2010 Compu-Picks Ratings - College

Mr Pac Ten
Posted Nov 9, 2010

The Compu-Picks model rates the top and bottom teams in college football after week ten

As of the end of Toledo - Northern Illinois, these are the top 25 and bottom 10, along with conference ratings (straight average of the scores for each team in the confernece). Remember that this is a predictive model, designed to pick games and show how good a team actually is. Its results can be very different from what you'll see elsewhere. The workings of the model are confidential (it is, after all, designed to make winning picks), but I'm happy to answer questions about the models' results.

Team Ratings

Rank Team League Score Schedule Rank BCS Rank
1 Texas Christian Mountain West 0.93 29 3
2 Oregon Pac-10 0.90 20 1
3 Boise State WAC 0.84 39 4
4 Stanford Pac-10 0.74 12 6
5 Alabama SEC 0.66 17 12
6 Auburn SEC 0.65 13 2
7 Nebraska Big 12 0.63 25 8
8 Virginia Tech ACC 0.58 61 20
9 Ohio State Big Ten 0.58 74 9
10 Arkansas SEC 0.56 10 15
11 Louisiana State SEC 0.55 5 5
12 Arizona Pac-10 0.53 9 18
13 Utah Mountain West 0.52 66 14
14 Oklahoma State Big 12 0.52 44 10
15 Missouri Big 12 0.49 18 17
16 Iowa Big Ten 0.47 48 13
17 Nevada WAC 0.47 76 21
18 Oregon State Pac-10 0.46 1 NR
19 Oklahoma Big 12 0.45 19 16
20 Southern California Pac-10 0.43 21 NR
21 Florida State ACC 0.42 30 NR
22 South Carolina SEC 0.41 11 23
23 Florida SEC 0.41 31 22
24 North Carolina State ACC 0.40 16 NR
25 Wisconsin Big Ten 0.39 46 7
29 Michigan State Big Ten 0.35 59 11
111 Middle Tennessee State Sun Belt -0.59 117
112 Louisiana-Lafayette Sun Belt -0.63 102
113 Western Kentucky Sun Belt -0.64 114
114 Buffalo MAC -0.67 82
115 Ball State MAC -0.71 119
116 New Mexico Mountain West -0.71 93
117 New Mexico State WAC -0.74 103
118 Memphis C-USA -0.74 86
119 Eastern Michigan MAC -0.84 111
120 Akron MAC -0.91 106

League Ratings

League Rating OOC Schedule Rating
Pac-10 0.36 0.15
SEC 0.31 -0.19
Big 12 0.24 -0.03
ACC 0.13 0.05
Big Ten 0.10 -0.18
Indep 0.06 -0.06
Big East -0.01 -0.08
Mountain West -0.03 0.06
WAC -0.06 0.02
C-USA -0.22 -0.01
MAC -0.43 0.01
Sun Belt -0.44 0.02

Top Five wins of the Year

Game Rank Team Opponent Score
1 Texas Christian Utah 47 - 7
2 Nebraska Kansas State 48 - 13
3 Oregon Stanford 52 - 31
4 Florida State Miami (Florida) 45 - 17
5 Arkansas South Carolina 41 - 20

Some thoughts on the list:

1) Last week, I posted the compu-picks top twenty and bottom ten, and this week I'm expanding to the top twenty-five and bottom ten (plus Michigan St, since I'm sure people are curious about where they fit in). I will continue to slowly expand the list as the season goes on. The reason I do this is that the teams at the very top and very bottom have largely separated themselves by now, while the teams on the next tier can largely be jumbled together. You can even see this in the scores, where there are a number of places where a few teams' ratings are packed very close together. This is even more the case further on towards the middle.

2) The picks have struggled so far, going 46 - 56 in the three weeks of ATS picks (though the last two weeks have been pretty good, a 15-9 record followed by a 16-13 record). I am confident that it will return to the higher level that it has performed at in previous seasons, though if you want to feel skeptical about the whole thing until that happens, fair enough.

3) Last week, I gave a tip of the cap to the model for Michigan St (rated far below BCS before the Iowa blowout); this week, that tip of the cap goes for Utah, who last week was rated substantially below where the BCS had them. 47-7 later... looks like compu-picks' skepticism of the Utes was justified.

