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2010 Compu-Picks Ratings - College

Mr Pac Ten
Posted Nov 28, 2010


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

As of the end of Saturday's games, these are the top 25 and bottom 25, along with conference ratings (straight average of the scores for each team in the confernece), the top fifteen performances of the year, and the top ten / bottom ten home-road splits. 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 Oregon Pac-10 0.92 9 2
2 Stanford Pac-10 0.89 3 4
3 Texas Christian Mountain West 0.83 43 3
4 Boise State WAC 0.83 29 11
5 Auburn SEC 0.68 11 1
6 Virginia Tech ACC 0.66 41 15
7 Ohio State Big Ten 0.65 54 6
8 Alabama SEC 0.65 16 16
9 Oklahoma Big 12 0.59 13 9
10 Arkansas SEC 0.58 14 7
11 Nebraska Big 12 0.58 33 13
12 South Carolina SEC 0.58 12 19
13 Missouri Big 12 0.57 20 12
14 Oklahoma State Big 12 0.53 38 14
15 Florida State ACC 0.51 21 21
16 Wisconsin Big Ten 0.50 52 5
17 Louisiana State SEC 0.50 15 10
18 Arizona Pac-10 0.49 5 23
19 Nevada WAC 0.47 69 17
20 Texas A&M Big 12 0.45 19 18
21 Southern California Pac-10 0.40 8 NR
22 North Carolina State ACC 0.38 25 NR
23 Utah Mountain West 0.37 62 20
24 Michigan State Big Ten 0.36 51 8
25 Arizona State Pac-10 0.36 4 NR
96 Kansas Big 12 -0.36 47
97 Wyoming Mountain West -0.38 67
98 Marshall C-USA -0.38 92
99 Central Michigan MAC -0.39 96
100 Utah State WAC -0.39 81
101 Louisiana-Monroe Sun Belt -0.47 97
102 Colorado State Mountain West -0.49 74
103 Nevada-Las Vegas Mountain West -0.50 63
104 Kent MAC -0.50 113
105 North Texas Sun Belt -0.51 117
106 Rice C-USA -0.53 99
107 Tulane C-USA -0.54 94
108 Florida Atlantic Sun Belt -0.54 102
109 Middle Tennessee State Sun Belt -0.59 120
110 San Jose State WAC -0.60 68
111 Louisiana-Lafayette Sun Belt -0.62 105
112 Western Kentucky Sun Belt -0.63 116
113 Bowling Green State MAC -0.63 109
114 Ball State MAC -0.63 118
115 New Mexico Mountain West -0.70 84
116 New Mexico State WAC -0.72 90
117 Memphis C-USA -0.75 89
118 Eastern Michigan MAC -0.81 107
119 Buffalo MAC -0.84 112
120 Akron MAC -0.87 115

League Ratings

League Rating OOC Schedule Rating Home/Away/Neutral Splits OOC vs AQ's OOC vs MAC/Sun Belt OOC vs Top 40 OOC vs Mid 40 OOC vs Bottom 40
Pac-10 0.36 0.17 10 / 14 / 0 10 - 5 1 - 0 3 - 7 8 - 3 3 - 0
SEC 0.30 -0.16 26 / 9 / 2 10 - 6 11 - 0 5 - 2 7 - 3 19 - 1
Big 12 0.23 -0.07 26 / 11 / 3 8 - 4 9 - 0 5 - 5 13 - 2 15 - 0
ACC 0.16 0.07 18 / 15 / 2 6 - 13 6 - 0 1 - 12 9 - 4 8 - 1
Big Ten 0.13 -0.15 23 / 10 / 1 7 - 5 15 - 2 4 - 5 4 - 2 18 - 0
Indep 0.11 -0.06 15 / 12 / 1 6 - 6 6 - 1 2 - 6 5 - 3 10 - 2
Big East -0.01 -0.08 16 / 15 / 0 3 - 12 8 - 1 2 - 9 1 - 6 12 - 1
Mountain West -0.05 0.08 14 / 18 / 1 5 - 10 1 - 1 1 - 11 9 - 4 3 - 4
WAC -0.05 0.03 14 / 18 / 0 4 - 9 2 - 0 3 - 7 5 - 6 6 - 3
C-USA -0.24 0.00 20 / 22 / 0 5 - 22 6 - 2 2 - 12 2 - 14 10 - 2
MAC -0.43 0.01 11 / 31 / 0 3 - 25 1 - 1 0 - 11 3 - 17 4 - 7
Sun Belt -0.46 0.05 8 / 26 / 0 0 - 26 1 - 1 0 - 13 0 - 12 2 - 7

