A reasonable ranking of college football teams after Week 2

I can appreciate how formulas and computers and data analysis can tell you that Arkansas is still a Top 25 team, despite its home loss to Toledo.

I can also appreciate if we choose to eliminate a team’s actual accomplishments on the field, in terms of wins and losses, then we do a disservice to genuine evaluation.  Coaches are judged on wins and losses.  When your team goes 9-4, as a fan, you end up enjoying that (as a general rule) a great deal more than 6-7.  Statistically, those teams might be equal on paper, but I know which team’s performance I value more as a fan.

That said, you can take this thought too far, as the traditional polls and the playoff committee tend to do.  Wins against ranked teams?  That’s an attempt to rank based on accomplishment … but without truly taking into account which teams are the most talented or efficient.  It’s just a simple-minded way to do things.  “Team X is ranked so it must be good.”  Well, um, maybe?

So I’m going to take emotion out of the equation.  Let’s do something fairly novel here, and use the advanced stats to provide a baseline, then evaluate our teams based on how they performed against their schedules.  Do BOTH.  (This shouldn’t be all that novel, but it is.)

I am tentatively calling this the Achievement Index.

So here’s the basic breakdown:

  1. Each team was ascribed a score derived from the combined efficiency rankings produced by the fine folks at Football Outsiders (specifically, Bill Connelley and Brian Fremeau), termed the “F/+” rankings.  The basic gist of each set of rankings that goes into this merged list — individually the “FEI” and the “S&P+ Ratings” — is to evaluate a team based on its efficiency on individual plays.  These rankings can get a bit intense, as teams are evaluated in specific arenas (such as third down conversion rate).  I have certain misgivings about some of their weightings (such as the “extra credit” a team gets for playing well recently and the utilization of previous seasons’ data), but nevertheless, these remain the gold standard among analytics.  If you want a general sense of how “good” a team is, with only a few exceptions, you’re going to get an accurate reading from these.
  2.  The scores pulled from the F/+ did not factor into an individual team’s ranking.  Rather, they provided the basis for evaluating who said team had played.  So for example, Wisconsin didn’t get any credit in regards to its own ranking for being the No. 24 team in the F/+, but it did get credit for facing Alabama, which ranks at No. 1.  In reverse, Alabama didn’t get credit for being No. 1, but did get credit for beating No. 25.  This is all about accomplishments.  And for simplicity’s sake, all teams from below the FBS level got ascribed the same value: 129, which is one slot lower than the lowest FBS team (128).
  3. Basic weighting was applied such that, in general, road wins>neutral wins>home wins>bye weeks>road losses>neutral losses>home losses.  There are discrepancies such that a particularly egregious home loss can hurt a team more than two road losses, or a loss to No. 1 can actually help a team more than being off that week.  The actual weighting involved is the wild card here, as I expect I may tweak it some as we go along.  Lots of philosophical debates are involved in this process (For example: Is a road win worth more than two home wins?  And is a neutral site loss to No. 1 worse or better than a road loss to No. 8?).  These questions can go on for days, honestly, and much of it is dependent on an individual’s point of view.  I tried to go with the above approach as much as possible, and we’ll see where the chips fall.  If at the end of the year undefeated Temple is ranked above one-loss Alabama, they might need some re-evaluation (though not necessarily … it is important to keep an open mind).

Anyhow, with all that said, here we go.  Below are my initial set of rankings taken after the completion of games from Week 2 of the 2015 college football season.  And once again for clarity’s sake, this is a pure evaluation of a team’s accomplishments in 2015 to date.  It does not project forward, nor does it attempt to evaluate how strong a team is … this is all about what you’ve done on the field solely in terms of wins and losses.  Who you’ve beaten (or lost to), and where.

Who really deserves to beat their chest right now?  According to the rankings, the answers are…

1. Michigan State (2-0) … 21.5
2. BYU (2-0) … 28.5
3. Temple (2-0) … 53.75
4. Ohio (2-0) … 73.75
t5. Notre Dame (2-0) … 74.25
t5. Western Kentucky (2-0) … 74.25
7. Texas A&M (2-0) … 78
8. Utah (2-0) … 84
9. Alabama (2-0) … 92
10. UCLA (2-0) … 95
11. Kentucky (2-0) … 97
12. Ohio St. (2-0) … 116.25
13. Oklahoma (2-0) … 118.25
14. Georgia (2-0) … 120.25
15. Tulsa (2-0) … 126.5
16. Houston (2-0) … 137.75
17. TCU (2-0) … 140.5
18. Arizona (2-0) … 143.75
19. Northwestern (2-0) … 146
20. Auburn (2-0) … 146.5
21. Missouri (2-0) … 147.75
22. Iowa (2-0) … 151
23. Oklahoma St. (2-0) … 152.5
24. Duke (2-0) … 153.5
25. Miami (2-0) … 154

