Pac 12 team — no, that other one — no, THAT other one — showing strong in Achievement Index

Utah has earned platitudes this week for its dominance on the road of Oregon.  Likewise, UCLA got a big win in the desert, knocking off Arizona and has been fawned over ever since.  Each team came into the week with strong resumes, so it’s no surprise this pair of Pac 12 squads sit atop the Achievement Index this week.

And they deserve the credit.  It’s refreshing to see teams given their due after they’ve earned it on the field (that’s the whole point of this exercise in the first place).  But another team from their conference is flying under the radar still, despite a 4-0 start that includes a pair of road wins against Power 5 teams.

That team would be California, and the Golden Bears crack the Top 10 this week (despite barely edging into the Top 25 in the traditional polls and ranking a paltry 47 in the F/+).

You just aren’t going to find many better resumes than theirs.  In Weeks 1 and 2 they plastered the teams they were supposed to plaster, then they won in Austin.  Depending on your perspective, that may or may not be impressive, but then they followed it up by winning at Washington.  Time will tell whether those two teams amount to anything, but taken in tandem, at this moment in time, it’s a pair of road victories against Power 5 teams.  At this early stage, that’s Top 10 material.

And that success underscores another theme:  The Pac 12, at least so far, is living up to the hype. (And that’s with Oregon going in the tank.)  As alluded to earlier, Utah and UCLA are 1-2 in this week’s rankings.  And Stanford, USC and Arizona are among the top one-loss teams in the country.

It always takes a little fortune for a league to produce a true contender(s).  And we’ll see if the top teams in the Pac-12 can keep it up through the remainder of the year.  But through one month of football, there’s little doubt that this league has accomplished a lot already.

Before we get to the complete rankings, here’s the rundown of my methodology:

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 19 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. 19.  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 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.

So with all that said, here are the rankings for Week 4.

1. Utah (4-0) … 65.125
2. UCLA (4-0) … 76.75
3. Texas A&M (4-0) … 96.75
4. Notre Dame (4-0) … 98.375
5. Michigan State (4-0) … 100.125*
6. Northwestern (4-0) … 111.25
7. Florida (4-0) … 116.25
8. Ohio State (4-0) … 125.875
9. Cal (4-0) … 126..25
10. Memphis (4-0) … 126.75
11. LSU (3-0) … 131.375
12. TCU (4-0) … 131.5
13. Oklahoma State (4-0) … 132.5
14. Temple (3-0) … 138.75
15. Indiana (4-0) … 141.25
16. Georgia (4-0) … 144.5
17. Ole Miss (4-0) … 148.125
18. NC State (4-0) … 150.5
19. Iowa (4-0) … 161.375
20. Oklahoma (3-0) … 183
21. Toledo (3-0) … 184.125
22. Miami (3-0) … 191.5
23. Kansas State (3-0) … 197
24. Navy (3-0) … 208.375
25. Florida State (3-0) … 213.5

* Michigan State is starting to tumble a bit through no fault of its own thanks to Oregon.  In theory, the Ducks losing games on the field wouldn’t affect the Spartans in any way with this being based on team efficiency rankings. However, Oregon has been so bad in execution that its F/+ has taken a big hit too … causing the Spartans to drop by proxy.

26. Houston (3-0) … 223.875
27. Clemson (3-0) … 229.875
28. Baylor (3-0) … 234.25
29. West Virginia (3-0) … 238.5
30. Wisconsin (3-1) … 321.5
31. Appalachian State (2-1) … 476.375
32. Tulsa (2-1) … 753.375
33. Louisiana-Monroe (1-2) … 762*
34. Alabama (3-1) … 991.25
35. Air Force (2-1) … 1181.5
36. Mississippi State (3-1) … 1583.875
37. Georgia Southern (3-1) … 1622.75
38. Syracuse (3-1) … 1651
39. Hawaii (1-2) … 1686
40. Michigan (3-1) … 1687.5
41. Boston College (3-1) … 1954.5
42. Stanford (3-1) … 2004.375
43. BYU (2-2) … 2124.75
44. Georgia Tech (2-2) … 2442
45. Ohio (3-1) … 2511.75
46. Boise State (3-1) … 2656.875
47. Ball State (2-2) … 3304.375
48. Pittsburgh (2-1) … 3324.875
49. Southern Cal (3-1) … 3412
50. Penn State (3-1) … 3594.5

* The further along we get in this, the more apparent it is these rankings punish teams mega-hard for losing at home and reward teams for losing on the road to a quality team.  This accounts for the weirdness that is Louisiana-Monroe above Alabama.  The Crimson Tide lost a game at home they “shouldn’t” have, while Monroe has suffered what one would call “quality” losses.  It’s going to be interesting to see if these kinds of variances continue as the weeks pass.  In theory, a weaker schedule should drag down the non-power 5 squads over time.

