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Ranking Teams and Quality Wins

In Bowls, College Football, College Football Playoff, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on December 7, 2017 at 6:03 PM

When I updated my ratings, I was really not happy that two teams that don’t even belong in the conversation were fourth and fifth while the team I thought was the deserving #4 was a somewhat distant seventh.

If Alabama were fifth, I would have shrugged it off. Last year, after the Army/Navy game, Washington edged out Penn St. for fourth. I think if Penn St. had played Washington at a neutral site last December, Penn St. would have won. I know Penn St. lost the Rose Bowl, but a team going from playing for a national championship to playing for nothing but a bowl win can sometimes be a bit of a letdown. I still think the Penn St. team that won the Big Ten Championship game would have beaten Washington, and I still think that they had a better resume as well.

Penn St.’s dramatic Big Ten championship over Wisconsin convinced me they belonged in the top 4 last year. (Pictured: TD catch by TE Mike Gesicki)

No ratings system is perfect though, and for the two to be so close that the result of one major game (there were also a couple of FCS results added in) could tip the balance was good enough. Also, I don’t really mind the deciding factor when two teams are close being who has fewer losses.

But for the arguments I presented over the weekend in Alabama’s favor and to have them that far behind was cause to reevaluate things.

I still think I have a really good formula, but approaching each game neutrally has some shortfalls. So I’m going to have two different computer ratings from now on. I considered “power rating”, but I never know what that means, so I’m just going to call it weighted and unweighted. The new rating will be weighted toward success against the best teams.

With it unweighted, you get the same credit this year for beating Texas and Temple as you do for beating Alabama and having a bye week. Central Florida beat a lot of teams like Texas and Temple but didn’t even play any teams that were nearly as good as Alabama, Ohio St., USC, etc.

This made Wisconsin’s and Central Florida’s 12 wins apiece hard to overcome even though as I pointed out, each only had two wins apiece against the top 40. I could not devise a system I believed in that put Ohio St. ahead of Wisconsin and Central Florida, but by weighting overall strength of schedule and quality wins, I was able to get Alabama ahead of them.

Central Florida-Memphis was a fun game to watch; but being that this was the best team the Knights beat, UCF should not be considered one of the best teams.

When I tried to alter the system to allow for more losses without a high penalty in order to push Central Florida and Wisconsin down, it pushed up teams like USC, Notre Dame, and Auburn instead of Ohio St.

This year, the Big Ten’s problem was depth. Ohio St. only played 7 teams in the top 80 (one out of conference) and Wisconsin played 6. Both Ohio St. and Wisconsin played 10 games against Big Ten opponents, so it should have been higher. By contrast, Alabama played only 8 SEC games and had 9 opponents in the top 80 (Tennessee was the only SEC opponent outside; Florida St. and Fresno St. are both inside the top 80). Oklahoma played 10 games against the top 80 and played 10 conference games (Ohio St. and Tulane are in; Kansas and Baylor are not). Anyway, moving Wisconsin and UCF down a peg for not having very deep schedules is part of the reason Ohio St. fell just slightly below Alabama.

People will see me as a Big Ten detractor, but again, I wanted two Big Ten teams in the playoff last year. Also, in both the weighted and unweighted top 9s from last year, there were two other Big Ten teams. Like this year though, I did think the SEC was the best conference top to bottom.

How do I figure out which games to add weight to? I mentioned the top 80 above, that roughly corresponds with the positive numbers in my unweighted system. So that’s where I drew the line. It so happens to be just low enough to encompass teams with wins over competitors in the major conference (and in one case a playoff team). So along with Syracuse, the low positive-numbered teams also include Cal (Berkeley), which beat Washington St., and Pittsburgh, which beat U. Miami.

So that’s one tier. The next tier includes teams like Ole Miss, Duke, Utah, and Virginia, .500 Power 5 teams. Both Duke and Virginia had good non-conference wins too. It also includes Southern Mississippi, who went 8-4 despite playing two SEC teams in non-conference play.

The next tier starts with teams better than 0.3, which right now is the top 45. This is low enough to include Iowa St., which beat both Oklahoma and TCU. It has some slightly better (than the previous tier) Power 5 teams like Kentucky, UCLA, and Texas A&M as well as Group of 5 teams that competed for titles like South Florida, North Texas, and Fresno St. This tier has a little bit more of an increase in points than the last one.

The penultimate tier is teams better than 0.55. I made it that instead of an even 0.6 because last year it would have only encompassed 18 teams rather than 24. Right now it encompasses 25 teams instead of 23. Numbers 24 and 25 are San Diego St. and Virginia Tech, so this had nothing to do with trying to tilt the playing field. Clemson would have been #1 anyway.

I treated teams better than 0.9 (roughly top 10) a little bit differently. I think whether you win or lose to a top 10 team, you should get a little bit extra consideration. The loss hurts in some parts of the formula, and maybe it shouldn’t hurt as much. So that’s why Auburn and Ohio St. didn’t seem to get the proper credit in the unbalanced formula for playing really good teams out of conference. Also, teams like Wisconsin and Central Florida have less impressive resumes for not beating any top 10 teams.

I’m going to show the final top 10 for both this year and last year. If I had to make a list of teams most likely to compete well in a playoff now and at the end of last year, I’m not sure the membership of either top 10 or top 5 would be any different. Clemson would win obviously, but if I forced Clemson to be higher last year, the formula would move Central Florida higher this year. The whole point was to help teams with good opponents. Clemson and Penn St. were both safely in the top 4 and nearly tied last year, so I’m fine with how it turned out.