Top Fifteen wins of the Year

Game Rank Team Opponent Location Score
1 Oregon Stanford HOME 52 - 31
2 Texas Christian Utah AWAY 47 - 7
3 Arkansas South Carolina AWAY 41 - 20
4 Stanford California AWAY 48 - 14
5 Missouri Texas A&M AWAY 30 - 9
6 Stanford Oregon State HOME 38 - 0
7 Stanford Washington AWAY 41 - 0
8 Auburn Arkansas HOME 65 - 43
9 Oklahoma Florida State HOME 47 - 17
10 Florida State Miami (Florida) AWAY 45 - 17
11 Nebraska Kansas State AWAY 48 - 13
12 Stanford UCLA AWAY 35 - 0
13 Boise State Hawaii HOME 42 - 7
14 South Carolina Clemson AWAY 29 - 7
15 Utah Iowa State AWAY 68 - 27

Top and Bottom 10 Home-Road Splits

1 Connecticut
2 Iowa
3 Nevada-Las Vegas
4 California
5 Colorado
6 Rice
7 Colorado State
8 Georgia
9 Marshall
10 Kentucky
111 Stanford
112 Utah
113 Ball State
114 Buffalo
115 Washington State
116 Central Michigan
117 Western Kentucky
118 Texas
119 Navy
120 Syracuse

Some thoughts on the list:

1) Last week, I posted the compu-picks top twenty-five and bottom twenty and this week I'm expanding to the top and bottom twenty-five. I will provide a full list at year's end.

2) The picks had another good week, going 10 - 7 to put together an overall ATS record of 101 - 83 in the six weeks of ATS picks. After an atrocious week 8 pickset, each of the last five weeks has been in the black. The expectation is 55% ATS, and it's not there yet... but it's getting pretty damn close. 54.9% is a step in the right direction, hopefully it jumps over 55% with this week's picks.

3) After four out of the five weeks I've posted comments, at least one teams the model thought that the BCS overrated got exposed:
After week 8: Auburn, Wisconsin, Michigan St - Michigan St loses 37-6 at Iowa
After week 9: Auburn, Utah, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Michigan St - Utah loses 47-7 at TCU and Oklahoma loses 33-19 at Texas A&M
After week 10: Auburn, LSU, Wisconsin, Michigan St, Mississippi St - Mississippi St loses 30-10 at Alabama (this really wasn't that bad; Bama is a really good team, and it was on the road for the Bulldogs... but Bama and MSU were only seven spots apart in the BCS before the game)
After week 11: Auburn, LSU, Wisconsin, Michigan St, Mississippi St - no teams got exposed, though LSU and Michigan St came pretty close
After week 12: Auburn, LSU, Wisconsin, Michigan St - LSU loses 31-23 at an Arkansas team rated seven spots below them (and Michigan St nearly got knocked off at a Penn St team that wasn't even close to being ranked)

Of course, there have been ones going the other way, most notably Oregon St's implosion against Washington St (followed by a great win against USC). But it certainly seems like there have been more noteworthy bad showings by teams the model thought overrated than those it thought underrated.

4) It's been a while since I delved into league ratings, so let's talk about them again. The popular perception (as shown by a CBS columnist here), is that the Pac-10 is somehow "down". The basic reasoning is that the overall records aren't outstanding (the league's OOC was close to .500), and that the league is VERY top heavy (Oregon and Stanford have basically dominated the league). This is, of course, silly.

As shown in the above table, the Pac-10 has the BEST record nationwide against other AQ leagues. Moreover, of all the AQ leagues, they're the one which has played by far the toughest slate. They're the only league which has played a majority of its 1-A games on the road; they've played the fewest by far games againt the bottom 40 teams (as rated by compu-picks). They've played precisely ONE game against the Mac and Sun Belt combined; as a contrast, the Big Ten has lost more games to those two leagues (both double-digit HOME losses to the MAC) than the Pac-10 has games against them.

