Thursday, October 15, 2015

Contender Rankings October 15, 2015





Two weeks from next Tuesday, the College Football Playoff Committee will release their first set of rankings for the 2015 season.  After last year, there is a bit of information fans can use to help project who will be in the hunt this year, and why.  While a lot of people found the Committee arbitrary in their polls, especially the final one – even though I am a Baylor fan, I found it inexplicable that the Committee dumped TCU from 3rd to 6th in a single week, after the Frogs demolished their last regular-season opponent 55-3.  Of course, I also found the Committee’s various excuses unprofessional, but for all of that there seems to be a method at the base.  

First off, going undefeated is a premium, no matter who you are, but winning a conference title outright is also very important.  Power 5 schools have a strong advantage, but more than one loss and you are out of the running, no matter who you are.  At the time of this writing, there are thirty (30) FBS schools which have one loss or which are undefeated.   So my poll here seeks to rank those teams.

Here’s where it gets tricky.  Some folks make a big deal about Strength of Schedule, which I agree comes into play at the end of the season as a tie-breaker, but very few teams have played seriously heavy competition, and the ones which have generally took some losses.   Also, the polls show that decisive wins matter in the minds of most poll voters, which means that offensive and defensive excellence gets attention.  But to look further, a way to track performance in a manner which rewards effort and accomplishment regardless of the schedule and setting, is to see how a team performed against its opponents average results.  That is, laying 50 points on an opponent feels good, but it does not mean much if that team always lets offenses score heavy on it.  Similarly, a shutout looks great on a resume, but allowing a team 14 points that normally scores 40 is a better result than shutting out a team that averages 13 points a game.  So that’s how I graded our contenders.

First, I took the average scoring offense and scoring defense for the contenders, and subtracted the defense from the offense to get the average scoring range.  Then I tracked the games played and noted the difference between points scored and what the opponent normally allows, and what was allowed versus what the opponent normally scores.  I then averaged those variances together, added it twice to the scoring range to find a grade.  The totals ranged from 22.04 to 115.00.  Here are the results as of today:

1. Baylor (5-0, Big XII) – average margin of victory: 42.0 Offense averages scoring 23.7 points more than opponents average allowing.  Defense averages allowing 12.84 points less than opponents average scoring.  Overall rating 115.00;

2. Mississippi (5-1, SEC West) -  average margin of victory: 27.1  Offense averages scoring 18.3 points more than opponents average allowing.  Defense averages allowing 8.4 points less than opponents average scoring.  Overall rating 80.50;

3. Clemson (5-0, ACC Atlantic) -   average margin of victory: 18.8  Offense averages scoring 13.6 points more than opponents average allowing.  Defense averages allowing 15.98 points less than opponents average scoring.  Overall rating 78.00;

4. Alabama (5-1, SEC West) - average margin of victory: 19.0  Offense averages scoring 11.67 points more than opponents average allowing.  Defense averages allowing 16.7 points less than opponents average scoring.  Overall rating 75.87;

5. Michigan (5-1, Big Ten East) - average margin of victory: 23.2  Offense averages scoring 4.57 points more than opponents average allowing.  Defense averages allowing 20.05 points less than opponents average scoring.  Overall rating 72.43;

6.Duke (5-1, ACC Coastal) - average margin of victory: 22.2  Offense averages scoring 7.75 points more than opponents average allowing.  Defense averages allowing 16.28 points less than opponents average scoring.  Overall rating 70.27;

7. North Carolina (4-1, ACC Coastal) - average margin of victory: 20.6  Offense averages scoring 14.8 points more than opponents average allowing.  Defense averages allowing 9.04 points less than opponents average scoring.  Overall rating 68.20;

8. TCU ( 6-0, Big XII) - average margin of victory: 23.5  Offense averages scoring 17.5 points more than opponents average allowing.  Defense averages allowing 3.65 points less than opponents average scoring.  Overall rating 65.83;

9. Utah (5-0, Pac 12 North) - average margin of victory: 27.1  Offense averages scoring 10.7 points more than opponents average allowing.  Defense averages allowing 11.82 points less than opponents average scoring.  Overall rating 62.24;

10. Florida (6-0, SEC East) - average margin of victory: 17.9  Offense averages scoring 5.55 points more than opponents average allowing.  Defense averages allowing 16.6 points less than opponents average scoring.  Overall rating 62.20;

11. Florida State (5-0, ACC Atlantic) – 59.52 rating;
12. Texas A&M (5-0, SEC West) – 58.68 rating;
13. Stanford (4-1, Pac 12 North) – 55.68 rating;
14. California (5-1, Pac 12 North) – 55.50 rating;
15. Oklahoma State (6-0, Big XII) – 54.77 rating;
16. Oklahoma (4-1, Big XII) – 52.64 rating;
17. Houston (5-0, American West), 59.52 rating;
18. Ohio State (6-0, Big Ten East) – 51.73 rating;
19. Notre Dame (5-1, Independent) – 51.63 rating;
20. Temple (5-0, American East) – 48.52 rating;
21. Iowa (6-0, Big Ten West) – 48.27 rating;
22. LSU (5-0, SEC West) – 47.76 rating;
23. Toledo (5-0, MAC West) – 45.28 rating;
24. Memphis (5-0, American West) – 44.60 rating;
25. Northwestern (5-1, Big Ten West) – 42.23 rating;
26. Penn State (5-1, Big Ten East) – 41.77 rating;
27. UCLA (4-1, Pac 12 South) - 40.76 rating;
28. Pittsburgh (4-1, ACC Coastal) – 31.84 rating;
29. Michigan State (6-0, Big Ten East) – 31.27 rating;
30. Kentucky (4-1, SEC East) – 22.04 rating




It will be interesting to see how these grades change and whether the Committee’s rankings are similar.  Note that this poll only tracks teams still contending for the playoffs, and so some 2+ loss teams may deserve to be ranked on the basis of quality but are not included here, as this reflects only the playoff race at this date. 

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