Now
1 Clemson 39.717752 (1)
2 Georgia 38.920924 (2)
3 Oklahoma 33.422577 (2)
4 Alabama 32.829833 (7)
5 Ohio St. 32.801820 (6)
6 UCF 32.794786 (5)
7 Auburn 32.580250 (10)
8 USC 32.413394 (8)
9 Wisconsin 32.266683 (4)
10 Notre Dame 32.227370 (9)

December 11, 2016
1 Alabama 43.268628 (1)
2 Ohio St. 37.306985 (3)
3 Penn St. 35.458147 (4)
4 Clemson 35.410836 (2)
5 Wisconsin 30.033484 (9)
6 Washington 28.799632 (5)
7 Colorado 27.670309 (11)
8 Michigan 26.841181 (7)
9 Florida St. 26.795726 (10)
10 Oklahoma 25.479138 (8)
(Western Michigan fell from 6th to 15th)

If you couldn’t tell, the number at the end is where the teams fell in my unweighted ratings.

If you’re interested in the full lists, they are as follows:
2016 Pre-Bowl
2016 Final
Current

I think with so many more opponents in flux or not yet attaining enough points (for instance, only 4 teams qualified for the second-highest tier in my first list this year), the weighted version may be less useful early on. I plan to start publishing both lists at the usual times (Saturday night or early Sunday morning between about October 1 and December 15 and the night of the national championship) though.

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Championship Week Top 25

In Bowls, College Football, College Football Playoff, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on December 3, 2017 at 3:42 PM

More on “Who’s #4”

Last night, I think I made sufficient arguments for Alabama to be chosen over Ohio St. I wanted to elaborate on that a little bit more based on some arguments I’ve heard and considered since.

The point was made that Alabama isn’t like last year’s Ohio St., which was ranked #2 going into championship week. Nonetheless, between the two, Alabama was 5th going into championship week while Ohio St. was 8th. So rankings going in is one of the weaker arguments I’ve seen, but I’m just addressing it because it seemed to get some play in social media.

I mentioned how Alabama is favored by Las Vegas over Ohio St. if the two were to play on a neutral site. Alabama was also the #1 most likely to win the national champion and is #1 in ESPN’s Football Power Index. Also, Alabama is in the top 4 in “strength of record,” which compares success versus a given schedule to how the average top 25 team would do. I agree with the “strength of record” calculations that 11-1 against Alabama’s schedule was harder to do than 11-2 against Ohio St.’s. So those are additional reasons I think it’s much harder to leave Alabama out than two-loss Ohio St.

Nick Saban and his team receive the CFP trophy from the late John Saunders after defeating Clemson in January 2016. The Tide will attempt to win its second such trophy in three years.

This isn’t really covering new ground, but I made a chart that I think might be useful in trying to clarify my position.

Team Rank Last SoS Top 40 %/100
Clemson 1 2 12 6-0* 1.00
Georgia 2 3 11 4-1+ 0.80
Oklahoma 3 4 75 4-1 0.80
Wisconsin 4 1 66 2-1 0.67
UCF 5 7 65 2-0 1.00
Ohio St. 6 11 31 4-2 0.67
Alabama 7 4 41 3-1 0.75
USC 8 12 34 3-2 0.60

*lost to (74) Syracuse
+beat (41) Kentucky

I think with the small number of top-40 games, you can eliminate Wisconsin and Central Florida (UCF). Then you can eliminate USC based on the top-40 percentage to get us to the main decision, which was between Alabama and Ohio St.

But for illustration, I wanted to explain why I think Alabama should be ahead of a team with one fewer loss than they have.

Alabama’s one loss was to a better team than any UCF played, so I think it’s hard to count that loss as a point in UCF’s favor. Also, even if that weren’t the case, being 24 spots higher in strength of schedule would result in another loss for any team this year. Maybe a really dominant team from years past could have played a much tougher schedule without losing another game, but there is a reason UCF is the only undefeated team. No team could withstand a much tougher schedule without losing to SOMEONE.

When you go to Ohio St. vs. Alabama, it’s not as easy to get around the extra loss. Alabama beat two teams, LSU and Mississippi St., that are better than Iowa. That’s not just my opinion; that’s the outcome of a range of objective measures as well as the CFP rankings themselves.

Also, 10 spots in strength of schedule makes is harder to argue that if you make Alabama’s schedule a little tougher that they would have lost another game. Maybe if they had played a top-10 team on the road the same day they played Mississippi St. on the road, it would have mattered. If LSU or Fresno St. or any other opponent were a little better (LSU in some ways played better, but they would have had to be a much better team to get 14 more touchdowns or stop Alabama from scoring 14 of its points), Alabama’s record doesn’t change.

Having a better winning percentage against the top 40 is more relevant to fitness for the CFP playoff as well. It’s roughly the top third of teams. Actually the top third is 43 teams if you round down the fraction, but that’s why I noted that Georgia beat Kentucky. It’s also teams that in general are able to beat the better teams (Syracuse/Clemson was obviously an outlier). If these teams have a bad day against a team not in the top 40, there is a very high chance they win anyway.

Oklahoma played a lot of easy opponents obviously, which is why I have their strength of schedule below that of both Wisconsin and Central Florida; but they made up for it with a very top-heavy schedule. Three wins in the top 15 is hard to do, and none were in doubt for much of the second half. I’m not sure I can explain the loss to Iowa St. very well, but the Cyclones are a good enough team that if you get them on the road they can be dangerous to anyone under the right circumstances. Just ask Mike Gundy, who lost to a much more mediocre Cyclone team to miss out on a chance to play for the national championship with Oklahoma St. in 2011.