Focusing on the bottom 40 for a bit, the Pac-10 doesn't have any bottom 40 OOC losses (only the Big 12 and Big Ten can say the same), and had only one game with less than a 7 point win against that group (USC's win over Virginia), as opposed to the SEC's two close calls against UAB; the Big Ten's close calls against Ark St, CMU, and Vandy; the Big 12's close call against Troy; the ACC's close call against Rutgers; and the Big East's close calls against Marshall and FIU.

Basically, the unfortunate truth is that the BCS rewards easy schedules and punishes tough ones. When a league as a whole "gimmicks up" its record (overwhelming number of home games, majority of OOC games against bad competition), it gets rewarded. When the Big Ten schedules a ridiculous 17 games against the MAC/Sun Belt (not to mention the AA games), and actually LOSES two of them, it gets rewarded for it. When the Pac-10 has nine league games, a brutal OOC slate, has an outstanding 10-5 record against other AQ's, and has a near-total lack of "bad losses" (the worst was Wazzu at SMU, hardly a MAC-level loss), it gets punished for it with the silly perception that it's "down". The inescapable conclusion is that there is NOTHING that the league could have done to be perceived as excellent this year given the schedules it had to face.

Besides the bias and laziness of most analysts that attempt to evaluate leagues, what does that mean going forward? Mainly, it means that the Pac-10 needs to gimmick up its schedules too. That means no more paycheck games on the road (see: Colorado at Ohio St coming up, as well as recent games such as Oregon St at TCU, Wazzu at Notre Dame, Auburn, Wisconsin [technically a 2:1 but I've got a bridge to sell you if you think it's likely the Badgers trek to Pullman as scheduled], etc.). That means fewer games against other AQ's (15 of the league's 28 OOC slots were against other AQ's, plus there were Oregon St's games against Boise and TCU). That means getting paycheck, 2:1 or 3:1 deals with the mid-majors (as opposed to ASU's upcoming home and home with New Mexico and insane home and home deal with UTSA, Wazzu's home and home with SMU, Washington's home and home with BYU, Oregon and Oregon St's home and homes with Boise, Arizona's home and home with New Mexico and apparent upcoming home and home with Nevada, Stanford's home and home with Navy and upcoming home and home with Army, etc.). It has to be a priority to get more home games. Home games provide a meaningful advantage, and other leagues are taking advantage, while the Pac-10 clearly isn't.

Quite frankly, if Oregon St had cancelled one of the Boise/TCU road games and scheduled a home game creampuff win, they'd already be at six wins with a bowl game clinched, instead of five wins with a presumed loss against Oregon. Would that have made them a better team in any way? Of course not. But in the half-assed world of league ratings analysis and human polls rating teams, it would have made them look like a better team, which would have put them in the postseason and would have given a nice boost to Oregon (in case they do have a surprising Civil War loss) and Stanford (who's in position to benefit very strongly from a top 4 BCS ranking). That's tangible value to the rest of the league, even if it would have been around a net wash or loss for Oregon St's bottom line.

I'm not sure how the league can move its schedules in this direction: incentives for extra home games, changing the bowl payout for a team from an even 1/12 to something like 2/13 (the bowl team gets a double share, everyone else gets an equal cut), or actual league mandates, but there's no question that it's imperative that the league do this. The incentive structure for gimmicking up schedules couldn't be clearer, and the if Pac-12 refuses to join the party, they're only going to hurt themselves in the process.

5) Wisconsin continues to be a fascinating resume. If you only look at their first five 1-A games (including Minnesota), they're maybe a top 40 team, but not even in the ballpark of a top 10 team. If you only look at the most recent six 1-A games (after Minnesota), they're easily a top ten team, and you can certainly argue top five. So the real question here is, did they flip the switch mid-season and are simply a totally different team than they were at the start of the year? Or are they an up and down team, just randomly up for a few games recently and down for a few games early? The evidence continues to mount that they're actually the first option, just a much better team than they were early in the year. So the real question here is, should they be judged solely based on their second half of the season? If you're rating how good a team is playing right now, they're a top 10 team at the very least. However, it's still half of their resume we're talking about here. Yes, they're playing far better currently, but you can't just totally throw out their mediocre performances for five whole games. I think the model is underrating them a bit... but I can see the argument. By now I'm thinking they're a top ten team... but #5 is still too much.

