This blog is mostly about the rankings, but I wanted to mention I have updated the LSU/Ole Miss Rivalry blog. LSU earned its 40th win over Ole Miss in Baton Rouge and 60th in the series overall. I hadn’t fully updated it after the last two games, so the last few paragraphs are new. Also, it’s not too early to check out the Alabama Rivalry page.
Western Michigan and Washington (and Baylor)
I know the obvious first criticism a lot of people will have is Western Michigan is in the top 4 and Washington is not even in the top 15.
I’ll talk about Western Michigan first. The only other team that has won 8 games so far is Alabama, and as I’ll get to in the next section, Alabama is such a clear #1 that in all likelihood they’ll be able to take a week off and stay #1. So despite Western Michigan’s having beaten two Big Ten opponents, there is still a significant gap in reward for playing a top schedule.
One of Western Michigan’s weakest wins was over FCS opponent North Carolina Central, but that’s a good FCS opponent. So when some teams would have taken a hit in points for playing an FCS opponent, that didn’t happen here.
Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell led the Broncos to their third consecutive Michigan MAC trophy with the win over Eastern Michigan.
Although the MAC has several teams that are in the bottom fourth of FBS football, the Broncos have not played many of the particularly weak opponents on their schedule yet. Not to worry though because they don’t play an opponent in the top 100 for the next month, so their point total will not increase very substantially. This will give other teams, particularly those in power conferences, plenty of opportunity to pass them up.
Normally a team like this doesn’t get so high in the first place, but (along with the front-loaded schedule) things happen. They would be a spot lower if Penn St. doesn’t block a field goal and return it for a touchdown against Ohio St. They would be a spot lower if Tennessee scores a touchdown in the first overtime instead of a field goal against Texas A&M.
It’s also worth noting that if you control for number of playing weeks, Boise St. and Texas A&M would both be ahead of Western Michigan. That imbalance will be corrected when the Broncos have a bye nest weekend.
As for Washington, they did play a non-conference game against a Power-5 opponent, but it was Rutgers, one of the worst Power-5 teams. The Huskies’ best win is over Stanford, but that’s by far their best win; and Stanford has two other losses. The second-best win was over Idaho. Third-best was 2-5 Arizona, which has only a single win over an FBS opponent.
I’m convinced that the 16 teams ahead of Washington would also be undefeated against that schedule so far, and I suspect several others would be as well. Basically, it would be anyone who would beat Stanford and have some reasonable level of consistency apart from that.
Western Michigan wins: #55, #57, #62, #68, #70, #99, #115. As I mentioned, they also beat North Carolina Central, which is undefeated (5-0) against FCS opponents and has also lost to Duke.
Even if a good team has an 80% chance to beat numbers 55 to 70 and a 95% chance to beat the other three, that team would only have a 28% chance of going undefeated thus far.
Washington wins: #33, #73, #90, #95, #98, #108. The FCS opponent, Portland St., is only 1-3 within the FCS and also has a loss to San Jose St.
So Western Michigan has beaten five teams that are better than Washington’s second-best win. Washington’s third-best win is only marginally better than Western Michigan’s sixth-best win. I add in FCS games differently, but it’s possible that the latter should be the seventh-best win.
However, unlike Western Michigan, Washington’s schedule the rest of the way is pretty tough. It’s not SEC West, ACC Atlantic, or Big Ten East tough; but @Utah, @Cal, USC, Arizona St., @Washington St. isn’t something against which many teams would go undefeated.
If you were wondering about Baylor, the Bears also only have one win over a top-70 team, but in their case it’s #47 Oklahoma St. Baylor has played 3 teams ranked #119 or worse and has a win over FCS team Northwestern St., which has no wins over any Division I opponent.
#1 This Week and Next
Back to Alabama, the Tide gained about 0.18 in points for beating an undefeated team with a top schedule in Texas A&M. Since Clemson actually lost points during its bye week (I’ll give other examples of how you’re at the mercy of prior opponents during a bye week), the Tide has an advantage of almost 0.20.
Alabama’s Jonathan Allen helped put Texas A&M away by returning a fumble for a touchdown in the third quarter.
So even if Clemson beats Florida St. (which has had a very good schedule as well), giving a team its third loss doesn’t help you at as much as giving a team its first loss. Unless it’s just a terrible day for Alabama’s previous opponents and a great day for Clemson’s, I don’t think it’s possible for Alabama go get passed up.
Michigan plays Michigan St., which isn’t a big opportunity for points.
Bye Weeks, Florida, and North Texas
Most teams do lose ground during bye weeks. Tennessee fell one spot, but when you get in an area where the teams are packed closer together, you can fall six spots like Florida St. did. Of course it also depends on teams around you and prior opponents.
Florida actually gained ground as Stanford, Arkansas, and South Florida all lost. The Gators were also assisted by wins by North Texas and to a lesser extent Vanderbilt. They also had prior opponents who lost, but sometimes an opponent with fewer wins has its point total increase more rapidly with a win. For instance, Alabama’s quality as an opponent didn’t change as much because Alabama’s winning percentage didn’t change.
North Texas’s quality as an opponent more than doubled. The Mean Green got a quality win over Army, and the two other teams who had beaten them had huge wins (for them anyway). SMU beat Houston, and Middle Tennessee beat Missouri.
Anyway, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest also had byes, but since none of their prior opponents’ ratings improved so much, they were also passed by Florida.
So the SEC reclaimed its #1 spot in my conference standings and also has the best average ranking. There are now 5 SEC teams in the top 25, 7 SEC teams in the top 40, and 11 SEC teams in the top half of FBS (or top 64). The ACC has more top-40 teams with 8, but half of them are not in the top 25.
LSU is still not in the top 25, but I suspect the Tigers would make it in with a win over Alabama in two weeks.
Arkansas is also idle next week, so it’s possible Arkansas and/or LSU could fall out of the top 40 simply as a result of not playing. On the other hand, losses in the 35 to 50 range are not uncommon, so they could also get lucky and move up slightly. Arkansas’s next opponent is Florida (who plays Georgia in Jacksonville this weekend), and then the Hogs play LSU.
1 Alabama 1
2 Clemson 2
3 Michigan 4
4 W. Michigan 7
5 Texas A&M 3
6 Boise St. 8
7 Tennessee 6
8 Ohio St. 5
9 Louisville 14
10 Penn St. 16
11 Nebraska 11
12 N. Carolina 12
13 West Virginia 15
14 Utah 17
15 Auburn 23
16 Florida St. 10
17 Washington 13
18 Wisconsin —
19 Oklahoma 19
20 Wash. St. 24
21 Houston 9
22 Colorado —
23 Florida —
24 Navy 21
25 App. St. —
All 128 teams
Out of rankings: (18) Pittsburgh, (20) Stanford, (22) Arkansas, (25) South Florida