4) It's becoming increasingly clear that the model thinks there are exactly three truly elite football teams this season: TCU, Oregon, Boise. These have been the three most dominant teams in the country... and it's not even close. And each one has, to date, played a pretty reasonable schedule (though Boise's has certainly been the weakest of the three, at least if you only count 1-A games as the model does). That said, Boise continues to fall further behind TCU and Oregon week by week. They're still close enough to Oregon to say they're within a pretty reasonable error range, but that's not the case with TCU. The Frogs have been more dominant against a tougher schedule than the Broncos, and the model's numbers are reflecting this. Boise will have one big chance to move the dial in their favor when they take a big road trip to Nevada; against a Utah team that the model rates close to Nevada, TCU won 47-7. If Boise wants to catch up, they may need to come up with an even more impressive score, which is going to be tough to do.

5) The following teams are ranked materially higher by the model than the BCS: Alabama, Virginia Tech, Arkansas, Arizona, Oregon St, USC, Florida St. Putting aside Virginia Tech for now (as noted in previous weeks' notes, this difference is partially due to not counting AA games... though 20th is probably too low for how well they're playing right now), let's look at the other teams.

One interesting thing to think about when looking at Alabama is how much it's really fair to dock them for a very close loss on the road to a very good LSU team. Certainly they should go down a bit... but should they really go down much? That's a quality loss, and compu-picks simply didn't dock them much for it (they were also helped by some opponent results boosting their schedule strength, which is why their rating basically hovered compared to last week).

Arkansas just came up with one of the most impressive wins anyone has logged all season long (which you can see on the list of top five wins above), going on the road to South Carolina and simply dominating. It was a great win by virtually any standard.

Arizona doesn't have any single really exceptional performance, but have a number of very solid ones, such as the 41-2 blowout at Toledo, the 34-27 win against Iowa, and the 29-21 win @ UCLA (who's rated better than you'd think; 4-5 isn't great, but it's been against a truly brutal slate, and that Texas win still looks good, though not as good as it did at the time).

Oregon St's rating is mainly a function of their insane schedule. They've played two top five teams, both on the road. They've played another top 25 team on the road (and won). And the easiest game they've had so far was Louisville at home, and the Cardinals are basically mediocre rather than lousy. That's eight slightly tough to really tough games, and to make it more fun, five of them have been on the road. The Beavers' schedule rating will drop a bit in the next two weeks, with home games against Wazzu and USC... but then it's right back on the horse with at Stanford and then home against Oregon. This team is WAY better than you'd think just looking at 4-4.

USC is ineligible to be rated by the BCS, so I'll pass on commenting on them for now.

One obvious thing about Florida St is that their ass-kicking of Miami on the road was really impressive (Miami isn't far off the compu-picks' top 25, and that was a ridiculous ass-kicking), and seems to have been lost in the shuffle a bit. I can't think of anything especially interesting otherwise to say about them.

6) The following teams are ranked materially lower than the model than the BCS: Auburn, LSU, Wisconsin, Michigan St, Mississippi St. (note that after they lost last week, Oklahoma and Utah's BCS ratings have declined enough that the model no longer feels they're much overrated).

Auburn is an interesting case. Clearly the schedule heft is there; right now their schedule to date is rated as the toughest of all the unbeaten teams. What's really been holding them back has been the unusual string of close games. 3 points at home in overtime to Clemson, 3 points each at Kentucky and Miss St... those really aren't the type of performances you expect from a truly elite team. On the other hand, they did beat both Arkansas and Ole Miss by more than 20, so that criticism is starting to fade. Should they run the table, including a win at Alabama, their rating will materially increase... though right now the model doesn't give them a great shot at winning at Tuscaloosa. For now, the model thinks that Alabama is actually the best team in the SEC (though it's VERY close, well within a reasonable error range). Is the model right? We'll see in a few weeks. For what it's worth, I suspect that the model underrates Auburn by a couple spots... though I think it's premature to say they're really a top 2 team. If they can pass their big road test at Bama I'll be convinced, but until then I'm on the fence about them to some degree.