6) Boise dropped after losing at Nevada... but not by a whole lot. That was still a 3-point overtime road loss against a top 20 team; that's a very close loss in a very tough test. Boise has still been an extremely good team the whole year long, and a game that's the definition of a "quality loss" is hardly going to change that fact.

While we're at it, I'm sure everyone will notice how Boise is rated over Auburn despite their loss. One interesting thing to note is that the model rated Boise's 3-point overtime loss at Nevada as a materially BETTER performance than Auburn's 3-point overtime win at home against Clemson. Nevada is a much better team than Clemson, it's far tougher to win on the road than at home, and there just isn't much of a difference between a 3-point overtime win and a 3-point overtime loss (both rate as being very close to ties, which makes sense given that they're overtime results, and especially close ones at that). Slice those games out of each team's resume, and you have an undefeated Boise and an undefeated Auburn; Auburn had the tougher schedule, while Boise was far more dominant. For what it's worth, I think that Auburn should be rated over Boise... but I can at least see what the model's doing, and while I disagree, I don't think it's unreasonable. When doing a power rating (which is what this system does), Auburn's nearly unending stream of close to very close wins makes a difference; there's nothing at all wrong with a close win at Alabama (that's still a very good win), but when you also have very close wins against Kentucky, Clemson AND Miss St... that does get factored in.

7) Oregon is #1 in compu-picks, and it's easy to see why. A really hard schedule, a bunch of dominant wins, the Oregon Ducks have had the total resume. They don't have a huge number of top wins, but they've got the one that's rated #1, their 21-point win against Stanford. They also have a number of other quality performances that didn't quite make the top 25 list, such as the 21-point win at USC, the 19-point win over Arizona, the win at ASU, and the drubbings of UCLA and Washington.

8) Stanford jumped to #2 on this list, mainly on the strength of yet another ridiculous blowout (and Boise's loss didn't hurt). That makes not one, not two, but THREE blowout/shutouts, all against decent Pac-10 teams (two of which were on the road to boot). You look at the above list of top 15 performances, and Stanford dominates that list. They've beaten the crap out of a very tough schedule (all 11 1-A games were against AQ teams, including 9 against the top-rated Pac-10, and six of 11 were on the road), not just those three blowout/shutouts but also: 68-24, 37-14, 42-17, and 48-14. Seven of the 11 1-A games were thorough ass-kickings, which is just crazy. Honestly, take away the Oregon loss and you can reasonably compare this team to 2001 Miami or 2004 USC.

9) The following teams are ranked materially higher by the model than the BCS: Oregon, Stanford, Boise St, Virginia Tech, Alabama, Florida St, Arizona, USC, NC St.

Oregon, Stanford, Boise and Alabama have been talked about above, so I won't go into them again.

Virginia Tech is an interesting case. Part of this difference is that the model doesn't count AA games (which means that the JMU loss doesn't count against them here), but just as important is the fact that they've gone on a tear through the ACC, 8-0 with a boatload of utter ass-kickings. Compu-picks may have them too high (although to be honest I'm no longer sure), but the BCS has them way too low.

Alabama just dropped five spots in the BCS for suffering a one-point loss to the team the BCS rates #1. Yeah, that makes LOTS of sense. Once again, hard schedules get punished, easy schedules rewarded in the BCS. Few teams have had tougher schedules than the Tide, and few have had worse luck in close games (two of their losses were by 3 or less). It hasn't been their year, but that doesn't mean they're not an excellent team; I don't think anyone wants to face off against them in their bowl game.

Arizona is the same type of story as most other teams that compu-picks thinks is underrated: very tough schedule, tendency towards blowout wins and close losses (except at Stanford and Oregon, compu-picks' #'s 1 and 2). Despite what the BCS thinks, there simply aren't 22 teams out there better than the Arizona Wildcats.