I think Clemson’s and Oklahoma’s respective losses put into context Alabama’s loss to Auburn (a much, much better team than either of those losses) and close win over Mississippi St. (a team that at least would be the clear favorite against either Iowa St. or Syracuse regardless of location).

Rankings from 9 to 25

Notre Dame fell short of a New Years Six Bowl, but this win over eventual Pac-12 champion USC helps make them the best of the rest. (Pictured: RB Josh Adams)

It’s a very close call between Notre Dame and Auburn (0.00071), but I do think Notre Dame had a slightly harder schedule. It will be interesting to see what the Irish do against another SEC team that beat Auburn (they lost to Georgia by 1 in September and play LSU on January 1 in Orlando).

Miami is not far behind the Irish. I know they blew out Notre Dame, but they didn’t beat USC by 35 either. The Hurricanes lost to a much worse team (Pitt) before the ACC title game than any teams who beat Notre Dame (Georgia, Stanford, and themselves).

Penn St. didn’t have any great non-conference or even non-divisional opponents, but they played in a pretty tough division and were one point away from a chance to make the playoff.

I mentioned Stanford a moment ago. They were better than Notre Dame and pretty even with USC in recent weeks, but it’s not that easy to overcome three losses especially when one was to San Diego St. (although the Aztecs are now in my top 25). I would have rather seen the Cardinal in a New Years Six bowl than Washington, but no one asked me.

Boise St., Florida Atlantic, and Toledo moved up with wins in conference championship games. I think we could make a chart like I did with the top 8 and explain that they’re not really in the top 20 of toughest teams to beat, but what I focus on is a system that general gets top few teams right. This is the first year in a while that I’m not happy with 1 through 4 although I think 1 through 3 are perfect. Anyway, the point is I’m not going to alter my ratings to make 3- or 4-loss teams higher in this part of the rankings. That would move teams like Notre Dame and Auburn higher, which I don’t want to do.

The rankings after the bowl sort out some of these issues because the major-conference 3- or 4-loss teams generally get better opponents than the minor-conference champions.
Odd for this to happen after such a dramatic week, but there was no turnover at all in my top 25.

rank/team/prev.
9 Notre Dame 8
10 Auburn 5
11 U. Miami 9
12 Penn St. 10
13 Stanford 13
14 Washington 14
15 Boise St. 20
16 Mich. St. 15
17 Fla. Atlantic 25
18 Memphis 16
19 TCU 17
20 Toledo 23
21 Wash. St. 18
22 LSU 19
23 Northwestern 21
24 San Diego St. 22
25 Virginia Tech 24

Full list

What the CFP Playoff Should Look Like

In College Football, College Football Playoff, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on December 2, 2017 at 10:16 PM

Sugar: Clemson vs. ??
Rose: Georgia vs. Oklahoma

Before I get to the discussion, I wanted to start by acknowledging that my formula is not always going to align with which teams are deserving of the playoff. I do think it had the top 4 teams correct going into the week, but I think in a way championship week functions as a preliminary round of the playoffs, and Wisconsin was rightly eliminated.

If the Big Ten had not had a championship game and this were just another week of conference play, maybe Wisconsin would be deserving of being ranked ahead of Ohio St. just like last week I thought Georgia and Alabama deserved to be ahead of Auburn. But when you win a championship game over the other team, that should overcome having one more loss. So had Georgia been undefeated going into the SEC Championship Game and Auburn won, I’d be willing to overlook that extra loss by Auburn.

Let’s not forget last year. Penn St. beat Ohio St. and had one more loss, but they did not play one another for the conference title. So Penn St.’s conference championship did not eliminate the Buckeyes from the national title hunt.

Also, I think it’s fair to say that if there are at least four teams with better schedules and one loss or fewer, you can eliminate teams that do not have schedules in the top 50, which neither Wisconsin nor Central Florida have.

Anyway, if you eliminate Wisconsin and Central Florida, 4 and 5 are Ohio St. and Alabama. Ohio St. is ahead on my list, but I don’t compensate in any way for the fact that Ohio St. got an extra game this week. If you average the rating by playing week, Alabama comes out ahead of Ohio St. instead of one spot behind.

That doesn’t mean Alabama should automatically be considered better, but when it’s a conflict to me that means we need to look further. One reason I didn’t rank Wisconsin #1 on my blog sooner was the fact that they were not first when you divided by number of playing weeks, so that is something that I’ve looked at this year as well as in other years.

As I’ve made clear over the years, I’m no fan of Nick Saban or Alabama despite their being in the SEC. The last time Ohio St. played Alabama, I was for the Buckeyes. So I’m not writing in favor of Alabama out of any personal desire for the Tide’s success.

This article is a good breakdown of all of the statistical arguments in favor of Alabama.

It doesn’t mention that if you want to focus on the top 10 alone, Ohio St. is now 2-1 and Alabama is 0-1; but would you really ignore Alabama’s 11-0 record otherwise? Would you also ignore that Ohio St. lost to a team that isn’t even in the top 25 by 31 points just 4 weeks ago?

Whether it had to do with injuries, the change of location, or the defense just being ready for the way Auburn plays, I don’t think what we saw from Auburn today was the same thing the Tide faced last week.

I hate to be reminded of this, but I think if you look at what Georgia did today, it has some similarities to the adjustments Alabama was able to against LSU in the 2011 season. So I think if you gave Alabama a second chance against Auburn at a neutral location, they would also win.

