Conference play is in full swing throughout college football at the current juncture and because of that we are starting to weed out the pretenders from the contenders. Alabama is clearly the class of college football while others like Kansas State, Oregon, and Florida are now starting to make their cases for a potential title game appearance. Even one loss teams like Oklahoma and LSU are far from being out of the national title discussion. Of course there’s an opposite end to that spectrum as well, teams like Kentucky are still rated tremendously low despite an encouraging performance over the weekend. While the so called “eye test” gives somewhat decent indication of how well a team is performing there is no real accurate way for us to judge all teams and accurately rank them. So to solve this issue I created my own rating system in the mold of Ken Pomeroy’s Basketball Ratings, using a tool that the BCS computers can’t use, margin of victory. It may be politically incorrect, but it gives a very accurate measurement of team strength.
Some of the concepts may be foreign to you so here are critical things to know when making your personal evaluations.
1. This system rates teams based upon tempo free scoring margin, meaning teams who play up-tempo styles aren’t rewarded for inflated scoring margins. (Think Oregon and Oklahoma State, naturally they would have larger margins of victory than would a slow paced team of equal skill). The numbers in the first two columns are simply points scored/allowed divided by possessions, putting every team on the same scale.
2. This system does not measure actual margin of victory, it measures the ratio between offense and defense. By doing so actual margin is de-emphasized slightly.
3. Defense is more valued than offense. This also combats inflated offensive numbers. Think of it this way, a team that outscores opponents 100-10 would be predicted to win 99% of their games while a team that outscores their opponents 190-100 would only be predicted to win 78% of their games. Equal scoring margins, but the first team is better because opposing teams can’t score, meaning greater chance of victory. There’s too much evidence in CFB that suggests defense wins more often than offense.
4. Games against FCS opponents are de-emphasized to prevent inflated margins.
5. Strength of schedule and location of game are accounted for. Using last year as an example, UCF’s 41-0 win over Memphis compared to Alabama’s 38-14 win over Arkansas. Without strength of schedule UCF’s win over a pitiful Memphis squad would look better than Alabama’s win over a very good Razorback squad. Once SOS was accounted for UCF v. Memphis came to an adjusted score of 38-7 while Alabama’s win over Petrino’s Hogs came to an adjusted score of 43-6. So it’s better to beat good teams by a smaller margin than bad teams by a greater margin. Location of game is accounted for by giving extra credit for winning on the road and taking away credit for losing at home.
Something to also keep in mind is that a team may be rated lower than an opponent who they’ve already defeated. Since my system rates teams based off an entire season of opponents played and their performance against individual teams this may be the case (see LSU and Texas A&M for example). Also, if you were to examine other systems which are used in the BCS calculations you’d not only see that Alabama isn’t #1 in a majority of computer polls (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary), but teams who have defeated other individual teams are ranked lower. Stanford/USC in the Billingsley Ratings and Oklahoma/Kansas State in the Sagarin Ratings are prime examples of this. A team being rated ahead after a loss to another specific team may also indicate an upset. Just know that no system, eye test or computer rating, will have teams rated 100% correctly. While all games are equally as important the whole sample of data is more important than an individual game.
If you have any further questions about the ratings tweet me @SchuetteKSR for further explanation.