Florida St beats the crap out of Florida and moves up... one spot. The Gators aren't great, but that was such a thorough ass-kicking that it probably deserved at least a bit more credit than they got. They've had a legitimately tough schedule, they've had close losses (except at Oklahoma), and generally dominant wins (though BC and Clemson were close). They're underrated in the BCS.

USC isn't eligible to be ranked by the BCS. If they were eligible, they'd very possibly be ranked (though last week's Notre Dame loss didn't help). Five losses is never fun, but they've had a tough schedule, they've beaten a top 25 Arizona team and a nearly top 25 Hawaii team, both on the road, and two of their losses have come to elite Oregon and Stanford teams (the Stanford loss was a nail-biter as well).

I don't really have much to say about NC St. I think the BCS is punishing them a bit because it's generally underrating the ACC; other than that they have the usual formula for an underrated team, tough schedule, generally close losses, a number of dominant wins (though some were pretty close).

10) The following teams are ranked materially lower than the model than the BCS: Auburn, Wisconsin, LSU, Michigan St, Mississippi St, Northern Illinois.

Auburn and Wisconsin have been discussed above, I won't rehash them here.

LSU's schedule may not be at the very top of the list, but it's been strong and absolutely in line with their neighbors in the rankings. Where they're getting hurt is, unsurprisingly, their large number of close to very close wins. 6 points (UNC), 6 points (WV), 2 points (Tenn), 4 points (Florida), 3 points (Bama), and 7 points (Ole Miss) has pretty much defined their resume. They dominated Miss St, which was a very good showing, but other than that it's been the Auburn loss, the Arkansas loss, a bunch of close to very close wins, and comfortable wins against Vandy and ULM, neither of which are going to move the dial much.

In the BCS, Michigan St just rose two points after barely beating a mediocre Penn St team, one week after they rose two spots after barely beating a bad Purdue team at home. Once again, the BCS punishes tough schedules and rewards easy ones. Moreover, in terms of season-long resumes, Michigan St has not been especially dominant (especially after they got waxed at Iowa), and not had much of a schedule to date (Notre Dame was the only decent non-conference opponent, and they missed Ohio St, and they had a ridiculous eight home games [one was AA]). Even if you think compu-picks is too low on them, putting them into the top 10 is flat-out ridiculous. They're basically a homeless man's LSU, with the same tendency towards way too close wins, a lack of good performances against teams not named Wisconsin, a crummy schedule, and the massive beating Iowa laid on them a few weeks ago.

Mississippi St played four top 25 teams and lost to them all, though two of the four were close losses. They barely held on against an awful UAB team at home, and struggled against mediocre Ole Miss and Kentucky teams. Top 25 is a bit of a reach for them, though to be fair it's not like compu-picks thinks there's a huge difference between them and #25 on the list.

Northern Illinois being ranked is a flat-out joke. The MAC is atrocious, they haven't played a single team anywhere near the top 25 (Illinois is the only one you can even argue top 40), and they have two losses anyway. Utterly ridiculous. Anyone who rated them top 25 doesn't deserve a vote. This goes beyond "throwing the little guy a bone"; it's taking a team that's probably not even top 40 and elevating them based on a wildly inflated record and an inability to really think through the voting process. Once again, crappy schedule gets rewarded, hard schedule gets punished in the BCS.

11) 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 39, @ Texas 14

@ Michigan St 34, Wisconsin 24
Wisconsin 31, @ Iowa 30
@ Iowa 37, Michigan St 6

Alabama 24, @ Arkansas 20
Arkansas 41, @ South Carolina 20
@ South Carolina 35, Alabama 21

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 (Wisconsin and Alabama had both of their games on the road, they get a bonus; Iowa, Nebraska and Arkansas had losses much closer than their wins, 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).

5) Some people have expressed curiosity about compu-picks' schedule ratings. Essentially, it's the average difficulty of all 1-A games that a team has played to date, which basically means the average rating of all of a team's 1-A opponents, then adjusted for things like home-field advantage. This, of course, varies enormously from the NCAA's official schedule ratings, which simply look at the opponents' winning percentages and that's it. Needless to say, the NCAA's approach is silly and deeply flawed; it's better than picking numbers out of a hat, but no serious analyst should rely on it at all when trying to evaluate how difficult a team's schedule actually was.

2010 Compu-Picks Blog

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

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