I didn’t like how Gary Danielson talked about Alabama all night or how he said we shouldn’t look at the SEC Championship game in evaluating Alabama, but Auburn certainly didn’t become inferior to Iowa all of a sudden. I think he was right to say Auburn may have beaten anyone with the way they played at home their last two SEC regular-season games.

If you factor in Iowa, you need to factor in teams that are better than Iowa like LSU and Mississippi St. I don’t care if they’re not “signature wins”, but they’re wins over better teams than the one that dominated Ohio St. four weeks ago.

Another way I can see to rationalize it is to say we should look at wins only. I think if we do that, it’s easy to pick Ohio St. If we pretend Alabama and Ohio St. had the same number of losses, I don’t think that tells you who is likely to be a good team in the playoff, which I think the standard should be when two teams are close enough statistically to get into a discussion like this. The losses are informative about the range of performances that you can expect in the playoff.

In short, I think varying between losing to Auburn by 12 and beating LSU by 14 is better than varying between losing to Iowa by 31 and beating Wisconsin by 6.
I’m not crying for Alabama if they’re left out though. They’ve backed into enough national-championship competitions as it is.

Week 14 Top 25

In Bowls, College Football, College Football Playoff, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on November 26, 2017 at 3:23 PM

I’ve updated the Texas A&M edition of the LSU Rivalry Series.

Pour one out for Bret Bielema at Arkansas. Despite the opinion of some folks in Madison, he seems like a good man. He’s handled everything with class, which is more than you can say for a couple (or maybe a few) of his predecessors.

I don’t have a problem with the way they let him go though. They made the decision, nothing leaked, they met with him and told him the situation, and then he got to meet with the players and say his peace to the beat writers and so forth. A lot of coaches don’t get those opportunities. I also understand not just letting an 8-loss season go when they hoped to make progress.

Bret Bielema speaks to the media following the loss to Missouri and his subsequent firing. After improving from 0-8 in conference in 2013 to 5-3 in 2015, Arkansas has gone only 4-12 since then.

In other news, I read reports that Dan Mullen will take the job at Florida, so all that would do is keep the SEC openings the same.

It’s more borderline at Texas A&M than it is at Arkansas, but apparently Sumlin thought they could still have a Big XII offense and defense. Of course they CAN if they want to keep winning 7 or 8 games, but that’s not the kind of success they want. I don’t know what they’re getting out of DC John Chavis for $1.6 million, but I can see the administration thinking the money paid toward coaches can be better allotted. Of course as a fan of a team who plays them in late November every year, the status quo is fine with me.

Top 25 comments

Speaking of Texas A&M, beating a 7-win team did help out LSU as I thought it would. The Tigers only go up to 19th, but that’s much better than this time last year. It’s also better than the computer composite. I do think it makes sense for them to be slightly higher in the polls given how well the last 7 games went as compared to the previous 5. My ratings aren’t weighted toward the end of the year, but subjective rankings usually are. This is the first season since 2012 in which LSU has won 6 games in conference.

I do have Auburn in the top 5 now, but what’s annoying is they keep getting credit for winning games before they play them. I don’t know what the CFP rankings will tell us, but I suspect Auburn will be treated like a 2-loss SEC champions instead of a 2-loss team who has to beat Georgia for the second time in a month (this time in Atlanta) to get there. I know they just beat Alabama, but the Tide had shown some vulnerability against LSU and Mississippi St. and played worse against Auburn than in those games. Two losses are still worse than one loss with similar schedules last I checked.

Some might question Georgia being #3, but they played 2 of the top 4 teams from the SEC West and also played Notre Dame and Georgia Tech out of conference.

Best two teams Alabama played out of conference: 5-6 Florida St. and Fresno St. The latter FSU has a good record, but so does Troy and do we ever hear the end of that? No. Anyway, right between Auburn and Georgia is exactly where Alabama belongs. I expect they won’t be far behind the SEC champions regardless. Also, Alabama played two SEC East with 15 losses between them, so playing in the West wasn’t enough of a help in light of that. If the favorites all win, Alabama will be left out since they won’t be adding any points next week (except possibly for improved ratings of prior opponents).

Although Alabama has not lost to LSU since 2011, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn is 2-2 against Alabama and only 1-3 against LSU.

Clemson deserves to be #2 for beating Auburn and going 11-1 overall. Like Georgia, they also played the SEC West champions. They also played the second-best team in the SEC East.

Wisconsin hadn’t played arguably the two best teams on their schedule a few weeks ago when I had them ranked low, but going undefeated even when you play in the Big Ten West deserves the #1 spot. They also beat what turned out to be a pretty decent Florida Atlantic team. Not that the committee assigns much value to such teams, but that’s another conversation.

I think it’s common sense that Central Florida would be below several teams with losses, and for similar reasons it makes sense that Oklahoma is below Auburn.

Both Auburn losses were to currently top-20 teams; I have the team that beat Oklahoma 40th. The two losses by Auburn are worse than the one loss by Oklahoma until you look at the wins. Auburn beat two teams in my top 5, and Oklahoma didn’t beat any in my top 10 (the second-best win, TCU, is only 17th). That was enough to overcome the difference, but just barely. Since each team has a rematch though, Auburn has more points to gain next week.

