Week six of the college football season is officially history, and it was a weekend of shake-ups all around the nation. Florida State did what they traditionally do best, losing to an un-ranked ACC foe on the road (They’re still really good, though). Losing on the road was not only an ACC thing this weekend, Georgia and LSU also fell victim to defeat in hostile territory as well. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Kentucky and Auburn continued their trends of looking completely inept against all competition as both teams were blown out at home against Mississippi State and Arkansas respectively. With so many other outcomes in college football it’s nearly impossible to rank all teams just by judging their games this weekend. So to fix that I created my own rating system in the model of Ken Pomeroy’s basketball site and Bill James Pythagorean Win Expectancy Rate to see which team was tops in college football. 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.
***(I’m tempted to bold this entire paragraph as it’s the most important part)***
Keep in mind that since I cannot accurately account for strength of schedule just yet due to small sample size the rankings are still pretty “out there.” Take LSU being ranked ahead of Florida despite losing to the Gators as an example; since LSU has played a much weaker slate of opponents thus far, they’re still ranked higher. This problem is not limited to teams who have played each other either. Cincinnati, Arizona State, and BYU are examples of the weak schedule issue. I’d predict that these teams will be seeing their ranking fall in the next two weeks as they will be required to face much more difficult competition (If you remember Texas Tech was ranked highly last week but was crushed by Oklahoma this week). So if you see a team ranked highly that shouldn’t be, know that it’s due to an awful schedule. But, I’ll say again that this “cupcake feasting” issue will be erased come week 8 when I can finally account for schedule played.
If you have any further questions Tweet me @SchuetteKSR for a more timely response.