Week 7 of the college football season has gone by the wayside and the cream of the crop is just now beginning to rise to the top. Alabama keeps demonstrating why they’re a godless killing machine deserving of the number 1 spot while other squads around the nation are trying to catch up. Teams like Kentucky and Auburn, however, are just trying to figure out how to make the profuse and inevitably fatal bleeding stop. Yes, after 7 weeks of play we start to get a pretty good idea of who the elite teams are, but since they cannot all play one another on the field we must find ways to compare them to select the best. So, I set out to create my own rating system in the mold of Ken Pomeroy’s basketball ratings and Bill James’ Pythagorean Win Expectancy Model to see for myself who the nation’s elite team actually is. Sounds complicated, but it’s actually pretty simple.
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.
***(Important paragraph alert)***
Now that enough games have been played for strength of schedule to be somewhat meaningful, it’s now included in the ranking process. This is different from past weeks in that I could only use raw scoring margin. Admittedly, there are still a few teams that are hovering around the top that don’t pass the eye test as well as teams who are lower than the mind suggests. This is due to small sample size of games, once all teams have played 8 or 9 games we can finally know with confidence who the country’s best teams are. One thing to keep in mind when making your personal evaluations is that no computer ranking system can be totally accurate yet because of the previously mentioned sample size issue (For instance, Alabama is ranked 6th is the Massey Rankings). Some teams who have beaten specific opponents find themselves lower than the ones they’ve defeated. Just know that no system will agree 100% with every individual outcome.
If you have any further questions about the rankings or how they’re compiled Tweet me @SchuetteKSR for a more personal response.