I guess one other thing worth explaining is Notre Dame being ahead of U. Miami. The Hurricanes are short a playing week due to an actual hurricane, which they’ll make up in a way next week since Notre Dame’s season is done. U. Miami would be three spots ahead of Notre Dame if they had beaten an average opponent during their extra bye week. The point is they’d be comfortably ahead by winning the ACC. If they lose, Notre Dame will be ahead by virtue of having the same number of FBS wins and a better strength of schedule.

rank/team/prev.
1 Wisconsin 2
2 Clemson 5
3 Georgia 3
4 Alabama 1
5 Auburn 11
6 Oklahoma 8
7 C. Florida 9
8 Notre Dame 4
9 U. Miami 6
10 Penn St. 10
11 Ohio St. 12
12 USC 7
13 Stanford 18
14 Washington 19
15 Mich. St. 13
16 Memphis 15
17 TCU 16
18 Wash. St. 14
19 LSU –
20 Boise St. 17
21 Northwestern 21
22 San Diego St. –
23 Toledo –
24 Virginia Tech –
25 Fla. Atlantic 23

Out of top 25: (20) Miss. St., (22) S. Carolina, (24) Michigan, (25) Okla. St.

All 130 teams

Week 13 Top 25

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on November 19, 2017 at 6:00 PM

I’ve updated the LSU-Tennessee Rivalry Blog. It’s interesting how LSU has dominated the series recently after it went the other way for 75 years.

LSU Tennessee

Weather helped the Tigers stop the Vols on the opening drive of the second half in LSU’s third consecutive win in Knoxville.

The Tigers have historically had a more spirited rivalry with Texas A&M, but the Aggies are looking for their first win over the Tigers since winning five in a row from 1991 to 1995.

By way of transition, LSU fans should keep in mind as the season winds down that next year the Tigers face both U. Miami and Georgia. Mark Richt’s footprints will be all over the place.

Speaking of Georgia, a couple of weeks ago I decided to wait another week before making Georgia #1, and that turned out to be the right move.

I’m going to do the same with Wisconsin this week but mostly because Wisconsin has a relatively weak opponent (Minnesota) next week and Alabama has a relatively strong one in Auburn.

Wisconsin’s A.J. Taylor catches what would be the winning touchdown pass against Michigan. The win should put the Badgers in serious contention for a playoff spot pending their date with the Buckeyes.

If Wisconsin had a clearer lead, I might feel differently, but when you look at points per playing week, the Badgers aren’t atop that list.

They’re only slightly behind U. Miami and only slightly ahead of Alabama. Wisconsin also has only the #70 best schedule right now (U. Miami is #33 [but with one fewer win to take credit for], and Alabama is #62), so I feel like this week’s ratings may be a statistical fluke. I would either like the numbers or the results on the field to clarify things a little better. It’s not only reluctance to make a change; I want to make sure I change to the more deserving team if and when I do.

As with my decision regarding Georgia, this is just a one-week deferment of a possible change at #1. The rest of the top 25 is in the computer order.

Clemson took a bit of a hit by playing the Citadel, but like Alabama, they can expect to recover a lot of the lost ground with another win on Saturday.

Central Florida has slipped four spots in the last two weeks, but they will be looking to recover some of the ground by beating South Florida.
USC may seem too high right now, but with the bye next week, others will be able to pass them up.

That basically covers the top 10. Auburn and Ohio St. are both outside of the top 10, but with two wins by either, they could put themselves right back into the playoff conversation.

Northwestern earned their way back in, and Florida Atlantic joins the top 25 for the first time. Lane Kiffin has worked fast. Perhaps coaching a smaller school suits him better than coaching a major-college or NFL team, but I doubt he’ll give up those goals. At any rate, the Owls are the 89th team I’ve ranked since I started this listing over 20 years ago now. It was originally completely subjective, but I’ve introduced subjective standards to varying degrees since 2004.

Kalib Woods of Florida Atlantic catches a fourth-quarter touchdown against FIU. This has become an important CUSA rivalry after the two programs were largely irrelevant in their first several I-A/FBS years.

I said LSU might make it into the top 25 with some losses, but those didn’t happen. Florida Atlantic passed up LSU, but only two teams ahead of LSU (Iowa and North Carolina St.) had bad enough losses to fall behind the Tigers. Michigan’s loss to Wisconsin didn’t hurt them enough, and Oklahoma St. was too far ahead for Kansas St. to drop them below LSU. The Tigers should easily pass up the Cowboys if both win this weekend though. If as expected Michigan loses to Ohio St., LSU would pass up the Wolverines with a win as well.

rank/team/prev.
1 Alabama 1
2 Wisconsin 3
3 Georgia 6
4 Notre Dame 5
5 Clemson 2
6 U. Miami 4
7 USC 9
8 Oklahoma 7
9 C. Florida 8
10 Penn St. 10
11 Auburn 12
12 Ohio St. 11
13 Mich. St. 14
14 Wash. St. 13
15 Memphis 18
16 TCU 16
17 Boise St. 15
18 Stanford 22
19 Washington 21
20 Miss. St. 24
21 Northwestern –
22 S. Carolina 23
23 Fla. Atlantic –
24 Michigan 19
25 Okla. St. 17

Out of top 25: (20) Iowa, (25) San Diego St.

See Full 128-team List.

Week 12 Top 25

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary, Rivalry on November 12, 2017 at 3:30 PM

First of all, I wanted to mention I’ve updated the LSU-Arkansas rivalry blog. The Tigers brought the Golden Boot home from Fayetteville last year after leaving it there in 2014, so I was pleased that it will be staying in Louisiana until it makes the trip (round trip, I hope) North next season. It is also good to have two decisive wins in a row over the Hogs since either losing or playing a one-possession game against them every year but one (2011) in the Les Miles era.

LSU players with the Golden Boot after the game on Saturday

Moving onto the rankings, the point of posting this blog…

I made the right call to make Georgia prove themselves one more week before becoming #1, and my meddling will stop now. From now on this season, this list will be the exact order my computer formula gives me. Alabama has shown some vulnerabilities in the last couple of weeks though, so I wouldn’t count Georgia out yet. Contrast Saturday with Bulldogs’ win against Mississippi St.