51. Arizona (3-1) … 3725.5
52. Illinois (3-1) … 4197.5
53. Northern Illinois (2-2) … 4469.5
54. Minnesota (3-1) … 4594
55. Oregon State (2-2) … 4609
56. Louisiana Tech (2-2) … 4611.5
57. Middle Tennessee (2-2) … 4623.5
58. Texas Tech (3-1) … 4632.125*
59. Tennessee (2-2) … 5181.25
60. Missouri (3-1) … 5375.375
61. Troy (1-2) … 5562
62. Marshall (3-1) … 5595.125
63. Arizona State (2-2) … 5670
64. Rice (2-2) … 5705.125
65. Virginia Tech (2-2) … 5775.375
66. UTEP (2-2) … 5854.875
67. Western Kentucky (3-1) … 5941
68. East Carolina (2-2) … 6080
69. North Carolina (3-1) … 6308.5
70. Utah State (1-2) … 6612
71. South Florida (1-2) … 6762
72. Oregon (2-2) … 7399.5
73. Duke (3-1) … 7886.625
74. Auburn (2-2) … 7946.25
75. Tulane (1-2) … 8112

* Texas Tech’s near-miss against TCU kills the Red Raiders in this spot, as it goes down as a home loss with no asterisk.  Tech most likely improved its stance with most observers in taking TCU down to the wire, but these rankings are too hard-line in their approach to reward teams for moral victories (which is fine by me; coaches get judged by wins and losses, after all).

76. Colorado (3-1) … 8231.5
77. UNLV (1-3) … 8689.5
78. FIU (2-2) … 9300.25
79. Western Michigan (1-3) … 9439.5
80. Southern Miss (2-2) … 10429.125
81. Kentucky (3-1) … 10865*
82. San Jose State (2-2) … 11143
83. Nebraska (2-2) … 12791.5
84. Fresno State (1-3) … 13264.5
85. Vanderbilt (1-3) … 13489.5
86. Virginia (1-3) … 15664.5
87. Akron (2-2) … 15677.75
88. Iowa State (1-2) … 16437
89. Nevada (2-2) … 16951.375
90. Central Michigan (1-3) … 17089.5
91. Washington (2-2) … 17204.5
92. UConn (2-2) … 17444
93. Cincinnati (2-2) … 18679.75
94. South Alabama (2-2) … 18826
95. New Mexico (2-2) … 20780
96. Arkansas State (1-3) … 20989.5
97. Bowling Green (2-2) … 21021.125
98. UMass (0-3) … 21547.5
99. South Carolina (2-2) … 21581.5
100. Maryland (2-2) … 21715

* Kentucky is the second-lowest one-loss team in the rankings. and I just find that weird.  The Wildcats’ resume’ is solid, save the home loss, so they’re an interesting team, like Alabama, to monitor going forward.  If the home loss weighting gets re-calibrated, those two teams may be the best reasons why.

101. Colorado State (2-2) … 23627
102. Louisville (1-3) … 24814.5
103. Texas (1-3) … 25333
104. Kent State (1-3) … 25789.5
105. Miami, Ohio (1-3) … 27064.5
106. Wake Forest (2-2) … 29028.125
107. Buffalo (2-2) … 29400
108. Charlotte (2-2) … 30454.5
109. Arkansas (1-3) … 31714
110. Rutgers (2-2) … 31853
111. Old Dominion (2-2) … 33379.375
112. Purdue (1-3) … 34189.5
113. UTSA (0-4) … 35025
114. Louisiana-Lafayette (1-2) … 36312
115. Georgia State (1-2) … 37762.875
116. Texas State (1-3) … 38389.5
117. Washington State (2-1) … 38872.25
118. San Diego State (1-3) … 42814.5
119. FAU (1-3) … 43064.75
120. Idaho (1-3) … 44014.5
121. SMU (1-3) … 44087.5
122. North Texas (0-3) … 46597.5
123. Kansas (0-3) … 65647.5
124. UCF (0-4) … 70800*
125. Army (1-3) … 73139.875
126. New Mexico State (0-3) … 77197.5
127. Eastern Michigan (1-3) … 90315.5
128. Wyoming (0-4) … 114900

* I’ve toyed with re-naming this the “Underachievement Index,” since it does a really good job of outing teams who’ve lost games they shouldn’t.  To wit: Central Florida.  By most anyone’s measure, the Knights are just a team that ought to be doing better than a donut in the win column.  This spells out how bad they’ve been: “You’re doing a worse job than Kansas.”

Week 3 rankings
Week 2 rankings

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.

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