Crunching numbers on Top 25 and quality of wins
Warning: There's a lot of math this week. Proceed at your own risk.
If you know me well, you know I like number-crunching and stats to back up what I write. So when I was reading one of USA Today's new college football writers, Paul Myerberg, ranking all 124 teams from 1 to 124, I thought it would be smart to integrate that into my top 25 evaluations, as a more accurate assessment of quality of wins than simply the win-loss record of opponents. Yes, it's only one set of rankings and they're a week old, but I like it as an outside-the-box metric.
So after doing all my normal research in compiling a ballot, I wrote down Myerberg's rankings for the opponents of the top 30 teams I considered for this week's ballot. Add up, for instance, each team's five best wins, or three best wins -- who do you think would have the best scores in college football?
First, I'll give you the scores for best five wins -- for example, Florida has the best score easily at 159, having beaten LSU (7), South Carolina (9), Texas A&M (19), Tennessee (56) and Vanderbilt (68). Kansas State and Texas Tech are the only other schools with three wins in even the top 40, let alone the top 20. So here are the five-best-wins scores for the teams I have on my top 25 ballot, in the order I have them ranked:
Alabama 263, Florida 159, Oregon 250, Kansas State 227, Notre Dame 207, LSU 268, Oregon State 232, Ohio State 271, Oklahoma 393*, Florida State 349, USC 360, Clemson 383, Georgia 410, Rutgers 391, Mississippi state 413, Louisville 438, Texas Tech 264, South Carolina 331, Stanford 244, Ohio 452, Texas A&M 388*, Michigan 419, Toledo 380, Boise State 368, Nebraska 363.
The next five I considered that didn't make the cut? West Virginia 354, Texas 358, Tulsa 479, Louisiana Tech 474, Cincinnati 463**.
As you see, Alabama's score is awfully high compared to other top unbeatens. I think the Tide has its ranking because its wins have all been commanding -- all by at least 19 points. Oregon's in the same boat -- closest win so far is by 17 points. By comparison, Florida has close wins by 3 and 8 points; Kansas State by 5 and 6; Oregon State by 3, 3 and 7; Ohio State by 1, 3, 7 and 7; Notre Dame has two by 3, one by 7 and another in overtime. So there's a greater perception of dominance for Alabama and Oregon, even if it's against lesser opponents. (By the way, if a team had to count a I-AA win in its top five, I gave a default score of 125 and noted it with an asterisk, or two in Cincy's case.)
Anyway, if you think the five biggest wins numbers go too deep, you can check out numbers for each team's three best wins -- again, Florida has easily the best score, by a full 30 points. Again, ranked as they are on my ballot:
Alabama 145, Florida 35, Oregon 124, Kansas State 66, Notre Dame 94, LSU 78, Oregon State 115, Ohio State 137, Oklahoma 148, Florida State 152, USC 160, Clemson 184, Georgia 195, Rutgers 213, Mississippi State 210, Louisville 219, Texas Tech 83, South Carolina 151, Stanford 119, Ohio 229, Texas A&M 160, Michigan 200, Toledo 174, Boise State 185, Nebraska 135.
The next five I considered: West Virginia 138, Texas 163, Tsula 252, Louisiana Tech 271, Cincinnati 213.
So that's why I've moved Florida ahead of Oregon -- the Gators' three best wins are all ahead of Oregon's best (21 Arizona State), and then the Ducks' next best win is down at Washington (50). (Honestly, if I'd done this research earlier and wasn't stuck on planes, I would give thought to Florida as a No. 1.)
-- Another thing I've observed: Once you get past FSU at No. 10, nobody has beaten anyone of significance. USC, Clemson and Georgia, with one loss each? None of them has beaten a team Myerberg has ranked higher than 45. Undefeateds Rutgers, Mississippi State and Louisville? Even worse. Rutgers' best wins are Arkansas (62) and Temple (63), Mississippi State has Tennessee (56) as its only top-75 win, and Louisville has UNC (42) as its only win in the top 80.
So it's very tempting to move Texas Tech up -- I have them at 17, but their best-three-wins score is fourth-best out of anyone, and their only loss is a 21-point loss to a top-10 Oklahoma team. Same with South Carolina and Stanford, the best of the two-loss gang.
-- Why am I not ranking Louisiana Tech? They haven't beaten ANYONE. Seriously, not one win against a team in the top 80. Their best wins are Houston (87), Virginia (89) and Illinois (95), so their best resume line is a close loss to Texas A&M in which they gave up 59 points and rallied late.
Anyway, here's my ballot, for those of you that made it this far. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your comments.