I know some people are going to be confused that two-loss Notre Dame is ahead of a one-loss Georgia team they beat. Losing to undefeated Miami doesn’t hurt as much as losing to two-loss Auburn, for one thing.

Keep in mind that if Georgia runs the table, they’ll have three wins including one over Alabama, so there is no way they wouldn’t be ahead of Notre Dame (who only has two remaining opponents) after that. If Georgia loses again, then this is a moot point.

But Georgia plays in the SEC! This is true, and this is why they have a top-20 schedule so far. They play in the SEC East though, and they haven’t played one of the best SEC East teams (Kentucky) yet. Also, they avoided LSU and of course Alabama in the regular season by playing in the East. Other than Notre Dame, the Bulldogs’ non-conference wins are over Samford and Appalachian St. The value of their win over Mississippi St. went down slightly after the maroon Bulldogs lost to Alabama.

Alabama players wrap up Mississippi St. quarterback Nick Fitzgerald in Starkville on Saturday.

Notre Dame happened to piece together one of the best schedules this season. They’ve played two of the best ACC teams (U. Miami and North Carolina St.), they’ve played possibly the best Pac-12 team (USC), and they’ve played one of the Big Ten leaders going into the week (Michigan St.). The Irish have had much better schedules since contracting with the ACC for four games per year (the other two were Boston College and Wake Forest). The SEC East just doesn’t quite stack up to that even with two good cross-division opponents. The Irish have a few weaker opponents like Temple and North Carolina, but that doesn’t cancel out all the quality wins.

It’s also worth noting that Miami, Notre Dame, Georgia, and Oklahoma are extremely close to one another. If Oklahoma were playing a good team instead of Kansas, they could easily move up to #4 next week even if there were no upsets. The other three teams could be in any order depending on results in other games.

As I anticipated, Central Florida fell a few spots after a relatively weak win over Connecticut. The Knights won’t get many points if they beat Temple next week either.

LSU went up a few spots as other teams fell but obviously did not make the top 25. If the same number of teams in the 20-30 range lose next week and LSU takes care of Tennessee, the Tigers can expect to move into the top 25 then. A win over Texas A&M would be a good bit better than Tennessee or Arkansas, possibly counting for about as much as those two wins combined.

There was not a lot of movement toward the bottom of the top 25, which frustrated LSU and some other teams right below the top 25. Mississippi St. lost, but losing to Alabama didn’t hurt enough to knock them out of the top 25. San Diego St. remained in the top 25 despite a bye week. Washington and Iowa were high enough going into the week that they didn’t fall out.

rank/team/prev.

1 Alabama 1
2 Clemson 3
3 Wisconsin 6
4 U. Miami 7
5 Notre Dame 4
6 Georgia 2
7 Oklahoma 11
8 C. Florida 5
9 USC 8
10 Penn St. 9
11 Ohio St. 13
12 Auburn 22
13 Wash. St. 14
14 Mich. St. 10
15 Boise St. 18
16 TCU 12
17 Okla. St. 25
18 Memphis 17
19 Michigan 21
20 Iowa 16
21 Washington 15
22 Stanford –
23 S. Carolina 24
24 Miss. St. 20
25 San Diego St. 19

Out of top 25: (23) Toledo

Week 11 Top 25

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on November 5, 2017 at 2:25 PM

This is usually the week where I go completely hands-off with my rankings list including #1 here. Since it’s close and Georgia and Alabama are #1 and #2 in my formula and by consensus, I’m going to give Alabama one more week at #1. It has nothing to do with the SEC West vs. the SEC East; and it certainly has nothing to do with South Carolina, whom I consider underrated.

Georgia’s freshman quarterback Jake Fromm after the Bulldogs clinched their third SEC East title in 10 seasons.

I just want to see more from Georgia before giving them that designation. I want to see how they respond to playing a second tough opponent in a row (I don’t think the way Florida played against them qualified), and I want to see how they respond to their second road game against a ranked opponent (the first since a one-point win over Notre Dame in Week 2).

For more about LSU-Alabama, see here.

I can hear the gripes already about Wisconsin, but Central Florida’s wins over Memphis and SMU are better than most of the Badgers’ wins right now. The best teams of the AAC are better than the Big Ten West minus Wisconsin (you don’t get any credit for scrimmaging yourself) and Iowa. I didn’t specify AAC East because unlike Wisconsin, Central Florida has played three of the four best teams from the other division in their conference. Wisconsin has played NONE of the top five teams in the Big Ten East standings. The two teams have played comparable non-conference games as well.

Wisconsin will of course play Iowa, not to mention Michigan, one of the competitors in the Big Ten East; but you don’t get credit for future games. The Badgers also play Minnesota, a potentially bowl-eligible team in their division. Central Florida has two middling divisional opponents (Connecticut and Temple) before the finale against South Florida, which is expected to decide the AAC East. Also, I would anticipate that Wisconsin would gain more points in championship week, probably a lot more.

The winner of Notre Dame and U. Miami will probably be a big player after this week as well.

I don’t normally look at how far teams go up and down in terms of spots since it’s really about points; but if you notice more movement, there were 12 losses and a bye week between numbers 17 and 37, so this allowed some teams go up significantly. Auburn gained 12 spots, for instance. If they beat Georgia and Alabama and win the SEC Championship, they can make a few more leaps. I don’t think they will, but the opportunities are there.

