12.135.623.43-8
113Texas-San AntonioCUSA1111-9.632.923.33-8
114Southern MissCUSA1211-12.935.9233-8
115BuffaloMAC1010-1.324.2234-6
116North TexasCUSA1311-4.626.922.34-7
117Miami OHMAC1111-9.63121.32-9
118ArmyInd411-7.827.8204-7
119TulsaAmer911-12.732.419.72-9
120ConnecticutAmer1010-12.831.718.92-8
121Kent StMAC1210-12.33118.71-9
122TroySun811-10.528.5183-8
123UNLVMWC1212-14.331.116.72-10
124New Mexico StSun911-11.526.6152-9
125IdahoSun1010-12.527.5151-9
126Georgia StSun1111-17.43012.61-10
127SMUAmer1110-27.439.412.10-10
128Eastern MichiganMAC1311-19.63111.42-9

[click to continue…]

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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…]

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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. []
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Heartbreaking

Heartbreaking.

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

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

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

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

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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. []
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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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