Ohio State’s dramatic home loss to Michigan State Saturday night opened the door for any top team not named the Buckeyes so far as a possible playoff berth is concerned (and really, OSU isn’t out of it either). The Buckeyes had established a stranglehold on a Top 4 spot in the actual CFB Playoff rankings and a similarly firm grip on a first tier ranking in the Achievement Index. A putrid offensive performance, fully taken advantage of by Sparty, resulted in a loss that makes these last couple of weeks so much more interesting.
In this space, Sparty’s upset combined with Oklahoma State’s home loss to Baylor actually opened up two slots in the Top 4. The primary beneficiaries, at least for this week, were Iowa and Alabama.
The Hawkeyes are now the de facto Big 10 representative by virtue of their undefeated record, but they will of course have to win two more games to make that stick. Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan are all lurking about, ready to pounce if Iowa slips, and certainly that is a plausible scenario with the playoff committee, should they decide that the Big 10 winner is a worthy participant in the playoff. Here it’s not so clear as that, as each team needs help from the teams they’ve already faced. Can Nebraska boost its own F/+ rating enough to give Sparty a boost as well? Will Michigan’s Utah loss continue to look acceptable? These are the sorts of questions that won’t be answered until the regular season is complete.
The situation in the SEC, by comparison, is crystal clear. Alabama is the best team there, but Florida, with one loss, can force its way into the playoff by defeating the Crimson Tide. That’s a problem, however, as the Gators currently look barely capable of defeating FAU, let alone ‘Bama. Still, it’s cut and dried: Alabama has by now done enough to overcome its home loss, and Florida’s resume is nearly as impressive and its own path is obvious.
The Big 12 is as insane as one might expect. Oklahoma State has emerged as the best of the bunch, because the Cowboys have the “best” loss of the group, to Baylor (who is well liked by the efficiency rankings). Common wisdom tells us the Sooners have the best team and the best resume, and well, common wisdom is often pretty useless. So naturally the playoff committee will take it and run with it.
(This is where I roll my eyes.)
Still, the Sooners are under-ranked here … what they need is Texas to transform itself into a middling team, rather than an atrocious one. Otherwise, I am perfectly fine with them being penalized for that loss.
But anyway, right now I’ve got it Notre Dame (1) vs. Alabama (4), and Clemson (2) vs. Iowa (3). The Big 12 is left out, the Pac 12 is left out, and Notre Dame is left laughing all the way to the bank,
It’s a happy ending for everyone!
Before we get to this week’s rankings, here once again is the rundown of my methodology:
- Each team is 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. 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.
- The scores pulled from the F/+ do not factor into an individual team’s ranking, however. Rather, they provide the basis for evaluating who said team has played. So for example, Wisconsin didn’t get any credit in regards to its own ranking for being the No. 34 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. 34. 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).
- Basic weighting is 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 applied a fair, consistent system across the board, so we’ll see where the chips fall.
And one final note … this is through games completed as of Nov. 22 (no last-minute Mac-tion additions; those will be added in due course at the conclusion of next week). So with all that said, here we go:
I really like what Temple has achieved this year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Owls were ultimately the group of five rep in the “big six” bowls. Having said that, Navy is currently the most accomplished team outside of the Power Five, meaning Navy should be getting more hype for that position than it is.
Hi, Oregon! We’ve missed you. Welcome back to the land of the living.
Look at Terry Bowden there at Akron; he’s got the Zips bowl eligible. And I never scoff at that: There are a lot of teams out there still shooting for that mark.
Georgia Tech gives me a sad face.
My eyes start to glaze over when I look at the teams in this group. What I will say is based on efficiency, Maryland should be doing better than it is; it’s probably fair to call the Terps one of the unluckiest teams in the country.
As always, let me know your thoughts and feel free to share with friends, family, and special persons of import. 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.