rank / team / prior
1 Notre Dame 1
2 Ohio St. 2
3 Florida 3
4 Alabama 5
5 Stanford 6
6 Oregon 4
7 Kansas St. 8
8 S Carolina 9
9 LSU 10
10 Georgia 7
11 Oklahoma 13
12 TX A&M 12
13 Nebraska 11
14 SJSU 15
15 Clemson 14
16 Florida St. 17
17 N. Illinois 19
18 Oregon St. 16
19 Utah St. 18
20 Boise St. 24
21 Louisville —
22 N’western 20
23 Michigan 23
24 Ball St. —
25 Ark. St. —
Out of rankings: (21) Texas, (22) Rutgers, (25) Kent St.
I know people aren’t going to be happy with this necessarily, but I really believe that at least the top 10 or so is exactly as it should be.
Notre Dame has the best collection of wins, followed by Florida. If Florida simply hadn’t played Georgia and played out the rest of the season, they would be ahead of Ohio St. despite having played one fewer game. Also, if you were to give Florida a win over Alabama (while still leaving off the Georgia loss), there is a good chance the Gators would be ahead of Notre Dame.
I do give Ohio St. a poor strength of schedule rating, but that doesn’t mean the Buckeyes were untested. They defeated a 10-win team, a 9-win team, and three 8-win teams. The only team in the top 8 of the Big Ten standings that the Buckeyes avoided playing was Northwestern. All but the most die-hard SEC supporters would not likely be complaining if the Buckeyes were not on probation and were set to play in the BCS championship game as the undefeated Big Ten champions.
As to Florida being ahead of Alabama, I simply think Florida has the better collection of wins.
Florida—LSU, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Florida St., Vanderbilt
Alabama—LSU, Georgia, Michigan, Mississippi St.
When you go much further below the top 40, I don’t think that’s especially relevant for conversations about how to rank the top 5, but even if we cover the top 60, Alabama is still 4-1 while Florida improves all the way to 7-1. Also see my chart in last week’s (actually Friday’s) comments.
I don’t regard Georgia as a worse loss than Texas A&M, but whether you do or not, I don’t think that overcomes the difference in quality wins.
If you think the BCS should have a rule that only conference champions should be considered, then I think many would agree with my ratings that the best two conference champions are Alabama and Stanford. If independents are exceptions to this rule, then this would give you Alabama and Notre Dame, exactly what is going to happen.
Kansas St. would take exception to being behind Stanford among champions, but the Wildcats didn’t beat anyone in my top 10 and only two teams in my top 40. Stanford does have two losses to one, but one of those losses was to Notre Dame, a team that happened to beat Oklahoma, Kansas St.’s best win by far.
Stanford lost to a fairly mediocre Washington team, but there isn’t a big gap between Washington and Baylor. Stanford won six games against my top 40 to Kansas St.’s two. I purposely make wins and losses count a lot here, but it only goes so far.
I can imagine some grumblings over South Carolina being ahead of LSU. LSU did beat the Gamecocks after all. There are a couple of very minor things that could have changed this.
One would have been LSU scoring a couple more points or allowing a couple fewer points against the Gamecocks. While margin of victory is not generally a relevant factor for me, home teams have a historical advantage of around 3 points per game, and home teams win about 5% more often.
Some compensate for this discrepancy by eliminating the point difference (this is done in ratings that include margin of victory of course, usually ones that have something to do with betting since it can be added or subtracted based on the location of a given game), and some compensate by uniformly counting home wins less and away wins more (and usually also home losses more and away losses less).
Since I think the advantage is generally in close games, I do a bit of a hybrid. If a game is decided by three points or fewer (which is also useful because it so happens to be a field goal… often a couple more first downs during the course of a game would have given a team a field goal where in a drive where it ended up with no points or even a touchdown rather than a field goal) or in overtime (obviously, one more point on either side would have avoided overtime in the first place), I only give the home team 90% of the win (not 95% because I don’t give it 5% of a loss), and I penalize the away team 10% less (not 5% because I don’t give it 5% of a win).
So while LSU has slightly better wins and a better second loss (both lost to Florida; Alabama is regarded as slightly better than LSU), it doesn’t show up that way. Lessening South Carolina’s penalty for losing to LSU makes the LSU loss seem to be a better loss than Alabama.
Another way LSU ends up ahead would have been if Washington had not blown an 18-point fourth-quarter lead and lost to Washington St. in overtime.
Maybe the bowl games will sort out this discrepancy anyway.
There may also be some unhappiness over Oklahoma staying ahead of Texas A&M, but this is another very close call. Texas A&M lost to my #3 and #9 while Oklahoma lost to my #1 and #7. As to the wins, while #4 is obviously a much better win than #28, don’t forget that Texas A&M played two fewer games against AQ-level opponents and one more game against an FCS opponent.
While the proper order of the teams beyond this point is not the objective of my ratings and I do not necessarily endorse this order, it does make some sense. If there were a 25-team playoff (god forbid), they would all have good arguments for inclusion.
San Jose St. does seem unusually high, but they were second for a conference championship behind Utah St. In this conference, Louisiana Tech finished 3rd even though the Bulldogs only fell a two-point conversion short of taking Texas A&M to overtime. San Jose St. itself only lost at Stanford by 3 points. San Jose St. may not beat Clemson or Florida St. on a neutral field, but I don’t think many expected them to win 10 games regardless of the opposition. As to Utah St. (San Jose St.’s other loss), the Aggies only lost to Wisconsin (Big Ten champions) by 2 points and to BYU (which San Jose St. beat) by 3 points. I would also note that BYU lost at Notre Dame by only 3 points.
Oregon St. beat Wisconsin and BYU (despite going on to lose three games overall), so it makes sense that the Beavers are ahead of the Aggies.
Florida St. won the ACC. They beat Clemson but had the worse conference loss, to North Carolina St., so they’re a very small distance behind the Tigers.
Northern Illinois won the MAC championship with only a single loss all season (to Iowa), and Boise St. was the best team in the three-way tie atop the Mountain West (with Fresno St. and San Diego St., both of whom finished just out of the top 25). Boise St. also lost to a mediocre Big Ten team in Michigan St., so this is another reminder to give Ohio St. a bit of credit.
Louisville of course wrapped up the Big East and won 10 games this season.
Northwestern and Michigan were also good enough against quality competition to make the top 25. Michigan of course played Ohio St. in inter-division play and Notre Dame and Alabama out of conference, so this helped make up for having one fewer win than Northwestern does, but still the Wildcats have a slight edge.
Ball St. has won six straight since losing to both MAC-title contestants in back-to-back weeks and the Cardinals’ only other loss was to Clemson. The Cardinals beat Indiana and South Florida. Granted, those aren’t great AQ opponents, but the AQ performance looks a lot better than that by either Northern Illinois or Kent St. (which lost to Kentucky). More impressive than that, they also defeated Toledo (which lost to Arizona in overtime and beat Cincinnati) to end the Rockets’ 8-game winning streak.
Arkansas St. won the Sun Belt and hasn’t lost since September. Along with the one in-conference slip-up against Western Kentucky, the Red Wolves’ only other losses were to Nebraska and Oregon.