Auburn Wide Receiver Eli Stove stretches for a touchdown in College Station on Saturday.

In related moves, Michigan went 6 spots by beating Minnesota, Iowa went up 8 spots by beating Ohio St., and Toledo went up 8 spots by beating Northern Illinois.
LSU only fell 3 spots after losing to Alabama, and that’s despite that Florida win dropping in value every week. I still think LSU should have been ranked ahead of Auburn going into the week; but for now, Auburn goes ahead obviously. The only other teams to pass up LSU were Boston College, Toledo, and Northwestern. LSU passed up Arizona by having the “better loss”. LSU doesn’t have huge potential for points in any one game left on the schedule; but with wins, the Tigers can gain moderate credit each week and make it back into the top 25 that way. Unlike most other SEC teams, LSU does not have a non-conference opponent left on the schedule.

Mississippi St. doesn’t seem like they should be ahead of Auburn, but losses to Georgia and Auburn are better than losses to Clemson and LSU right now. Also, the Bulldogs’ wins over Louisiana Tech and Kentucky count for more than Auburn’s wins over Georgia Southern and Missouri. The gap between the two is only 0.015, which for reference is about 1/2 of the gap between Alabama and Georgia. Next week will be interesting as Auburn plays Georgia and Alabama plays Mississippi St.
I don’t see anything else that really needs explanation, but I’m always interested in any objections in the comments.

rank/team/prev.
1 Alabama 1
2 Georgia 2
3 Clemson 3
4 Notre Dame 4
5 Central Florida 7
6 Wisconsin 6
7 U. Miami 11
8 USC 9
9 Penn St. 5
10 Mich. St. 16
11 Oklahoma 14
12 TCU 13
13 Ohio St. 8
14 Wash. St. 19
15 Washington 21
16 Iowa 24
17 Memphis 10
18 Boise St. 18
19 San Diego St. 12
20 Miss. St. 15
21 Michigan –
22 Auburn –
23 Toledo –
24 South Carolina 22
25 Oklahoma St. 17

Out of top 25: (20) Iowa St., (23) Virginia Tech, (25) Stanford

Week 10 Top 25

In College Football, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 29, 2017 at 1:46 PM

So as I said I would do, for the purposes of this list, I’m keeping Alabama #1 here. Assuming one of the top teams is still undefeated, I will make sure the #1 next week is undefeated. This might or might not be Alabama. I hope I can just follow the computer list though.

Since a couple of teams fell from the ranks of the unbeaten anyway, other than the top spot, I just let the chips fall where they may this week. Wisconsin falls a spot on this list only because I artificially moved them up last week as one of the top unbeaten teams. Other than keeping Alabama #1, the remaining order is exactly as the computer numbers gave me.

Clemson may briefly retake #1 in the formula with a win next week, but the Tigers will probably lose ground when they play Florida St. and the Citadel, so I don’t want to jump the gun. How this develops in future weeks also somewhat depends on how Auburn finishes (which matters already because Auburn plays Georgia and Alabama) and how South Carolina (who plays Georgia next week) finishes.

If you’re wondering why Mississippi St. is so high, all of their prior FBS opponents who played (Louisiana Tech, BYU, Georgia, and Kentucky) won in addition to their own win. The Bulldogs now have the 14th-best strength of schedule, which makes a pretty good combination of record and schedule at this point.

The Bulldogs are fourth in the SEC West at the moment, but since Alabama still has to play the best divisional teams and Auburn still has to play Georgia, some interesting possibilities still exist.

Alabama had the opposite situation. Unless they were playing each other (which was the case with Ole Miss and Arkansas), their prior opponents all lost. So despite not playing, the Tide lost about 0.1 points, which is about how far TCU is from Ohio St. or Virginia Tech is from Mississippi St.

I don’t normally point this out, but the Big Ten did rate higher on my chart of top 40 teams this week. The SEC had more teams in the top 40 than any other conference (8), but the Big Ten was the only conference with three teams in the top 10. Also, the Big Ten East edged the SEC West on similar grounds. Although the SEC West has more top 40 teams than any other division (5), the Big Ten East was the only division with two teams in the top 10.

However, the average SEC team is still better than the average Big Ten team. These rankings are at the bottom of the page. The Big Ten did move into second though, just ahead of the Pac-12.

The ACC is fourth and the Big XII a very distant fifth. I haven’t had time to do a more detailed conference analysis.

rank/team/prev.
1 Alabama 1
2 Georgia 3
3 Clemson 6
4 Notre Dame 7
5 Penn St. 2
6 Wisconsin 5
7 Central Florida 4
8 Ohio St. 17
9 USC 13
10 Memphis 11
11 U. Miami 9
12 San Diego St. 14
13 TCU 10
14 Oklahoma 18
15 Miss. St. –
16 Mich. St. 8
17 Oklahoma St. 20
18 Boise St. 21
19 Wash. St. 12
20 Iowa St. –
21 Washington 19
22 South Carolina 24
23 Virginia Tech 23
24 Iowa –
25 Stanford 15

Out of top 25: (19) N. Carolina St., (22) LSU, (25) Michigan

Week 9 Top 25 & LSU Notes

In College Football, General LSU, Rankings, Rankings Commentary, Rivalry on October 22, 2017 at 3:03 PM

As I did last week, the only modification from the computer rating was to put the best five undefeated teams at the top. This required moving Clemson down to spots, Notre Dame down one spot, Central Florida up one spot, and Wisconsin up two spots.