Wisconsin has two obvious negatives. First, the schedule simply doesn't compare to most of the other highly rated teams. Yes, they played Ohio St, Michigan St and Iowa, but they also played UNLV, San Jose St and Minnesota. That doesn't net to zero (zero being the 1-A wide average)... but it's not that far off either. And the boost from ASU gets partially cancelled by the drop from playing Purdue. And the other negative is the real lack of dominance. They got beaten by 10 (not exactly a nail-biter loss), they had TWO wins by just one point, and their most dominant win was by 21, even though they've played three really poor teams. At some point, a top 10 team takes care of business and blows out crummy opponents. If they can't, then maybe they're just not top 10. In all fairness, compu-picks is probably underrating them a bit, but the BCS having them 7th (or for that matter anywhere in the top 10) is just silly. They simply haven't played like a legitimate top ten team. They played like one against Ohio St, and in all fairness they looked pretty good against Iowa (even a one-point win there is good) and Purdue (not very good but good enough for a 21-point road win to be a quality result), but five of their eight 1-A games simply didn't look like a top ten team's results, or really anything close. Maybe they turned a corner againt Ohio St and will continue to play at that level (or at least close) the rest of the way... but I'm a skeptic.

Michigan St has been covered before; not especially dominant (especially after they got waxed at Iowa), not much of a schedule to date (Notre Dame was actually the best by far of a really bad set of non-conference opponents, which continues to hold them down, though not as much now that they're well into the Big Ten schedule). It is deeply questionable that they're rated behind the same Iowa team that took them to the woodshed, especially given how many other times they've struggled. Even if you think compu-picks is too low on them, they're simply not the 11th best team in the country, and they're probably not even particularly close.

I can't really think of a whole lot to say about Miss St. They're about to play Bama and Arkansas, so if they're better than compu-picks says, it'll show. And if not, that'll probably show too.

7) TCU jumped a good amount in this week's numbers, and it's pretty much all do to their incredibly impressive 47-7 win at a pretty good Utah team. Note that I've added a list of the top five rated results so far this season... and TCU's win last week was #1. 'Nuff said I think.

8) This isn't directly to do with the list, but here's a couple fun lists of results:

Texas 20, @ Nebraska 13
Nebraska 48, @ Kansas St 13
@ Kansas St 31, UCLA 22
UCLA 34, @ Texas 12

@ Hawaii 27, Nevada 21
@ Nevada 52, Cal 31
@ Cal 52, Colorado 7
@ Colorado 31, Hawaii 13

If you try to apply "head to head is the only thing that matters" logic to this list, your head will explode. You can tease out certain information from these lists (UCLA had both games on the road, they get a bonus; Nevada's loss was the only close result from their list, therefore they get a bonus; etc.), but what it really does is highlight that each of these results was JUST ONE GAME. To properly evaluate a team, you need to evaluate the whole resume, not pretend that a single result means everything and the rest almost nothing just because of head to head "logic". That's why Compu-Picks doesn't give ANY special consideration to head to head results. You are what your resume says you are. Period.

Technical notes about the lists:

1) Conference ratings are straight averages of all of the teams in the league. There is no "central averaging" (like Sagarin does), or over-weighting the top teams, or anything like that. Such approaches would yield different numbers, and could potentially change the order of some of the leagues.

2) Games against AA teams are not counted. There are many good arguments both for and against counting such games (see this link for an interesting analysis of the issue). I have elected not to count these results in the Compu-Picks model. As is the case almost every year, this means that one or two especially surprising AA upsets don't make it into the numbers, skewing the results to a fair degree for a couple of teams. I believe that this is a more than acceptable tradeoff given the substantial issues that counting AA games would create, but you are certainly welcome to disagree with my decision on this matter.

3) As mentioned here, the purpose of this system is to make picks, not to create a list used for rankings. As such, I evaluate the system solely on the basis of how good a job it does making picks. I do not evaluate the system on the basis of whether or not it agreed with AP polls, BCS rankings, the BCS computers, or any other such list out there. In fact, the system has a long and established history of being substantially different than those sources. I am fine with these differences. To be honest, I publish these lists because I find them interesting and thought-provoking, and because I believe it is a good thing to introduce an approach that doesn't simply regurgitate the same avenues of thinking as you can find in most places.

4) The system is noisy, especially earlier in the year. This is why I start with only a top 10 / bottom 10 list, and slowly expand it. While I believe that the numbers are reasonable, I certainly accept that they're not perfect. If you believe that a specific team is over- or under-ranked, you may well be right. I bring this up because if you're going to criticize the system for being wrong about a team, I'd appreciate it if you explain why you think the system is substantially wrong, rather than just marginally so (if it's just one or two slots off, especially well before the end of the year, I'd consider that well within a reasonable error range).

2010 Compu-Picks Blog

Questions, comments or suggestions? Email me at cfn_ms@hotmail.com

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