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:
|56||North Carolina St||ACC||11||12||2.1||36.2||38.3||7-5|
|79||San Diego St||MWC||6||12||4.8||27.9||32.7||7-5|
|92||Middle Tennessee St||CUSA||7||12||-0.5||29.6||29.1||6-6|
|96||Texas St-San Marcos||Sun||5||12||4.3||22.6||26.9||7-5|
|108||San José St||MWC||11||12||-8.5||32.6||24.1||3-9|
|125||New Mexico St||Sun||10||12||-12.8||27.1||14.2||2-10|
As you can see, it’s the TCU Horned Frogs that take the third spot in the SRS. Yesterday, I explained why Baylor’s head-to-head win over TCU was not the definitive word on the Baylor/TCU question. And while I would not use the SRS to break the TCU/BU/OSU headlock, let’s see why the ratings are what they are:
- TCU earned SRS grades of over 70 points for beating Texas 48-10 in Austin, Kansas State 41-20, and Texas Tech 82(!) to 27. TCU’s worst game wasn’t its lost: in fact, TCU’s worst four games were wins. Losing by three points in Waco earned TCU an SRS grade of 57.8, which is better than what TCU received in close wins against West Virginia and Kansas, and what the Horned Frogs got for blowing out SMU and Samford. TCU also finishes the year with the best MOV among all teams (remember, the table above is fully sortable), and the best margin of victory in FBS games.
- The argument for TCU is the lack of warts: the worst performance of the year was a close game against Kansas, but in light of what Florida has done this year, close wins against bad teams tend to get overlooked. There is a certain elegance in considering the five one-loss teams as a group: after all, why are Alabama and Oregon given the top spots when TCU, Baylor, and OSU all have just one loss, too? If you group the teams based on their loss, TCU clearly stands out: the Horned Frogs lost to Baylor (#6 in the SRS), the Tide lost to Mississippi (#4), and the Ducks lost to Arizona (#21). Meanwhile, Baylor lost to West Virginia (#27) and Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech (#41).
- Ohio State is #5 in the SRS, which may surprise some folks. A 6-1 Ohio State team was down at #14 in the SRS, but the Buckeyes have made quite a jump over the last six weeks. Even two weeks ago, OSU was still at #10. So what happened? Well, Ohio State’s 59-0 blowout of Wisconsin checks in as the single best game of the year, catapulting the Buckeyes into the top five.
- The best argument for Ohio State is that the Buckeyes are hot, as evidenced by what we saw last night. The worst argument? Ohio State lost at home, by 14 points, to 6-6 Virginia Tech. The Big 10 was not very good this year, so Ohio State’s best wins came against #8 Michigan State, #19 Wisconsin, #35 Minnesota, #49 Maryland. TCU beat #11 KSU, #12 Oklahoma, #27 West Virginia, #35 Minnesota, and #42 Texas, while sporting the much, much better loss. Baylor can argue for the best set of wins: over #3 TCU, #11 KSU, #12 Oklahoma, #27 West Virginia, and #42 Texas.
- So why not Baylor for the 4th spot? The Bears have a great argument, but they do have the weakest schedule of the three teams vying for the last spot. And despite the easiest schedule, the Bears have the lowest margin of victory. We’re picking nits here, of course, but that’s why Baylor is down at #6 in the SRS. Baylor scored just a 36.7 in the SRS in the West Virginia loss and a 40.4 in the 2-point win over Texas Tech, two games which really hurt Baylor’s rating. The Bears’ best game of the year, by SRS purposes, wasn’t the 3-point home win against TCU: it was the 34-point win in Norman against the Sooners.
- The best — or perhaps simplest — argument for Baylor goes something like this. The Big 12 is better than the Big 10 this year. In addition, the Big 12 went 3-0 against the B10, with TCU beating Minnesota, West Virginia winning at Maryland, and lowly Iowa State winning at Iowa. Therefore, you should drop Ohio State out of the picture, and then we revert to a two-team race. That race, of course, should be decided by head-to-head. That’s the Baylor argument in two sentences.
So what will happen today? I have no idea, but I do know some powers that be would love (1) having a Big 10-Pac-12 game in the Rose Bowl, (2) not getting caught up in the TCU/Baylor debate, and (3) having the final golden ticket going to the team that probably has a larger fan base than the other two schools combined. What will happen? Who knows: we’ll find out in less than two hours.
Finally, you can view the ratings from each game right here, which explains how each team’s rating is calculated.