I know people aren’t going to be impressed with Central Florida, but I wanted to remind them that unlike the polls, you don’t just drift upward by remaining undefeated (which is why teams like this are kept toward the back of the pack early on). I would not be surprised if the Knights fell out of the top 5 after playing Austin Peay next week; and apart from the finale against South Florida, UCF has already played its better opponents. This could allow several teams (including TCU and U. Miami if they stay undefeated) to pass them up between now and then.

This ties into my previous couple of blogs.

I’m going to say right upfront that Alabama will be protected at #1 for one more week even if they are passed up in the computer rating during next week, in which Penn St. plays Ohio St. and Alabama does not play. If the Nittany Lions lose, Alabama will likely be safe anyway. If Penn St. and Alabama are still undefeated after November 4, I’m just going to let the system play out on its own from there.

I haven’t griped about the polls much, because to be fair they’re not ridiculously far off; but I wanted to do a blind resume test like reporters commonly do with basketball teams around March. I am using my own ratings, but this doesn’t vary much from the polls and other mainstream ratings as far as the evaluation of other teams. Team A has won three in a row, but team B lost in the last two weeks. Team A is 3-2 against the top 50, and team B is 1-2. Team A is 4-2 against the top 75, and team B is 2-2. Team A beat team B. Team A and team B have identical records. In what world does team B get ranked higher? This one! Take either poll, locate LSU, and then locate Auburn. LSU is team A, and Auburn is team B.

Is it because Malzahn wears a visor and talks about controlling his own destiny even though it isn’t true (as opposed to Orgeron’s “one game at a time” mantra)?

(I thought this was the best play of the game.)

Anyway, I updated and added a little bit more information to the LSU-Ole Miss Rivalry blog. I have a whole page dedicated to the Alabama series.

I also found it amusing that the cook of the famous “chicken on a stick” that Orgeron talked about (he said she was the only person he remembered that he wanted to see in Oxford) was located at the Four Corners Chevron (Orgeron had misremembered it as an Exxon during the press conference). Her name is Phyllis, and she is still a Coach O (and by extension LSU) fan. She said she wanted to visit Coach O in Baton Rouge but never has the money. I hope now that she’s been discovered some LSU fans can rectify that problem.

Phyllis (in a T-shirt given by the LSU equipment staff) and the famous “chicken on a stick”.

rank/team/prev.
1 Alabama 1
2 Penn St. 3
3 Georgia 2
4 Central Florida 9
5 Wisconsin 5
6 Clemson 6
7 Notre Dame 17
8 Mich. St. 8
9 U. Miami 10
10 TCU 4
11 Memphis 18
12 Wash. St. 12
13 USC 7
14 San Diego St. 13
15 Stanford 11
16 N. Carolina St. 15
17 Ohio St. 14
18 Oklahoma 21
19 Washington 19
20 Oklahoma St. –
21 Boise St. –
22 LSU 25
23 Virginia Tech –
24 South Carolina 20
25 Michigan 16

Out of top 25: (22) Iowa, (23) Texas A&M, (24) Navy

Week 8 Top 25

In College Football, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on October 15, 2017 at 7:31 PM

I was going to try to write a blog about LSU-Auburn and update my Rivalry Series blogs, but I was too tired and it’s already getting late, so I’m just going to put up my top 25 and explanation for now.

I thought about just copying the top 25 exactly as my formula spits out, but I think that’s unfair to the undefeated teams at this point. So what I did was make the top 5 all undefeated teams and keep them in the order my formula has them, and then make the other 20 teams the best remaining teams in the order my formula has them. So there are no team-by-team personal judgments here.

Since 2011, I believe, I’ve waited until after the games of the first week of November before I strictly follow the formula in my blog top 25. The top 25 here is essentially how I would vote if I were a voter in the AP or coaches’ poll, so while I generally have switched to following the formula, there are still some exceptions to account for continuity (such as a reluctance to remove a team from the #1 spot with no defect in their play) and scheduling quirks (such as a team who just had a bye week is about to play a very high-quality opponent and I’d rather that game decide whether they go down in the rankings if they lose instead of the bye week deciding).

The LSU-Alabama game hasn’t been as competitive as it once was (although there have been close games, the same team has come out on top the last several meetings), but it gives Alabama a chance to recover from the bye week, which has consistently been before the LSU game (and Alabama has consistently been one of the top teams). This year Clemson plays North Carolina St. that week, and Georgia plays South Carolina. One may not have expected it earlier in the year, but both North Carolina St. and South Carolina are serious competitors at this point for their respective divisions.

Despite the last couple of weeks, 2011 seems like a very long time ago for LSU fans.

I prefer not to switch teams at the top back and forth, and what tends to happen is among the top few undefeated teams one or two of them will have losses against the better opponents rather than it simply being a contest of who played the best team last week. Even if the teams remain undefeated, I’d rather make a change after November 4 when we have more chance of stability (since each week is a smaller percentage of the season) than possibly change back and forth between now and then.

rank/team/prev.
1 Alabama 1
2 Georgia 3
3 Penn St. 4
4 TCU 7
5 Wisconsin 13
6 Clemson 2
7 USC 9
8 Mich. St. 11
9 Central Florida 6
10 U. Miami 14
11 Stanford –
12 Wash. St. 5
13 San Diego St. 8
14 Ohio St. 12
15 N. Carolina St. 19
16 Michigan 20
17 Notre Dame 10
18 Memphis –
19 Washington 18
20 South Carolina –
21 Oklahoma 24
22 Iowa 16
23 Texas A&M –
24 Navy 17
25 LSU –

Out of rankings: (15) Houston, (21) Florida, (22) Kentucky, (23) Oregon, (25) Okla St.