College Football Rankings Experiment 2013 – The Primer and First Top 25

This space has been interested in finding an appropriate metric for measuring college football teams over the last few years.  We’ve used a pairwise comparison method akin to what is used for the college hockey selection process – which spat out some interesting results.  However, sitting in front of us all along has been some of the multi-criteria decision making models popular in management science.  So, this year we’ve decided to adopt an Analytic Hierarchy Process-oriented model.  Essentially we decided to break down the characteristics of a championship football team over the season and then applied some matrix mumbo jumbo – previously we issued surveys to get some ideas of criteria.  Anyway, the details of the method are part of some stuff I am using in my real job life, and is pretty boring to describe in this forum – but basically based on survey responses:

  • Teams are evaluated on two dimensions: results (winning games) vs performance (how they played).  Based on the survey feedback, a large emphasis is placed on winning vs how wins actually appear.
  • Winning games: composed of three elements (1. record with a bonus/penalty for true home wins/losses … 2. strength of schedule (opponents W/L, opponents’ opponents W/L) … 3. record vs good teams (basically better than national average).  The respondents strongly favor record vs good teams as the main criteria.
  • Performance: offense and defense (slightly weighted towards offense).  Each composed of points scored, yards gained and turnovers.

A challenge in implementing the “good team” factor was finding a minimum cutoff point for the number of games required to be considered.  In 2012, 120 schools managed to play at least 4 games against good teams – so that seemed like a fair cutoff that most teams can schedule.  Four games is 1/3 of a team’s schedule.  Thus, with the factor being so large and (as of now) only 1 game against a good team being required to qualify – simply beating one good team can offset losses against cupcakes.  This factor will even out over time – it is why Kansas State can be ranked so high today with 2 losses and why Oregon or Ohio State is not ranked at all (because Virginia is not quite good enough yet to get the Ducks a cookie).  As such the Top 25 should be looked at as a snapshot in time and certainly not a be-all and end-all.

  1. Baylor (27.43)
  2. Florida State (25.92)
  3. Washington (25.39)
  4. Alabama (25.32)
  5. UCLA (25.29)
  6. Oklahoma State (25.26)
  7. Miami-FL (25.14)
  8. Louisville (25.09)
  9. LSU (24.83)
  10. Missouri (24.55)
  11. Stanford (24.45)
  12. Arizona (24.44)
  13. Fresno State (24.39)
  14. Clemson (24.27)
  15. Oklahoma (23.85)
  16. Central Florida (23.84)
  17. Texas Tech (23.81)
  18. Michigan (23.33)
  19. Northern Illinois (23.11)
  20. Oregon State (22.14)
  21. Kansas State (20.65)
  22. Washington State (17.13)
  23. Georgia (15.78)
  24. Florida (15.04)
  25. Auburn (14.84)

We know schedules will even out and flesh out – and there will be some violent ranking swings as the “good opponent” qualification shifts.  But until then, enjoy the spotlight Baylor!

As far as who is playing the best?

Top 10 offenses

  1. Oregon
  2. Baylor
  3. Georgia
  4. Indiana
  5. Texas A&M
  6. UCLA
  7. Pittsburgh
  8. Oklahoma State
  9. Illinois
  10. Miami-FL

Top 10 defenses

  1. Florida
  2. Washington
  3. Florida State
  4. Mississippi State
  5. Virginia Tech
  6. BYU
  7. Maryland
  8. Memphis
  9. Oregon
  10. Arizona

Obviously much will change – we’ll talk projections next week.

UPDATE: After tinkering we are changing the “good team” portion – instead of using an arbitrary cutoff, we instead give each team a value based on their RPI rating (well not RPI but combining win pct and SoS).  The loss is worth 1-that number.  So an RPI of .7 means a win is worth 0.7 while a loss to that team only counts 0.3.  This will drive the rankings from here out.  I couldn’t live with “good team record” being a matter of an arbitrary cutoff.  The revised top 25 is below.

  1. Oregon
  2. Baylor
  3. Florida State
  4. Washington
  5. Alabama
  6. UCLA
  7. Oklahoma State
  8. Miami-FL
  9. Louisville
  10. LSU
  11. Georgia Tech
  12. Missouri
  13. Stanford
  14. Arizona
  15. Fresno State
  16. Clemson
  17. Maryland
  18. Navy
  19. Oklahoma
  20. Central Florida
  21. Texas Tech
  22. Ole Miss
  23. Ohio State
  24. Michigan
  25. Northwestern
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