26. Pittsburgh (2-0) … 156.75
27. Baylor (2-0) … 157.75
28. Charlotte (2-0) … 158.25
29. K-State (2-0) … 160
30. Memphis (2-0) … 160.5
31. Old Dominion (2-0) … 161
32. Florida (2-0) … 191
33. West Virginia (2-0) … 198
34. Toledo (1-0) … 200.75
35. Cal (2-0) … 201
36. LSU (1-0) … 201.75
37. USC (2-0) … 202
38. Florida State (2-0) … 211
39. Illinois (2-0) … 221
40. Syracuse (2-0) … 222
41. Air Force (2-0) … 225
42. Ole Miss (2-0) … 226
43. Georgia Tech (2-0) … 227
44. Indiana (2-0) … 228
45. UConn (2-0) … 245
46. Northern Illinois (2-0) … 249
47. Texas Tech (2-0) … 251
48. NC State (2-0) … 252
t49. Boston College (2-0) … 258
t49. Clemson (2-0) … 258

51. Middle Tennessee (1-1) … 279
52. Navy (1-0) … 324
53. Hawaii (1-1) … 395
54. Wisconsin (1-1) … 421
55. Louisiana-Monroe (1-1) … 879
56. Fresno St. (1-1) … 1179
t57. Oregon (1-1) … 1329
t57. Virginia Tech (1-1) … 1329
t59. South Florida (1-1) … 2079
t59. Texas St. (1-1) … 2079
61. Texas (1-1) … 2202
62. Appalachian St. (1-1) … 2379
63. SMU (1-1) … 2519
64. Ball State (1-1) … 2979
65. Washington (1-1) … 3279
66. Miami, Ohio (1-1) … 3729
67. Bowling Green (1-1) … 4369.5
68. South Alabama (1-1) … 4629
69. Michigan (1-1) … 4735
70. Utah St. (1-1) … 4779
71. Boise St. (1-1) … 5012
72. Minnesota (1-1) … 5416
73. Oregon St. (1-1) … 5529
74. Georgia Southern (1-1) … 5624
75. Arizona St. (1-1) … 5829

76. Mississippi St. (1-1) … 6028
77. Buffalo (1-1) … 6279
78. Purdue (1-1) … 6429
79. East Carolina (1-1) … 6579
80. Penn St. (1-1) … 6858
81. Stanford (1-1) … 7113
82. Troy (1-1) … 7479
83. Louisiana Tech (1-1) … 7929
84. San Diego St. (1-1) … 8079
85. North Carolina (1-1) … 8529
86. Rice (1-1) … 8829
87. Virginia (0-2) … 9300
88. Tennessee (1-1) … 9641.5
89. Kent St. (1-1) … 10179
90. Louisiana-Lafayette (1-1) … 11079
91. UTEP (0-2) … 11850
92. San Jose St. (1-1) … 12279
93. UNLV (0-2) … 12450
94. FIU (1-1) … 12915.75
95. Wake Forest (1-1) … 13479
96. Marshall (1-1) … 13732
97. UMass (0-1) … 14445
98. Arkansas St. (0-2) … 15000
99. Western Michigan (0-2) … 15150
100. Southern Miss (1-1) … 16329

101. Colorado (1-1) … 16614
102. North Texas (0-1) … 17445
103. Nevada (1-1) … 19329
104. Nebraska (1-1) … 19913
105. UTSA (0-2) … 20400
106. Central Michigan (1-1) … 20529
107. Tulane (0-2) … 25050
108. Akron (0-2) … 26400
109. Cincinnati (1-1) … 27129
110. Colorado St. (1-1) … 27729
111. Iowa St. (1-1) … 30129
112. Arkansas (1-1) … 32522
113. Vanderbilt (0-2) … 34200
114. FAU (0-2) … 35400
115. Rutgers (1-1) … 42729
116. South Carolina (1-1) … 43822
117. Louisville (0-2) … 47400
118. Maryland (1-1) … 49929
119. New Mexico (1-1) … 50529
120. Idaho (0-2) … 56400
121. UCF (0-2) … 61950
122. Georgia St. (1-1) … 63031.25
123. Eastern Michigan (1-1) … 65429.5
124. New Mexico St. (0-2) … 76650
125. Washington St. (1-1) … 77421.75

126. Army (0-2) … 92850
127. Kansas (0-2) … 114000
128. Wyoming (0-2) … 154200

The numbers say Michigan State has had the best start to its season of anyone, and that makes sense, as the Spartans have the best belt on their wall by far (Oregon).  Conversely, Wyoming has had perhaps the most cataclysmic start imaginable, losing at home to both an FCS school and F/+’s worst FBS team, Eastern Michigan.  You may not find a worse start than that at any point in college football’s entire history.  It truly is something to marvel at.

Feel free to let me know what you think.  And if you like, share on Facebook or some such other social media.

(See any errors in record/placement?  Probably a typo since I did most of this by hand, but I’d appreciate hearing about it anyway … I might have goofed up something in the rankings themselves.)

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