Five weeks of football are now officially in the books, and with the games played thus far we’re starting to see the nation’s elite separate themselves from the lesser teams. Alabama keeps showing us that an elite defense paired with phenomenal playmakers on offense is a recipe to blow teams out of the water (shocking development, I know). Other teams like Florida State, LSU, South Carolina, and Georgia are also among the college football elite at this point in the season. While teams like Alabama and South Carolina are making quick work out of their opponents, teams like Arkansas and Kentucky are doing just the opposite. After five weeks of play the two SEC schools who play in two weeks find themselves near the bottom of college football after only five games. There have been numerous other happenings in football throughout the short season, so to get a gauge on where teams fall at this point in the season I’ve created my own rating system similar to Kenpom.com and Baseball Statistician, Bill James’, Pythagorean Win Expectancy Rate. Sounds confusing, but it’s pretty simple and straightforward.
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.
Keep in mind that since I cannot account for strength of schedule just yet due to small sample size the rankings are still pretty “out there.” Take Texas Tech, TCU, Texas-San Antonio, and Mississippi State for instance. All four of these teams have played astoundingly weak schedules thus far so they’re much higher than they will be once the season progresses. So if a team looks like they don’t belong in a spot use your best judgement for now. But, as the season moves forward these issues will correct themselves.
If you have any other questions Tweet me @SchuetteKSR to get a more timely response.